Tag Archive for: inspiration

The MR340: Competing in the World’s Longest Nonstop River Race

If you watch my social media, you know I’ve been prepping for something huge this year. After months of training physically and mentally, it’s finally time to share. 

On August 1st, I will be competing in the MR340 — the world’s longest nonstop river race.

How It All Started

About a year ago, a few of my friends started an email thread about some crazy race. This particular circle of friends is filled with risk-takers and adventurers — folks who like to push themselves. 

I’d never even heard of the MR340. But as I dug into the details, I couldn’t believe the numbers I was reading — they seemed made up. The requirements were to kayak 340 miles in under 85 hours. And, past winners of some of the divisions finished the race in less than 50! I had big plans for 2023 but wasn’t sure if this was on my to-do list amid speaking engagements, spending time with my family, and trying to find time to rest somewhere between everything else. But the email thread went back and forth for several weeks. Whenever I got excited about saying yes, doubt crept in. I would think:

Was I good enough to try this? Could I truly, do it? Did I have the mental and physical aptitude to compete, let alone even finish?

For those who have been around here awhile, you know I’ve pushed myself into some pretty epic things, like climbing a 14er, solo, becoming an NFL cheerleader and living on a canoe in the Florida Everglades.

But this race still felt like an undertaking even too big for me.

Registering for the MR340

I woke up on January 1st to a few text messages about registration opening up. I thought about it for an hour and then paid the registration fee. That might seem fast, but I figured, what was the worst that could happen: I reserve my spot and then decide a few weeks later that I couldn’t truly train for it? The money went to charity regardless of whether or not I showed up. 

A week later, I discovered I wasn’t alone in my initial hesitation. Only four people, including myself, from the weeks-long email thread that, at one time had nearly 20 people on it, actually paid the registration fee. Enter my wide-eyed, gasp of shock. 

Only. Four. Signed up. 

I wasn’t sure what to do with that information but I wasn’t going to let the lack of camaraderie change my mind about the commitment I had made. I learned from my mother that where there’s a will there’s a way.

Training for the MR340

The competition sat heavily in the back of my mind as I dealt with the turbulence of holiday travel and family commitments back in Kansas City. Upon my return to Dallas, I discovered my home had been flooding nearly the entire time I had been gone. For weeks, I wasn’t confident that I could truly give training the attention it deserved. But the parallels of water adversity weren’t lost on me. 

I woke up on the last day of February and it couldn’t have been more clear: I was ALL IN. For the next five months, I would tenaciously train my mind and body, building up my stamina to handle the vigor of the craziest adventure of my life.

MR340: The World’s Longest Nonstop River Race

At 8 a.m. on August 1st, with my three teammates and three grounds crew members, I will push off from Kaw Point Boat Ramp to kayak 340 miles on the Missouri River from Kansas City to St. Louis, Mo. in under 85 hours to compete in the MR340. For 18 years, the MR340 has challenged outdoorsmen, thrill-seekers, adventurers, and even folks who spend most of their time behind a desk to push themselves to do something bold. Today, the kayak race has grown to over 600 boats with 1,200 participants from all around the world. It’s estimated that at least one-third of the participants don’t finish. 

My team has prepped, trained, strategized, cried, and high-fived. We have ensured our families that we will be safe and survive. We’ve committed our minds to finishing the race within the allotted time. Truthfully, I have one tiny additional goal that I’ll share later if I hit it.

Committing to the MR340

Some may already know how much I value the reward of pushing myself to overcome obstacles. And while I’ll surely post an update to share the results, I’d like to leave you with one thing: 

I fundamentally believe that humans are capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for.

You might have zero desire to enter a 340-mile race, but is there something you can do today to push yourself? Get 30 minutes of daily exercise, five days in a row. Finish that book you’ve been meaning to read. Repair that friendship you so desperately miss. Ask for that raise or promotion. Sometimes people need a little push. What they don’t tell you is that it should be you doing the pushing.

As always, I’m cheering you on and want the best for you. If you need a little push to push yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out.


Shannon McKain is a motivational keynote speaker and a business consultant based in Dallas. She has worked in nearly all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders. Looking for a keynote speaker or consultant who can speak on these issues with expertise? Let’s chat!

Workplace Culture Issues in 2023

Recently Radio Host David Rancken from KRLD NewsRadio 1080 in Dallas contacted me about doing an interview on Workplace Culture trends in 2023. His questions and my answers follow.

David Rancken:

How’s the job market in your industry right now? This year started out with some of the lowest unemployment numbers in decades, and there seems to be no end in sight to the great resignation of 2022, but there are still a lot of issues dealing with the workspace these days. On today’s “Ask the Expert”, we are talking to Shannon McKain, a workplace culture expert as well as motivational speaker, and she is in the KRLD Zoom Room. Shannon, thank you so much for the time!

Shannon McKain:

David, thank you so much for having me back on KRLD again!

David Rancken:

When you’re giving out your talks, you talk about something called The Great Divide in the workplace. What is that?

Shannon McKain:

I’m so passionate about people having professional lives and personal lives that they absolutely love, and frankly, for most of us, we have to spend a fair amount of our time in the workplace. But unfortunately for the last decade or so, we have been so divided in so many key areas, I feel strongly that we are focusing too much on those divides and not enough on what actually brings us together.

David Rancken:

And the whole thing is this divide that you speak of. It’s not just in the workplace. It’s literally the entire nation is divided in some fashion. What is it about people that makes us so divisive?

