Debra Halperin Poneman – How to overcome struggles?
Transcript of the interview of Debra Halperin Poneman
David Laroche: So, I imagine that you've had struggles in your life. Can you share a part of your story when you had a struggle and how you overcame it?
A lot of people are saying, “Oh, she's successful; he's successful; he had no struggles; it's easy for him or for her; she was lucky.” So it's very amazing to listen to stories. Do you have something to tell?
Debra Halperin Poneman: I'll tell you two stories. One thing is that when I was very young, I actually had cognition of how the world works. I don't know. I must have been maybe 12 or 13 years old. I wasn’t even in high school yet.
I was in a club with all of the cool girls. One of the things when you're one of the cool girls is that there is an unwritten code that you're exclusive, that you exclude other people and maybe even be a little bit mean. It never felt right to me to be mean but I was kind of caught up in the swirl of being one of the cool girls.
I remember one day when one of the girls who wasn’t as cool came up to our group (we were sitting at lunch) and she said, “I was told that I can be in your club.” Somebody, basically, kind of set her up. So she came over and said, “I heard that I was invited to be in your club.”
She was so excited and her eyes were like “sun.” She was like, “I heard that I was invited to be in your club.”
The other girls who were in the club laughed at her and they said, “Who told you that? You're not cool enough to be in our club?”
At that moment, I saw the sadness, I saw the light go out of her eyes, I saw her heart sink, and I saw the redness come into her cheeks.
But what happened was I not only saw it but I felt it in my own physiology. And I had this kind of cognition of the world as like a hologram, and I realized that one person’s pain was all of our pain, and that if you cause somebody else pain, you are causing yourself an equal amount of pain.
And it might not be at that moment but it will, in fact, come back to you.
I was just a little girl and it was kind of a big universal experience but, at that moment, I made the commitment to myself that I would never ever consciously cause anybody pain again.
One of the ways that (I didn't know it then) you can do this is when you do move from your head to your heart because your heart never wants to cause anyone pain.
I just had an experience recently where I was going to have to do a project with somebody and I was like, oh, why do I have to do a project with that person? That person is annoying. I had all the reasons why I didn't want to do it with that person.
But those were on my mind and I was going in with, this is going to be hard, this is going to be annoying.
I moved into my heart, opened my heart, had the best experience, and had the best results that we have ever had from one of these types of projects that we were working on. Again, it's all about moving from your head to your heart.
That was one experience that I had in junior high.
I have to be very honest with you. I did not have a lot of challenges in my life, like classical challenges. I had wonderful parents who loved me. We were not wealthy by any stretch but we always had food on the table and we always had enough and extra. And my parents always demonstrated the concept of giving.
My father was very poor when he grew up but he said that even though they only had one chicken for eight people, the parents and the six kids, his mother would always save part of the chicken for the poor man who lived next door. So that was how I was raised.
I think when you know these principles of giving and they're really inculcated in you from a very young age, it makes your path easier as you grow up.
But part of my story, and you might not know this, was that when I started my seminar company, it became bigger and bigger; and within a few short years, it was being taught in many major U.S. cities, seven countries on four continents.
I was on media from coast to coast and I was supposed to have my own daytime TV talk show. I was just about to sign a contract with a major LA producer, and I was going to interview people who were successful and happy on how they created that success. I was about to enter into negotiations with a major publisher to push my Yes to Success book.
And I gave it all up like that [snaps fingers]. One day, I just gave it all up.
I had an infomercial, actually the first infomercial that sold an information product in the eighties and I gave it up when I gave birth to my daughter.
What happened was I took one look at her, really, and I thought, No way I'm going back to work.
I had a new passion. And one of the things I teach people is follow your heart. Your heart will never lead you astray.
And here's another important point: Each of us was put on earth for a God-given purpose. There are people who are waiting for us to touch their lives.
If you take a year off to be with your grandmother while she's passing or if you take two years off to go hold AIDS babies in Uganda or if you take six months off to work on a political campaign (and, in my case, I took 20 years off to be a mom at home), what you were put on earth to do is not going to go away.
As a matter of fact, if you follow your heart, it's the surest path to living what you were put on earth to do.
So I took 20 years off from my career as a speaker and a writer. I gave up all those opportunities because I had to be true to myself.
After I had my baby, I was supposed to give a big program in Singapore. I'll never forget this. The guy called me and said that he heard I had a baby and was I ready to pick a date.
I said, “You know, you're going to have to call me back in 18 years” because I knew that I had a new passion and I had to follow my heart.
So I became a mom at home for 18 years.
David Laroche: Do you think, for other women, that’s it's possible to do both?
