1. Are you happy at this moment?
I am living my dream–how could I not be happy? In 2001, I chucked a successful, 25-year career to pursue my dream of motivating people. Today, I run a successful company offering holistic personal and professional development programs. I have a new book out about how you can overcome adversity by following your dreams. The icing on the cake? Growing up in the 1960s, I fell in love with the Girl Groups–especially The Supremes. Mary Wilson and Scherrie Payne of The Supremes, and June Monteiro of The Toys, are among the 16 people profiled in my book. In fact, I worked for Mary Wilson for 5 years. I am living, breathing proof that dreams DO come true! And I have never looked back! The greatest joy in life is to guide others to live into their dreams, just as I have lived into mine!
2. If you could go back & say anything to your 16-year old self
At 16, I had so little confidence in myself. I had been told by my school’s choral director and the band director that I wasn’t good enough to join either group–that I didn’t have any talent. Words can hurt–especially for a child. Well into adulthood, I really felt like I didn’t have very much to offer–that I was a fraud. Taking to heart what those teachers had told me as a child–that I wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t until I was almost 50 that I was able to recognize what my true skills are–and what I really wanted to achieve in life. So, looking back, I would tell the awkward, 16-year old Tom that it will all work out alright–to walk boldly toward your greatness, because life does have great things in store for you. Just believe in yourself….
3. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?
2013 has been a year of highlights and high achievements for me. First, I ran my very first Boston Marathon in April–at age 59! Although I was prevented from crossing the finish line due to the terrorist bombings, I DID complete 25 miles of the course. For someone who did not take up running until age 57, this was a tremendous accomplishment for me. Plus, I used my Marathon run to raise over $6000 for a local charity. And, I plan to run the Boston Marathon again in 2014–and this time, I WILL cross that finish line! Then, of course, my book–One Door Closes: Overcoming Adversity By Following Your Dreams–came out in October. That book was trapped inside my head for over 10 years. My business partner, Jared Chrudimsky, and I made writing the book our priority for this year. One Door Closes features the inspirational, highly emotional stories of 16 people from all walks of life who have triumphed over adversity to achieve their dreams–and the wisdom they learned along the way. What these two accomplishments have taught me is that I CAN do anything I set my mind to.
4. What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?
One of our goals with the book is to use a portion of the sales to support a variety of charities. We want this book to truly make an impact on people’s lives. We have already designated several organizations to benefit from the book. So, obviously, we really want One Door Closes to become a best seller! The more books we sell, the more we will have to donate to these organizations. We want to use the book as a springboard to take our message of healing, hope and empowerment to a wider audience on a national stage. I have received so many blessings in my life–so many opportunities. I want to give back some of what I have been given. On a more personal level, I also would love to host my own radio show next year, focusing on wellness. And, I would love to be a guest on Ellen Degeneres’ show! Anyone have a connection???
5. What’s your secret to happiness?
It’s really no secret at all. I wake up every morning eager to jump out of bed and get my day started. When you truly love what you are doing–and when you are doing good–life is sheer joy. In the book, Scott Erb and Donna Dufault–a married couple who faced unbelievable obstacles in their young lives, shared their secret to success and happiness–count your blessings. Every night before they go to sleep, they ask, “what are your gratefuls today?” That is another lesson that I learned this year. Being grateful for all that you have makes a tremendous difference in how you view life.
6. What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?
As part of my work, I do frequent media interviews. I travel all over the world. I present motivational programs for audiences that can sometimes number 1000 or more. It would be easy to let all that go to my head. But I know who I am and where I came from. That is important. And, silly as it may seem, schlepping the garbage to the curb every Tuesday morning reminds me that I am just an ordinary guy–who just happens to have achieved some extraordinary things. I am no different than anyone else. It is just that I have found the key to achieve things that I once thought were beyond my natural abilities. On a more serious level, I meditate every day, and visualize my life as I want it to be. That, too, keeps me grounded.
7. What’s your biggest regret?
I am a firm believer that regret is a wasted emotion. If I had my life to do over, I really wouldn’t change a thing. Even the dark times in my life taught me lessons that I use today on my journey. Ultimately, those dark times taught me that I DO have the faith and the courage to survive and thrive. I choose to live my life with no regrets!
8. What is the most important lesson that you’ve taught your kids?
Well…I don’t have children of my own. But, I hope that I have instilled in my nephews and nieces (and, now, their children), as well as the children of my friends, to always keep moving forward. Believe in yourself and you can achieve whatever your heart desires. One of my favorite inspirational quotes is a native American proverb: “Learn from the turtle–it only makes progress when it sticks its neck out.” I hope that the way I conduct my life is a living lesson in having the courage to follow your heart.
9. What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?
Only one??? I still have a weakness for junk food. I can sit down and easily polish off a whole bag of potato chips or a quart of ice cream. I know it’s not good for me. But I also tell myself that one of the reasons I run is so that I can eat whatever I want. Most likely that is not true! So…I am going to put this out there in writing, in public. I am vowing to adopt healthier eating habits in 2014!
10. What are you most proud of?
At the risk of sounding like a self-promoter, I am SO proud of One Door Closes. First, because I actually did it. Another dream come true for me. But, more important, Jared and I are hearing from people how inspired they are by reading the individual profiles, and by the self-assessment tools we provide to design your own blueprint for success. Perhaps my ultimate goal in life has always been to inspire people, and to help people to see the goodness in themselves, and to achieve their best possible selves. This book is validation that I am achieving my goal. I am very proud that I have had the courage to not only follow my dreams, but to achieve them!
11. When were you happiest?
I had such a happy childhood. But it was nothing compared to the happiness I feel now. The satisfaction that I am living the life of my dreams is the best feeling in the world. Life is good–and it doesn’t get any better than this!
12. What 10 words describe you?
Passionate, courageous, humble, giving, inspirational, compassionate, loving, ambitious, successful, grateful.
Tom Ingrassia is president of The MotivAct Group, offering holistic personal and professional development programs. He is a motivational speaker, author, success coach, writer and musicologist. In 2001—following a successful 25-year career in higher education administration—Tom re-invented himself as an entertainment manager, fulfilling his life-long dream of working in the entertainment industry with the formation of Ingrassia Productions & Artist Management. Today, he represents a roster of more than a dozen eclectic musicians, actors and composers. Along the way, he has worked with some of the legendary singers from the 1960s, including Mary Wilson (The Supremes)—for whom he served as executive assistant from 2001-04; Arlene Smith (The Chantels); June Monteiro (The Toys); Barbara Alston (The Crystals); Carl Gardner (The Coasters); and actress Dee Wallace Stone. An in-demand speaker, Tom travels the country with his motivational programs, “Mental Massage” and “Making A Difference Begins with YOU…So Live Into Your Dreams!,” and pop culture lectures, “Motown and the Civil Rights Movement” and “Girl Power: The Supremes as Cultural Icons.” His clients include the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum; State University of New York; Association for Continuing Higher Education; the National Conference on Race & Ethnicity; the Long Island Museum; Albany Institute of Art & History; Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts; Berea College; Alice Lloyd College; Cape Cod Community College; and the Worcester Institute for Senior Education. Tom’s motto is, “Learn from the turtle. It only makes progress when it sticks its neck out.” His book, One Door Closes: Overcoming Adversity By Following Your Dreams (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing), was released in October, 2013.