Overcoming a lot of struggles in life will lead to finding greatness and great happiness. But a lot of us still ask, “How do I get there?” Happiness Coach, Betsy Pake’s answer to moving forward is to stop getting caught in the parts of our lives that have no light or joy. Betsy lived a great life because she had an awesome mom. When she lost her light and joy to a car accident, she went through the motions of living almost mechanically. She shares her stories of going from “What am I doing here?” to “There is something more for me.”
I’m back with another episode with Betsy Pake. She hails from outside Atlanta, Georgia. Betsy is a happiness coach. Her motto is all about inspiring people to have a big life. This is coming from a girl who had what she thought was the perfect life growing up with an amazing mother and a very traditional father. One of the things that she saw from her mother was she always said that she was going to go overseas and go to the Great Wall of China and do all these amazing things, but she was committed to the family that she never did those things. When Betsy was sixteen, her mom tragically died in a car accident and never got to do the things she had wanted to do, her vision board in life. What Betsy has done over the many years since, she had a very successful sales career. She hit a roadblock, like a lot of people, and decided one day, “There’s got to be something bigger and better for me out there.” From that point on, she decided to become this happiness coach to serve other people and trying to help them get unstuck and well on their way onto what they should be doing, their true purpose in life.
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Betsy Pake: The Happiness Coach Finding Greatness Through Struggles
We’re back with another epic episode. We have a young lady named Betsy Pake. Betsy, how are you doing?
Thanks so much for having me on the show.
What I love about you and your mission in life is that you are there to inspire people to have a big life. You are a certified happiness coach.
My husband always says, “That can’t be a real thing.” I’m like, “No, it’s a thing.”
We all go through life and we all have to overcome a lot of different things. A lot of times, those things drive us in a spiral downward. It’s hard to find that joy, that happiness, that contentment, to go towards the light, to figure it out, and have that contentment about where you’re trying to go in life. A lot of the questions are, “How do I get there?”
People have things that happened to them and they get caught in that, “How do I even move forward?”That’s the key because we always have things we’re going to be overcoming, that we have to move forward.
I’ve had my share. At the same time, I’ve been so blessed to start these podcasts. I’m interacting with people and I’m looking at their situation. Kyle Maynard is a guy who’s got no arms and no legs, and he crawled up Aconcagua in Argentina at 23,000 feet. Kyle is a special spirit, a special soul. Sometimes when I look at my checkbox of things that have gone in a negative way for me, you don’t have to look too far outside your window to say, “At least I have arms and legs,” or whatever the case is.“I have a home, I have a family,” and things that. Let’s go back to the beginning. We’re going to ultimately weave into this whole thing of how you became a happiness coach. I know that you had a few bumps along the way that is so important. Maybe those were lessons that you learned in life that helped you get to where you are today. Let’s talk about Vermont. This is the place that you grew up.
I grew up in Vermont, which is a beautiful place to live. When you think of the Norman Rockwell paintings, in so many ways, that’s a lot of how I view my childhood. I had an awesome childhood, tons of stuff outside. My mom was super involved in our lives and was the mom that all the friends loved. She brought us to all the concerts, that high-spirited mom that everybody digs. Our house was the fun party house where all my friends came over and knew they could hang out. My dad worked at the university. It was all very great. It was all super.
Was this very traditional?
Absolutely. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. She made breakfast every morning, the whole deal. I remember being nine or ten and she would always say, “Someday I’m going to see the pyramids. Someday I’m going to see the Great Wall of China. Someday I’m going to go to the top of that mountain.”She would say these things. I remember saying to her, “When are you going?”As a kid, we think that’s going to happen in a couple of weeks. She said to me, “We decided that I’m going to be a mommy first, and then I’ll do those things later.” When I was in high school, she was on her way to a hockey game with my sister. They left Vermont and when they were in New York, got in a car accident, and my mom died and never got to do those things that I heard her talk about and say my whole life.
Was your sister okay?
She was injured. She had broken her jaw. She lost all her teeth. That whole thing. Amazingly, she survived. I feel and always felt grateful for that, that I had her to go through that with. Immediately when it happened, almost immediately finding the silver lining that I had my sister to go through this with.
What was that like for you though? It sounded like you were the central hub of happiness. Everybody would want to come over the social scene and Halloweens and parties. She was that mom. You’re sixteen years old. You’re a junior in high school and your world is shattered.
Everything is different. Every little thing that happens is different. Nothing seems the same. As I go through my day and I go to school, I realized that my friends have no idea what is happening in my head. They’re trying to be kind to me, but all of the sudden, I see the world totally different than everybody I know.
