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The Day I was Robbed - and the lessons I learned

Today I was robbed.

It’s such a violating experience, filled with, just about, every emotion. I am having a hard time wrapping my mind and heart around everything that happened - and a lot of things (shocking things) happened. But before I get into the details of the robbery, I want to talk about the most frequently asked question I get regarding my war injury, losing a leg, having over 100 surgeries, re-learning how to walk and run, or dealing with a horrific case of PTSD…that question is: “How did I get through everything and you are still smiling?”

Or some version of that…..I have been asked this question more times than I can count - and it’s clear to me that everyone wants an answer so they know how to deal with obstacles and challenges in their lives. I get it. But despite my desire to provide this solution and give up ‘the secret’ that allows anyone to face any challenge, no matter how big or small, with a smile, I was left stunned and perplexed as to how to respond. My thought and often the response is: “I don’t know; I just did it.” Until today…the day I was robbed.

Immediately after realizing what has happened and how this robbery is going to affect my life, I had this internal, rational voice say — Maja, this IS it! You are doing it now. This is what people want to know when they ask the question: “How did you do it?” Pay attention how you do it and keep notes, as best as you can.

I quickly realized this experience is a little microcosm of my entire life, and there was something to learn from that.

In 1993, I was 16 years old — a teenager in Bosnia, trying to live my life’s purpose. Preparing to be a professional athlete and minding my own business when a bomb landed killing all 5 of my friends, while I was severely injured. In that moment I faced obstacles, challenges and the course of my life changed. I lost everything and had to start a new life in the USA.

In 2023, I was 45 years old, a couple weeks before my birthday, I was in Minneapolis, living my new life’s purpose - giving a speech to 2000 people, when I was robbed and the course of my life changed, again. Not as drastically as before, but it definitely made a much larger impact than I could have ever expected. While I am not attached to material things, this robbery took from me stuff I was and will never be able to replace.

But it also gave me something I have been searching for for many decades…an answer to that question: “How did you do it?” And while it was happening I have been, very consciously, thinking about every single step I took, emotions I experienced, and how I was going to deal with something so devastating with a sole purpose to share it with all of you who have asked me that question, and those that are wondering what the “secret” is to overcoming any and all obstacles, and using them as you strengths, instead of allowing them to crumble you.

Whenever we go through difficult situations and life’s challenges we experience enormous amount of emotions - like fear and pain, negative thoughts…we question our decisions and wonder if we made the right choice… we react and not necessarily in the best way possible…and then we live in the hindsight. “Maybe I should have done that instead?” We beat ourselves up over and over, and somehow, when we listen to gurus and inspirational speakers, we hear that we are supposed to do it “with positivity.” We are supposed to focus on the lesson and shift our perspective to be positive. Heck, I know all this…I am one of those people that preach about positivity being a matter of perspective, regardless of our situation. But the reality is - things aren’t just that simple. They aren’t so black and white, as much as we want to simplify them and make them into some form of palatable lesson that speaks to the masses. In reality - these are complex moments and experiences, and solutions often differ from person to person - which is why I always had a difficult time answering that simple question: “How did you go through everything, and you are still smiling, and are so positive?”

I am now sitting at the airport, waiting to fly home, writing this on my cellphone, since all of my stuff was stolen, besides my phone that I managed to save, and wondering what tomorrow will bring - contemplating everything.

In order to understand how to get through hard times and constantly pull yourself up you have to first understand what happened. To understand why this was so devastating for me, you have to know the back story.

