Dealing with loss is not something anyone prepares for. In fact, we hope it never happens to us. But talking about it and finding joy after the fact is essential. And it’s all about mindset. Jessica Janzen is a philanthropist and the Founder of the Love for Lewiston Foundation, which started in remembrance of her son Lewiston’s birth and short but bright life where they’ve helped raise $1.2 million for SMA research. Nowadays, Jessica works as a keynote speaker and coach, helping women get unstuck and navigate grief and loss. With her book, Bring The Joy, she shares stories and personal insights that she’s gained through all the challenges she’s gone through and has overcome. Listen in for an inspiring talk on dealing with loss, finding joy, and helping others do the same.
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Jessica Janzen On Dealing With Loss And Bringing Joy
I am excited that you are here sharing your most valuable resource, your time. We are working diligently here at the resilience series to find and showcase and shine the spotlight on amazing women in everyday life who are making life a little bit better, a little bit easier and creating community. I have one of those women here with me. I’m feeling pretty lucky because this girl is out there. She’s working hard. She is a philanthropist, along with many other things. I’m going to read this out until you see my eyeballs drop down so bear with me. Jessica Janzen is a motivational speaker, published author and a serialpreneur. She and her husband, Hot Ronnie, are the Founders of Love for Lewiston Foundation.
After losing their son, Lewiston, years ago, she decided that she would stop wasting time and get moving in her big dreams and following the nudges of her heart. Her clothing line, The Lewiston Label, highlights the life lessons Lewiston taught her. The foundation is impacting lives across Canada and supporting critical research and medical needs for families fighting spinal muscular atrophy at Alberta’s Children’s Hospital Foundation. In just four years, they have raised over $1.1 million. She loves spending time with her family, soaking up in the sunshine, being by the water and dreaming big always with the daily focus to run towards and roar with joy. Welcome, Ms. Jessica.
Thanks. I’m excited to be here and I can’t wait to have a convo.
You look amazing. Alberta’s summer has done you well. I do want to make a note here so everybody knows how hard you’ve worked, $1.1 million.
It’s now $1.2 million. We finished another fundraiser and raised $105,000. As you’re saying that, I was like, “That’s $1.2 million. We keep growing. We keep going.”
That is incredible. That is because of your leadership and spearheading this. Everybody that knows Jessica loves her. We have a lot of common people in our world and they are blown away by how she has put on the good girl pants and gone out and bootstrapped this entire initiative. I wanted to mention that $1.2 million. Alberta has been in a very long and one of the most challenging recessions it’s faced since the 1980s. Jessica has done this against all odds and I commend that. That’s pretty amazing.
Thank you. I appreciate that you’re giving me kudos. It would be selfish if I didn’t say that yes, it has been my effort showing up and hard work. My husband who’s behind the scenes never gets the credit. Also, it’s been because of community and people’s belief in what we’ve created and that impact. COVID took us all out. I remember we had this goal to hit $1 million at the end of 2020 with all of our events canceled because we couldn’t do in-person because we were locked down.
I remember saying, “If I have to go to each house in a hazmat suit,” like UNICEF with those little boxes that we used to do at Halloween with change. I was like, “I don’t care if I’m doing this in minus-30 in a hazmat suit with a mask and an oxygen mask, I’ll go do it.” I didn’t have to do that because we can put out calls to action. We have this incredible community that has been surrounding us and continues to lift us up and believe in the work that we’re doing.
I am pretty blown away. I love your designs on your Love for Lewiston. The hearts and some of the movement that you have, the font and stuff are beautiful. We’re going to get into this. I always ask, what do you do? Who are you? You’re a mother. You’re a wife to Hot Ronnie. Who are you and then we’re going to go into what you do?
We have these nudges on our heart that are there for a reason.
I always hate that question. It’s a challenging question especially for someone like me. I was in corporate sales so I lead a sales team. I’m the director of operations. It was like this clear cut and dry. Now, as an entrepreneur and as a philanthropist, I can barely say the word philanthropist. It’s challenging on its own. I’ve crafted this incredible life but it’s very diverse and different. It’s not what most people typically see. When someone says, “Who are you? What do you do?” I’m like, “First off, I’m a badass warrior.” That’s checked right there.
