Aug. 19, 2022

Sondra Shannon - How to TRUST yourself and use your trauma to TRIUMPH | CPTSD and Trauma Coach

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Join our FREE COMMUNITY as a member of the Unbroken Nation: 

You must believe in yourself if you want to succeed.

I hope you will take those chances and opportunities and trust yourself to honor them with your dedication and success. I believe you can do it!

In this episode, we have guest speaker Sondra Shannon, the CEO of Gatemaster. Sondra has been crucial to Gatemaster's growth as chief executive officer. She prides herself upon bringing her core values of integrity, clarity, and prosperity to the business and software development culture at Gatemaster.

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Michael: What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well wherever you are in the world today. Very excited to be back with you with another episode here in person with my friend, Sondra Shannon, what's up my friend. How are you today?

Sondra: Thank you for having me. I'm doing great.

Michael: It's my pleasure. I'm very excited to have you here. We're gonna have an amazing conversation. It is first and foremost, an honor that you'd sit down with me. And so, for those who do not know you tell us a little bit about your backstory and how you got to where you are today.

Sondra: Sure. Well, first of all, I just wanna thank you for having me in the studio today. Of course, this is amazing and beautiful and really excited to be here with you. But, you know, I think if I really think about my story and I've been thinking about it. A lot lately as the last couple of years have brought me to where I am today, which is our life is so long and there's so many things that happen. But when I really look at everything, I think that my story is a journey of self-love. And you know, what got me to that and I mean, I guess we can take it way back to when I was a kid. So, when I was in third grade, I don't know if they diagnose you with dyslexia, I don't know how that works ‘cuz I was a kid, you know, but in the school system they came to my parents and they said, you know, she's eight, she can't read, she can't write, she barely talks. And I was diagnosed with dyslexia and when that happened, you know, I had severe dyslexia. I mean, some people can't have a hard time with reading, writing, math or speech, I had all of it, you know, and that was a real challenge for my parents because I don't think they knew how to help me and my parents were very blue collar. My dad was a butcher, my mom was a cashier, so they really were not didn't value education that much and they didn't really understand how to help because they were also teenagers when they had me, so they were young parents and they had my sisters and I, all four of us, by the time they were 24 years old. And so, they had a lot of responsibility at a really, really young age.

So, teachers tell my mom, she can't read or write, she may never read or write, you know, of course it was like the worst thing you could ever tell a parent. Right. And I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but you know, at third grade I got held back, they put me into special education program. And this is what, I'm not sure if this is PC to say, I rode the short bus and it was really embarrassing, you know, because as a young kid, like I could comprehend what was happening, I knew that I was struggling with reading, writing, and even speech, but I knew it was going on around me, but it put me as a young child into this really sad place of just not, I didn't have anything to like about myself, all I kept hearing was all the things that I was never gonna be able to do, never be able to do, you know, like I was never gonna have the life that everybody else had. And it was bad enough that I lived in a home where there was a lot of stress so I often wonder sometimes if maybe what was happening to me was from the stress of the environment, I think we know now when kids are under stress, their ability to learn is impaired. So, I don't think anybody really considered that either.

Michael: I think that's just now being considered. I mean, you go look at any of the work around children growing up in traumatic environments and that exact thing is a part of that nomenclature.

Sondra: And I think that that was a big part of, you know, that's where it all started was this diagnosis. But you know, as I'm riding the short bus and I'm in special ed classes with kids who, I think genuinely did need to be there. And then there were kids like me who started to become problems because I think for me, I was very frustrated because there was nobody advocating for me. I never became a problem, you know, there were kids that would cut my hair and do all these things when I say problem, I was not a problem, but I recognize why some kids in that system become problem kids because, you know, everybody's treated the same in the public school system. And for me, I just knew that I didn't belong there. I just maybe needed a little help. But you know, in the public school system they have certain ways that you know, you got a class of 30 kids, you can't just help this one kid who can't read so, I got sent off there. Now, what that did though, was as I started realizing I didn't belong there, I started looking at this situation and what I could do, even as a young person, like I had enough self-awareness to know that I needed to figure out how to make the most of this because I was stuck and it was probably better than my home life to still be there. So, I started looking at that situation and going, all right, well, what can I do? And I remember like going to the zoo and I would start helping the teachers by taking the hands of all the kids that were there that actually needed help and everybody always thought I was the assistant. Like eventually, even though I was one of the students, everybody always thought I was in charge somehow, I was one of the students in charge because I was always trying to help. And I really, at that point started realizing that, you know, I felt a lot better about myself being in the service of these other people that were there.