First - the backstory

I flew to Minneapolis to speak at APTA (American Public Transport Association) event. I was very excited about this speech and the group for many reasons. APTA folks work tirelessly to take care of the most vulnerable subset of our nation. But more than that, they are absolutely lovely to work with. The crowed was pretty large, I believe close to 2000 people, in a lovely venue in Hilton, Minneapolis. As a speaker, I am constantly looking for a good opportunity to film my speech. Every speaker will tell you that getting great footage is akin of a miracle - unless you are or are married to a video producer! All stars have to align for this to happen, and even when it does, there are so many things that can, and still do, go wrong. For example, I had one speech where I hired a crew to come and film me, but they forgot to turn on my microphone and record the audio - so the entire thing was a waste with this crackling audio. One big problem with hiring the right people is that we give speeches in a new city almost every time, which means you have to either hire someone local that you've never worked with before, and the result is more often than not sub par, or to fly someone you know is good to film it. But that’s often cost prohibitive. And then, if, by some miracle, you have all those lined up, you have to make sure your speech is relevant so it can be cut into the speaker’s golden ticket — the sizzle reel. Also, the crowd has to be large enough, the lighting and the room have to be right, and so on. For me, this speech ticked all the boxes. The room was right, the crowed was right, the venue was perfect, and I desperately needed this footage in order to create my new sizzle reel.

I was ready. And I wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize this opportunity. I hired a 5 time Emmy nominee videographer from North Carolina to fly in. He brought some equipment with him, but we rented the rest from a local production company. This would allow us to have multiple angle shots and get really professional footage. I even invested into $3500 custom made Italian suit! Something I’ve never done before, but I thought I deserved it, and this was a wonderful opportunity and investment. I spent almost 2 months on tailoring the suit, getting it just right, and was so ecstatic to wear it. The suit's azul blue color matched the huge large curtains behind the stage, which also matched my presentation slides. It was all perfect and I was ready to go.

My speech was at 8:40am. I woke up at 5am. A make up artist came to my room to do my hair and make up. I was hyped, and a bit nervous. Not because of my speech. I’ve done many speeches and I feel very comfortable on stage. I was nervous because I really wanted the footage to come out well. I wanted everything to go right so I can finally have the sizzle reel I desperately need!

I went down from my room to the venue, met with the videographer, discussed our plan, and made sure everything was ready to go. We were filming with multiple cameras to capture different angles, and he also had a camera he carried and used to film the attendees and their reaction. The plan was set in motion and it was time for me to get on stage.

Once on stage, like always, I forgot all about the need to film anything, and my sizzle reel. I connected with my attendees, and the words just flew out of my mouth. When I was finished I got a standing ovation. I saw grown men crying in the audience, feeling inspired and powerful. Dozens of people came after to chat with me and express their thanks for the impact I made on them. I was so happy and grateful that I get to do exactly what I am meant to do. Grateful that my work fills me up so much. Grateful that I get to see the real impact I make. Shortly after my speech, the videographer came up to me with a big grin and said: “That was amazing. I got everything you need, and you have so much footage now. You’ll be able to use it for years.” Oh, I was so relieved and ecstatic. Finally, I will make and have a sizzle reel that I deserve and that actually represents who I am as a person and a speaker. I was high on positive emotions, completely oblivious to what was to come.

After we finished everything, I went back to my room and changed into comfy pants and a T-shirt. I carefully folded my suit and packed everything neatly. My laptop, my chargers, my iPad, items for my prosthetic leg and my brace - among other things. Satisfied and hungry (because we skipped breakfast) we both checked out of our rooms and decided to stop and grab lunch at the restaurant one block from our hotel.

Valet brought my rental car; we loaded all of our bags into the car. All of his gear. And all of the progressional gear we rented.

We parked in front of the restaurant, on the street, in a public parking spot. I paid my $2 parking fee at the meter and we went into the restaurant. We ordered our small pasta dishes and ate quickly. Videographer was leaving that afternoon, but my flight wasn’t until 6am the next morning - so I was planning to take him to the airport and then check into the hotel near the airport to save myself some time in the morning

The robbery - Lesson 1: Who are you really?

After lunch we walked up to the car when he said to me: “We’ve been robbed”. I thought - no, he’s got to be joking. I mean, here we are, in a lovely part of Minneapolis, in a middle of the beautiful, sunny day. There is no way. So I smiled and said: “Yeah, right. Very funny.” Walking towards the car. But he reconfirmed - “My stuff is gone”. I thought to myself — he is really persisting with this. So I look a little more closely and realize that the car windows are busted, there is glass everywhere, and all of our stuff is gone. Everything - laptops, iPads, back up drives, his camera and lenses, my suit, both of my suitcases, all of my prosthetic and orthotic stuff. But more than anything, the video footage that I worked so hard to get is now gone also. I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock.