It’s in your head because those are thoughts, and it’s in your heart because that’s how you’re feeling. Sometimes those things don’t always work in harmony. What was that like for you? What were you thinking then? You said the way that you viewed your whole world and the way that you viewed it changed. How was that?
A couple of different things were happening. For me, I’ve got to move forward. When I look back on that now, I went back to school immediately. I went back to school the morning before the funeral. I always had this, “I have to keep going.”That’s probably who I am, but it started to shift how I saw everything, which at the time felt very foreign and very alone. I was dealing with this loss in my life as well as the entire change in the dynamic in my family. I had to change with my friendships because I was in a different place than any of them. I’m realizing that how I see the whole world is different. I went to college and I did the things we’re supposed to do, but my view was different.
I want to understand when you say, “It was different.”My curious mind is saying, “What was different?
Many of my friends at that age maybe had grandparents that had died, and so they knew things could change. I knew on a much deeper level that anything could happen at any moment. In some ways, it was awful because it made me nervous and miss my mom and desperately afraid to need anybody, because if I need somebody that could happen again. There’s this whole fear thing in there. Also, it gave me this, “It can happen at any moment. Am I happy now? I might be gone in ten minutes. Am I happy?”That almost scratching towards “I have to live. I have to make this moment count because anything can happen.” It was this juxtaposition of greatness because it made me want to live and inspired to do more and live at my full potential. It was also this awful sadness and a wall that I built up, that I could now look back on my life and see that wall prevented me from my greatness over and over again. It was two things clashing. It took me 25 years before I could rectify that and see how it could benefit me and I could live the life I wanted.
I’m in my mid-50s. It took me until I was 50 to figure out a lot of this stuff. When I look back, I’m like, “What a block head.”Some of the things that served me well back in the day was this whole fight or flight. I’ve never given up ever. What I learned later in life is that while that served me extremely well in many circumstances, trying to make an NFL team, play at the Major League college football level, and successfully doing it, it also became a detriment to me of also never giving up. Sometimes you have to let things go, this whole bless-and-release that Kathy Eldon talked about. That’s being able to put those things aside and coming to terms with certain circumstances that you find yourself in. It was 25 years before you came to peace on a lot of this stuff. You graduate from high school. What goes on from there?
Looking back, I went to college because that’s what we’re supposed to do. My dad worked at the university. I was supposed to do that, but I don’t know that I even had a handle on my life in the way that I knew what I was working towards. I went to Castleton University, which is in the southern part of the state. My dad worked at the university, so I could go free. I was smart in that way. After about three years, I took a year off. People thought, “She’ll never go back.” I felt I couldn’t get my feet under me. I didn’t know what I was doing or why I was doing it. That was the reoccurring thing, “Why am I doing this? Was it because I’m supposed to?”It made no sense. I took a year off and I worked at the Dairy Queen. I made the best of that. That is when I started to find joy because I realized that I could be working at the mall, at the Dairy Queen, and find happiness. If I could do that, then I knew there was something more for me and I could bring that somewhere else. I could do more with that. That’s when I decided to go back. I went back to school and finished and my degree in Psychology. I knew that in some way, I was going to use this awfulness. I still didn’t know how, but I was going to use that awfulness to help someone else. I didn’t know how it was going to manifest itself or what it was going to do. It took me a long time to figure that out, but that was my mission and that’s when I knew I could do it, at the Dairy Queen.
Dairy Queen was the turning point for you. You go back to the university and you graduate. What goes on from there? You didn’t go back to the Dairy Queen, I assume?
I left Vermont. I packed up my car and left. My 21-year-old self thought I was going to be able to drive to the Bahamas. I drove to North Carolina and that’s where I ran out of money. I loaded up my Dodge Colt with all of the stuff that I could fit in it and I thought I’m going to start over. I got to North Carolina and I worked for a little while at a bar and tried to figure out where my place was. That’s when I started working at a group home. I worked with kids that were disadvantaged. That’s where my career started, where I was able to use some of that awfulness and connect with the kids who had had it worse. It was that moment where I found, “There’s people that have it way worse. My mom might have died, but I had an amazing sixteen years. These kids haven’t had anything,”
One of the things that so many people know that we need this contribution. When you have contribution of going and helping charity kids and other people and not putting yourself as the number one selfish being on the planet, you find so much more joy and happiness from helping others.
It’s growth and contribution. If you can continue to be growing and learning and have contribution, the intersection is where joy happens.
