EPISODE 550: Overcoming Obstacles and Tragedy to Grow a Mission-Driven Sales Career with Lyme Treatment Advocate Jody Hudson

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast was sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales, and featured an interview with Jody Hudson, author of My Promise to Alex: Through Pain Comes Purpose. She is an advocate for Lyme disease treatment and created the Alex Hudson Lyme Foundation.]

Find Jody on LinkedIn.

JODY’S TIP: “Reach out to somebody that you have not talked to lately. Maybe there’s been some distance, maybe there has been something that separated an individual from your life. Check in with that person today, just reach out and say, “Hey, you know what? I’m thinking about you, hope everything is going well and if you need any help from me, just let me know.” I think sometimes we get so caught up in our own world that we tend to forget about others. I always find that in sales and nonprofit, when you’re checking in with others, and you’re reaching out to others, that one small impact can create a rippling effect and we need to do a lot more of that in our business world.”


Fred Diamond: Today, we’re talking about something that we talk about not infrequently, which is about mission, purpose-driven mission. We all talk about on The Sales Game Changers podcast, understanding your why. One thing we’ve discovered, Jody Hudson, is if you know that, that can really help you take your sales career to the next level, because sales is really all about service. It’s great to see you, let’s get right into it. We have your bio, it’s up on the site. First off, the book, My Promise to Alex, I read the book, fantastic book. Your daughter of blessed memory. Tell us a little bit about that. Then we’ll get into how you took that to really create a mission driven life.

Jody Hudson: First of all, thank you so much for having me, Fred. As we had said earlier, through Lyme disease, there are some silver linings and meeting you and other people in the Lyme community who are really trying to create that education and awareness for others is so important. I feel very blessed to have you in my circle now. Thank you, I appreciate that. My daughter Alex, she passed away in March of 2018, at 22 years old, after being misdiagnosed for 10 years, and then finally diagnosed with Lyme disease in May of 2017. For people that don’t know Lyme disease, it’s a bacterial infection. Caught quickly, you can pretty much get yourself into remission, and not have that many complications. Unfortunately, in Alex’s case, because she went 10 years misdiagnosed, it just took over her entire body.

I spent from May of 2017 until she passed in March of 2018 trying to save her. I went cross-country, spent over $100,000 because unfortunately, there’s so much with Lyme disease that’s not covered by insurance and not covered by traditional medicine. When she passed on March 24th, I knew that I had to do something to honor her pain, her suffering, the journey that she went through. I needed to create something from that moment, I did not want to be defined as a grief girl.

I knew that Alex wanted me to move forward. She had such an amazing, strong faith and the parting gift that I tell everybody that she gave me was when she passed away and I was by her bedside with three other of my friends, she was in and out of consciousness. That last moment she lifted her head up from the pillow and she opened up her eyes and looked at the ceiling and had this big great smile on her face. Then she closed her eyes, put the head back on the pillow and she passed.

In that moment, it became so apparent to me that one, she was okay. She was telling me, “Mom, I’m okay, you know where I’m going, but now I’m passing the baton on to you, I can’t be that Lyme warrior. You’re going to do it for me.” In that moment, that’s when I created the purpose of how to move forward without Alex.

Fred Diamond: That’s actually fascinating. You just said you could have been stuck in grief and instead, you created The Alex Hudson Lyme Foundation. We’ll provide a link to that you wrote the book, which has had great reviews. I encourage everybody to go to Amazon, to see My Promise to Alex.

Let’s talk about you. In sales, Jody, we talk about this all the time, there’s always things that get in the way. Sales is a constant struggle to get past objections and to get past personal or professional mindset related things and you did. How did you move forward? Did it take you a while? You must have grieved, obviously, you probably still grieve at some level, but how did you move forward after the death of your daughter to get into this life of mission and helping others and just making the world a better place?

Jody Hudson: For me, my therapy and working things out has always been project-based. I work very well keeping myself busy. While Alex was battling her illness, I was working for Catholic Charities, a nonprofit, and trying to help my daughter at the same time, it was a juggling act. When she passed, I didn’t put any of that on pause. I knew that I needed to keep moving forward in a project-based mission to one, make something out of what I just went through, what Alex just went through, and two, to have me survive. I knew that if I just would have gone into a dark room and put the covers over my head, I never would have gotten out of bed and I couldn’t do that.

Seeing all the pain and suffering that Alex went through, I knew that I needed to do better than just sit in my grief. That’s what life is all about, we’re going to have those moments, whether it’s personally, professionally, where something’s going to come by, it might not be a death of a child, but something’s going to happen. You might get fired, lose a job, a divorce, separation, dealing with a child’s addiction, something is going to come by that’s going to literally knock you to your feet. It’s in that moment after you sit for it with a minute and let it just digest and process, that you have that choice, Fred. You have that ability to conquer that horrific moment and turn it into a positive moment, something that people can admire, people can learn from. That’s what I wanted, I wanted people to learn about Alex’s experience, what she went through, but then my story, how did I move forward after that moment? That’s what I did.