I’m a wife. I married the hottest guy who’s also great in bed so I hit the jackpot there. I’ve got three beautiful babies. Two are here beside me and one’s up in heaven. I joke that he’s my easiest because he can’t give me a lip or sass because he’s dancing up in heaven. Most people feel uncomfortable when I say that. I’m like, “Relax. It’s a dead kid joke. This is how I navigate the grief of my son.” I’m a sister, a friend and all of those things. Most importantly is that I’m Jessica Janzen and I’m standing exactly where I meant to be.
I found that peace and that purpose, which leads and bleeds into all these beautiful areas of my life. We have a clothing company that teaches about the life lessons of our son and we continue to learn. We have our foundation, which is having an incredible impact. I’m a coach, speaker and author. Those are the functionality of what I do. I’m helping women get unstuck, navigating grief and loss because it’s an uncomfortable topic that not lots of people want to talk about or feel comfortable talking about because there’s been shame and resistance against it.
It becomes almost the elephant in the room. A cousin of mine lost her son. It was like, “Do you put his birth date on the calendar for the family? Do you not?” Where are the boundaries there? For a lot of people that have not experienced that type of loss and to be very transparent, I can’t even fathom it. My daughter was very sick when she was little. A few years ago, she had full-back surgery. She had scoliosis. She’s got rods up and down her back. She’s half bionic. She grew two inches on the table. I remember losing it before she went in for surgery. I can’t even fathom that we are only given what we can handle. Speaking of handling, give me your clear definition. What is your why and your navigation of a day-to-day or those moments?
I know what it’s like to be stuck in the darkness and to feel shitty. You can barely get out of bed or you want to hide underneath the covers because you’ve been telling yourself a story. You’re not truly living. You’re only existing. You’re showing up going through the day-to-day. I’ve come out on the other side of that. To find the freedom, the joy and to live in abundance is night and day. I want to help other women find that same freedom, get unstuck and start living their dreams because we have these nudges on our hearts. They’re there for a reason. There are amazing ideas. We’re so scared to take action. We start telling ourselves these stories.
When I unlocked that freedom in my life, I was like, “This is possible. I can come into the darkness. I can find momentum.” I want that for other women. My why is I know how hard it is and how terrible it feels to be in the depths of despair. I also know the power of transforming and finding that freedom. I want to extend that gift to everyone else. It wasn’t just a me-thing. It was surrounding myself with community, getting coaches, and getting in the room that I’m absorbing.
When I started to click into that, it found me the freedom. I’m finding this at 35, 36, 37 years old and I’m like, “I wish I would have figured this out a long time ago,” because life is short. My son taught us that. He only had 179 days. You hear these tragic stories, but you never think it’s going to be you. I’m like, “What? Me with the dead kid?” There’s no way on my radar I would have anticipated that. We lost my father-in-law at 50 but to lose a child, I didn’t even know that world existed. He was the wake-up call. I say this. In my son losing his life, I found mine. That’s a powerful lesson.
You cannot have shadows without sun or sun without shadows. There are both sides and it’s what you choose. You had mentioned something about coaching. I have been in a lot of coaching because I decided I was not waiting for somebody to give me the opportunity. I’m going to take it. Tell me a little bit about your coaching. Why did you start going down that path? How did you find the right people?
A lot of people don’t realize it doesn’t matter if you’re an Olympic athlete. You still show up with a coach. Erica Wiebe, a wrestling gold medalist here in Calgary, could take her coach. There’s no question. Her coach is not a very big guy. It’s the principle of having accountability and guidance as you’re developing your own systems. Tell me a little bit about your journey of coaching up and what you looked for.
I wish I had discovered it sooner. I even found a pushback when I was going to my therapist. I let her know a few years ago. I’m like, “I also have a life coach,” and I could feel the resistance and the pushback. A therapist is trained in a totally different area. I feel like their main focus is typically helping you deal with your past, while a life coach is helping you work towards your future.
There’s a great reel by Trey Kennedy. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of his stuff. He’s the funniest guy. He made fun of COVID and the global pandemic. He makes fun of marriages and partnerships. He’s outrageous. If you need a good laugh, go follow his stuff. He’s doing a comedy tour. I wish he was coming to Canada because I would pay anything. This guy is so funny.
He does this one reel. He was like, “Could you imagine if your life had a coach?” He’s literally lying in bed all peaceful and then the coach was like, “Come on. Get up. Let’s go. Let’s do it.” When you have someone that’s giving you guidance and cheering you on and supporting you, you have no option but to win, succeed and continue on.
The big disconnect is we start to tell ourselves a story like we’re alone, “No one else knows what I’m going through. I can’t share this.” I don’t believe our friends are always the ones equipped to guide us through. Our friends are there for friendship, not for that guidance. This is where the shift happened.
I have two coaches now. A life coach and I’m doing profit-first financial forecasting. This is such a big thing for our family. We have insane dreams and leveling up and what that looks like. That was an area that I was struggling with. I found these people and they coach on the thought model. When I started to get this thought model and check, I was like, “This is so brilliant and mind-blowing,” because you can’t control the circumstances.
What we do have control over is our thoughts. Our thoughts lead to our feelings. Our feelings lead to our inactions or actions, which gives us the result. These thought models by Brooke Castillo. You can go look her up. She’s absolutely brilliant. I didn’t make this up, neither did my life coach. She runs a $35 million life coaching school on it. When you can get the thought model down and start to gain control of your thoughts, and start to filter what those mean and how you respond to them, that’s where you unlock the magic.
For me, I resisted and I struggled. When I started to get ahold of my thoughts, we got 60,000 of them coming through our brain a day. We had this processing system, but we’re always telling ourselves a story about it. When I unlocked the thought that the circumstance is my kid is dead, you can think of thought, “That’s the worst thing ever. That is horrible.” That makes me feel like a sack of shit. It makes me feel depressed and in despair.
Instead, I choose a powerful thought of what a beautiful life lesson that I was gifted 179 days with my son to catapult me into my purpose. When I think that thought, that helps me show up powerfully. That thought helps me continue on and present to all of these goals, dreams and ideas that I have. I knew I wanted to help other women. I do that in a course and a program called the hard work, I believe.
You would know this. Anything amazing has not come easy. My relationship with my husband, how many times I’ve tossed around the D-word. You’re thinking that you’re filing for separation. It’s like this journey. All of those tough things that we face, the business, getting to that next level, leveling up, bringing on a new partner, whatever it is had been hard. At the end of the hard work, you see that celebration.
When you wrap your head around powerful thoughts that will serve you, you unlock the power to become who you’re created to be.
I developed this course with six pillars. We coach on that thought model around these key things that you can work on in your life that you can go back to time and time again. Everyone says, “There are two guarantees in life, death and taxes.” I’m like, “We all forget about the third, which is that hardship that’s going to happen to us, guaranteed.” I don’t know anyone that’s made it through with not one hard thing happening. When you can wrap your head around powerful thoughts that will serve you, that’s where you unlock the power to becoming who you’re created to be.
You can’t control the challenge but you can make a choice, then you receive the consequence of that choice, be it negative or positive. What’s crazy is for years, I always associated the word consequence with a negative. The consequences are just an outcome. You can choose that consequence to be positive or negative based on the choice. When we look at this, you have your coaching on one side and you also have the philanthropy.
I’m going to ask you a couple of questions that are geared towards women in business and the resiliency around it. You were selected out of three women in all of Calgary that were identified to be in the upcoming our actual Inaugural Resilient Women in Business Conference. This is where our launching point across North America. Can you give me a specific example of how you’re resilient and how that has affected you in business? A point in your business where maybe it wasn’t working, you weren’t going in the direction and if not for the resilience, you may have walked away.
There are so many where I’m like, “The roller coaster of entrepreneurship. I’m awesome. I’m amazing. This sucks. What the hell am I doing? This is so fun and great. I’m in my sweet spot. What the heck did I commit to?” I’ll go back to this particular one because it’s a clear example. I have always wanted to write a book. I had a book in my heart. I was super excited. I was like, “This is happening.” I started writing then fell off the wagon.