The shock of the incident doesn’t allow you to think much. This is a fight or flight time and during this time we are at a mercy of our upbringing. And our reactions mimic our deep internal feelings and beliefs. Those that we may or may not even be conscious of.

For example, for me it was shock. I never imagined something like this could happen because I believe that people are good, and bad things don’t happened to good (me) people. It’s a same kind of a shock I experienced when I got injured. My first words at that time were: “Mom, I think I am dreaming, please wake me up.” She kept saying “No you aren’t not dreaming. Everything will be ok.” But still I kept saying: “No, I am dreaming. I am dreaming. Wake me up.”

What was happening around me didn’t match my inner belief and I was fighting the reality.

If you are a person whose deep beliefs are that people are bad you may experience a very different emotion other than shock and disbelief. It may just prove to you and reassure you that this is normal. If you have been victimized or abused in your life then you may feel like you deserved this. And so on. The point is that whatever is living deep inside of you, and the person you truly are will come to surface.

These moments, when we feel attacked and violated in a way that forces our fight or flight mode we lose ability to “rationalize” things - even though it feels like we are - and our true self comes out because during this time we aren’t spending energy, nor do we have the ability to mask the real us. This is why we often say things like: “It’s one thing to talk about it, but’s in a whole other thing to experience it and be in it.” When we talk about something, we are not in that heightened state and we are still able to mask our deep self, we are able to talk about what we think we would like to do in those situations.

But once we are in those situations — and fight/flight has taken over — there is no power or energy to rationalize and keep up the facade — we show our true colors.

So think about yourself. Your life. How do you react in the most difficult, shocking moments, when your fight/flight primal mode has been triggered? This may reveal parts of you that you maybe don’t like and want to change.

The police and the real shock! Lesson: Always make centered and grounded decisions.

Immediately, I do one thing I know for sure that I should do - I call the police. I dial 911, and someone answers. They ask what happened, and I tell them. They tell me to hang on, and place me on hold! I am on hold for about 5min when I think to myself: "This has to be mistake. I called 911 and told them we were robbed. I am tracking the robbers right now on my iPhone with a gps. They must have misunderstood….this is a real emergency, they need to send the police out here now so they can catch them.”

So I hang up from hold, and I call 911 again. And once again they put me on hold for another 5 min when, I decide to hang up again. At this point I can see the thieves moving on my iPhone. They are getting further and further away. If the police would just get here, we could track them, and grab our stuff. So I hang up again, call 911 again and explain that I am tracking the criminals and I need the police to come asap.

To my shock they said they do not come out for robberies unless there is a shooting. Shocked once again, I ask “Aren’t they coming to file a report?” Shouldn’t this be documented? For insurance company purposes or million other reasons? They said no they are not coming out at all. They do not do reports, by they send me link to the website if I want to fill out a form. Still in shock at what I am hearing, I start arguing with them and explaining that the robbery is still in progress, I can see them and track them. I just need the police to get here. They said they don’t go after the criminals. However I can track them down, find the robbers, and then once I do find them, then I can call the police so they can help me retrieve my items.

As the minutes go by, I am in shock more and more. I can’t believe what I am hearing. The police want me to track my things and robbers during an active robbery, and then call them? It just doesn’t make sense. I hang up again because this just can’t be happening. I must not be hearing this correctly or I am getting the wrong person on the other line. I am not trained to chase after robbers. That’s supposed to be their job. So I call again, hoping someone else will answer and send us help. At this point I called so many times that the 911 operators instead of answering: “911, What’s your emergency?” She said: ”Maja, they are not coming.” I was flabbergasted. The help is not coming. I had to come to terms with the reality - they are not coming.

I even asked, since I can see the location of the robbers, could the police at least meet me there. It was a big emphatic NO, over and over again. I had to first get there, and then call them from the location. And then wait for the police to come hoping that the robbers don’t move. And the issue with this is that the robbers were constantly moving location. They kept going to different stores and using my credit cards — stores like T-Mobile, and electronic stores to buy merchandise they can later sell.

I also asked about my car’s busted out windows and all the glass on the street. Wasn’t someone going to come and clean it up? And the man on the other line said “No, just leave it there.” I am not sure that it’s even legal to drive with busted out windows? I don’t know? With glass falling as we drive on the highway? It seems like this would be a hazard, not just to us, but also to the other people and cars around us. But that’s what I was told, and at this point it was clear that my only options were to just let this go, accept the situation and go home. Or to try and track them down, and then call the police to retrieve all of stuff.

This moment was an opportunity for a lesson. What do I do? What would you do? What IS the right thing to do? How do I show up in this moment? Do I just give up and possibly live with regret or do I try one time to retrieve my stuff and see what happens?

At some point in my life I would have reacted emotionally. Without even thinking about it, I would have already been chasing them. The justice fighter inside of me would have taken over to make the wrong right. The ego inside of me, the part that doesn’t allow me to be the victim or anyone to victimize me, would have chased them down to teach them a lesson. But instead, I stopped myself. I didn’t react emotionally. I thought about it. Am I willing to potentially risk my life for a really important video footage? I didn’t care about the items — anything in that car be purchased. Who cares — no money is worth risking my life. During the war we lost everything a couple times. I know items can be bought, and things rebuilt — and my life is far more precious than anything else. But the footage we just got is priceless. It is something I can’t easily replace and in an instant - it’s gone. Not to mention I had written 2 complete books, and 1 book that that was 3/4 finished which were on my laptop, and now, they were gone too. Not because I didn’t have a back up - but because my back up drive was stolen as well. These things can’t be replaced and it may be worth the risk. But most of all, the question of regret came up for me. If I don’t go after them, will I regret it for not even trying? Will I continually question myself and think that I gave up too easily and too quickly? And when I weighed all of my options, I decided I would go after them. Following the police instructions and meeting them there to get my stuff seemed like something that was worth a try.

Despite whether that was the right or wrong decision, I was proud of myself because it came from a centered and grounded place - a place where I weighed my options, knew the risks, and then based on those, decided to proceed. It wasn’t a rash, emotional decision that was controlled by my emotions and my ego.

And the lesson here is — we will never know if we made the right decision or not. If I had to do it over again, I am not sure if I would have bothered? But hindsight is 20/20. That, typically, is revealed later to us. What IS important is that we make all of our decisions from a centered and grounded place. Thinking about the future and long term effects, and not just the short term satisfaction and instant gratification. And how do we do this? By working on and practicing how to manage and control our emotions. That way, when we do become emotional and triggered in ways that would throw us off the track, we are able to recenter, reground quickly, and effectively so we can make those decisions from a grounded and centered space. Again, decisions you make from that place will likely be the correct decisions, but it doesn’t guarantee that. And you can’t beat yourself up for it or live in the hindsight — all you can do is ask yourself to show up for yourself in that grounded and centered space - right, wrong, or indifferent. Everything else you need to let go.

The chase - Lesson: Acceptance. Create your own safe space.

During this time I am getting notifications from my cc companies in which stores all of my cards are being used. T-mobile store, Fashion Express, and some random electronic store was the latest. I decide to go there and as directed by the police call them once we got there. We pulled up in front of the electronics shop and called 911. We waited in the car for about 40min and no one showed up. Couple police cars drove by and we thought they were there for us, but nope — they just drove by.

Shortly after I saw that the dot I am following on my iPhone has moved and the robbers have now left the electronic store, and were going to a different location. I decide to go into the store by myself and I explained to the owner what happened. I told him also that my credit card was used here. The store owner was very cooperative and showed me what they purchased. He also described the robbers as a black man in a black shirt, skinny, and tall. And a very short, black woman in a white hoodie, with hood up, covering her face. I called the police gave them the description and told them where they were going next. I begged the police to just meet me at their new location since we waited so long at the last location that the robbers left and police never showed up, but they continued saying no. I had to first get there and then call them. This was a 15min drive from the electronic store, and I decided to wait until we were 6min away from the location before I called 911. I lied and told them I was already there - thinking the police will probably need about 5-10min to show up. Dispatch said that the police were on the way.

We went across the bridge from Minneapolis to St. Cloud and landed in a very questionable part of town. We ended up in a plaza with a liquor store, an Asian restaurant, some random off-brand grocery store, and a Dollar General. Stores were lined up in an L shape and parking lot filled the space. We pulled up in the parking lot as I am tracking the blue dot on my phone. It’s showing me now we are only 12ft away from my items. We look around and the videographer spots a person in a white hoodie. We look closer and they fit the description.

We park near them and I call 911 again letting them know that they are here, we can see them and we need the police to show up as soon as possible. They said that the police are on the way. We wait for 15min or so watching them when they move a car from that spot to a less crowded part of the parking lot. We gently move behind them and continue watching. After 5-10 minutes, a large white van pulls up next to them and another person walks out. The driver and the male robber step out of their cars. They shake hands and the the robber starts showing the man my Michael Kors wallet. Inside the wallet I see my passport, my drivers license, my credit cards, my global entry id card, all of it. I see it all right in front of my face. He is clearly showing the merchandise to his “fence” and I am waiting in the car hoping police will show up any second now. It’s been now about an hour since we called — they’ve got to be here soon. As he hands him my wallet I start to worry that all of my stuff is going to be divided and go different directions and I will lose track of where it is. And then I’ll never find any of it. So once again, I make a decision to get out of the car and confront them. This decision came after my acceptance that the police weren’t really going to help. My belief in those that were supposed to be there for me and protect me was dissipating by every minute.

The Altercation: Lesson from the thieves: Don’t be brave; be smart; And always make educated decisions.

Fearing they will make a quick swap I pull up next to them and get out of the car. I am not sure if they have guns so while protected by my and their car I start yelling to get their attention: “You stole my shit.” I figured if they had a gun they would pull it out right away and I could hide and let all of it go. While I am ok taking a risk there is a line which I will not cross. But instead of pulling out a gun or trying to stop me, I see fear in his eyes. He says: ”This is my stuff.” As he tosses my wallet into his car. I can see them cowering, the guy from the white van is confused, and I go after the robber and grab him so he wouldn’t run away. I think to myself - I need to keep him occupied as long as I can because I am still hoping that the police will get here soon. He pushes me away and tries to get into the car. The videographer is filming this and taking photos of the license plates. Then he runs to the passenger side of the car, he sees his camera sitting on top of the center console and he tries to grab it. But the woman in the white hoodie grabs his arm and starts pushing him out the window, as I fight the guy who has now made his way into the front seat. With a window rolled down half way, I try to hang on as he reaches out to help her by twisting the videographer’s fingers and arm as he steps on the gas and drives away. In order not to get hit by the car both of us move out of the way as they speed out of the parking lot.

What I did may seem brave to some people and stupid to some. Even though my decision came from a grounded and centered place - it was not a very educated decision. It was a decision made on wrong assumptions.The robbers knew the law. They knew as long as they didn’t have guns or physically hurt anyone, the police wasn’t going to do much, if anything, about it. With zero bail and other laws they knew exactly how to execute a crime without many, if any, consequences. I didn’t. I made assumptions and if I had known the entire story and was educated about Minneapolis police department and the lack of protection maybe I would have done things differently that would’t even landed me in this situation in the first place.

The last attempt - Lesson: Recognize and Accept Your Situation and Emotions

Immediately after they sped away we talked to the other man, “the fence”, who was still there. We interviewed him and got all the names. We also got his license plates and we told him that the police is already on the way. But now it’s been hour and a half and police are still not there. After waiting for about 15min he just left as well. I don’t blame him. We were left waiting for the police.

