Greater Than My Toughest Obstacles

This week, I gave a talk to the Women’s Council of Realtors on what it looks like to be Greater Than My Toughest Obstacles.

Facilitating my “Greater Than My Toughest Obstacles” workshop this week in Cary, NC.

Facilitating my “Greater Than My Toughest Obstacles” workshop this week in Cary, NC.

It’s one of my talks that’s also a guided workshop - I tell my breast cancer story and then I utilize a worksheet to encourage participants to acknowledge what they have overcome. I find too often people get caught up in the word “cancer” and my own personal experience, then somehow conclude that they haven’t faced a difficult obstacle because it wasn’t health-related.

But here’s the deal - it doesn’t matter what your obstacle is titled, what matters it that you tackled it. You faced it head-on and you didn’t let it control you.

The goal of this workshop is to have participants begin to own their stories/experiences and #letothersin to those narratives.

That’s typically the missing step, isn’t it? We climb the Mt. Everest of life obstacles, and then we just want to slide down the other side of the mountain and creep back into everyday life so no one asks us about what we just did.

I JUST CLIMBED MT. EVEREST - why would I want to talk about it?

Sounds kind of silly doesn’t it?

When we scale a challenge, WE SHOULD TALK ABOUT IT! We should acknowledge what we’ve overcome.

Telling your own story will look different for each of us.

For some people, they’ll wait until the expedition is over. They’ll tell you about the adventure once their feet are planted back on steady ground - once they know they are safe. They choose not to share in the thick of things for a variety of reasons, but it really doesn’t matter why. What’s important is that they eventually choose to share and allow you to learn about their experience.


For others, they’ll tell you that they are getting ready to tackle a beast, ask for your prayers, but choose to remain private while on the mountain. They’ll have a small group of trusted professionals and friends climbing with them, but they are purposefully keeping the army small. Perhaps on the descent they’ll start to share their story. Now that the hardest part it out of the way, they’ll start to smile again, and want to tell you of the journey that’s still in the works, but not the giant it was at the beginning.

And for people like me, they’ll Instagram the whole thing. They’ll stop at certain points to show you through words and pictures what the whole experience is like. They’ll be candid with the small wins and unexpected setbacks. They don’t want to be alone on their journey, so they choose to share it with the world as it’s happening. They are documenting a course uncharted and it just makes sense for them to share it in real-time.

As the observer, here’s what you need to remember - however a person chooses to scale an obstacle, it’s ok. You support them in whatever way they need supported, but don’t require them to share an experience they aren’t ready to talk about.

We just need to share.

We tend to withhold our stories for a variety of reasons - judgment, gossip, pain, [fill-in your own here].

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my best friend said to me:

What if, by sharing your story, you save someone’s life?

What if you literally save someone’s life?

And that confirmed my willingness to share what I’d be going through.

bernadette did it.

This week, I met Bernadette.

She’d been suppressing her story of being a mom to a beautiful son with specific needs for nine years - feeling like she was sitting in it alone, not sure of how the world would respond if she #letothersin.

And then she stood up in our workshop and shared her story. The 40 of us in the room were in tears, were energized by her courage, were inspired to support her and others like her.

But then she did what she said she was going to do - she shared her story on her Instagram account:

View this post on Instagram

So today was a HUGE life changer. I attended my very first Women’s Council of Realtors meeting this morning to listen to their guest speaker, @jenhoverstad give a presentation about how to be >Greater than Life’s Obstacles. Jen shared her journey on beating cancer and influencing others by telling her story as much as she could. Through her sharing, she has helped many people recognize the impact you can give to the world by letting others into your life by being vulnerable. She took us through an exercise of how we can share our own story and make a difference. For some unknown and unplanned reason, I was compelled to share my story and be vulnerable to 40 people I have never met before. I made my proclamation to everyone in the room that I’m going to #letpeoplein and forever lift the veil of what it’s like to be a special needs mom of a quadriplegic non-verbal 9 year old son and the balance I have to find everyday to make my life work. We are all struggling with something and, if you are like me, you carry on with a smile on your face as if life is easy. So today I’m letting you in! This is my amazing village of 4 kids. Yes it take a village, and this is mine. They help me and my amazing husband keep it together. My oldest goes away to college next year and my village will continue to shrink until it’s just the three of us. Everyday I pick up my boot straps and keep pressing on to do what I love to do being a mom to four special kids and running an amazing real estate office. My apologies moving forward, because social media will be this platform to continue to share how I life despite how difficult life can be. #mytherapy #blessed #liftingtheveil#lifeishard #lifeismeaningful #nolongerhiding #womenscouncilofrealtors #readytoheal #specialneedsfamily #stillgoingtosmile

A post shared by Bernadette Hurley (@bj.hurley) on

This is what it’s about, ya’ll.

A faith-based purpose.

As a believer, I’ve also been reliant on following what I believe to be God’s path for me.

Yesterday, coming home from Knoxville, I was listening to the Catalyst podcast featuring Lysa Terkurst, and she set a foundation for her teaching with Genesis 50:20.


Can you imagine that simply by sharing your story, in your own words, you end up saving others in ways you never planned or ever imagined possible?


Jennifer Hoverstad