I had read a book that completely changed my perspective and was fuel for the fire that I needed to keep it burning. I read that book. I was like, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this but I’m going to do it.” That’s often the roadblock with entrepreneurship. We come up against an obstacle because we don’t know how or we can’t see a clear path. We say, “This is my sign. I’m going to throw it in. I can’t do it anymore.”
With my book, I decided to go and self-published through a publishing agency that I had had this crazy connection with. You can read this story. It’s one of the last chapters in my book. It’s incredible how it all unfolded to get me to where I am now. I remember being like, “There’s no way.” They gave me the quote and its US dollars because the Canadian dollar is in the tank. It was like time is up by two.
By the time we had worked out the math, that was going to be something like $90,000. I was like, “What? No bank is going to publish you for an idea. Do you get private investors? My parents don’t have that money. We don’t have that money. We’re only living paycheck to paycheck here.” I had wanted to quit when I have gotten so far and so close because I didn’t know how to get the $90,000.
I flipped the script and I believe that it was possible. When I believe that it was possible, this is where the resiliency piece comes in. This goes back to thought work. When you tell your brain, your brain is going to freak out. Our brains are meant to resist and say, “No, don’t do the thing. It’s scary. You don’t know how. We’ve never done it.” That’s what happens. That’s the piece right there. You’re like, “Of course, it’s scary. We’re not going to do it. We don’t know how to do it,” and you freak out.
I call my brain, Larry. I have no idea why. Larry and I were getting along real good here. I was like, “Larry, I get it. We don’t know what we’re doing, but I’m going to believe it’s possible.” When I flipped the script for that belief and I said, “I don’t know the how but I believe it’s possible,” all of a sudden, we started to get all of these incredible ideas. You start meeting with people and you boldly speak about what you need to do or how you need to overcome it. We raised almost $80,000 in the capital that we needed to make that project happen.
We did a Kickstarter and an Indiegogo campaign. In Kickstart, if you don’t raise the money in the amount of time, they don’t give you the money that you’ve even raised. It was all these things. We found a different platform that didn’t honor that because I was like, “I don’t want to raise $45,000 and refund everyone on their credit card. That’s a lot of work.” We found a platform that works. We kept going. There were several times in that process of the project that I was like, “There’s no way. I don’t have another resource.” It’s recognizing that my brain was scared. I was scared and I’d never done it. We kept going back to the thought of saying, “I’m going to lean into the possibility of what’s possible.” That shifted it.
I say this story because I think it’s so funny. I went into my phone. We have a lot of contacts in this thing. I started in the A’s and I kept personally texting people. I went through every contact, “I know you haven’t heard from me in a long time. Here’s the link. I’m launching a book. I’d love you to pre-order a copy. Your support would mean the world.” It’s super simple.
I went into my phone and I got my ex-boyfriend’s uncle. I was texting him. I remember that text so clear that I was like, “This is so uncomfortable.” I was like, “Do it. What’s the worst that could happen? He says no and he laughs in your face. You haven’t seen the guy in twelve years anyways. Who the hell cares?” He ended up buying a book and sending me the kindest and sweet texts that were thoughtful and caring. I was like, “God bless you, Hank.” His name is Hank. Incredible man. I love him so much.
Those are the moments for me when we stop having the belief that it’s possible. We tell ourselves all the reasons why we can’t, and we need amazing people to help us see what’s possible so that we can tap back into that. I said this when I was on a coaching call. I said, “I’m going to stand in the gap for you and have the belief until you’re ready to have that belief for you.” That’s been powerful because I’ve had people do that for me. When you surround yourself with those people, that’s where you shift. That’s the resiliency piece.
It doesn’t just come. It isn’t just happy. It isn’t just everything is going to be all right. You keep fighting and you keep showing up. You keep asking the questions and you find that community. To this day, I’ve sold more copies than the average book does. We’re sold in chapters across Canada. It took me a year to get there. We’re sold in the UK and Australia, Barnes and Noble. It’s incredible. I know that book was meant to be, but if I quit each time it got hard, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Life is hard but nothing worthwhile comes easy. I do believe that, aside from maybe a good banana cream pie or something. Unfortunately, it goes hard. When you’re talking to the people because you are a coach, what are the three steps that women can implement on a daily basis to make their business more resilient?
I want to think about this because I have a million ideas. Three things that women can apply to make their business more resilient?
Them or their business like when those hard things come up, an order gets canceled, a client falls off or something doesn’t come in on time.
I go with this. This is one of the most important things because it changes the posture of your heart and it changes how you show up. Go back to your gratitude list. We often will react and then we’re like, “This sucks. This is wrong.” I can even see it. There are certain energies out there. Change your energy. Change the posture of your heart. Go back to the gratitude list. If you’re in such a dark spot, we call it the what-doesn’t-suck list. Start there. I always go to this one. I was like, “Girlfriend, is your dishwasher working?” They’re like, “Yes.” I’m like, “Great. Have you got food in the fridge?” “Yes, sure do.” I’m like, “That’s your do-not-suck list.” From there, it can go into a gratitude list. If you’re that dark, go back there because it changes the posture of your heart. Write them down.
Lean into the possibility of what’s possible.
The second thing is to get a hold of your damn thoughts, all 60,000 of them. If you don’t know how to process them, if you don’t know how to respond and how to ask yourself, “Is this serving me? How can I flip the script,” you will stay stuck in a downward vortex that I believe will cripple you from moving your business forward. The third thing is to keep your eyes in your own lane. Be authentically you. We hear this all the time.
I remind myself. I’m like, “What? How did they grow on the ground? I’ve been doing this for five years. They only started two years ago in a global pandemic and they already have double my following? What are they doing? How come I can’t do this?” You start to do that comparison. “They’re doing that, so maybe I’ll try that.” I go back to when you’ve said the question, why? Start with why. When you understand your why, you stay in your lane because your eyes aren’t staring over at what everybody else is doing. What works for somebody else will not work for you in your business.
Staying in your lane means showing up authentically as yourself. When I show up as myself, authentically not caring what anybody else thinks, that’s when I make the most powerful strides in my business. Am I too fat? Am I too this? Am I too bubbly or whatever? Every time I question that, I’m holding myself back. Stay in your lane, showing up as your authentic self.
I have the trouble of blending in my stuff.
Don’t get lost in a crowd.
Pink hair, don’t care. I’m putting this all out there and I think that if more of us did that, if more of us went after it, we wouldn’t be sitting here in Calgary, Alberta at the lowest rate of female employment since the 1980s. That is the stat that came out. For those of us who can do it, it is incumbent upon us. We have to do this because there are a lot of women who are not ready to do it. We have to pave the way, shine the light, and put the flashlights out so they can find us.
Is it that they’re not ready or they don’t have the belief in themselves to be ready? That’s the thing. You got to keep going. When you step into that power and continuing to coach yourself, get coached, and surround yourself with community, that’s where you see the biggest changes.
Future-proofing. We know a lot of women will start a business out of necessity. We hustle. When we know our kids are on the line or being able to feed our families are on the line, we hustle. Knowing that, having built your own business, what are some of the things that they can do to future proof their business? From the ups and downs, what are some of the things that you could share?
I love these questions. They’re so true. I’m like, “I wish I would have learned this.” That’s the life lesson of the hard stuff. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Limit your offers wherever you are in your business. When we try to be everything to everybody, we miss out on a clear message, having too many offers being too diluted. Part of what I’m working through with my financial coaches was I was a little bit of here and a little bit there and 500 over there. It’s expending my energy at a high rate. You can manage your energy and manage your health. If you don’t have your health, you can’t show up for your business. When you can manage those pieces better, you show up. We are talking a lot about sustainability.
Don’t try to be everything to everybody.
Now, we’re going on to our tea time. This is a rapid round. What’s the one book, aside from your book, that all women in business should read?
I was told that book and I’ve listened to it three times. You can listen to James Clear from Calgary to Pincher Creek and back. That is an excellent recommendation. What’s the one piece of advice or quote for you that has been your North Star?
“Dream big, go anywhere, do anything.” That’s from my business mentor.
What’s the one piece of advice you would offer your younger self before you started your first business?
“This is going to take a hell of a lot longer than you think it will.” I wish I had known that. I’m like, “What? I’m not there yet. In four weeks, I haven’t earned $1 million?” Here I am, continuing on. I’m still not a New York Times bestseller. It’ll take as long as it takes but I’m not throwing the towel because it didn’t happen in the timeline I thought it would.
They say patience is a virtue. I don’t know anybody who’s been an overnight success, except maybe the Kardashians, but that’s a whole different story. We won’t go there. Can you share with our audience where we can find you and how we can follow you?
My favorite social platform to hang out on that I’ve chosen and that’s the lane that I’m in is Instagram. It’s @TheJessicaJanzen. I’ve got my website, JessicaJanzen.ca. You can find our foundation and our apparel line. We have our foundation information. Our apparel line is all on there. Send me an email if you have questions. You can book a discovery call if you’re interested in coaching. You can follow my newsletter and get inspo and some incredible things that have helped change my life. I love giving people the tools that have worked for me. That’s a lot of what I do, stand for and share. Send me an email if you have questions.
Jessica, thank you. You are beautiful inside and out. Thank you for sharing your time. I’m super excited about sharing the stage with you, being able to introduce you to all the women, see the women’s faces light up and listen to you. I have a feeling that you will light the stage on fire.
I promise I’ll wash my hair and put on some makeup for that day. I’ll even wear my power shoes. I’m looking forward to it. Thank you so much, Kim.
No worries. Until next time, be kind to yourself.
- Jessica Janzen
- Love for Lewiston Foundation – Instagram
- The Lewiston Label
- Atomic Habits
- newsletter – James Clear newsletter
- @TheJessicaJanzen – Instagram
About Jessica Janzen
I’m Jessica a badass boss babe, wife, mama, keynote speaker, author, Executive Director of Love for Lewiston Foundation, joy bringer
Like every good, juicy story, let’s start at the beginning. I ditched the classic 9-5 corporate gig and chose to live my most authentic, bold and joyful life. It was a big move and I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been an easy road. But the choice was mine to either stay static or take a leap of faith, actively listen to the nudges of my heart and carve a new path to create moments that I would be proud of.
It took death and massive heartache to get me to this spot. It was the death of my son Lewiston that finally woke me up to really start living and get on with what I had always dreamed of. They say the average person gets about 30,000 days to live – my son only had a 179. That was the slap in the face to get going. And so I have. My book Bring the joy came out in 2020 (hilarious timing as we all had to navigate loss and heartache) we have raised over $1 Million dollars for the Foundation that we started in honor of my son to carry on his legacy. I have been speaking on stages in person and virtually across North America.
Life is precious, the days are long, but the years are short. Knowing this I am determined to not let heartache, loss, grief hold me down and keep me stagnant. Pain has become my rocket fuel for change, for going big and always going all in.
I have the same battery pack as the energizer bunny – my therapist tells me that I am wired this way and I don’t need to deny it. It only took a few thousand dollars to come up with that discovery. Man is there freedom in accepting who God created you to be and pressing into your gifts – one of mine is energy hence I don’t stop. Faith is the most important thing in my life and I am upright because of the gift of grace. Like so many, I have struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts, feeling stuck in the darkness and alone when the room has been buzzing full of people. I believe all of these moments have lead me to share my knowledge and help provide the freedom that I have found in my life. I believe joy is possible even in the midst of death.
During the quiet moments, which are rare, you can find me journaling my dreams with a hot coffee in-hand, getting a good sweat on and taking any opportunity to soak up sunshine and any activity by the water with Hot Ronnie (my hubby) and our kids.
I believe in honest conversations over a fabulous beverage – sparkling water, hot coffee, a glass of red or maybe my mama’s sweet tea. You can always find me with a minimum of 3 beverages in hand.
We often wait for our world to completely crumble before we are willing to do the work for the life we dream of. I am passionate about not waiting for those life alternating moments like I did to get unstuck and moving forward with momentum to live the life you only dream of.