Shannon McKain:

Golly, that could be a whole segment in and of itself, but I think particularly today, we are just so riled up because we have so much information at our fingertips, and people are empowered now more than ever to be able to assert their opinions, feelings, or emotions about something. And that’s valid. People should be able to have that opportunity. However, we’re not doing it in constructive ways where we can still continue to be pulled together on issues, especially when it comes to workplace culture.

David Rancken:

What do you see are the biggest workplace culture trends into 2023? As we are really just into the birth of this new year.

Shannon McKain:

We’ve been through so much in the last three years. Because of that, I think today we’re seeing more burnout, fatigue, confusion, anxiety, and more mental health issues than ever before. So I think when you talk about the last three years and all we’ve experienced, essentially we disrupted the apple cart in every particular sense. Humans need stability. We really do need parameters to do our best work in life. So when all of that got disrupted these last three years, it’s leaving us with a lot of confusion coming out of it. We need to focus on creating workplace culture that not only provides structure, but is healthy for employees.

David Rancken:

One thing we had seen for the last couple of years has been given the nickname, the Great Resignation, where people found other jobs in other places, but that’s also getting followed by what they’re calling the Great Regret, where they look back and say, it’s not so great on the other side.

Shannon McKain:

The workplace issues we’re seeing today have really become a PhD level of how do we solve this equation. So yeah, I think employees are definitely saying, we want something different but we aren’t necessarily finding what we need.

David Rancken:

It really isn’t. And they didn’t know what to expect when they went into the great unknown of the new company. And what they did end up losing was any seniority they had at their old place. And they might be finding this company that I just joined, I might be making a little more money, but is that extra money worth it?

Shannon McKain:

Yeah, absolutely. And in the 20+ years that I’ve been really analyzing workplace culture and issues, people think that they are motivated by money, but really at the end of the day, we are motivated by so many other facets.

For example, right now we are seeing younger millennials and particularly Gen Z not being motivated in the traditional senses whatsoever, whereas career trajectory, hierarchy, getting promotions, or the fear of being laid off, aren’t even on
Gen Z’s radar right now. They’re motivated in completely different ways.

David Rancken:

But they haven’t seen what it’s like on the other side when unemployment numbers up upwards of 12, 13, even upwards of 20% in previous decades.

Shannon McKain:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think this next year we are still looking at a lot of uncertainty, especially with a pending recession and the layoffs that we are currently seeing and will potentially see here within the next few months.

David Rancken:

And a lot of people had you talk about layoffs, a lot of people had interest in getting into the tech sector because it seemed like it’s a lot of fun in all the perks that Google and Facebook were providing, and the layoffs are really hitting the tech sector very hard at this point.

Shannon McKain:

Yeah, if you jump on LinkedIn on any given day, you see announcement after announcement of another layoff. And frankly, I don’t think that that’s doing anything for our mental health either.

David Rancken:

Let’s talk about LinkedIn for just a second. You brought it up. That gives younger employees a chance to find new work, something that older employees really never had before. In the old days, they had to stick and look through the want ads and on and through networking and everything else. How big of a sea change has LinkedIn been?

Shannon McKain:

I’ve watched LinkedIn from its inception. It’s been another great tool to not only leverage our networks, but also communicate professionally. I wish younger generations would understand that and leverage it to its fullest potential. The way we communicate, write, and put our information out there is being utilized in really great ways on LinkedIn right now.

David Rancken:

What are people missing out in not using LinkedIn?

Shannon McKain:

Constantly reevaluating our profiles, updating them, thinking about how can we promote ourselves. The idea of a personal brand and self-promotion is a very real thing. Gary Vanerchuk talks a lot about day trading our time as currency right now. Everybody’s constantly trying to stay relevant and stay in front of other people. LinkedIn is no different for your personal brand.

You have to continually think about what do I need to add to my brand? What do I need to communicate and put out there professionally? And then also being able to communicate with others and really have a discussion or a dialogue. Contributing to different conversations across the platform or following different hashtags, or again, just keeping people up to date with what you’re doing.

David Rancken:

That’s got to be tough for older workers that don’t necessarily know how to use LinkedIn properly, what steps would you tell someone that is an older person that hasn’t necessarily used it?

Shannon McKain:

I think the first thing you can do is think of Google as your best friend. You can Google and research anything today. So if you have a question about how to get started on LinkedIn, I’m sure that there’s 25 different videos on YouTube or Google to teach you how to do that.

But from a fundamental standpoint, think about how you have your physical real estate, say your home, your apartment, your townhome, wherever i you live, but also think about your digital real estate and being able to put all of your information professionally in one place that everyone can find it. So recruiters can search for you, that you’re using the right keywords and metrics to be able to say, okay, who I want to connect with professionally. And then also just being able to create status updates and just saying, Hey, here’s going on with me week-to-week or day-to-day.

David Rancken:

I guess that’s, it’s basically turning yourself, as you said, into your own brand that has to get the message out there about what it is you are and what it is you do, and how do you get that message out to followers and how do you find those followers?

Shannon McKain:

There’s a fella by the name of Richard Bliss doing a lot of education right now around the proper ways to use LinkedIn and how to optimize getting your information out there and what your reach is. Just with anything else online right now, we’re subjected to the algorithms that the parent companies want us to adhere to. It can be very cumbersome for listeners right now. I don’t want to get too into the weeds on that particularly, but just thinking about professionally, how do you write and articulate a couple of important sentences about what’s going on with you and where you’re at in your career? And then of course, engaging and connecting with folks, it’ll just continue to build a bigger reach.