After I got done playing in the NFL, I went on and I started some companies. I got married and had kids. I don’t think I was doing a good enough job. I know I wasn’t in terms of my growth, in terms of things where I needed to go. I’ve come full circle on that over the years. I’ve come into this podcast world, but everything is all about learning and growth. There’s so much knowledge that other people can impart on you to help you see the world a little bit differently. It’s so much more rewarding.
What I went through, my perspective can help somebody. It gives you some purpose, that there was a reason why I’ve gone through this. As I look back, I see all of those things culminated together to get me to a place where I knew there was value in what I’d been through. I still didn’t know how it was going to be used.
What was the bridge point of connecting? You’re starting your career. You’re helping people in this home, you’re helping kids. There’s this gap between you need to get experience, you needed to grow, and you need to learn. That doesn’t happen taking one course at the university. What was that journey like for you?
A whole series of events happened in my life. I got married. I moved to Washington DC. I got divorced. I got married again. You see this pattern of “I’m desperate to be close to somebody, but I’m also desperate to need anybody.”If something would go wrong, I would go, “Okay, we’re done. We’re going to make it. This is going to be simple and easy and we’re going to part ways.”I got married the second time and I had my daughter. I was 31 when I had her. That’s when I went, “Maybe life isn’t about churning through stuff. Maybe life isn’t about trying to figure this out. Maybe life is about paying attention to what I’ve got.” Unfortunately, I got divorced when she was little. That, I believe, is the point when my story of real growth to a point where I am right now began.
You’ve been divorced twice or you had your daughter with your first husband?
I’ve been divorced twice, but there was so much growth and learning since that point.
Life is a big journey. You’re on the yellow brick road and there’s this twist and turns and all these things. If we all had a foresight 20/20, you never would have gotten into marriage number one and marriage number two. A lot of that maybe had to come to the intersection of where you were in a healthier spot of all the growth that you’ve been through. I have two beautiful daughters,19and 21. They teach us so much about unselfishness, about grace, and about the little things. When you were sweating the bigger things and they’re like, “Do you want to play house?”That’s a wonderful moment. That intersection happened for you with the husband that you’re with today.
I was single for seven years before I married my third husband. I got to a place where I could be in a relationship and I could rely on somebody, I could depend on somebody without a panic or fear that something would happen and they would go away. Anytime we have a child, it changes the way we see things, but it also made me go like, “I can’t be this tornado.” I refer to it as an upper limit problem. I would get to a point where I would have an incredible career. When I left working at that group home, I got into sales. I had an amazing career in sales for twenty years, an upper limit problem. If I would be doing amazing and making amazing money and feeling good about it, I would have to make something else wrong. I would have to get divorced. I would have to move. I would have to go to a different state. I would have to start over. It’s because I knew how to deal with drama. I didn’t know how to deal with consistency and success. It wasn’t until I was alone, and I had my daughter and I thought, “I can’t be a whirlwind anymore.”In the middle of all of that, I did amazing things. I ran marathons. I did other athletic adventures. I did all this stuff. It wasn’t until I thought, “I can’t continue the churn. I have to ground. How do I ground? How do I get back to the Betsy that feels safe?”That is the journey of my life and what I try to share with other people now.
You called yourself a tornado. I’m unfortunately divorced. My now-ex used to call me a tornado. There are just so many things. I ran my own business. I was a coach. I was this and that. I didn’t know any other way. I turned to the mountains. Everybody turns to something, sometimes it’s healthy, sometimes it’s not. In my case, it was the mountains. The mountains is where I found my serenity and peace, and understood that there’s a better way, and things can slow down, and be much more present in the way that you take on life, and the way that you are with others and the way you want your life to go. One, it’s not a blur. Number two, it’s not a life filled with drama and constant things and change and crazy stuff. At the end of the day, I feel very blessed from the standpoint of these other wonderful gifts have come out of it. I never thought when I was going through this whole thing five, six years ago that I would one day be doing a podcast. That was not the plan. It was just, “I need to get in the mountains. I need to go start climbing these big boys around the world and we’ll see what happens. Let’s see how far I get.”Through clarity, great opportunity can now come into your life because you’re open to receive it.
From the outside looking in, everybody thought I had it all together. Looking back, I realized I was a tornado constantly seeking change because that’s what I knew how to deal with. From the outside, people looking in thought, “Betsy’s got it all figured out.” I often wonder why that is, but I think I looked I must’ve had it all together. That wasn’t the case. As I moved forward, as I got grounded, as I recognized what was important, I see the value in the contrast. When something happens that’s not the way I want, I see the value in it because it helps me clarify what I do want. Failure or things going wrong or a bad day, whatever it is, is this incredible gift because it clarifies what I do want. The clearer we can become, that’s how we can move towards something. I was going through my life not knowing where I was going, but I was going there fast.
