302: Meg Nocero—Can You Feel Joy As You Rethink Your Life?

Hear how to rethink your life’s journey and find your purpose

Meg Nocero has several books that reflect her own journey from grief to a meaningful life. Her latest book, Butterfly Awakens: A Memoir of Transformation Through Grief, takes you through her story which could easily be your own. How many of you are doing a job you thought was your purpose in life, only to realize that you are bored, frustrated, unfulfilled, and searching for something more meaningful? What do you do, deal with it or reach for another pathway? In our conversation today, Meg shares her own discovery about how she could do something that mattered more to her. She needed a crisis in her life, the loss of her mother, to be that catalytic moment propelling her forward. Maybe you are going through something similar? Have a listen.

Watch and listen to our conversation here

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Are you living a life you really love? If not, there’s a way to change it.

You might not want to travel the same pathway that Meg Nocero has done. But you will learn a great deal about how to take better care of yourself. And, you will begin to rethink your own life’s journey to make sure it is the one you really want.

As you are thinking about where you are today and where you really want to be, you might want to check out a webinar about our program, Rethink your Journey with Andi Simon and see if our online self-directed program or our in-person change coaching might be right for you. It could just change your life!

Meg NocaroAbout Meg Nocero

Meg is a former federal immigration prosecutor, TEDx and inspirational speaker, leadership coach and the award-winning author of The Magical Guide to Bliss: Daily Keys to Unlock Your Dreams, Spirit & Inner Bliss, Sparkle & Shine: 108 M.A.N.T.R.A.s to Brighten Your Day and Lighten Your Way, and Butterfly Awakens: A Memoir of Transformation Through Grief. After appearing with Oprah Winfrey in 2014, she was inspired to manifest the life of her dreams and founded Butterflies & Bliss LLC and S.H.I.N.E. Networking Inc., a nonprofit that provides educational scholarships to young innovative leaders in her community.

Meg has appeared on CNN Español, BookCon live, and numerous podcasts and online media outlets. She hosts a YouTube channel and a podcast called Manifesting with Meg: Conversations with Extraordinary People. You can connect with Meg on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and her website. You can also email her at egnocero@mac.com.

Ready to find a life that’s more fulfilling? Here’s a place to start

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Read the transcript of our podcast here

Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink. Hi, I’m Andi Simon. And as you know, I’m your host and your guide. My job is to get you off the brink by bringing to you some interesting people who can help you see, feel and think in new ways so that you can begin to change what you’re doing and become the best that you can be.

So I have Meg Nocero with me today. You’re going to enjoy this conversation as you do all of ours. There’s something in her journey that you’re going to relate to. Well, as we know, the journey is our life. But it’s never a straight line. It’s a path or a maze full of hurdles and obstacles. You know, I clearly found that in my book Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business. But even in my first book On the Brink, every one of the stories I share is about people who get stuck or stalled and have to pause, step back a little. They need to think like an anthropologist, which I am, and begin to think about how to do this differently.

So let me tell you about Meg’s new book, Butterfly Awakening. It’s a story that you’re going to enjoy reading. But let me tell you about her so you know why I’m so excited. Meg Nocaro is a former federal immigration prosecutor. And you can read a lot more about that in Butterfly Awakening, with all of its twists and turns. First, her desire to get there and then, oh my gosh, what am I doing here? It’s a really interesting story.

She’s a TEDx speaker, an inspirational speaker, a leadership coach, and the award winning author of The Magical Guide to Bliss: Daily Keys to Unlock your Dreams, Spirit and Inner Bliss. A great book you might want to buy and read. And Sparkle and Shine: 108 Mantras to Brighten Your Day Lighten your Way. And her new book, Butterfly Awakens: A Memoir of Transformation Through Grief. And that’s the one that we’ll talk about today. But the others are equally important.

After she was brought on stage in Miami with Oprah Winfrey in 2014, she was inspired to manifest a life of her dreams and founded Butterflies and Bliss, and Shine, a networking group, a nonprofit that provides educational scholarships to young innovative leaders in her community. Meg has appeared on CNN Espanol. And her podcasts are on online media, such as MSNBC, CBS Boston Herald, Chicago Tribune. She hosts a YouTube channel and a podcast called Manifesting with Meg: Conversations With Extraordinary People. I bet you now know why this is going to be such a wonderful conversation. Thank you for joining.