David Rancken:

We were talking earlier about Gen Z and younger millennials. They don’t seem to have the same attitudes towards a workplace as older workers.

Shannon McKain:

Absolutely not. As a keynote speaker, I talk about all areas of workplace culture and workplace issues. And one of the key areas is different generations and how they are motivated, how they communicate, and what they value. Particularly with Gen Z right now, we’re not seeing them motivated in the traditional ways whatsoever.

Historically, generations were very motivated by terms of seniority, hierarchy, and working their way up the corporate ladder. But Gen Z is just simply not wanting to do that. They see that as a very stressful move, and they’re willing to forego the extra income or the additional perks of getting into middle management or climbing the ladder for what they perceive to be a better work-life balance, maybe perhaps being able to have more flexibility and just staying where they’re at. And they’re also not motivated at all by the fear of being terminated. So when you look at the psychology of this generation, we have to tackle it in a completely different way than we have with any other generation.

David Rancken:

But how does that affect the companies themselves as they’re looking to replace workers and they’re finding out that the workers that they’re hiring don’t care if they’re there or not?

Shannon McKain:

So the biggest component for management and employers is to first understand to achieve excellent workplace culture, they have to understand the psychology of employees. Then they can address how to meet employees needs. For example, right now we’re seeing that the number one motivating factor, across the board, in every area of employment is that employees just simply want to feel safe. They want to feel psychologically safe; they want to feel like they can speak up or contribute without the fear of being reprimanded. And they want to understand that their employer trusts them, especially when we’re still working in a hybrid environment and don’t really want to work the traditional nine-to-five anymore.

And so employees want their employers to be able to trust them that they’re going to get the work done and they’re being productive, even if it’s not at the right place or the right time, nine to five, if that makes sense.

David Rancken:

Yeah, it does make sense. And you talk about other issues because we, we’ve seen it in school districts, we’ve seen it in other offices. A lot of companies are looking to stand out among possible job applicants, and one of those involves something like a four-day workweek. Is that going to become more normal in the near future?

Shannon McKain:

It’s a very interesting climate that we’re looking at right now. The four-day work week that we’re seeing, as you had mentioned in education and also in corporate America. That’s kind of a two-part thing that we’re seeing right now. One in part because of labor shortages and education in schools across America, we’re just simply not seeing teachers wanting to come to work and teach. And so that’s been a really huge issue. We’re seeing that in terms of labor shortages, but then we’re also seeing it in terms of the demand of the psychological needs of workers today.

What people don’t remember or understand or maybe have forgotten that the five-day workplace hasn’t always been that way. In fact, it didn’t actually get implemented in corporate America until 1926 when Ford Motor Company actually adopted that particular work schedule.

Prior to 1926, we were looking at labor as very strenuous and hard labor types of careers and jobs, and the expectation was that workers had to work six to seven days a week, even 10, 12, 14+ hours a day. And then in 1926, Ford Motor Company said, I don’t think that this is where the future of work needs to go. And they implemented this five-day work week, nine to five, and everybody gasped and said, oh my gosh, this is crazy. But it worked and productivity went through the roof. We did that for a century, and now we’re seeing the apple cart gets turned upside down again. I think it’ll be really interesting to see what happens in these next couple of years with the four-day work week.

David Rancken:

Do you see companies looking towards older workers to take on some of these jobs that the Gen Z and millennials might not. Or are older workers kind of being left out in this great surge of hiring?

Shannon McKain:

I think older generations are certainly at a crossroads right now trying to understand their place in navigating all of this. I think in general; employees are being asked to do all different kinds of tasks that are putting them outside of their comfort zones. Older generations need to ask themselves what they have to do in order to continue their career until they can successfully retire.

David Rancken:

One of the phrases that came out, and this will probably be the last question we talk about, is the phrase that came out in the last year was the phrase quiet quitting, where people decided, I’m going to do my job to the best of my ability. I’m not taking on anything extra. Is that still the case? Or companies saying, okay, just do your job and we’ll hang on to you?

Shannon McKain:

We have all these fancy terms that we’re coming up with these days. I think if you really look at the evolution of the workplace in general, you’re always going to have those workers that want to continue to push and do everything to impress their managers. And then you’re also going to have the workers that are going to say, this is what I was hired to do, so, therefore, I’m going to get that done and then go home.

So from a “Quiet Quitting” standpoint, companies are just trying to do whatever they can right now to make things be successful. At the end of the day, I think we all need to ask ourselves, what are we doing to meet in the middle to be able to make our workplace culture more productive and successful?

David Rancken:

Shannon McKain is a workplace culture expert and motivational speaker. You can find her at www.shannonmckain.com on today’s ask the expert. Shannon, thank you.

Shannon McKain:

Thank you so much, David, and I hope this helps your listeners today!

About The Author

Shannon McKain is a motivational keynote speaker and a business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

Looking for a keynote speaker or consultant who can speak on these issues with expertise? Let’s chat!

Are You Ready for Women in Construction Week?

The 25th Annual Women in Construction Week is right around the corner! As you get ready for the big week on March 5-11, here are some of the ways you can show your support for women in construction – both during WIC Week and year-round

How you can support women in construction

1. Train leaders & employees

According to Statista, the share of female employees in the construction sector has been increasing over the past couple of years. However, in 2021 only one-tenth of construction workers were women. That means 90% of construction employees have never walked a day in a woman’s shoes, leading to blind spots within many workplaces in the industry.

