Ria Story is an author, speaker, and leadership trainer helping women learn to increase influence, develop leadership, and maximize results in life both personally and professionally.
She tells us that, “I’m passionate about helping women learn to climb to the next level and beyond using the Ladder of Influence.”
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your professional journey/venture/initiative and what inspired you to choose this career.
I didn’t get a head start in life. I grew up in a home where my father started sexually abusing me at age 12. The abuse progressed as I got older and by the time I was 17, he was having sex with me. He abused me in many ways including trafficking me to other men. I was desperate to escape and ran away several times before finally leaving home at 19 years old. I didn’t have anything when I left home – I didn’t have a car, a job, or even a high school diploma as I had been home-schooled. What inspired me to choose to do what I do today was realizing that I could take a painful, hard, terrible past and turn it into something positive by using it to help others realize that what happens to us is not as important as who we become because of it. We can’t control much of life, but we can always choose whether we become bitter about what life gives us or better because of it.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
There are many turning points I can look back on, but one of the defining moments in my life was the moment I decided to share my story publicly for the first time. I heard Les Brown speak at a conference and he said, “You have a story to share and someone needs to hear your story. Only you can help that person by sharing your story.” And for the first time, I was willing to overcome the shame of my past by sharing my story with others publicly.
Tell us about your goals, interests, and role models.
I’m interested in helping other people grow both personally and professionally by learning to apply the principles of success and influence to their situation. This means I spend a lot of my discretionary time reading things that help me grow so I can in turn help others. I also spend a lot of time writing, adding value to others via social media, and making sure I share what I’m learning. Beyond that, I maintain my health and fitness by running marathons. My role models include Nick Vujicic, Les Brown, and many other inspirational people. I’m always reading about someone who has overcome adversity and is using their story to inspire others!
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
The biggest challenge for me was overcoming myself and my limiting beliefs. So often, we want to blame someone or something else as an excuse as to why we cannot achieve our dreams. Most often, we simply need to stop focusing on what we cannot do, and begin to focus on what we CAN do. When we focus on what we CAN do, we find we can do more. The greatest limiting belief is the “victim mindset” because as long as we shift blame, we won’t take responsibility for ourselves, our lives, and our dreams. The other limiting beliefs include the “entitlement mindset” where we believe someone else is responsible for our success, and the “stagnant mindset” where we sit around and wait on someone else to make it happen. The truth is, no one can, should, or will fight for your dreams as hard as you can. No one else will make it happen for you. No one else can make it happen for you because it’s as much about achieving the goal as it is about becoming the person who can achieve the goal.
What impact do you feel you have been able to create with your work so far and how would you want to grow in the next few years?
Every day I hear from someone about how I encouraged or helped them. I’m more interested in making a difference than making dollars but I’ve found that when you make enough difference in the lives of others, the dollars take care of themselves. How I would want to grow in the next few years is to continue to touch people in a positive way and help them climb to their own “next level” and beyond – whatever that means for them. I reach people through social media, my books, my podcasts, and by speaking at events both large and small, so I plan to continue to add value to others in those ways!
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
For me personally, the pandemic gave me a gift of four months of being at home with no travel. This allowed me to write my book, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Me: Become the Woman You are Destined to Be,” and the accompanying workbook! This book deals with personal transformation for women and shares principles from my own transformation journey.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
I was very excited to qualify for, and run, the Boston Marathon in 2022. This is one of the oldest marathons and the most prestigious and you can only participate by running a fast time or raising money for charity. The reason this was significant for me is because I once held a limiting belief that I wasn’t a “good” runner. Once I overcame my limiting belief, I started to take responsibility for my nutrition and training, and realized I could improve my running if I was willing to put the work in. So I did. My first marathon in 2011 took me more than five hours to complete but in 2019 I was able to finish a marathon fast enough to be able to qualify to run in the Boston Marathon.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
The most powerful change is when we realize that when we change, grow, and improve ourselves, the world changes. When we get better, our family, community, company and our world gets better. We don’t have to wait on anyone to change the world – we all have the power to change the world for the better when we begin with ourselves.
What’s the most important thing you have learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
My personal motto is “What happens to us in life is not as important as who we become because of it.” Choices today create our tomorrow – and we are writing the next chapter in our story with our choices today. Regardless of where we started, where we were, or where we are now, what matters is the rest of YOUR story.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
Women have a natural advantage in leadership because leadership is based on relationships and women are naturally more relational. The key is learning to balance the relationships with getting results for the organization or team. Both are important – and we can learn to leverage our natural gift for nurturing relationships while balancing the need for achieving results.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
What happens to us in life is not as important as who we become because of it. Choices today create our tomorrow – and we are writing the next chapter in our story with our choices today. Regardless of where we started, where we were, or where we are now, what matters is the rest of YOUR story. Keep going. Keep growing. And, keep climbing!