Sometimes, not all, but some people can look at Mark as the shiny object because of these things I’ve done. Just because it might appear you’ve got some things under your belt doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got it all together. That’s exactly what you said. You’re that shiny object. Everybody thought you’re doing this and you’re doing that and going crazy. Your internal struggle was the thing that was holding you back towards finding your greatness.
People are moving so fast towards nothing. When you can slow down enough to say, “Where am I going?” that’s when greatness starts to find you. My daughter is the one that grounded me and brought me to this. When she was about eleven, she came to me and said she had been having anxiety. I had built this incredible career in sales at this point. She came to me and said, “I need you.” I’ve been spinning, I’ve been traveling for my job, I’ve been having fun, all of these things, and had created a great life for her and I. When she needed me, that’s when all of the sudden the tables turned. The elevator changed direction where I went, “I’ve been running toward something. I don’t know what it is.” What I really want is amazing relationships in my life like I used to have. I want that relationship with my daughter like I had with my mother. At that moment, I had a job where I sure I made more money than most people, other than maybe NFL players. I had built a great career in sales and I was single. I was taking care of her. We had awesome opportunities and could travel and do things and own our own home, and all of those things. When she said that to me, I saw it in her eyes, “You can’t keep going.” I put my finger up and I said, “Hang on one minute.” I locked eyes and I called my boss and I quit my job. She knew right then nothing would come before what she needed.
That’s called commitment, conviction. Sometimes you need to leap and go. That’s what you did. Tell me what you’re doing today. I want to understand how you got there, how this life coach and this happiness works, what you do to help out others. Give me a little background on that.
I have always been involved in fitness. That was my outlet. I’d always loved that. I met Kyle Maynard because I went to his CrossFit gym. When I worked in sales at that job, I started a little side business doing boot camps in the park. I hired people and I did the classes when I was in town. I built this little business. When I told her that I was going to quit my job, I thought, “I got to take this business to a different level.” I moved it inside, away from the park, and opened a CrossFit gym outside Atlanta. Looking back at the time, all my friends said, “You should do that. You should open a gym.” That made sense, but I had not thought through what’s my vision for my life. How do I want to live my life? What do I want my days to be like? Where do I want to live? Who do I want to surround myself with? I was going, “That makes sense. I’ll open a CrossFit gym.”I had the means to do it so that’s what I did. I owned that gym for several years.
One morning, I woke up and it was a Saturday morning and it was dark out still. My whole family was asleep. I remember I had this feeling in my body of this dread. By this point, I had been married for about two years. I came downstairs and I sat on the couch and I looked up at the skylights. I remember I leaned back and looked up, and I said to my mom, “Is this it? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?” I remember so clearly, I heard a voice almost like it was in my ear. She said, “If you could do anything, what would you do today?”When I heard that, it was the first time in a couple years where I felt a motivation and energy. I grabbed my iPad and I typed for two hours. I mapped out what every little thing would look if my day was exactly the way I want it. What it would look when I got up in the morning. I knew everything. I knew what my house would look like, what food I had in my house, how we ate. I knew what my friends were like, what I did every single day, who I worked with, and who I surrounded myself with. I realized it was a lot different than the life that I was living.
What you did is you created a vision board. I’ve got this refrigerator and it’s got the vision board of all my climbs and where I want to go. One thing that you did is that you specified with detail. When you wake up, who you’re hanging out with, the kind of house you want to be in, the kind of food, all that stuff and all that matters. The other thing that struck me when you were saying the story where you were in the living room and it’s dark and you’re staring up at the skylights, that whole scene from Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner, there’s this voice that he heard that nobody else could hear and people were like, “Are you insane?” He kept hearing this thing like, “If you build it, they will come.”He was like, “What am I supposed to build?”He ultimately got out and started hacking through his cornfield and creates this baseball field. You put up your vision board and you have to have conviction to go after what those things are. Sometimes a lot of people have an idea, but they don’t follow it through to the other side because they don’t take that leap of faith like he did in Field of Dreams.
I knew my decisions were going to affect other people. I felt I had already taken a leap. I had already quit my twenty-year built sales career to do this thing that I wanted to do that was my passion. I had to say, “Just kidding. That isn’t what I wanted to do.” I knew my husband was going to be like, “What is happening?” I knew the people that went to the gym were going to be disappointed. I had to be clear so that I could keep going no matter what I heard.