I immediately set about to start a foundation, she passed in March, by June, a couple months later, I already had a 501(c)(3). I was not planning on it, I always say there’s God’s plan, and then our plan. I thought, “Oh, I’m going to wait a year and gradually move into all this.” It was like, fast and furious, the foundation was set in motion, I was doing fundraising for it, I was still working my day job with a nonprofit and then this book came along. It’s what you do in those moments that knock you on your feet that you have to rise above it and make something out of it.

Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about some of the specifics. You just mentioned within three months, you had The Alex Hudson Lyme Foundation up and running, and you started writing your book. We’ve actually done a couple shows on things that you should be doing as sales professionals to take yourself above, to become an advocate in your industry. Whenever people ask me, “Fred, what is the one thing you recommend I do to have a more successful sales career?” I always say, “Be all about your customer.” Understand everything that there is about the industry where your customer is, do things for the industry. Be customer-centric, etc. but do things for the industry, be known as a leader. Get involved with some of the charities that your industry might be involved with.

Tell us, without going into a huge amount of detail, just some of the logistics that you had to go through to create a foundation. Then also talk a little bit about the writing of the book, did the book just flow? We tell people, be a content provider, be out there showing the world and you’ve really gone out there. One thing about the book, you do talk about your daughter’s struggle.

For people who are listening who don’t know much about Lyme, the way that Jodie just described it in the beginning, a lot of times people don’t know they have Lyme disease, they’ll go to 20 doctors, they’ll be misdiagnosed time and time again until they’re properly diagnosed with Lyme. By that point, it’s usually too late. In the book, you also go deep into some of your personal things you’ve dealt with not necessarily related to Alex, that you’ve had to overcome and that you’ve had to work through. You put yourself out there.

I just asked you a whole bunch of questions. Number one, how easy is it to start a foundation? Number two, how easy is it to write a book? Number three, talk about putting yourself out there, you personally, Jody Hudson, what did it mean when you now are out there?

Jody Hudson: I’m going to take that last question because that’s how it was that I started the book. If I’m going to be transparent, I need to lay it all out there. As I was writing the book, which I’m not an author by trade first of all, I love to read but I’ve never written a book before. If you would have told me in my 60s right now, I was going to be a self-published author, I would laugh. Just like I would laugh if you told me I was going to start a foundation while working at a nonprofit, all these things that just came about. It all has happened and I’m just embracing the journey for sure.

When I wrote this book, I thought, I need to be as transparent as possible and I really need to be an open book for people. I was born to a single mother, 16 years old, who was not able to care for me, I was immediately put up into foster care, was adopted at six months old. Most people think, “Oh, that’s great, at least she was adopted, she’s out of the foster care system.” Unfortunately, I was adopted into a household with a mother and father that had alcoholism. I tell people I spent most of my childhood trying to forget about my childhood. Living in this world that I created.

Fast forward to being married in 1989, having two children, I wanted to be a mother so bad. I wanted to be a wife as well, but motherhood was something that I had always dreamed of. I wanted to be the best mom ever, I wanted that relationship that I didn’t have when I was little. Garrett, my son was born in 93 and then Alex in 95. Life was wonderful.

Like I said before, sometimes life presents itself for those moments that you’re knocked off your feet. I found myself divorced in 2011 and it wasn’t a good experience. My children and I just really had to dig deep, I was a single mom trying to raise two kids. Then Alex’s illness came along. When people read my book, they ask me, “Wow, did that stuff really happen?” I go, “Yeah, it’s a nonfiction book, it’s not fiction, it really did happen.” I wanted to tell all of that in my story, and in Alex’s journey to let people know that I haven’t had it easy, but I keep persevering, I keep showing up. Every day, I’m like, “I’m just going to give it my best shot, take one day at a time, put one foot in front of the other.” That was my story of how I tried to weave it into Alex story as well.

Then the foundation, I knew when she passed that I had to do something, I had to be responsible with all this money that was just pouring in. One of my friends had set up a GoFundMe account. Alex had always said when she got better, she was going to be that Lyme warrior. She wanted to help pay for people’s treatment, because as I said before, I spent $100,000 out of my own pocket trying to help her get better.