Meg Nocero: I’m so grateful for the opportunity, Andi. You’re such a powerhouse and what you’re doing for women in this world I think is just amazing, inspiring and empowering as well. So I appreciate the opportunity to speak to your audience.

Andi Simon: But I’m delighted that we finally met and have a chance to share. My first question always is, who is Meg and what’s your journey been? And I know I read about it in Butterfly Awakening, but there are enough lessons learned through a life’s journey to share with our listeners so they too can begin to see their lives as evolving like a butterfly. Share with the listeners or the audience, please. That would be terrific.

Meg Nocero: You know, it’s interesting because I think we’re all becoming who we want to be. And we always are going back in time to the beginning of when we came into this world and all the big dreams we had as little children and what we wanted to see unfold and the beauty of our lives. But, we really just wanted to experience it. That curiosity that peeking of that curiosity was foremost and paramount in our lives and we didn’t know any better. So that is basically where we start.

And you know, one of the things that I really cherish about my life experience, my journey, my adventure, is that I’m adventurous. I love to go out and be curious and meet the people who crossed my path and get to know them and truly experience that profound relationship on a different level.

Now back to who I’ve become. I would have to say I have been impacted by so many that I take all the beauty that I learn from others, that wisdom, and I’m able to take it along with me on my journey of life, which I think is just the biggest gift we can give to each other. I think that is beyond amazing. So you know, as far as my educational journey, I speak four languages. I went to college to learn more Romance languages. I speak Spanish and Italian, then French and sometimes English. And then I decided I was going to go into the Foreign Service. So I went into the School of International Studies in Miami and ended up in Miami. That’s how I started down here, that’s how I got down here and I have not looked back.

I love Miami, it’s a vibrant city of many incredible cultures coming together, where, you know, sometimes it’s not so great, but I always like to look at the beauty of the passion of it and I love Miami. I’ve loved it since the day I moved down here and then I decided to go to law school after getting my master’s. So the educational component was setting those foundational tools that we get to show up as.

And then after that I went back to my creative side after 20 years of a prosecuting attorney with DHS. I was like, I want to start playing in the creative realm a lot more. And I think that we don’t have to do one or the other. Certainly one of my favorite things is bringing them both together. That balance of the left and the right brain. And, that’s really where I’m trying to play right now, using all of those, the logical skills, the articulation, the actual listening skills, and then taking that together with the whole creative side that I get to write. I get to experience these conversations and inspire other people through a more playful, creative side. So that’s where I am today. Who knows what’s gonna happen tomorrow, but like we said at the outset in the greenroom, take a deep breath and be present in the moment and just try to enjoy where you are and bask in whatever accomplishments or lessons you’ve learned. So you can turn around and enjoy what’s right in front of you.

Andi Simon: So with all of this balancing, you’re an attorney on one side and an author on the other. The books that you wrote, your early books were lessons learned, but also listing bliss, ways of doing things that were emotional. Remember, people buy and decide with their emotions. So talk about the first books, what were they about? And how did they come about?

Meg Nocero: Well, I will say that the writing journey started as I looked for a healing tool to get me through a grieving process when I lost my mother in 2011. So I always love to journal and I always found a lot of solace going into my journal, like hoping no one ever read those thoughts ever, but being able to just divulge on the page, those feelings, emotions, etc. When I lost my mother, it was really a true cutting off of a conversation that I was having with her on a daily basis where I started my day with the inspiration of her. And then made it through by virtue of just getting that endorphin hit in the morning because I loved her. It was a source of unconditional love and conversation with my mother. She was brilliant. Talk about a real professional powerhouse, she had three masters. She was always in the whole discernment process, always wanting to learn more, always wanting to educate herself greater and read constantly. So the conversations we had, I felt like I was with a college professor every day.

I mean, I remember those college days, and I miss them so much, just sitting outside of your dorm room having those incredible, mind blowing conversations. We look back now, you’re probably like we were, just such babies then, but really just those conversations where you just need to expand your perspective and by learning through the eyes of great professors, great literature, your colleagues, your friends, your people who are playing in that realm with you. So for me, it was like this ongoing conversation with my mother. So when she died, it was really painful because I was yearning for that. And one of my incredible friends, who’s also a therapist, said to me, “Just because they’re not present here, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a connection with that person.” She said, “Figure out a way that you can meet her.”