And so, service has been a huge part of myself loved journey. And I got into junior high and I had a teacher who, you know, they do these IEPs, he came and he sat down with my mom and for whatever reason, my mom thought it was so great that I was in a special education program ‘cuz she thought like she's gonna get extra help, this is a great thing. But really it was killing me inside to be there. And I think I was in eighth grade and I had a special ed teacher who brought my mom in and he said, why'd you let them do this to her? You know, it was this beautiful kid who's got the lowest self-esteem that I've ever seen. And I didn't know what self-esteem meant back then, nobody really taught me the word self-esteem and I kept thinking, what's he saying about me? I'm not gonna have low self-esteem because I'm very fiery, I gotta prove I'm wrong, you know, I was like, I'm gonna prove 'em wrong, I'm not gonna have low self-esteem. And I started learning what it meant and I had to learn to love myself, despite all this other stuff, you know, because I really felt like as a kid, I was being told that, you know, I was worthless, you know, because you can't read and write, where do you go from there? Right? Eventually I learned to read and write, but that's a whole other subject I think we could probably cover. But so, I'm sitting there in this teacher and he really advocated for me we were like the first grown up that ever really said, like, she's so much more valuable than this, you know, why would you let them do this to her? Why did you let them do this? And eventually he ended up being, you know, as a kid, I don't know if you can call it teacher or mentor, but I remember, he was who really set me off on this journey of becoming so much more than I ever thought possible and so much more than I think the people around me had ever thought that I could do because of what was being said. And he said, I think you need to run for student, which was great because, you know, I had never put myself out there, I didn't know if anybody wanted do that, but because I had been in the service of so many other students, I won. And then I was like, man, I can do this then I became a peer tutor, which required a lot of being able to help other students through trauma, you know, it actually, the peer tutor to program at my school was to help kids who are having difficulties with their mental health.

And so, we went through a pretty extensive training and we would assist the school in doing this so that they had another peer to talk to about difficult subjects and things that were happening in their lives. And that was really how I kind of started to release some of what was happening in my life was just being in the service of these other kids and I was the youngest peer tutor in the school; the schools ever had. And that teacher, his name was Mr. Lull and he actually died of aids I think it was 1992, but I loved him dearly. And I remember leaving for spring for Christmas break coming back and he wasn't there and nobody knew because back then, people weren't talking about that kind of stuff, but I was just devastated, but I just knew, I was like, man, this guy believed in me and I can keep doing great things. You know, I was having these huge wins for a kid and despite not even having support at home to do these things. My mom and dad worked all the time they probably didn't even know any of this was going on. You know, at home I was also really responsible for a lot of what was happening in the house with my sisters. So again, it really, I found a lot of strength in myself, by being there for my family and my sisters and helping to take care of them and make sure that they had a nice life. So, I hope that answers questions that's where I first got started. And then, you know, at an early age, my mom, cuz my parents didn't make a lot of money. My mom was always hiring me out for jobs and my son actually asked me the other day, my son Dansk he said, mom, what was the biggest boost your parents gave you? Now, he thought it was gonna be like money like they boosted you into your adulthood or they gave, what was the biggest boost that your parent gave you? Because in his friend group, they always talk about all the things their parents are providing for them. And I didn't have that as a kid or really started thinking about the boost that my parents gave me and it was at an early age. So, I started working probably about the age of eight, my mom would get me babysitting jobs by 11 and 12, I was like the cam dry Charlie for, you know, at home and garden shows. So, I put on this outfit, nobody knew there was a 12-year-old under that costume, I was like walking around in Cam dry Charlie, you know, at 14, I was doing demos in the grocery store, which is where I learned to love sales was the best sales person that the grocery stores had ever seen. But that's where I learned to love sales because, and actually it wasn't that I loved sales, it was just, I knew if I sold all the products out, I got to go home. So, I just like made sure to get it all off the shelf ‘cause otherwise I had to stay there for eight hours. Right. Selling the product. So, when that started happening, the grocery stores started stocking up when they knew I was coming and then they started having me training all of the grown women who got hired on to do the demo. So, I had experience with leadership really young, especially in the workplace cuz I was teaching these other women how to do the job and how to sell. And when I was 16, I got to have my first real job that was my choice. I remember I was so excited; I was like, I'm turning 16, got my driver's license, got a car and I get to work a job that I want. And I went and got a job at the Chinese restaurant, the little Chinese restaurant at the time my parents were living in Heber city, Utah, there was about 10,000 people, we had one stop sign. And there weren't a whole lot of job opportunities, but I remember thinking I'm gonna get that job. And I quick quickly became the manager running the entire front end of the restaurant, doing all the hiring. I hired all the girls from my high school and I really learned a lot about business there. So, I was really young and I had learned how to be valuable, so we kind of going back to boosts, right? When we talk about the boost that my parents gave me, my parents taught me to work really hard and to be valuable to people. And if somebody gave you a job, it was an honor to be there. And I know a lot of people don't feel that way these days, but it really helped me because we were able to really grow that Chinese restaurant and we had the best service and I was hiring my friends and it was a great experience and I did that until it went away to high school. And that was kind of the start of the ramp of where I was going to be CEO.