I immediately reached out to friends. Fred as you know, having that friend support, family support to help you when you’re going through challenges in life or just trying to figure out things is so important. I had someone that helped me with all the incorporation, with all the paperwork. Then I had friends that the minute I got the 501(c)(3) they said, “All right, now you need to do a fundraiser, we need to let people know what you’re going to do with this foundation.” I said, “Whoa, I have to back this up, I’m still grieving, I lost a daughter.” It was hard to pivot and change that into a business, so to speak but I had to, because that’s what I needed to do to fulfill Alex’s request to me to carry that baton and to help others that were struggling and couldn’t pay for this treatment. I was putting my own personal emotional feelings aside for the betterment of this foundation. Then you asked me a third question, and I can’t remember now.

Fred Diamond: It was about the book. I want to follow up with what you just said. One of the key themes, Jody Hudson, that we have been talking a lot about, especially over the last two years on The Sales Game Changers podcasts are concepts like vulnerability, transparency, authenticity. We talk about them a lot that you as a sales professional, you want to be totally authentic and transparent, etc. As much as we talk about that, it’s easy enough to do it in the sales process. I want you to give us a sense of how your life has been since you’ve published the book. You’re very vulnerable in your personal story, you just alluded to some of the things you went through as a child and you go through the book in a lot of detail before you get to Alex’s journey. How has your life changed from the vulnerability perspective, not really, from the mission perspective, but from putting yourself so honestly and vulnerably out there?

Jody Hudson: Fred, I think it has provided freedom for me. I tried for the longest time just to be this brave, heroic individual, which I feel that I am. I wanted people to see that life wasn’t always easy for me and that I kept persevering. Every day, it was a clean slate to start over again. Whatever might have happened in the past, today’s a new day. It’s important for us not to get stuck in the past, it’s important for us to be in the present and keep that vision, keep that focus.

How do you want to write out your life? For me, I needed to be vulnerable and let people know where I had been on my life’s journey, what I’m doing right now, but what my goal is, what my vision is. I find that when you take people on your journey with you, and you become vulnerable, and you open up the door so they can peek in and have a glimpse of your life, they’re going to support you that much more because you’re making it real. That’s the most important thing in any of the talks that I give, any conversations that I have with people, I literally now am an open book. In my dialogue and my verbiage and my conversation, I will discuss what anybody wants to discuss about. I have nothing to hide, and if my life experiences can help somebody else, then that’s what I’m called to do.

Fred Diamond: One thing we talk a lot about is energy. Almost every guest that I have on The Sales Game Changers podcast has a lot of energy. When I interview sales VPs or women in sales leaders who have gotten to become like a VP of a company like Salesforce, or Amazon or Oracle, you just don’t wake up one day and say, “Yeah, I’m done working in a fast-food restaurant, I want to be VP of Sales at Microsoft tomorrow.” You have to have energy, you have to have drive, you have to have passion.

Jody Hudson, if you could talk for a little bit about, how do you maintain that energy? You have a full time job, then also, you’re now running The Alex Hudson Lyme Foundation, you mentioned you’re speaking, you have a lot of speaking opportunities coming up. You put yourself out there to whoever wants to approach you, with some regard. How do you personally stay energized and committed to everything that you are doing?

Jody Hudson: Oh my God, just to hear you saying all that, my heart is like, “Oh, man, it’s an awful lot.” We’re so busy when we have that high energy and drive that we don’t think about it. If you think about the whole shebang, it can be overwhelming, but I break it down and I have goals. It’s very important, to-do lists and all that stuff. I tell everybody, life is about balance, and you’ve got to have good balance and you’ve got to be mind, body, spirit. Every morning I’m at the gym, I’m working out just to get my body healthy.

At the same time I’m working out, I’m listening to different motivational podcast, Christian music, that’s my one hour to really set myself for the day. Then I go home and I’m like,  what do I have to accomplish and get done today? We only have 24 hours in the day, I wish that there were more, but within that 24 hours, how are you breaking it all out and what do you want to accomplish? Having those priorities are really important.

I eat healthy, have a good mindset. Take time for you. If we haven’t learned anything from the pandemic, it has to be at least taking time for yourself, your mental health. I encourage everybody, and I apologize in advance to business owners, employers, but sometimes you just might need to take a mental health day. You’re cranking it out, but you got to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? How are you doing? If you’re not good, garbage in, garbage out, what you’re transmitting, what you are conveying, it’s not going to be good either. I really try and take time for myself and do those check ins.

Fred Diamond: Let’s give some specifics to the sales professionals listening. You had something tragic that happened in your life, your daughter died of disease related to Lyme. You talked about how in the book, the journey, it was a long journey to get to the point and you within a couple of months or weeks, you figured out what you needed to do, it was very apparent to you, based on the promise that you made to your daughter.

Talk about some things that people listening, how they can also create something for themselves. Not everybody has a tragedy in their life that would lead to something like this. Talk a little bit about how could people create something similar for themselves? If they’re sitting out there thinking, “Well, I didn’t lose a daughter.” Or, “I haven’t had a tragic disease or anything.” What could be some things that they might do?

Jody Hudson: Going through the pandemic really made us stop, pause, reflect on where we’ve been, where we’re at, and where we’re heading. I had this horrific incident happen that totally changed the direction and course in my life. For others that are listening right now, check in with yourself, are you where you want to be right now, personally, professionally?

Are you finding that purpose? Are you excited every day when you get up and you’re going to work or doing whatever it is that consumes your hours? If not, get a piece of paper, get a pen and start writing out, how do you want to be the best version of yourself? If I were doing this, I’d write down, what are my skill sets? What really do I enjoy doing? What makes me happy? How can I also be successful from this?

Do a little inventory, a little checklist and start checking them up. Am I in the right career? Am I in the right position? Is there something that I’ve always been wanting to do, but I’ve been scared to do it? That I think is a big one, fear will hold you back. For me, I feel like everything that I went through and finding freedom, I don’t have fear any longer. I just jump in and you know what? Because I am an open book and I basically have put myself out there, I don’t care if I if I fail, at least I tried. I think that’s a really big takeaway for people listening today.

If you aren’t happy where you’re at, or if you’re just not feeling fulfilled, satisfied, guess what? You can change it. You’re the one that has to do it. Nobody else is going to do it for you. Don’t complain, don’t sit there and say, “Oh, woe is me.” What have you done lately to change?

Fred Diamond: That’s a great point and something that occurs to me, I work at a food bank a couple times a month. There’s hunger in the richest counties in the country, not just in Bangladesh or India or something. You’re  in the Sacramento Northern California area. I’m in Fairfax County, Virginia outside of DC which is one of the five richest counties in the country and there are people that are hungry.

Simple things like working in the food bank, cleaning the creek even like in pretty areas, just go grab a bag of something and just go do something. There are so many charities out there, so many 501(c)(3)s  that would be thrilled to have anybody show up. How do people participate in the Alex Hudson Lyme Foundation? Do you do things where you need help or anything?

Jody Hudson: Absolutely. With the pandemic, we had to curtail all of our fundraising events. Now we’re starting it back up, so people can definitely reach out to me through our website. I’m so glad that you brought that up, because there is no better reward in life than servicing others and I really developed a servant’s heart back in 2007, when I first started at Catholic Charities in the nonprofit world. Before that I was in retail. I encourage everybody you want to get out of your ‘woe-is-me’, go volunteer at a food bank, go to a homeless shelter, go somewhere, and boy, it will turn your whole attitude around. Also, a gratitude book. If you haven’t started a gratitude book, I highly encourage you to do that. Every day, write down five things you’re grateful for. That will change your whole attitude as well.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great point. A lot of the great sales leaders that we’ve had on the show, they also have their own charity, maybe not some 501(c)(3)s, but there are some charities that they raise a lot of money for. For example, we have a frequent guest who’s very active in our Women in Sales Program. Her name is Tamara Greenspan. She’s a senior GM at Oracle Corporation. Every December, her and her family gather fresh new toys and distribute them to children who don’t have access to things like that. Something simple. It may seem like, “Well, is it making an impact?” Yeah. If you’re impacting one life, go ahead.

Jody Hudson: It just takes one person to impact one individual.

Fred Diamond: Once again, I want to thank Jody Hudson, the book is My Promise to Alex. The Alex Hudson Lyme Foundation. You could find her various places. We’re connected via Facebook and, and LinkedIn. I’ve said this numerous times throughout the show, and I just want to acknowledge you. It was a very difficult situation that you went through, losing a child by any means, but to a horrible disease like Lyme disease, and you detail the story very clearly in the book. It wasn’t like one day, it was over years and starts and stops and opportunities that turned out to not really happen, God bless your daughter, man, what a courageous and beautiful young lady.

I want to acknowledge you for your perseverance and how you respond to that and how you’ve touched so many people who are struggling in so many ways to give them hope, to give them joy, and to give them purpose in their lives. I want you to take that in. Give us a final action step as we wind up today’s Sales Game Changers podcast with Jody Hudson, something specific that you recommend our listeners do today to take their sales career to the next level.

Jody Hudson: The last action step in order to take your sales to the next level is not only check in with yourself, but reach out to somebody maybe that you have not talked to lately. Maybe there’s been some distance, maybe there has been something that separated an individual from your life. Check in with that person today, just reach out and say, “Hey, you know what? I’m thinking about you, hope everything is going well and if you need any help from me, just let me know.” I think sometimes we get so caught up in our own world that we tend to forget about others. I always find that in sales and nonprofit, when you’re checking in with others, and you’re reaching out to others, that one small impact can create a rippling effect and we need to do a lot more of that in our business world. That would be my last action step along with everything else that we talked about in this last half hour, but reach out to somebody today and just let them know that you’re thinking about them.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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