And I found her on the written page. And what I would do is in kind of a meditative experience, I would ask her what do I need to hear today. I would pull a book that may speak to me, and then I just channeled whatever she would tell me for the wisdom of the day. And it ended up as 366 insights in my Magical Guide to Bliss.

So basically, what I came up with was a guide to pull me through the grieving process. In turn, it really set me on a path, a life path that I really was excited about again. I found myself at the time she told me before she passed away, stress will kill you, and have no regrets. And I was like, Oh my God, if this were my final week of life, I would not be happy. I was like, there’s no way this has to be the end of my dash, like this experience where I’m sitting. We all have that experience where we recreate, perhaps you know, the direction we want to see our lives walk in. And like I said at the beginning, going back to what made us come to life as children, maybe taking some of those seeds that were already in us, and start watering them a little bit more.

So writing for me was that watering process. And then I started sharing my insights with other people in email fashion. And then the coolest thing was that after I was on stage with Oprah Winfrey in 2014, where she said, “Live the life you want,” and I was like, I better start figuring out what that is. And I decided, I’m gonna publish my first book, which is a Magical Guide to Bliss.

And I went ahead. Attorneys don’t necessarily have the information you need to publish a book, so I had to learn all of that. I had to learn that, I didn’t see it. And I was excited, I wasn’t tired, right? And that’s how you know you’re going in the right path. The right direction is when you get excited by something. And yes, it’s gonna take a lot of work, but it’s not draining me. It’s not sucking the life force out of me. So I started looking in those avenues.

And then also Andrea, people started showing up with the information too which is another God wink that you’re going in the right direction. So that was my first book. And then actually after I published it, I started following it. I actually read every day from January Carpe Diem to the end of December on spy magic and miracles and I followed my own guide. And this is where I am, which is kind of amazing. So I’m very grateful.

I wrote my own guide, and then I shared it with whoever it may resonate with. If you’re looking for inspiration, I always say the synchronicity, the college synchronicity, when you open up to a certain page, set your intention and ask what do I need to hear today, and there’s something wonderful that might just pop up and just give you what you need to hear to move forward.

Andi Simon: Meg, there are two sides to you that I want to make sure you share with the listeners. The first is that you have a family? 

Meg Nocero: Yes, I do.

Andi Simon: And the second is the, I’ll call it an aha moment when you had enough with your professional career as an attorney. Because I think that for many of our audience or listeners, those are relevant for them as well. And we talked about work-life balance, but I think it’s a blend. I think that what we are are all those things: we’re mothers, and we’re lovers, and we have our creators and if we spend time on all of them, it’s rich. But how do you do that? And then your career was exactly what you wanted, and nothing you wanted? I mean, it sort of went through its own journey. Can you talk a little bit about both of those?

Meg Nocero: Wow, you know, the career right. The identity becomes people’s identity, their purpose and what they associate their life force with after a while. So after 20 years as a practicing attorney, and then stepping away from that, I was kind of lost again. I was like, Who am I? Who do I want to be? A lot of people will look back on their lives and say, when they retire, some people just kind of give up because they’re like, What am I going to do? What am I going to be a service to?

I think that for me is really important because when I grew up, that was a component that was really reinforced in all three of us, my sisters and I, that we are of service using the talents that we’ve been given in this world. I had a program when I was at the Department of Homeland Security, I was the lead intern coordinator. So I would recruit students, and I had done it for nearly 17 years. So I was interviewing people who were interested in working with us, or with the DHS, and looking at the different personalities and having different kinds of interview styles to try to figure out the people that are most likely to be successful in this capacity kind of vetting out….you know, those who are just there to put it on the résumé and not really show up and do the work and then people who are really eager to learn and take advantage of the opportunity.

So it was volunteer, we didn’t pay, unfortunately, and that was something. But the opportunity to actually litigate in front of immigration court was huge, if you get that apprenticeship, which that’s not necessarily in the world as much anymore. And that was really very proud for me to have that opportunity to teach these really impressionable minds to have to show up professionally proud of what they’re doing and also you can’t bifurcate your presence in work. Your personal life is different from your professional life. I was like, You can’t do that. You got to show up who you are and know full well.

We tell them all the time that your reputation is so important, because that’s how you’re going to be able to even navigate well or poorly in this world. So that was really something that I was proud about. So going into a coaching capacity as a leadership coach was very seamless for me. I’ve been doing this for so long, at least the venue. It was just changing the venue, and maybe in a small way, a bigger classroom, I could expand my efforts because we’re so many different roles: wife, mother, everything that you know. You don’t really have a lot of wiggle room to offer your skills to the world at large because you’re so tired sometimes.

Lawyers are very judgmental. It’s a demanding career profession. We have to pass the bar. We want to see people show up with credentials as to what they’re capable of doing. We don’t want to just believe that you put up a sign and say I am who I am. We want to see that you went through the rigorous training for that. So for me, it was really important that I go through a coaching program, and then get certified through The International Coaching Federation because I just wanted to make sure and continue to make sure that I was serving people in the best possible way by using my magic as well.

Bringing that in, my experience, the wisdom, as you know, that you have and you share with so many. So that really scary leap of faith to, okay, I see a picture coming into focus and I’m getting a more of a good vibe around where I’m going. Then, like I said before, a lot of the doors open, they start to open and you’re like, Okay, I’m going in the right direction. This feels right, paying attention to your intuition, knowing that you’ve got a lot of experience that kind of bolsters, that you’re not moving in this world completely with uncertainty around preparation, you know, or not preparation.

But, it’s been quite a journey. And I will say it was really challenging and I still have moments of that. I love your book Rethink. You always have to step back and rethink perhaps where you’re going just to make sure. And I love this. Stephen Covey says not to put the ladder on the wrong wall so that you climb all the way up to the top, and you have to feel like yeah, gotta go back down again, because you didn’t really think it out before you started going.

Andi Simon: So what made you then start your memoir, because Butterfly Awakening is a memoir. And that’s very different from your other books. What propelled you then to start on this book?

Meg Nocero: So, I think that there was something in me when I was going through the grieving process initially, and I think this is really the reason that was: Don’t you dare give up hope because your story has to have some purpose. There has to be a reason why I’m falling apart right now. There’s going to be someone out there. That audience of me that Meg is looking for something to hold onto, and not give up hope. As long as you keep moving forward and find, or I mean really ask for help that you might need to help you, navigate some really challenging times, then as long as you keep walking this path, trusting the process, then you’re going to be okay. And I think it’s always too early to quit your life.

I think I hear over and over a lot of people feeling so helpless or hopeless and I wanted to send a message that life is filled with ups and downs. Unfortunately, sometimes the downs kind of are a little too much. Then when they’re too much, go to the people who’ve been through what you’re going through to help walk you through to the end. And I love one of the things that I was told over and over during that process from my beautiful friend, Janet, was, We’re here to walk each other home. And if home is the end and I have no regrets, then this was a great life. That’s kind of where I’m going. That’s kind of what I’m looking to do.

So inspire someone who might be in a really dark place to know that it’s going to be hard and okay. You might need to sit in your closet and cry for a couple days, months, who knows? But at the end of the day, I’m here to grab your hand and say it’s time to move on because your life really is special. Your talents are really unique and we need everyone to be a part of this process.

Andi Simon: I went to some of the quotes because I think it captures the beauty of the books and perhaps of yourself. This one I love: “Perhaps a butterfly. Remember, this is a butterfly awakening, perhaps a butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness, yet become something beautiful.” And that was from Bode Kaplan, an American writer. That’s what I love.

And then this is Oprah: “The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person who you were intended to be. Sometimes we don’t know what that is. There’s a path.” Then there was one more: Robin Williams: “You’re only given one little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it.”

You reach a point in life where I’ve achieved a great deal, you have as well. My family has grown and I have wonderful grandkids, they’re all very healthy and happy, and I’m blessed. My husband and I have been together for most of our lives. And so now we have this ability to give. What’s my purpose? What’s our passion? What can we take from our life experience, your journey and mine, and help somebody else through their hurdles, mazes, ways?

Remember, life is really a past, a very simple, sophisticated means where you don’t know what’s here. So what I’ve learned, and then you can tell me what you’ve learned, is that serendipity really is part of life. You just show up and someone will say something and if you keep your mind open, you’ll go, That’s a big idea. Yeah, I love serendipity. So keep showing up.

And the second thing I learned is to test things you never know. Some will work, some won’t. So what, move on. I learned that a long time ago. Remember, I’m an anthropologist who helps companies change. I am always in this vacuum where there’s nothing happening. And when I work with companies who don’t know what it is, then it’s an important time for us to figure out something there. And then the third one is talking to people. And you know, the science of well-being has taught us that acts of kindness, gratitude, and talking to people can make your day beautiful.

Whether it’s written or it’s not, your mother gave you that oxytocin and serotonin and made you feel that there was a connection, and you belong. So she gave you that. We’re almost ready for us to wrap up. Tell me and the audience two or three things that you hope they haven’t forgotten as they finish up listening to you today. What are the things that you want them to walk away with inspired in some fashion? Any thoughts?

Meg Nocero: You know, I love what you said. Thank you so much. I’m going to take that with me as well. I’d like to leave people perhaps with the idea that there is something in each of us that is so incredibly special. And it’s where we demand that you embrace that beauty. Because each one is here to bring something really incredible to the world by virtue of your presence alone, imagine that just being present.

So with that, I would pray that everyone starts every morning with a belief in self. I think confidence is an amazing, amazing, amazing word. It means in Latin with faith. That confidence, having that faith in yourself that you’re here on purpose for a great purpose, is life changing. It changes perspective, it changes how we see ourselves in the mirror, and it changes other people. Because when you start to evolve with this incredible belief in yourself, it gives permission for other people to do the same. That is number one.

And the other thing I want people to take away is, it’s always too early to quit on yourself. You never have to give up because every day is a new opportunity to get to be alive. So if you have that opportunity, if you have that gift, I really want you to look at it from a perspective of how I can serve others by virtue of my presence in this world. That is also something positive. Positive psychology dictates when we serve others from a place of love, then we receive it 5, 10, 20 fold because you never know what that input of love will do as a ripple effect beyond your wildest imagination. You might not get it from the person you’re serving, but you definitely will receive it and it’ll come back to you. And it’s that wonderful karmic circle of life.

And especially in this time, the season of seeing more bright lights in this world, I beg everyone just to start seeing themselves that way and somehow figure out a way to turn your light on. Share it and be bright as you can be.

Andi Simon: Now, it’s beautiful to listen to you. We know that your well-being is intimately connected to acts of kindness, to say thank you, to being grateful. Do a little of that and you’ll find yourself waking with a smile every day. You won’t even know where it comes from. That’s awesome. But I do have one question: Did you do this on your own or was there someone along the way who lent a hand? People are looking for mentors, and they’re looking for sponsors. I was my own mentor, my own sponsor, except for my husband who was my big teammate. But by and large, women are just realizing the power of collaboration, conversation, the network. But up until now, I was the only SVP in a bank, the only VP in the bank who was a woman. I was the only woman on boards and after a while you become lonely, How about yourself? Was there anyone in your life? Or are you also a soloist here?

Meg Nocero: You know, I will say this: I definitely have been impacted by a lot of strong women in my life. And starting with my family, we’re talking about how incredibly grateful I am to have the example of strong women in my Italian American family going from my grandmothers and my mother and my aunt. I am beyond grateful for the examples that were set for me because I think that has a lot to do with legacy. And it would have been much harder had I not had them walking before me. I have a grandmother who was like four foot nothing and she was always out there and she would say, “Get in the room. You’re just as good as everybody else.” She would push me forward.

Andi Simon: What’s interesting is that I almost wrote this book and called it What I Learned At My Grandmother’s Knee. I loved it. And that’s a book that should come because she was a matriarchal novelist, family firm, that I was supposed to move into and take on. By the time I was able to stand, I watched her and I learned from her and learned from my mother who was deeply involved in there. And in some ways, I became who I am with them as my role models.

But they were interesting, because when I told them I was going to be an anthropologist, they sort of rolled their eyes and said, Whatever you do, you’re on your own. Here you go. And then I said, Don’t worry. Never did I look back. So we had the joy.

I’m going to say goodbye so that our listeners can wrap up and go on their beautiful day and thank our listeners for coming. It’s truly a pleasure to share Meg Nocero with you. Butterfly Awakening is a marvelous book. I do think that you will all get inspired to blossom like a butterfly does and realize that things are challenging, but there’s tomorrow and don’t waste it.

There’s a little quote I have here from The Shawshank Redemption: “It’s time to get busy living or get busy dying.” Love that little quote because today’s a good day to start. For all of you who come, thank you for sending us emails, they’re terrific. Just to emphasize, On the Brink with Andi Simon is now ranked in the top 5% of all the podcasts globally thanks to all of our audience and listeners. And I’m glad to enjoy the audio and the video. Share it. It’s great fun. I’ll say goodbye. Thank you, Meg, it’s been a pleasure.