What did you do with the CrossFit gym?
I ended up selling it. It took me awhile to get a plan. I decided that this was going to be my cutoff and if I couldn’t sell it, I was going to close it. Right before I was going to close it, somebody came in and bought it.
Now you close it and now you got to go execute this vision board.
I’ve got to make this happen. At the time I owned a CrossFit gym and I was working as a coach, I also was a nutrition coach. I kept the nutrition piece and started with that. When you’re working with people on nutrition, it’s rarely about the food. It starts to move into what they feel about the food or what they feel about their life. It became a great segue into moving into helping people see that they can become the superheroes of their own life. My story could have gone a totally different way, and nobody would have blamed me.
It ties in with what you graduated from college from, Psychology. You’re bringing that element into the table. I’m a health and fitness nut. It’s a behavioral thing about the way they choose to eat and run their life, not necessarily a nutrition thing. Now that you’re understanding that, how does the story move from there?
It came down to me wanting to learn more. I always have loved learning and growth. I decided I’m going to learn everything that I can. I’m going to make some money working with these clients and learn what I can doing this. I wrote a book. It was my second book. I had written a nutrition book when I was a competitive athlete with the snatch and the clean and jerk. I’ve competed in the Pan American Games, won a bronze medal as a 44-year-old. I had this gang of women like me and I carried them through. They came to me for health and nutrition stuff, but there’s more we can learn together. I would learn stuff. I’ve got my Neuro-Linguistic Programming certification. As I would learn, I would share it and teach it to them. I would learn more and I would share it. That ended up building a community of people that want to be better. They want to grow.
Are you a coach?
I work as a coach. I’m also an author. I’ve written several books. One of the things I love to do is speak because I feel I can impact a whole room in a way that impacted that many people all at one time. I have a podcast, The Art of Living Big.
It is an art. It goes back to the vision board you’re talking about. The opposite of that is living small. Maybe that’s what you felt back when you were in that room and talking to your mother?
Yeah. I had this vision of what I wanted, but I couldn’t just close the gym the next day and all of a sudden be like, “I’m a coach.” I had to go through these small steps. I wrote this book called Start Small Live Big. It’s about that process. We see the NFL players and we think like, “That’s so great. They’re so great. They’re so talented.”They started out as little kids working their fannies off. They had failures. They had all the things you’re trying to highlight on the show. We forget that. We see people have greatness and think, “I can’t do that because they’re so great.”They didn’t start out great. They started out making mistakes and failing and getting back up. Muhammad Ali said, “If you can look up and see the sky, you can get up.”Continuing to fail and understanding that’s a contrast, I’m getting clearer on what it is I want and moving forward, taking another small step and another and another.
You can’t have negative voices in your ear as you’re trying to take those steps towards your ultimate goal. I’m at literally a living example of the things that you talked about, and that is seeing yourself on what you want to do and not letting others dictate what your greatness can be. When you start talking about the NFL, that’s the top 1% of the 1%, it’s very difficult to be there. I had a lot of obstacles. I had friends come up to me right in my face and say, “You’ll never make it.”You can’t have others put limits on what the human potential can be. It’s so key to keep your eye on the ball. It’s served me so well over time. It’s like negative forces on the outside trying to tear you apart, knock you down. By keeping your eye on the ball one step ahead at a time and taking the proper steps, just like going up the mountain, will get you to your end goal. Your end goal may look different to everybody, but you want to go on that journey and not have others say, “You can’t do it. You shouldn’t do it. You suck at it.” You just, “Who cares? It doesn’t matter what you think. You don’t know what’s inside of me.”
There’s greatness that I have not reached yet. There are some goals that you probably wouldn’t laugh at me, but other people would, so I don’t tell them. People like your friends do it because they want to protect you. They don’t want you to get hurt. They don’t want you to get disappointed. It also means you’re moving outside of the circle where they are and that makes them look at themselves and say, “Am I working? Am I doing things and living my life to my full potential?” There’s all of that. There’s a little circle of people that know my big dreams. My greatness is yet to be shown. Someday I will be helping millions.
Where can people find you in your greatness and all your happiness?
Thank you so much for coming on the pod and you’ve been a joy. I love to talk to people who right when I hit the button and we start talking, you’ve got such a kind and uplifting spirit about yourself. It sets the tone of what’s to come. You certainly fit that bill. Thank you so much for coming on.
Thanks for having me.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode: