Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Kris Girrell Is Helping To Change Our World

Posted on

Never, ever do it alone! Humans were created and evolved to be in relationship and the myth of individuation leads us all down a path of failure at worst and lackluster success at best.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kris Girrell and Candace Sjogren, authors of Typhoon Honey: The Only Way Out Is Through.

Kris Girrell is an author, speaker and executive leadership coach with a passion for cultural/emotional intelligence. He holds advanced degrees in psychology, counseling and theology. As a trainer, Kris focuses on personal and spiritual transformation using a variety of resources from behavioral and psychological assessments to action learning and stretch experiences.

(Co-Author) Candace Sjogren is a senior corporate executive, entrepreneur, trainer, coach and angel investor. She holds Bachelor’s communication and a JD in law. Apart from founding two FinTech firms she is also co-founder of Boston Breakthrough Academy (now a part of Next Level Trainings), a transformational training program focusing on leadership and emotional intelligence.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in coal-country — a part of Appalachia that extends into Pennsylvania. As with many families in that region, our family struggled to make ends meet, and I saw education as my way to escape poverty and leave the area.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

I remember toting three books around that sort of served as my guide in young adulthood: Alan Watts book The Way of Zen, Sam Keen’s To A Dancing God, and Ram Dass’ Be Here Now. I had started out in college with the intention of becoming a military chaplain, but that involved taking ROTC. On my first summer after freshman year, we had to go to “camp” and one of the courses was what I will call (for lack of a better term) “Kill Class”. One day the instructor was demonstrating moves that would kill a person with one strike and actually laughed as he said “you have to step to the side because the blood comes out so fast.” Because of the books I was reading and the impact of that line of thought, I was instantly repulsed and dropped out that class, out of ROTC and out of any desire to be in the military. I became a CO and followed an entirely different path.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Oh Yes! I was taking a doctoral class on psychological assessments for which the final exam was a single question: “Who am I?” The professor gave us a battery of six personality assessments and we had to figure out which character from classical fiction was being represented (She and a colleague would talk each other into the character role and then take the test as Ahab from Moby Dick or Chris from Zorba the Greek or whatever). I missed some detail and guessed the wrong person placing emphasis on other factors in the analysis. That failure, however, launched me on a path to becoming one of the best at test interpretations in the business. To this day I still get requests from colleagues when they can’t figure out a complex pattern of results. It is always the case, that from our greatest mistakes often come our greatest lessons!

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

Typhoon Honey is a book on personal transformation. Our aim is to “pull back the curtain” on how and why these techniques actually work from a scientific perspective. But the real goal is that we want to transform the world by offering a path to transformation to as many individuals as we can. We feel that the need for “enlightened” and transformed persons in leadership has never been greater and our passion is to make these tools as accessible as possible.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

As we were nearing the end of our writing, I was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Of course when one hears that word come out of a doctor’s mouth, you almost don’t hear the rest of the sentence. It is pretty powerful and often devastating. But we teach that it is not the event itself that makes an impact on our lives but rather the interpretation and choices we make as a result of anything that happens. Just like you can choose to have a sunny disposition on a rainy day, we can choose to have a positive outlook and take actions to influence others in the face of cancer (or any “hardship”). I chose to continue my work, to be a positive influence on others and maintain a high energy level despite the surgery and treatments that followed. What struck me was that others were astounded that I would do that. But my response was always, “What are my choices? I could sit around in self-absorbed moping or to be a positive influence in the world. Seems like a no-brainer to me!” What is even more interesting is that at the same time as my diagnosis, Candace gave birth to a severely premature child who, sadly, only lived for four days. Both of these turn-around experiences were included in the book.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

When Candace announced that she was opening a transformational training center in Boston, she asked if I would like to be a part of the “Build Tribe” to which I said “Hell yes!” but there was one condition. I said that in my experience too many centers use their graduates as coached and small group leaders for the subsequent classes without any real support or training. This was a source of burnout and high turnover of the volunteers. I told her that I was in if I could write resources and train the volunteers on how to be more effective in their role. As I was doing that and offering evening sessions, Candace recognized the dearth of such practical material and asked if I would be interested in writing it as a book. “Sure,” I said, “but you get to co-author it with me.” Candace claimed she wasn’t a writer — which I quickly pointed out was a self-limiting belief, and she was trapped!

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

The book is actually filled with many such examples whose names were changed for confidentiality. So let me share one of those. We had a student who was a real high flier and highly successful in her career. But going through the training series (two weekends called “Discovery” and “Breakthrough” followed by a three-month practicum of leadership applications), she told Candace that she wasn’t moved — that the program hadn’t lived up to its promise. In questioning her, she admitted that she had only “half-assed” her way through. Being really talented and smart, she had been successful by skating through most experiences by (again her term) half-assing it. Candace asked how that was impacting the rest of her life and found that the woman’s marriage was suffering as were her relationships with her children. When she saw the consequences of her way of being, the flood gates opened up and she had an incredible breakthrough. She committed to giving her husband and family as well as her business her full talent and has totally turned her life around. Today she is a shining example and a spokesperson for transformation.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve? (Fantastic question!!)

  1. Politicians are not alone in this, but they often see that their options are limited or dictated by circumstances — the inertia and force of movement in a certain direction (which we call the “Drift”). They get to see that they always have choice irrespective of the current flow of things. It does not take courage — it takes active choice and you always have choice.
  2. Emotions are not spontaneously occurring things but rather are the result of your preceding thoughts and beliefs. Change your thoughts and you change your emotional reactions. Knowing the sequence of events (thoughts->emotions->actions->results) you can produce an entirely different set of results simply by changing your thought patterns.
  3. Most people think that if they had sufficient (name it — money, time, resources, etc.) they could do what they really wanted to do and as a result be happy or satisfied, etc. In other words they think from a Have-Do-Be perspective. But we know that it is just the opposite: when your way of being changes, you do things differently and have the desired results you want, or BE-DO-HAVE. Living life from a chosen set of ways of being changes everything.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

First of all leadership is defined by followership. So a leader is one who empowers others such that they see their own fulfillment in the direction the leader inspires them to go. Leadership is a process of caring enough about others that they are inspired to be on your team, loving them as they are, and seeing them as (and holding them to) their highest expression of their true and authentic self.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. That my greatest success will come on the back side of some of the worst face-plants and failures.
  2. Never, ever do it alone! Humans were created and evolved to be in relationship and the myth of individuation leads us all down a path of failure at worst and lackluster success at best.
  3. That the sages were all correct in asserting that LOVE is the answer — to almost every problem we face. Love is the most powerful force on the planet and one that is too infrequently used.
  4. Being smart and having a good idea is nothing until and unless you share it with others in a way that they feel empowered by it.
  5. Compassionate listening is the greatest gift you can bestow on another person.

Story: In 2015 I had built a business to a successful level rather rapidly. But it wasn’t just a business, it was an early childhood education center, for which I just could not keep staffed. The teachers that were in the market at that time were all quite young and unaware of the level of work and commitment it takes to teach little ones. So the turnover was high and that is never good for children. As a result of several factors we had to make the painful decision to close the school and start over. It was for me the most painful decision I have ever made and resulted not only in a huge financial loss but in having to part ways with the families and children I dearly loved and whom I had promised to guard with my life.

My way of dealing with and processing that pain was to talk with my circles of friends, one of whom said I should do a TED talk on it. At first, I thought it was a crazy idea but since I had always fantasized about doing a TED talk, I started networking and got a chance to pitch the story. To my delight I was accepted and in January of 2016 I spoke in front of an audience at a TEDx session telling them about my colossal failure and how the pain of it all had opened me up to a new world of deep compassion. I walked off stage thinking “OMG what did I just do? I just told everyone there that I was a colossal failure! What if this is watched by a thousand people?” That talk has now been seen by nearly 400,000 viewers but has become the source of many big consulting gigs afterward. Once again, I was learning that success comes often from failure.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This comes from George Bernard Shaw and is called The Splendid Torch:

“This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

I try to live each day from that perspective, and despite my age (now 73), people are still commenting on what I am able to accomplish in a day. I am committed to living life fully and to not wasting time (like on TV) or energy (like on complaining). For me it is the only way to live.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Oprah Winfrey — I would love to talk with her on Super Soul Sunday about Typhoon Honey or my book on spiritual transformation called Wrestling the Angel — not so much so that it might boost sales, but because I would love to get into that conversation. She is such an aware soul.

How can our readers further follow your work online?


This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Kris Girrell Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.