Debra Halperin Poneman: Yes. I'm not saying that every mother or every father should stay at home. I just knew that I had to follow my heart. And I'm not even saying that your kids will be better off if you stay at home. I have no idea if my kids were better off…
David Laroche: But you followed what was important for you, and it's amazing.
Debra Halperin Poneman: Exactly. And here's the story I want to share with you. People say to me, “Did you ever doubt that you made the right decision?”
And I say, “You better believe it. I absolutely doubted that I had made the right decision.”
I remember this one day when my kids were about two and five, and they were particularly not happy that day. I'll never forget it. They wanted to watch television and, usually, I didn't put them in front of the TV. But this was a TV day because nothing was making them happy.
I put them on the couch and I was turning the dial; I was doing a channel check because they wanted to watch the show called “Barney,” the big purple dinosaur.
And as I was doing the channel check, I see Oprah; and just as I was about to turn the dial, I see that Oprah is interviewing one of my students.
This student of mine had a bestselling book, and Oprah was interviewing him about this New York Times bestselling book.
And as I was standing there watching this with these two whiny kids on the couch, this person did a demonstration for Oprah that showed the power of the mind. And it was a demonstration that the person had learned at my seminar. It was actually something that I cognized in a meditation to show the power of the mind.
Now, I'm not criticizing this person because when I stopped teaching my seminars, I said, “Take my information, use it, and teach it. It's public domain. I'm taking a break for 18 years (actually, it turned into 21 when my son was born). The world needs it. It's all yours.”
So there was nothing wrong with this person showing this to Oprah. But Oprah was like, “Oh, my God, this is amazing. This really shows how powerful your mind is. I'm going to use this and show it to my whole staff.” She was like flipping out over this demonstration.
I was knee deep in dirty diapers with these two kids on the couch and here was this person on Oprah. And I burst into tears because, at that moment, I thought that I had ruined my entire life.
Do you understand?
David Laroche: Yes.
Debra Halperin Poneman: I was like [cries]. Of course, it startled my children and they stopped crying. A sure way to get your kids to stop crying is to start crying.
David Laroche: That's good advice.
Debra Halperin Poneman: So I was standing in front of the TV feeling sorry for myself. After a while, my daughter goes, “Mommy.”
I said, “What, sweetheart?”
“What about the popsicles?” I promised that I'd make them orange juice popsicles.
So I said, “Okay,” and I turned on Barney and I went into the kitchen. I had to cut the pity party short because I had to make the popsicles.
I went into the kitchen and I was pouring the orange juice into the molds to make the orange juice popsicles. I was still kind of crying a little bit and I said, “God, why did You make this happen? What did I do? I really blew it.”
And I got this message; it said, “Remember the book.”
So it made me cry more. “Yes, I was supposed to have the bestseller book.”
I say from God the Creator but, really, it comes from inside your higher self. And the voice said, “Not that book.”
And then, I remembered a book that I had read many years ago about a man who had died and then was allowed to come back, and he told the story of what happened after he died.
I'm sure you've probably read some books about people who have passed on and came back.
And I needed to remember this at that moment because when this man died, he said that there was a being of light that met him at the other end of a dark tunnel; and the being of light said to him, “Would you like to see a movie reel of all of the most important moments in your life?” and the man said, “Yes, absolutely.”
The movie reel was very short. It showed him dancing with his daughter at her wedding. It showed him showing his son how to swing a baseball bat and a few other things.
The man said, “Wait a second. What about when I became an Eagle Scout? What about when I opened the factories in Japan? What about when my company started being traded on the Dow?”
And the being of light said, “All of those moments glorified you. Would you like to see the life of somebody who has also just passed over to this side?”
The man said, “Yes, I would.”
In the book, it said, “These curtains of golden light parted and there sitting on the throne of golden light surrounded by a host of angels was the woman who used to take three buses to get to that man’s house to clean his house.”
And then, the being of light said, “Would you like a movie reel of her life?”
It was an endless reel. It showed her carrying a pot of soup to a sick friend. It showed her cheering at the baseball games not only for her own kid but for the kids whose parents couldn't be there because they had to work just to put food on the table.
It showed her comforting a sad child. It showed her holding her mother’s hand as her mother passed. It showed her greeting people at church, “How are you doing today?” with a big hug and a big smile.
And the being of light said to the man, “When you get here, you find out that the only thing that matters while you're on earth is how much love you give.”
David Laroche: Thank you very much for this story.
Debra Halperin Poneman: And, you know, in the eighties and nineties, we wanted more and more material things. We wanted big houses.