Over 2 hours after arriving to this location, I finally see two police cars at the traffic light. They are driving slowly. There are no flashing lights. They are waiting at the red light. There is absolutely NO sense of urgency. They arrive, I explain what happened and show them license plates, videos, photos, everything. And I tell them I can still track them — let’s go! Police tells me that the car they are driving is a stolen car. All the more reason to go after them. I am trying to hurry because I don’t want them to leave again - I get into one of the police cars as I am tracking the blue dot. Videographer drives my car. And we go to the next location. The police officer is driving really slow and I look over and see his is going 35mph. I ask if he can go faster, or turn on emergency flashing lights. He says no. This isn’t a real emergency because no one is hurt so he will go speed limit. Finally we get to the location where my GPS is telling me my stuff is. I can see it - 10ft away from us in an apartment building. I can see which apartment it is as well. I jump out of the police car and try to walk towards the building when the police officer stops me and says that we can’t go in.

They said they can’t because it’s private property. Even though we can see stolen items are there - they can’t knock on the door, they can’t ask any questions, they can only stand on the street and wait. I asked the police officer - why are we even here if you can’t go get my stuff. He says - “Maybe they’ll walk outside with your stuff”. I am thinking…really? They can see two police cars and the car they just robbed outside their window, they will not get out of the car with the stolen merchandise. Desperate to get my stuff which is now only 10ft away from me - (once again) — I try to come up with different workarounds so the police can step into the apartment and get my things. I suggest to break a window and they can go after me. If someone has to be hurt, I’ll go to the door bang my head against the door and they can come help me. Maybe go to the building manager’s office and look at the list of tenants there - which is there and everyone’s photo is there as well. NOTHING. He said that all we can do is wait for a few minutes, and he wanted to to be clear that if the location moved again (as in if they snuck out and left) they would NOT go after them. At this point they have stolen about $29,000 worth of items, plus a stolen car — there was “a fence” meeting them with a white van. This is not a petty crime. I could understand police can’t react to every stolen backpack or iPad. I get it. But this was far bigger than that. But it still didn’t matter. I was shocked.

I felt violated and unsafe by the police, and my realization that the police is clearly not there to protect us - despite what it may say on their car. I had no choice but to accept my situation and deal with all emotions that were coming up — including defeat and loss.

After 10min or so of waiting police said that they are leaving. And we have no other option but to leave. And we get into my busted out rental car and drove away. I dropped off the videographer at the airport. And went to check into my hotel.

Defeat. Adrenaline. Hope. Lesson: Train yourself to look for hope.

Feeling so triggered, violated, and let down, in shock and defeated, I go to the rental car and replace my car. Sadly, without a police report the cost of repairs falls on me. This was the case for my driver’s license, passport and global entry cards, and everything else I submitted.

Driving to the hotel in the defeat and daze I stop at Target and buy a phone charger, pajamas, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and a T-shirt to wear the next day. I am desperately wanting to get to my room to feel safe, and just uncontrollably cry and face what just happened. I get to the Marriott to check in but without any ID they won’t check me in. I plead with the manager and explain what happened, but she also wants to see the police report - which I don’t have. I tell her I am lifelong Marriott Gold member and she is welcome Google me to verify my identity. She really does do that and allows me to check in. I get to the room and I am truly defeated. Adrenaline starts to wear off and I start to shake and cry. I am full of fear and my PTSD that has, for the most part, been dormant is triggered and it kicks in. I am desperate. I am in a strange city where I feel exposed and unprotected. I have been violated and I know that losing this footage will impact my speaking career, and god knows when will be the next time I will be able to have an opportunity to make the same footage again. All of my work stuff and my back up drive are gone. The books I’ve written are gone. I am financially impacted. I am down and out. I am desperate in every aspect. I don’t know what to do with myself, and I keep crying and pacing around the room — wondering how will I sleep tonight? How will I get home? What do I do? Every minute is heavy and long. I go to the bathroom to grab a tissue and there it is — like a beacon of light. A hand towel folded in a shape of a cute animal with a red heart on it. I look at that towel and in an instant I see and feel hope. That’s it. That’s all I needed. It was a tiny something that reminded me of my parents and safety. It was a tiny something that reminded me that no matter what happened I will find my way and I will be ok. I start to cry again but now my cries are those of release and hope. Knowing that I am safe, I will be ok, and everything will work out exactly the way it’s supposed to. I start to get inspired about new possibilities and what this might bring. I start thinking about everything differently. Maybe I was meant to write a new book and have a new message? I don’t know. But suddenly this same situation started to shift and I turned my fear into hope. I turned my defeat into possibilities. I didn’t have the answers and I didn’t know how — I just knew it was going to be ok. This is a perfect example of what I preach — that positivity is a matter of perspective and perspective is a matter of choice. Your choice. Any given time we can choose our reality and what we see. It was this one little folded towel that changed my entire outlook, and what was about to happen next. I could have stayed in the victim mentality, but instead I chose to trust the future. I knew that slowly I would process everything. Learn my lessons. Know what to do better next time. And more importantly be proud of myself for continuing to stay centered and grounded the entire time. It’s important to note that I have been “trained” for the longest time by my parents to look for any version of a folded animal towel with a heart in any situation. I do it so frequently that I didn’t concisely think to look for something — it is second nature to me and the moment it showed up, I latched on to it to create a different reality and path for myself.