Michael: Yeah. And you had pride, right? Yeah. And I think that's one of the things that's really interesting. You know, one of the parallels and I think where we connected is when I was only eight years old, I started my first business, growing up in the boy Scouts in the hood, which is a very weird juxtaposition in dichotomy adding in, growing up a Mormon boy scout in the hood, like now we're really talking. I would go to the big lots on the corner of 30th and Georgetown in Indianapolis, and I would steal candy bars and I would go and put on my boy scout uniform. And this is back when kids could walk the streets at eight o'clock at night and I would just knock-on doors with my boy scout uniform on and be like, we're trying to fund a trip and that's a hundred percent profit margin by the way. And so, that was early on into my endeavors into working like we were working as kids because a - it was like, it was weird, they taught those skills. Like, I don't know if they still do that with kids and boy Scouts and girl Scouts anymore. But what I do know is like that transpired in me getting into leadership super young, being executive super young, making six figures super young, the whole nine. And I remember though, as a kid though, I was like, man, I fucking hate this, I hate working. My first actual legal job was that a Hollywood video, just stocking shelves, rewinding tapes back when you used to like find people for not rewinding tapes, what an asinine idea. Right. Smith, you didn't rewind your fucking tape, that's 87 cents, bro. like, I have like, literally hated it. So, you're 16, 17, you're in this, you're building out effectively someone else's business which is like the truth of it, are you learning to read and write at this point? Like what's by that happening.

Sondra: But that time I had learned, so, you know, honestly, when I did the, probably about seventh and eighth grade, is where like learning clicked. And I think a lot of it came from that teacher giving me that boost of confidence ‘cuz I think at that point I just had so many people tell me I couldn't do it, that I just didn't care to do it.

Michael: There's a resilience study that has been done. I think it's up to 30,000 people have participated in it and they found that kids who grew up in traumatic households or have learning disabilities or have adverse childhood experiences growing up, if one adult advocates for them, they have a higher likelihood of success. Like it's exponential, it's like a hundred thousand percent more likely I'm just making up that number. I'd have to go look at the study again so, I'm sorry for us quoting. But there's an amazing amount of resiliency that comes from one person believing. And so, you're in this place, so now you're 16, 17, you're running this company, I'm sure you're still in school like what's happening in your life?

Sondra: I mean, in school I was failing. I was doing great on the job. My boss loved me. You know, the people who were working for me loved me, you know, because still to this day, I'm a good boss. I love the people I work with and I've always tried to make that a fun experience for them, but also make success easy for them, I think that's an important thing, it's something that's always been important to me. So, I was failing outta school and somehow, because I spent all that time in special education, you know, I think they just needed to check a box so they said we're gonna give her a scholarship. Despite the fact that I'm graduating high school with the two points. Now mind you, by that time I was running the Chinese restaurant, my dad enlisted me to go work at the supermarket with him so, I had two jobs in high school. I mean, I remember I would literally start work on Friday at 5:00 PM and I would end Sunday nights and get up and go to school the next morning and I had worked two jobs all weekend and then I continued to work it all week and I really did love the work. I mean, I still love work. Work is just when we talk about like doing what you love, I love work. You know what I mean? I don't know how else to say that, it's a real thing for me. And even when I worked for other people, I always loved it. So, despite barely graduating from high school, I got this scholarship, my mom was so excited and everybody in my whole family was so excited ‘cause they're like, you're the first one to go to college. And I do about two semesters and I'm like this isn't for me, it was too stressful. I actually preferred being at work. I did not wanna go to school, I was failing outta college and I didn't wanna be disappointing to people because I had this full ride, who doesn't at least give that a chance. But to me it didn't mean anything to me, I didn't earn that, it wasn't even where I wanted to be.

Michael: Did you know that they had just given you the scholarship?

Sondra: Yeah, I did.

Michael: So, you didn't have the sense of, I earned it. I actually resonate with that a lot that makes a lot of sense.

Sondra: I didn't have the sense that I earned it. I really felt like, I think they just had to take a kid who had been in special education and give them this and for whatever reason they picked me. But I didn't earn it, I wasn't happy, I was stressful, I didn't have a lot of financial backing from my parents or anybody for that matter, you know, a grandparent or it was all up to me so, here I'm going to school working multiple jobs. I preferred to be at work, but I also was barely surviving. And to me, the solution was to get outta school. And I remember I told my family that I was gonna leave school, they were devastating. I mean, they're still freaked out to this day, I am 43 years old, they're still like you had a full ride. I'm a CEO of a tech company like, where do you go from there? Like, but they still bring that up. So, you know, I had this full ride, so I leave college and I end up going back to California, which is where I grew up. And it's funny that you brought up the Mormon church because I grew up in Southern California, I grew up in Palmdale, which is like the desert ghetto and one of the things that I had learned in the Mormon church, like you were mentioning about the boy Scouts was they always had us do like etiquette classes, because that was not something that anybody ever taught me was to be a proper lady or whatever that looked like, but that really did help me, you know, it helped me a lot, I'm very grateful that they, they gave me that training because I needed some Polish, right? Specially to get where I am today, hindsight 2020, I'm very grateful that I had that. But anyways, going back to my journey, so I leave college and I go down to California, I live with my grandma and she was like, well, now we gotta get you a real job and she gets me this job at the front desk of some PVC company, which they were making like plastics and I hated it, cuz again, it wasn't a job that I wanted. I was just kind of being forced into it because if I was gonna live with her, that was what I was gonna do, that was her role. And I remember after work I would sneak out and go play laser tag, which this is gonna sound really silly. But laser tag was a huge passion of mine. I really loved paintball and laser tag, I played all the. And I would sneak out and I'd go get a game in and then go home and not tell anybody that I'd been out playing laser tag, that was my fun. You know, 19-year old’s do a lot of crazy stuff, my fun was going and playing laser tag.

So, I'm in there all the time. And finally, I see that they were hiring, they needed a general manager and here I am 19, I'm like, I don't think anybody's gonna give me this job cuz I'm 19 years old, but I'm gonna apply for it anyways. I go in there, I killed it on the interview that gave me the job as the general manager of, and mind you, there's 50 employees. And I'd never managed a team that big.

Michael: But you've been in leadership for four years now.

Sondra: Yeah. And even in when I was in student body, I learned leadership, you know, the peer tutoring, you learn a lot of leadership. And so, I get this job at this laser tag place and I like kill it. I kill it in sales, my employees love me, the customers are happy. And it just was a huge boost for my confidence, I really loved myself and my life. At that time, I was very proud of the work that I was doing. And it was a pretty serendipitous thing that it just happened. And here, and I was at a laser tag place, I was playing laser tag as much as I wanted. I used to play like in sync in the laser tag arena and everybody would be all mad at me cause that's what I was into  they're like, this is not laser tag music, but I was pumped to do play today.

Michael: This came to mind as you were speaking, cuz it dawned on me like in real time, this is probably the reason why I love working so much is cuz I get to be in control of my life.

Sondra: Yeah. I felt real in control at that point. You know, and the business owner was kind of checked out because I was doing so good. He was like off doing whatever he did, I think he was doing some real, he was getting into real at that point he was getting into real estate, he was only like 30-year guy. And I think it had kind of inherited it because his family had owned a lot of them. So, I don't think it was really his passion either. I was killing it for him and so he just let me run the show and this is where the end of my story kind of starts if I could bring up Gate Master Technology, the company that I run today.

So, we used gate master in that facility, it was the first iteration of the product gate master started in 1995 by a guy named Steven Richardson, super amazing eccentric guy and just, you know, there was no software for this market and he owned QSR as well and this was his brother who owned the facility that I run. And his software just made my life so easy.

Michael: And what did it do?

Sondra: It did ticket. It did memberships. It managed the laser tag arenas. It did all the birthday party bookings. It pretty much managed all of the revenue sources of the business.

Michael: And so, it was a full-on SAS product?

Sondra: Yeah. But this was like 1999. We didn't call him that back then. And also, there wasn't really much out there. This was like his thing, this his baby. He just thought of this one day, he was like, there needs to be a software for this and he made that. And I thought that was pretty cool. Well, his brother ended up selling the facility, the QSAR, which was in Southern California a few years later. And I think I was 22 at that time, and there was this guy who was working for Steve and he said, you've gotta talk to Sondra, I think she can help you make the product better. Because nobody had really done the things that I had done in the family entertainment space in terms of revenue and growth. My competitor at the time was six flags and we were still killing it. Right. So, they said, you can, you need to talk to Sandra.

Michael: And this is in California, still?

Sondra: This is in California. And he was in Northern, he was in San Francisco and they said, you gotta talk to her. So, they brought me up to San Francisco because I was looking for a job at that point, cuz they had sold the facility. And they took me on the first job, they hadn't even hired me yet, they took me on the job and it was this batting cage and they had this team, and I'm just gonna tell a story. Like, it really is, there was the guy who brought me in. He was kind of, he liked me, but he also saw me as competition. So, it was really difficult to get time with Steve to really get the job. So, I appreciated that he brought me there, but at the same time, I could tell he was like, I don't know, you know what I mean? Like she might take this thing over. So, what I did was is I just, on that first day at that batting cage, I just said, these are all the solutions they need, can you build this? Can you do that? And Steve was like, that'll work?

You know, I didn't remember all the things we built and he's like, you're hired and he brought me on and I didn't have much experience with software other than Gate Master that we'd used, I didn't even have a computer, here I am, they're like, you're gonna work for a tech company now.

So, I had to quickly buy a computer and act like I knew what I was doing with computers cuz we didn't act. I didn't even have a computer and I remember telling my mom and dad what's going on and they're like, you need a real job. You need a real job. And I'm like, this is a real job, just let me, I mean, because you know this would've been like 2002. How do you explain to people that you're gonna do technology, I mean, your college dropout, flunk, third grade, you know, to them they thought I just needed a job that had 401k and a retirement and all of the things that they worked for. Right? For generations people had been working for that whereas for me, I just, I didn't care about that. I was just thinking about right now, like what can I do right now?

Michael: What I think about in that is when I walked away. So, at 20 years old, I landed a job with a fortune 10 company, no high school diploma, no college education, fucking impossible. Right. I've shared this story in the show so many times. But one of the things I haven't really shared before is I remember I came home, I'm at my apartment and I decide to go hang out with my best friend and I'm gonna tell him, I'm like, yo, I'm leaving this job, I'm gonna start this photography business. And you have to think I was making like 130 which is fucking crazy for a 26-year-old. It's crazy for anybody really, if you think about it. And he goes, this is the worst decision you'll ever make in your life. And I just remember, like, it was almost like he had written me off, he just been like, dude, if you do this, you're an idiot. You're stupid. You're never gonna be successful. And now I understand it's like the reflection of someone's own inadequacies and fears and things of that nature. But I was like, fuck it, what's the worst thing that's gonna happen. Go back and get another corporate job. Right. How did you navigate this moment of I'm gonna make this transition, it's not a quote unquote real job, cuz to a lot of people, real jobs sitting at a desk answering fucking phones, let's call it what it is. Right?

Sondra: Well, not only that, like, at least the people that I was around, you know, my parents, my cousins, you know, everybody in my family, they had all worked blue collar jobs. So, the idea that I was gonna go work for a tech company was just crazy to them. Cuz people who didn't have educations, didn't get those jobs.

Michael: Why didn't you come to the pressure of that?

Sondra: And that self-love piece. I think for me, I just kept saying why I'm worthy of this. These guys see something in me, you know, I've heard you talk about before, you know, like being poor sucks, right. I grew up very, very poor. I mean, and having money, I learned at an early age, if I had money, I had options. Right. And so, that's why work was also really important for me because it got me the things that I wanted. And so having money gave me options and I wanted a line on more money. You know, I bought my first home when I was 22, which is crazy. I bought my first home when I was 22. And I don't know why I want, you know, I just there were these to me, it was like the American dream I had to buy a home and I just wanted to do it, it was like a goal. I set this goal. I'm gonna buy a house in my twenties. I didn't know anybody who'd done that before. It was probably the first person in my graduating class to buy a house. Right. So, I bought this house and it was just setting up these big goals. Right. Just continuing to say, I think for me, the reason I didn't succumb is because I always had these big goals out there, like buying a home that I couldn't go back to working at the grocery store, I couldn't go back to working in a restaurant, I had to figure out how to level up. And so, when I had this opportunity with gate master, I knew this is like once in a lifetime, people like me don't get that because he didn't care that I didn't have an education because that first day I went into that batting cage and solved all their problem. I put myself in the service, in their service. And that was also something that I did with Steve was, uh, you know, he was an amazing developer, but he needed help working on his business and growing his business. And to me, it was just a matter of, well, how can I serve this person? How can I be valuable to him? Because he clearly believes in me and I think that's where the opportunity's gonna grow. So, I think that's really, it was just recognizing an opportunity that was gonna help me achieve the goals that I wanted.

Michael: Yeah. And a lot of people will baulk at that. They'll steer a clear of it, they'll convince themselves that they don't deserve it. They'll go well, you know, I felt degrade and I didn't learn how to read, tell it's like fucking 14, blah, blah, blah. And that, that stuff exists. Right. What do you think, is there something that you can point to that is, I don't wanna necessarily use the word practical, but the word practical comes to mind, was there something practical in this journey that helped you step into the ability of trusting yourself? Or was it just like, fuck it, what do I have to lose? Cause for me, I learned how to trust myself from being like, fuck it. What do I have to lose?

Sondra: I think there was definitely an element of what do I have to lose? Cuz like, you know, it was surreal sometimes being in this position where you know, I didn't really know what to do a lot of the time, but I was learning on the job. So, there was a little bit of that, but then there was also that part of me that, you know, I really loved myself. I learned to love myself, you know, because of that, going back to that self-esteem piece, I had decided I was going to have high self-esteem. And when I realized that that meant self-love, you know, that even that's a difficult journey because I'll tell you, I had a lot of people tell me, you're conceded or whatever that looks like. And it's like, no, I've never looked at what another person had and been jealous or upset with them. I'm like, awesome, how do I get that? I was like, how do I do that? Like, I just need to learn, you know, I'm very happy for that person.

Michael: I wanna rewind real quick. Cause I think this would be really empowering for people listening. When you were navigating self-love self-esteem what made you realize like one equals the other and what was the process of, you said you chose to learn how to love yourself and to love yourself? What did that process look like? Cuz I think like people are so fucking stuck in not doing that.

Sondra: I think you're right. I think a lot of people are stuck in not doing that, but I mean, I think it was a little bit of an evolution. When I think back at like how I was in those special ed classes and when I would see somebody struggling, I would try to help them. And I started realizing that I felt really good about myself doing that because now they're feeling better about themselves. And so, it was a little bit of in the early stages, and I heard, I don't know if there's like a quote or a study. I read something one time that said something that, you know, the happiest people are not the people who have the most, they're the people that give the most. I didn't know that back then, but, you know, looking back, I can see how that did benefit me. I found a lot of happiness and love for myself in just being giving of myself and I still today. I mean, I think if you hang around with me, you'll know that, I'll do anything for the people around me so long as there're not like taken me down because that was a boundary I had to learn later in life. Right. There are some people you can't help, and that's a whole other thing.

Michael: Let's talk about that because I think that matters because, you know, I have this thought, you know, and this might have come from Grant Cardone and implanted it in my brain, but he said one time, like Mother Theresa flew around on private jets and I was like, that's such a fascinating point because you're able to still give and have this amazing, powerful, beautiful life giving does not equal taking away from yourself. And I think so many people feel like, well, if I want to give, if I want to help the world, if I wanna make a betterment of my environment, that means I have to sacrifice. I have to be poor. I have to like be all these things, but I've come to discover that's not true at all. Like you can be successful in life and give and not have to sacrifice and be poor in all those things. But in that process, something that you just pointed to that I think is incredibly profound and important is recognizing that sometimes people are gonna try to take you down with them. What does that look like and how do you navigate that?

Sondra: I think for me, it's always showed up as some sort of like, negative being put towards me. Right. So, somebody saying, oh, well that self-love looks like it's conceded, so, they always try to spin it in that way or, you know, I'm trying to think of the best way to answer this, that you wanna know what helping somebody who doesn't wanna be helped look like. And I think for me, a lot of times it just shows up as somebody who's not changing. You know, I give a lot of business advice to people today I mean, a lot of people come to me. Just to give some perspective to your audience, you know, I've worked with over 800 businesses in 16 countries grow scale, their businesses create alignments with their team because one of the things that I realized at gate master early on was if I don't help these people with their businesses, this product's not gonna be successful because it was such a new product or idea. I mean, point of sale wasn't even really a thing, people were still using Casios we were going and replacing these old Casio cash registers with software. And a lot of these people didn't know how to use software, but then in addition to that, they didn't know how to run their businesses.

So, now today, a lot of people because of that experience, I mean, I went to 800 locations in 16 countries, when I say that I've worked with many more businesses than that I've lost count at this point. But when a lot of people come to me looking for business advice, you know, there comes a point where it's like either they gotta do it or they're not gonna do it and I can't waste my time anymore. Right. Because it's their goal, I try to help people find clarity on their goal because it's an important, I think another important step that maybe, I didn't talk about here, but you know, for me, and part of the reason I go by big goal is because having these big goals out there in the future really did help me stay the course, even when I doubted myself, I just kind of knew where I wanted to, I knew I wanted. I bought my first house, I knew I wanted a second house someday, and next time it was gonna be bigger. Right. And actually, when I married Jake, he bought our first house. I bought our second house. You know what I mean? And it was just this fun game that we've always kind of done together is what can we do together and build together. But having these big goals out there really kept me on the course. And so, I try to help people figure out what their goals are, but there comes a point with a lot of people where they give up on themselves, they give up on their goals, you know, and I have to be like, this is your goal, not mine. I gotta kind of back off of putting in my time, energy and resources into helping you achieve your goals. And to me, that's what that looks like now, right? I mean, I don't really surround myself with people who aren't driven. I just can't because there's only so much time, you know, when we look at our lives and what we wanna accomplish, I'm not trying to cut anybody out for any, because I don't love people, I love everybody. I mean, I can't even think of a person I don't like really, you know, and I mean that sincerely, but I know that I only have so much time. I mean, I've been with gate master for 20 years, that's a long time to do something. I became CEO in 2010 and when I arrived there, I thought this is awesome. You know what I mean? Like I'm a CEO now. I became a CEO, you know, there's some interesting statistics in tech, you know, only about 26%, I think actually it's 24% are women in tech, maybe 15% of females get to be tech CEOs, but the amount of women exiting tech is 45 times higher than men, that's a lot. So, that also once I became a CEO, I became a mission of like, I've gotta hang in here, I've gotta hang in here. I have a lot to prove now. And I know that that kind of took us off on a whole of the tangent.

Michael: And I think two things come to mind one, and just because I was an executive at a very young age as well in my very early thirties, like there's a statistic around that as well. Most people in C-suite levels, they're like 45-50 years old. I was an executive at 31. You know, and you look at that and you're like, whoa, that's crazy. And for me it was like fucking chip on my shoulder. Like honestly, it was me looking at wanting to build all these different things, also running side hustles in other businesses and be like to a word that used to prove it. And I don't know if this held true for you, but I was proving it to me growing up and everyone always being like, you're not good enough, you're not smart enough, you're not capable enough, you come from a loser family, nobody has money, you know, car repos and homelessness and the whole nine. I was just like, fucking watch me. Do you think like this process has been just proving to yourself? Cause here's everything that I do and to your point, cuz people will say, Hey, you have this, air of ego or conceitedness and I'm like, no, you don't get it. I'm proving to myself and me alone, what I'm capable of doing.

Sondra: Well, I think that goes back to your question earlier, too. Maybe this is a better answer, you know, there's a lot of people that give up on themselves. Right. And then don't do what they say they're gonna do all the time. So, how can you feel good about yourself when you're not doing what you say you're gonna do. I mean, even despite if other people care about that, to me, it always meant something to me like I'm still looking, I'm still watching this journey, I don't wanna let me down, you know, I love myself why would I do that? I wouldn't do that to anybody else, why would I do that to me?

Michael: What do you do in those moments when you do let yourself down?

Sondra: I mean, I try to have grace with myself, usually when I let myself down it's because I made a mistake more so than I didn't try because I'm not the kind of person I'll try anything. And there are times where I'm like, yeah, well, so, you know, I always wanted to do be to do a body building competition. So, I was trained him for one when I was in my early twenties and I got injured and I never made it. So, when I was 40, I went back and I started training to do all this body building, it was in the best shape of my life. Right. But it came to be about competition time and I was like, yeah, I'm not really into this, it's taken away from my bigger goals, which is work, there were some things that were being required of me. Like, you know, the final lean out, you know, or you gotta get real lean. I just really wasn't into it and I'm like, I had to just tell myself, look, the 20-year-old me and the 40-year-old me are not aligned as far as that goal was, but I tried and I'll feel bad about that. I mean, how many 40-year-olds do even try.

Michael: You know, and that's so interesting too, because I think the older that people get, the more they're willing to quit on themselves.  And I look at it, you know, I have a client and working with adult survivors, childhood trauma, like this is a really intense space. And she's like fucking 64 years old. She's like, I'm gonna figure this out. I'm still alive, there is still time. And my hope is that people won't quit on themselves, that they won't give that; that they'll seek self-love and ultimately find that thing that brings them, you know, fulfillment and joy and happiness and do it through a word I think you use, which is really important, grace, because fuck, you're gonna fuck up a lot all the time, every day. And I think so many people get tied into this idea of perfection and making sure it's great so, everybody else can see it. And I'm just, if you knew how many episodes of this show have not been released or were recorded, that I forgot to press fucking record or that the mic wasn't plugged in or whatever. And you're just like, well, you don't quit. You just keep going, just keep doing it. Big goal energy. I love this idea. I love the concept because I think that ultimately big goals are what will pull you forward into the existence that you can create. I think a lot of people are stuck in not knowing how to navigate that.

So, as someone who is a CEO, an entrepreneur, also a wife and a mom and all the other incredible things that I know that you do, that'll let you bring to light if you choose to, how do you create goals? How do you manage life? How do you move forward with all of the different elements that you have in encompassing you all the time?

Sondra: I think, goal creation is a process. And I think that's not talked about a lot because I think people think you like have to have clarity on the goal. Right? My goals are constantly evolving and sometimes I'm trying new things and then there are a lot of things pulling me, right. I've got my company that I'm running, I have these side projects that I'm doing, I have children that I'm trying to be a good parent. And you know, I've heard you talk about this too, I'm trying to break generational behaviors as a parent. And you know, there's a lot of me going into that and actually that's part of my journey too, you know, there was a time early on when I first had my firs kid everybody, you know, when I started with gate master was the youngest and the only woman. And I remember I could hear a lot of the guys saying when she has a baby, she's outta here.

Michael: And you literally heard them say that?

Sondra: I heard 'em say it. And it would break my heart cuz I'm like, why can't I have both? You know, that being said, I was on a client call in labor with my first, you know, I really dedicated to this working. You know, and granted, I've had women come to me and say, Hey, you've created impossible standards for women, but I'm not trying to create standards for anybody, I'm just competing with me here. And even with my last, I had him at home, so there were no drugs involved in that childbirth so I was not talking to anybody with my first I was epidurals, you know, it was pain free, I could take a client call. But with my last, I had him at home and it happened so fast and it was painful enough that I was not even interested in talking to a client. And by that time, the company didn't need me to be on a phone call while I was giving birth, you know, they had it. I went back to work two days later and maybe there was a little bit of like I had to prove, but more, I had to prove to myself because I had made a pretty big deal. And I had told them, yes, I'm gonna have a baby, but I'll be there, and he came two weeks early, so it messed up my plan.  Right? So, I had to go back to work two days later. So, I wasn't trying to prove anything to anybody or create any standard, I was just trying to do what I said I was gonna do for a client who gave me their money. And believed in me enough to say, here's this big check, do your work. You know, he said, you're gonna be there even if you had a baby. So, I did. And I think that's a big part of the goals is just, sometimes it looks different than what we thought it was gonna look like. And you've gotta be willing to evolve with it. You've gotta be able to go where it takes you. You just can't give up on what that is.

Now, when I became a CEO, you know, I didn't know what was supposed to happen from there. Right. I just had my eye on it, I knew that at some point Steve was gonna replace himself and he was gonna need an executive in that position, there was a lot of people going for that role, you know, working towards that goal. And I knew that if I could grow, help him grow the company and be valuable enough to him, I would get that position. I don't have an MBA, I didn't go to college. We talked about that. Right. But I knew that being valuable was important. And I think that's something that's really lost on a lot of people right now. You know, I don't believe there aren't good people out there. I just think that we have a lot of negative beliefs about work culture today. And I think it's coming from both sides, both the employers and the employees where they're not being valued the employee and the employee doesn't value the job.

Now, one of the things I talk about actually, I'm be at the Florida attractions association next week, talking about, the generational divide, that was not a title that I picked, I probably would've picked something different, but I think it's interesting cuz it is important to them, they believe that a lot of this is generational. To me, I believe that, you know, if you don't have alignment, it does matter what generation we're dealing with. However, you know, you hear a lot of people talking about there's no good people to work these days. Right. I hate that. I hate hearing that because I don't think that's what it is, I think there's a couple of things happening, you know, one, the baby boomers, there's not enough of us to replace them. So, the people who are getting the jobs have a lot more options than they did the people who came before them. And then two, maybe that's created a little bit of entitlement and so, people aren't trying to be as valuable to the people who hire them. I really value the people that want to add value to what I'm doing and because of that, it's important to me to help them achieve their goals. But that's also how I gauge whether or not this is somebody I should be helping.

Michael: Yeah. That's a great point. And I think that applies across the spectrum, not even just from a work perspective, because you know, the people you're surrounded with matter so much in this journey. And I think we often fail to realize that because we want to, you know, I don't think it's about hurting people's feelings, for a very long time now I've tried to not be intentional about doing anything that makes anyone feel bad. And I think by the proxy of growth, unfortunately, it's a part of the evolution of self. Like if you're not in alignment with people, you have to recognize that and honor that and be willing to remove yourself and not pour yourself and your energy into them because I'm sure that there's people who they'll want to destroy you over going to work two days later. And then a person like me said in cross from you goes, I get it. I had surgery in February I was working two days later, because this is who I choose to be, has nothing to do with you like if you wanna take a year off after you have a surgery or have a kid like more power to you. I got no disrespect like that has nothing to do with me. And I think that a lot of this is you choosing your path, deciding on who you want to be and executing against it. As we start to wrap up here, what do you think is something really important that people need to know about self-love that you've discovered about this journey that has helped you be a more effective leader?

Sondra: I think just being an authentic real person, you know, when I talk to people, be it a client or the team that I have, it's important for me to let them know that I'm a human too, we're all human here. Right? The human experience is a lot of trial and error, I don't have all the answers. But I'm willing to try and figure it out and I think that's kind of going back to the dyslexia. I always say like, my dyslexia is my superpower because I do see problems differently than other people and I think that's benefited me and I am willing to help figure it out whatever that looks like. You know, I've got a 28-year-old company we've never been sued, knock on wood, right? We never had anybody come after us because no matter who I was always willing to work through whatever that looked like. And I think that's an important part because if you can do the hard stuff and prove it to yourself and sometimes in my case at work, it's, you know, dealing with a customer who maybe isn't satisfied with the service or the product that we provided and how do we right for them. Right? That's a hard thing to do. I think a lot of people when faced with just general challenges will just abandon ship, they'll just abandon ship. And for me, you know, if I abandon ship, I don't feel that great about myself. So, I don't ever abandon ship I just go through it. And I think that's an important exercise with self-love because when you get on the other side of the hard stuff is where the real magic happens and that's where the real love.

Michael: Yeah. That's beautiful. I totally agree with that entirely because every single time that I've pushed myself through the discomfort of not wanting to get up, not go show up, not do the thing, not whatever is like, it's like I've quit on myself so many times that I had to reverse that entire mentality and be like, I refuse to quit. Anyone who really knows me, like outside of this show, outside of coaching out, but like the people in my personal life who know me, know when I say something's done, the only difference between success and failure in that is time ‘cause eventually I'm gonna get it done and there's hard days, right? There are days you wake up, you're like, I don't wanna fucking be a CEO, I don't wanna be an executive, I don't wanna be a mom, I don't wanna be a podcast host and you go, well guess? Do it anyway, cuz you made a decision. And in that decision, you made a commitment to yourself. And like you, for me, self-esteem, self-love, confidence is so important in my journey that I know that the second I stopped doing the things I say that I was gonna do, I can paint a picture of exactly what my life is gonna look like. And my hope is that more people will feel empowered about self-esteem you shouldn't feel.

To me, I think about this all the time. People are like, they'll make fun of me and they'll be like, oh, humble brag. I'm like, I don't wanna be that humble, I've earned this. I work my fucking face off. Like if I wanna brag a little bit, like, can I have some space? And I don't feel guilty about that at all.

Sondra: I don't either, you know? And I'm to the point now where it's like, I love what I've done. And it hasn't always been easy and you know, it's cliche, but people always say you don't get to see the journey to where you're at right now. You know, I can't cover my 20-year career in an hour conversation, it's been wild, you know? But I can talk about where I'm at and there are people who, like you said, don't think that that's a humble position to take, but I think that hopefully that inspires other people to not be humble. Right. Well, I don't have to be, I earn these things, they're mine. And that's not to take away from anybody else, to keep me on my own path of happiness.

Michael: Yeah. A hundred percent. Well, you know, as I always say, if you don't believe in yourself, who will? Before I ask you my last question, my friend, where can everyone find you?

Sondra: So, you guys can find probably the best place to find me. If you really just wanna connect is gonna be on Instagram, @biggoalenergy. My company is Gate Master Technology, and you can find at Those are the two best places to find me if you're wanting to chat, I would definitely shoot over a message on Instagram, that is me on my Instagram talking to people because it's important to me to be connected to people, it is.

Michael: Same. I tell everyone no matter where you find me, the only person touching my social media is me. My last question for you, my friend, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?

Sondra: Well, I think what it means to me to be unbroken is, you know, I hate to repeat the same thing, but it's that self-love, just being okay with being imperfect. It's okay. It's okay to be a real person, having a real human experience and for good or bad embracing that and knowing that there, we only have so much time here, so what are we gonna do with what time is left? And for me, I just wanna keep doing cool shit with cool people.

Michael: I love it. Thank you so much for being here, my friend. I appreciate you. Unbroken Nation. Thank you so much for listening.

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And Until Next Time.

My friends, Be Unbroken.

I'll see ya.

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Sondra Shannon


Sondra started out originally as a Gatemaster client operating an the late 90’s. She worked in Gatemaster’s training department traveling the world assisting clients in opening new facilities, then moving to sales and now Gatemaster CEO. Sondra has been crucial to Gatemaster’s growth as chief executive officer. She prides herself upon bringing her core values of integrity, clarity, and prosperity in the business and software development culture at Gatemaster.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.