By offering workshops and training for employees on implicit bias, discrimination, and other issues facing women in the workplace, you can introduce important tools for awareness that help create a more welcoming environment for women.

2. Provide networking opportunities

Since women make up only approximately 10% of the construction sector, seek out and implement opportunities for women to connect with other women: Offer to pay for memberships to professional associations, chamber events, and gatherings centered on championing women in the workplace. (NAWIC and PWC are excellent places to start.)

3. Donate to your local NAWIC or PWC chapter

NAWIC, PWC, and other organizations that champion women operate on tight budgets. By donating to your local chapter, you can increase access to vital resources for women and thereby help to elevate women across the construction industry.

4. Diversify your perspective

It’s true what they say: Knowledge is power. By attending events, reading articles, and surrounding yourself with people whose experiences are different than your own, you’ll gain a deeper, more well-rounded perspective on the multitude of issues facing women in construction today. It’s a win-win-win: Good for you, good for women, and good for the industry as a whole.

5. Be an ally

Being an ally is the most effective way to recruit, retain and support women that want to work in construction. With your allyship, the construction industry can find new ways to diversify and elevate the industry as a whole.


About the Author

Shannon McKain is a motivational keynote speaker and a business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

Looking for a keynote speaker or consultant who can speak on these issues with expertise? Let’s chat!

What Is Your Mountain?

In competition, how do you know who has the upper hand? Does it depend on size or skill level, or maybe strategy? Perhaps it’s something else. Recently, I faced off against a 14,000 ft. mountain alone and discovered where the upper hand truly lies.

Preparing to climb a 14,000 ft. Mountain

A few years ago, I decided to climb another fourteener, otherwise known as a mountain of that same minimum elevation. However, I struggled to find anyone who would go with me. So, about a year ago, I finally decided that the next time a Colorado speaking engagement came across my desk, I was going to climb with or without anyone. Climbing/hiking has always been a hobby of mine. I had even completed two similar climbs over ten years ago with groups. Taking on this mountain was different. I was going solo.

There are 96 fourteeners in the United States. Fifty-three of those are in Colorado. I live in flat ol’ Dallas.

Trailhead sign marker
Beginning of the hike
1/3 of the way up

Was something like this even possible at this point? After living just above sea level, I began to doubt myself with so much time between climbs. Anxiety set in, thinking about accomplishing this solo, knowing something could potentially go wrong.

One thing I’ve learned recently is that self-reliance yields results. With that, I began daily training with the top of this mountain in sight. I used my phone to log training progress on the stair stepper with a weighted backpack, mini cardio challenges to increase my endurance, and weight lifting reps to build muscle strength. I developed plans, backup plans, and contingency plans.

After three months of diligence, it was time to climb

I boarded a flight to Colorado on a Friday morning for my speaking engagement later that day. It was nice to be doing something familiar like engaging with an audience before something borderline terrifying. I mentioned the next day’s climbing plans to the group, who asked to be kept apprised of my journey to the top. Knowing that my new friends were rooting for me engulfed me with even more determination.

On the long, beautifully scenic drive to the mountains, I learned that the snow conditions on the mountain were slightly worse than anticipated. This was the first wrench in the plan. This wouldn’t be the safest option for a group, let alone, well, being alone. I had never climbed in snow before and needed the least amount of issues as possible.

After arriving into town, I began some research that led to a different peak that wasn’t covered in as much snow. This peak, however, was much farther away.  Thankfully, another hotel was available just an hour from where I stood, so I set off.

I was in bed by midnight. Sleeping was difficult, between weighing the “what if’s” and being too tired to actually fall asleep. I faded slowly…

And then I woke up late! I packed up and scrambled the new trailhead as I thought to myself, “great start, Shannon.” I ended up on Mt. Belford, a Class 2 mountain, which was more difficult than what I was expecting, but I sucked it up and prepared myself mentally for the challenge (in hindsight, I’m still not certain if it was the smartest move).

There I was at 7:30 a.m., late but ready to rock with my gear loaded, boots strapped, and hydropack filled. My spirits screamed “let’s GO,” but then slowly began to realize that cell service was absolutely non-existent and nobody else was around. Most hikers start well before 6 a.m. To make matters worse, Mt. Belford was very much off the beaten path from civilization.

It would have been so easy to just panic but instead, I strategized. Anybody I encountered, ascending or descending, I would keep track of to reference my position on this mountain.

Originally, I had budgeted five hours to ascend and three hours to come back down; gravity and whatnot. But about an hour in, I was already exhausted and seriously wondering if I could do this. It’s well known that to be successful on the mountains, it’s best to reach the summit by noon. Otherwise, you may have to deal with unplanned, sporadic thunderstorms. If you’re on the peak while an afternoon thunderstorm rolls in… good luck.

As I contemplated my exit strategy for bad weather, I remembered that I flew all the way to the middle of Colorado to do this one thing — I can’t quit. That’s when I began to set mini goals, or checkpoints, for myself as I did with my initial training.

“Make it one more hour and then you can take another snack break”

“Count your steps and see how many you can consecutively get before stopping to take another sip of water”

“You may not make it to the top, but let’s see how far you can get in the five hours you committed”

Tiny goals, tiny progress, but everything adds up. Slowly, with each stride and each breath, I knew I would conquer this hill.

As noon drew closer, I began to see other climbers, those who arrived on time, making their descent. “Is anyone still up there,” I would ask. Each person knew the importance of this answer and confirmed that some people were still up at the top.

12:30 p.m. rolled in with the clouds as I continued my way up the mountain. At this point, all other options were gone. I had to hustle to make sure I reached the summit and hope that somebody, anybody was still up there. In no way, could I be up there by myself so late in the day.

The weight of this situation crashed down on every nerve. I could feel the cold air get thinner. I could taste my water supply starting to deplete. I could also see the inevitable clouds begin to swirl ahead. I had to pick up the pace.

I passed the first false summit. 1:00 p.m.

I passed the second false summit. 1:30 p.m.

“Hello?” I yelled a few times to empty terrain. I wasn’t there yet. With part haste and part anxiety, I began to jog. Moments later, around the last switchback, I see shadowy figures up ahead. The last group was making their descent.

“Please! Please! I’ve made it this far. Will you please wait for me to summit?” I shouted.

“It’s right there. We’ll wait, but HURRY!” somebody shouted back.

I continued to run; faster, harder until I finally reached the top.

Finally, I had made it. I stood there, holding back tears. Any sense of urgency to descend was pushed to the side for just a second as I panned across what seemed like the entire rest of the world underneath me in that moment — quiet, still, empty. I pulled out my phone and took one photo before noticing the clouds getting a darker shade of angry. Something was about to happen.

(If you zoom in on the upper left, you can see me in all black climbing to the summit while these folks waited. Also, note the ominous clouds.)
Reaching the summit of Mt. Belford 14,197 ft elevation.

Holding a Mt. Belford sign with the elevation on it.

The climb down

I jumped off the top rock and sprinted toward the nice folks, praying they hadn’t left yet. They were slowly making their way back to the trail. As we joined together, the thunder rumbled. This was our first warning.

We FLEW. Nothing but hiking boots but faster than skis as we zigzagged through the switchbacks. And then the ominous clouds turned for the worst.

Overhead, the sky pelted us with graupel (soft small water pellets). Underneath us, the rocks were loose and the ground was wet. Our clothing became a darker shade as it saturated with water and my toes burned with every step. After an hour of downhill running, we made it below the tree line without getting struck by lightning.

We stopped for a moment in the trees and caught our breath. The nice folks continued their way without me. I had given every remaining ounce of energy in the sprint and somehow needed to find a way to finish my descent.

I eventually did make it down. As soon as I saw my rental car, I fell to the ground and wept. I couldn’t feel my legs. My feet were bloody and bruised. I wasn’t sure if I still had either of my big toenails still attached.

This was one of the most challenging experiences I have ever faced in my life. The mental capacity needed to push one’s self, without anyone or anything to comfort you, is monumental. Without cell service, or music, podcasts, nothing – just sheer will power.

You can plan down to the exact sip of water. You can train with professionals. But when you’re faced with empty terrain, alone, and the “what if’s” start to creep into the back of your mind, the effects are crippling. There were moments when I truly doubted that I would make it to the top, let alone OFF the mountain.

But I did. And I did it by myself. 14,197 ft. June 5, 2021

While this was intended to be a fun activity fueled by my love for hiking, I walked away from this with so much more than a thrill.

During the five hours it took me to ascend, I fought harder for mental endurance than I did physical. Questions swirled in my head every time I stopped to catch my breath. There were times when I considered admitting defeat and turning around. At other times I wondered if I truly could even finish, and what would happen if I couldn’t find help. During the very last hour I lost all feeling in my legs near the point of collapsing. But there was no other choice but to continue. Life was on the line. I had to keep telling myself: “You – Can – Do – This.”

I am 100% convinced that humans are capable of so much more than we realize.

We are all born with varying degrees of physical and mental strength. As children, we begin with education in the classroom and exercising on the playground. We learn to read and write and how to play hopscotch or tetherball. We form passions and opinions and begin to develop a lifestyle with routines and goals. And then we get comfortable and settle, adhering to societal norms and our own checklists.

But what if you pushed even just 10% harder than you thought you could? What if you woke up an hour earlier every day to work toward a goal you really wanted to achieve? What if you really are capable of pursuing that crazy idea you’ve stored away in the back of your mind? What would happen if you really did achieve it?

What would that mean to you?

I spent nine hours climbing a 14,000 ft. mountain by myself. I learned that when my back is against a wall, feet bloody and bruised, knees about to buckle with each step, that I choose to fight back and survive. Because that’s what it takes to cross the finish line, even when you’re weak, broken, and bloody. 

Maybe your goal isn’t a fourteener. But if you’ve read this far, then perhaps you have something in mind, something more you want from life.

So what’s keeping you from climbing your mountain?

An hour in.

Looking for your next Keynote Motivational Speaker? Let’s chat!

Shannon is a motivational speaker and business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

speaker headshot

Ten Years Speaking Business

This past December, I was snowed in at my sister’s house in Kansas City writing out my goals and projections for 2021. I had just finished my last virtual keynote of 2020 (from her basement) and was excited to end the year strong when I realized

Drumroll please…….

2021 marks TEN YEARS of owning my speaking/consulting business!

Girl holding a balloon

Wow! I couldn’t believe it. Where had the last decade gone? Whom had I impacted? What had I accomplished?

In those ten years I:

  • Spoke in 45 states (still need Rhode Island, Idaho, Maine, Hawaii and Alaska! Know anyone there?)
  • Addressed over 200,000 audience members
  • Worked with companies like Tesla, Fidelity Investments, Newell-Rubbermaid, Garmin, MIT and more
  • Delivered more than 50 segments for TV programs around the country including: ABC, CBS, Nickelodeon and others
  • Delivered a TEDx Talk
  • Designed apparel to accompany my “Dream It Map It Reach It” initiative that signifies it doesn’t matter where you come from, or what you have in your pockets, you can still dream big and accomplish your dreams

After a decade of both exhilarating highs and lows, I’ve learned a few things from this wild ride. Strap in, I’m taking you with me!

Here are the ten things I’ve learned over the past ten years. 


1. Start with a solid plan.

When I realized being a motivational speaker and business consultant was in my DNA, I put together a plan. I hired a business coach, asked tons of questions and created benchmarks and mile markers to guide progress and results. I knew my plan may get derailed along the way, but because I knew what I wanted to accomplish, it kept me on the right track for success! Q. What’s your plan for 2021?

2. Mentors, mentors, mentors.

Every successful person has had a mentor, or maybe a few mentors, who offered advice, motivation, encouragement, emotional support and grace.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without a few significant individuals who have walked alongside me over the past decade. It is helpful to have a fresh set of eyes and ears, especially when I’ve needed to make difficult decisions.  Many times, my mentors encouraged me to stick with the plan, even when it got hard.  But sometimes, they provided fresh insight and permission to walk the other way and try a new plan, when my original wasn’t coming together as expected. Q. Who do you look to for advice and encouragement along your journey?

3. When the tides change, learn to change with them!

This feels very relevant for 2020, but the truth is that we encounter obstacles every year (heck, probably ever week) that cause us to shift, pivot, roll with it and figure it out. Did you know that in the spring of 2020, when all of my speaking commitments cancelled, I went back to my sales career for a brief while to help distribute a product that was vital during those early stages of the pandemic?  Was that part of my plan?  No way!  But when 2020 threw me those lemons, I learned to incorporate them until I figured out what would be next.  When you deny change, you deny yourself opportunities and growth. And wow, have I grown tremendously in this past year. Q. How have you grown because you had to adapt to new realities?

4. There’s no one way to define your professional or personal life.

Every story I’ve heard over the last decade has been similar…. But different. There’s no one way to be the best employee, entrepreneur, student, mom, friend or spouse. However, there IS a right way for how you can define your life. It’s all up to you. You get to make your own rules. Don’t let anyone define that for you. Q. How do you describe yourself?

5. Hindsight is 20/20.

I probably should’ve written that book. Or created more online courses. Or said yes to more things. Hindsight is always 20/20. But, we can’t live our lives in the rearview mirror. We have to keep taking action forward! Q. How are you looking forward?

6. Every relationship matters.

I’ll never forget one Tuesday morning in October 2017. I was drinking my coffee and about to start the day when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but answered like I always do, “Hi this is Shannon!” On the other end was Brian, the president of an audio/visual company I had worked with a few years prior. We chatted for a bit and then he cut to the chase. He was producing an international company conference which included renting out Gillette Stadium in Boston for three days and they wanted me to emcee the entire thing. I was floored. His staff remembered me from another conference I keynoted and thought I would be the perfect fit for this event. It was a dream come true and something I will never take for granted. I’m certainly not perfect at it, but every day I try to treat everyone with kindness and respect. You never know what relationships will come back around in your life. Q. How can you reevaluate your relationships? 

7. Nothing replaces work ethic.

You can study at elite schools, obtain the highest degrees and have unlimited connections, but nothing can take the place of hard work. If you are willing to work hard enough, I believe you can have anything you want.  The best players on the field are not always the biggest, the strongest, or fastest. The same can be said about the workplace.  Despite what the media and news often show, the best in the boardroom are not always the smartest, wealthiest or most educated.  But are they the persistent! Q. How can you increase your work ethic and productivity this next year?

8. Criticism is tough.

There will always be someone who provides solicited (and unsolicited) criticism that makes you question your decisions and your plan. But it’s how you handle the critics that will define you. Detractors are just that – detracting you from your path and your plan. When you can, turn the criticism into fuel to keep you going. Q. It hurts to hear, but how can you turn criticism into a catalyst for you?

9. Your physical health impacts your emotional and mental health.

When I started my business, I was coming off the healthiest time of my life serving as an NFL cheerleader. I was in the best shape I’d been in, which allowed me to work round the clock building my dream business. However, over time running from airport to airport, eating meals out and not getting to the gym as often, caused my metabolism to shift. I felt the energy drain and realized I couldn’t offer as much to my audiences when I wasn’t feeling my absolute best. That’s why I’ve been on a mission to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily and drinking as much water as possible. Q. I know you know, but are you moving that body of yours?

10. When in doubt, follow your gut.

I’ve learned time and time again; your gut instinct is almost always right. Sure, we put parameters in place to try and guide us, but at the end of the day, if you’ve done the homework, you should feel confident about putting yourself out there and knowing right from wrong. It all works out the way it’s supposed to. Q. Do you trust yourself?

Gratitude – In Closing

Looking back, the one thing I can confidently say is that I am beyond grateful for the journey. The ups, the downs, the twists, and turns. All of it. I can send this note out today knowing that as nervous as I was a decade ago, I still chased my dream. It’s never too late to do what your heart is passionate about. Thank you for being on this journey with me! You inspire me to keep pursuing these passions. I hope you pursue yours! As a matter of fact, let me know what you are chasing. Maybe I can help you get there. Feel free to email me!

Looking for a virtual keynote speaker? A consultant for your team? A coach? Let’s chat! I would be honored to work with you!

Cheers to the next ten!

21-Day Thankful Challenge

The holidays are upon us, the store sales have begun and many of us are quickly trying to cross off items on our “things to accomplish this year” list.  Although 2020 hasn’t been what any of us expected, there are still things for which we can be thankful, so I’m kicking off my 21-Day Thankful Challenge TODAY!

Join me on CBS Portland as I talk about having a thankful heart over the next 21 days.

If you’ve been part of my community for a while, you know I’ve participated in this challenge several times. It’s simple: jump into the Facebook group, download the FREE Workbook and begin encouraging others over the next 21 days to live with a thankful heart. The challenge runs November 10 – November 30, and takes no more than five minutes of your attention each day.

Looking for your next Keynote Motivational Speaker? Let’s chat!

Shannon is a motivational speaker and business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

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2020 Vision

October 1st crept up on me.

Ahhhh, October. The leaves are changing. Pumpkin spice flavors appear on every menu. School is (usually) in full-swing. Football games consume our weekends, and annual trips to the pumpkin patch and apple orchards pepper our social media pages.  It’s also the beginning of the last quarter of the calendar year…a subtle reminder that we’re running out of time to cross things off our “goals to finish this year” list.  

I remember October 2019 like it was yesterday. My friends and I were enjoying pizza at Sixty Vines, a popular spot in Dallas. My event planner friend told the group how excited she was for her 2020 conference titled “Vision 2020.” It was going to be a huge conference with all the bells and whistles, and her company was planning an awesome celebration to culminate the event.

[Insert mic drop] If only we’d had 2020 vision a year ago.

Like you, I had audacious goals for 2020. This was going to be MY year. I was slated to speak at more conferences than ever before. I debuted a new keynote in December 2019 that was very well-received and I had to plans to expand my business.  

And then, March happened.  The virus and pandemic changed everything we knew about our ways of life.

The last seven months have been strange, and over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals from January 1st. I had many New Year’s resolutions, hopes and dreams, and was determined to take my work ethic to a new level this year. I realized that even though October sneaked up on me, it’s not too late to make 2020 the year I had intended it to be.

Together, let’s vow to be intentional with the last three months of the year. Here’s my plan.

If you follow me on social media, you know I swear by the Best Self Journal. It categorizes three important goals into 13 weeks to divide and conquer. So, I just started a new journal and set some attainable goals:

Write 6-8 blog posts between now and December 31

Create 4-6 new YouTube videos between now and December 31

Start building an online course that goes along with my new keynote

If you had to sit down today and write out three major goals for yourself, what would they be? I’d love to hear yours. Send me an email or tag me in your post so I can see!

Let’s fight to finish this year strong! Work toward that career move you wanted prior to the pandemic. If you are a leader in your organization, find a way to build unity and strength with your team. But no matter what, let’s not waste these last three months. We still have an opportunity to show up for our careers, our spouses, our families and our friends in all the best ways. A new normal doesn’t mean giving 50%. Let’s give these next 180 days all we’ve got.

PS – if you want to buy a journal, I still have a code to get 15% off! Use “ShanDance” at checkout.

Four Journals

Looking for your next Keynote Motivational Speaker? Let’s chat!

Shannon is a motivational speaker and business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

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Intrinsic Motivation

A couple of years ago, I traveled to Barcelona for a trip with two of my girlfriends. We were having the time of our lives exploring the city, enjoying new experiences, and dining on great food.

Unfortunately, I had packed the wrong shoes for walking around this beautiful city and by day three my feet were over it! I told my friends I didn’t care what mode of transportation passed us next, I was flagging it down and getting a ride back to the hotel. I turned around and here came Alex, with the biggest smile, pedaling a rickshaw.

I knew from experience that rickshaws weren’t the most cost effective means of transportation. In fact, Alex quoted a price that made me gasp, but I couldn’t walk another step, so we climbed aboard his rickshaw and away we went. I wasn’t prepared for the conversation that would follow.

Alex began asking us lots of questions…where were we from, what were we doing in Spain, how we liked Barcelona, and more. During the ten-minute ride, we learned that he was a sophomore at the local university. He LOVED being a rickshaw driver and had some big goals. He realized that if he got up an extra hour everyday to work, he could save enough money over the next semester to buy his own rickshaw and start his own company. He handed me his business card and it was clear he had created a marketing and business plan to get his company off the ground and make a living. His motivation as a young person was overwhelmingly refreshing and I began to wonder if he was born with some level of intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is defined as engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding, not for an external award. Alex possessed five key components that had helped him realize measurable success over a short amount of time.

  • Achievement drive – the personal drive to improve and achieve
  • Commitment – the ability to set, and reach, goals
  • Initiative – the willingness and readiness to act on opportunities
  • Optimism – the gift of finding the silver lining, even after a set-back
  • Resilience – the ability to adapt and overcome

The more I’ve studied the relationship between motivation and emotional intelligence, the more I’ve understood how we become motivated the most when we find activities that allow us to operate at an optimal “flow.”

Daniel Goleman, author of Working with Emotional Intelligence gives the example of “Joe.” Joe is someone who finds his work exhilarating and performs at his best. The key to exhilaration is not the task itself – Joe’s job is often routine – but the special state of mind Joe creates as he works, a state called “flow.” Flow moves people to do their best work, no matter what work they are doing.

Goleman isn’t the only expert in “flow.” Years ago, I meandered through a Barnes & Noble and found a book titled Flow. The psychology of the optimal experience.

In 1975, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defined flow as, “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at a great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” Csikszentmihalyi said that psychologists who study happiness, life satisfaction and intrinsic motivation have found this definition helpful.

The idea of flow and intrinsic motivation fascinates me. The idea that someone like Alex was intrinsically motivated to start his own company at the age of 20 and put the desire into action is inspiring.

Recently, I asked a few friends these questions:

  • What motivates you?
  • When do you feel you are performing at an optimal level?
  • What in your life do you take initiative on?

The range of answers was pretty cool…

  • Creating solutions for customers
  • When I am working on something really important for someone else
  • Motivated by learning, growing and creating
  • Having a goal, dream or vision
  • To be the best in my profession

Emotional intelligence and motivation go hand-in-hand. If you get out of bed everyday but aren’t compelled to live your life with a sense of purpose, perhaps you need to ask yourself those three questions. I want to know what drives people, what makes them tick, what makes them want to give 110%. And I want that for you, too.

Motivation is what pushes us to achieve our goals, feel more fulfilled and improve overall quality of life. Without proper motivation, the quality of work is likely not at its full potential. Understanding what motivates you is a primary component in becoming more emotionally intelligent, but also in achieving success in life.

So, what’s motivating you today? Is it to return to school? Earn a promotion? Take a dream vacation? Pay off some debt?

In my keynotes, I talk about emotional intelligence and success in the workplace. From working with c-level executives in healthcare, middle managers in corporate America or students forging the start of their careers, I am passionate about helping people find their definition of success.

Shannon is a motivational speaker based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

Do you have this one key attribute?

I was recently leading a two-day workshop for the leaders of various divisions across a company. We were having a blast talking all things leadership, emotional intelligence, generational differences and personal development in the workplace.

I love having opportunities like this to spend so much time with corporate or student leadership teams, helping them grow and evolve!

As we started the self-awareness piece of the workshop, I asked all attendees to complete a personality test. Though I was certain everyone in the room had taken various tests throughout their careers, I wanted to focus on a different aspect for the purpose of our training. I handed each attendee a 40-question test and upon completion, we compiled the answers into four groupings of “personalities.”

As we looked at the attributes of the personality groups, nearly everyone nodded in agreement as they unveiled attributes that defined the group in which they felt like they belonged: “life of the party,” “analytical,” “inclusive,” “logical,” and so on.

Then, I changed the results from how the participant saw him or herself, to how others interpreted those personalities in the workplace. In one case, the HR Director saw herself as rational, firm on policy, and tough-minded. However, others in the office saw her as critical, ruthless, and lacking empathy. She was shocked to hear how she was perceived by her co-workers.

Being self-aware about our emotions isn’t just about knowing if we are happy or sad. It’s also about being aware of how our behaviors and emotions affect those with whom we interact. Understanding this could make all the difference in how successful our interactions are in the workplace.

It has been proven that people who are self-aware are able to achieve much more success because of this one key attribute.

If you are curious about ways to strengthen your self-awareness as it relates to personality and emotional intelligence, try this exercise:

Download your own worksheet:  SelfAwarenessActivity

On a piece of paper, create three columns: self awareness, perceived awareness, and other’s feedback. Write down all of the attributes you believe to be true about yourself in the first column. In the middle column, create a list of how you think others see you. Remember, it’s important for us to understand how we are perceived by others! The final column may take some time but is so worth it! Find a few people whom you trust to provide candid and constructive feedback.

Here’s a sample email you could send to these people:

Hi! I am working on my goals and self-awareness. Would you consider providing honest and constructive feedback about these four questions? I have intentionally left them open-ended so you can provide answers in your own words. Thanks, in advance, for helping me become a better {peer, coworker, student, boss, etc.}.

In the workplace, please describe how you view me in these areas:

  • Personality: Do others see me as funny? Inclusive? Kind? Hard to work with? Easy going? Strict on deadlines? Overly emotional?
  • Work Product: How can I improve my work as part of the overall team/company success?
  • Strengths: What are my strengths and how can I better use them to contribute to our team?
  • Weaknesses: Are there things I do that may be perceived as a weakness or that may prevent me from being seen as a leader in the office?

I hope this exercise helps you become more self-aware and emotionally intelligent in all areas of your life. My goal is to create more cohesive teams and develop better leaders, and I believe that being emotionally intelligent about ourselves and those around us is key for optimal success!

Shannon is a motivational speaker based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

Advancing Your Career After a Break

Last month, I was on CBS KCTV5 Better Kansas City TV Show for my monthly TV segment. These segments explore a variety of topics that align with my keynotes. From emotional intelligence and leadership to this month’s topic: getting started in the workforce or advancing your career after a break.

The job market can sometimes be scary. Whether you’re a new college graduate looking for a first job, a stay-at-home parent hoping to re-enter the workforce or someone scouting out a career change to a completely different field, I have four tips to help you get back into the game!

Over the years, I’ve had the honor of recruiting for and consulting with, companies large and small. I am passionate about helping students, educators and those already in corporate America establish career paths.

Do you know the #1 problem regarding applicants in today’s job market? Do you know what companies look for when hiring new employees? Do you know how to overcome the hurdle of lack of experience?

Watch my segment to learn how to overcome these obstacles and transition back to the workforce with greater ease.  After watching, let me know your favorite tip!

Looking for your next Keynote Motivational Speaker? Let’s chat!

Shannon is a motivational speaker and business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.




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