What now? Lesson: Lead With Love and Empathy

Once I got home the videographer called me and during our catch up call he said: ”If they catch them, I’d fly to Minneapolis to see those fuckers in jail.” My response was “yeah” — but that didn’t sit well with me. I knew I was being compliant, but it wasn’t me. After we hung up I thought to myself — “No, I am not going to do that.”

Another thing I preach in all of my speeches is empathy. How all of us need to have empathy for those around us. And I can’t preach that unless I live it. And this means living it in the hard moments - moments when we feel like we have been wronged. I can’t be empathetic in selective and convenient situations. And that included these two people that robbed us. I don’t know what their life is. And I don’t know what brought them to commit the crimes they commit. I am not in a place to judge or hate them. I can only lead with empathy, love, and acceptance. I don’t wish them jail or punishment. I wish them well. I wish that their lives change for them so they don’t have to resort to these measures. Because I believe that all people are inherently good and if we gave them a chance to show up in a better light, they would. And they can steal all of my video footage and books I’ve written — but one thing they can’t steal is me and who I am. I will not allow them to change me. I will not lose myself in the pain, fear, and anger. I will not let them turn me or make me into a monster, because the world has been cruel to me. I will stay true to who I am and continue leading with love and empathy. Because I believe that if we all work on ourselves and continue leading with love, despite of what happens to us, we will change the world.

So, when I think about the original question and how is it that I “go through all of this with a smile on my face”? The answer lies in the lessons inside the little microcosm of this incident - in little things like a folded animal towel with a red heart - which I brought home with me and now keep in my bedroom as a reminder that, no matter what, everything will be ok.

The Answer - The Lessons

  1. Who are you? What are your beliefs? If you don’t know you or you are faking that you are something you are not, it will be revealed when your world is twisted upside down, and when you face obstacles. In order to face obstacles and challenges we must know who we are and that has to be congruent and in harmony with our actions. If it is not, we will face internal battles and life will be very difficult. It will be difficult to get through challenges, period. Let alone do it with a smile, and/or learn the lessons we are supposed to learn. Spend time getting to know yourself and your core beliefs and make sure that they are aligned with your life and lifestyle.

  2. Learn to control your emotions and always make centered and grounded decisions. One of the best gifts you can give yourself is to learn how to handle all of your emotions. This doesn’t mean you don’t have any. Nor does it mean that you suppress them. What this means is that while you recognize, accept, and appreciate those emotions, you do not allow them to lead your life. If you are able to control yourself and make decisions from a grounded and a centered place — it means that likely that decision was the right for you. And you were able to listen and honor yourself.

  3. Create your own safe space People you count on, and that should be there for you (like the police, in my case), may not actually be there to help you when you need it. Justice may not prevail. You will be wronged and those that you love and count on the most will turn against you. That’s ok. Accept that and create your own version of a safe space. Listen to yourself and find out what that looks like and build it, so it’s there when you need it the most.

  4. Make educated decisions because knowledge is power No matter which decisions you make, make sure it is not based on assumptions. Moreover, educate yourself about any and all situations and read. Learn. Learn as much as you can about everything you can. Because the knowledge is true power and it can make a difference between life and death.

  5. Embrace your emotions We often fear emotions. They can be hard to accept, especially defeat and loss, injustice and pain. We often bury “bad” emotions down, and try to hang on the to the “good” emotions. When in fact emotions aren’t bad or good. They are there to teach us something about ourselves. They are there to provide a physical release. Learn to accept all emotions and allow them to pass through you so you can release them all. This will allow you to get to and stay in a more grounded and centered space.

  6. Train yourself to always see hope You can’t expect yourself to be hopeful in hard and difficult situations when, day to day, you are practicing worry and constantly wondering what can go wrong. Most of us think that worrying and planning the “worst case” scenarios, and preparing for them, will give us an edge, an advantage to deal with obstacles and challenges better. Although it feels counterintuitive, it’s actually the opposite of that. When you train your mind and your heart to constantly look for positive outcomes in day to day things, (like traffic jam) then when something big happens and your brain goes into that automatic mode, you will naturally and automatically do and show up for yourself with a positive and hope-full perspective. You will know how to handle any and all situations with grace, love, and hope.

  7. Lead with Love and Empathy Despite what is happening to you, don’t lose yourself. I know you are a wonderful person and I know that you can lead with love and empathy. Don’t let this harsh world change you and make you into something different. Concern yourself with you and how you want to react and show up in any situation. Other people, incidents, and their judgment and punishment is not your concern. They have their lives, realities, and destinies you know nothing about — so why bring it into your world? Focus on you and become the best version of yourself that you can be.

  8. The real lesson When you look at all of the lessons I wrote about above there is one common denominator: you have to know yourself, and you have to work on you. All of these lessons require that you learn the aspects of yourself and build yourself into the person you want to be. It’s when you are doing this that you are in harmony with your inner self, and from that place, you will start to feel and see your purpose and place in life. The world will start to look different, and little by little you will change the world. Yours and that of those around you. It’s all about you. I was lucky enough to be raised in a loving and supportive family that built a lot of these concepts for me so they come innately to me. I don’t even think about it. I didn’t think to look for a folded towel with a heart so I can immediately shift my reality. My parents have trained me over the years to continually search for better perspectives when things were ok so when something big happened my brain already knew what to do. For me this is an automatic reaction and it comes very easily — which is why I had a hard time answering the questions “How did I do it?” and my answer was “I don’t know, I just did it.” But there were other things that I didn’t get from my parents, or my environment or that don’t come naturally to me — for example, not being the justice warrior and fighting for what I think is right. And being able to control my emotions so I can make grounded and centered decisions. I used to be a hot headed justice warrior that would always try to make wrong things right. Fighting against the world, when in fact I was fighting against myself. I learned that it’s better not to fight what I hate, but to protect what I love. We all have strengths and weakness. Your job is to find your strengths, use them to your advantage. Then find your weakness and turn them into your strengths. And the only way you can do this is by getting to know and working on yourself. All of this has to happen on a daily basis. It needs to be a routine. And you need to work on it every day in small ways, when there are no crises and no challenges. So when you are finally faced with something big — you take it in stride, with a smile on your face and someone asks you how did you do it, you can say: “I don’t know. I just did it.”

For my fellow speakers:

I’ve been speaking for many years and I absolutely love what I do. As a result, I/we travel so much and find ourselves in strange cities very frequently. All of us are excited to be there, and show up to change the world of people and organizations. We thrive on the impact we make and we keep doing it over and over again.

But the reality is that this can be a dangerous and a very stressful job. And as a single female, I often feel vulnerable in some situations. Most event planners, bureaus, and organizers don’t see or feel this side. We fly, we show up, we do the job, and as long as we are good on stage, everything is great.

And the nature of this work is such that we don’t cross paths, often or at all. As a result, even though we are often surrounded by thousands of people, it is a very lonely job. So when something like this happens it reminds me and makes me wonder how many times did something similar happen to other speakers and I don’t know anything about it? To all of my fellow speakers — I see you. I hear you. I feel you. It will be ok, because we are in this together.



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