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Blossom Your Awesome Episode #40 - Purpose & Passion With Genevieve Piturro

by Sue Dhillon
March 29th 2022

Blossom Your Awesome Podcast Episode #40 - 

I have an incredible conversation that left me feeling so inspired. 

We are talking about passion, purpose and leading a life of servic... More

Hello and welcome to the blossom, your awesome podcast episode number 40 today on the show. Genevieve Totoro is here and oh I am so excited to hear this incredible story of transformation from the corporate life to starting a nonprofit, the pajama program which has to date delivered more than seven million gifts to Children in need. I am so honored and delighted to have Genevieve sharing her story of service and leading a life of purpose and passion. Genevieve, thank you so much for being here. Welcome to the show. Thank you for this invitation. Oh you're very welcome.

I am so excited to have you here and get into your story. So let's back up and start from the beginning, tell us how this all came about for you. Um well sure I always wanted to climb that corporate ladder that was my dream, I wanted to work in tv and I wanted to work in Manhattan, I lived right outside new york and I had my eye on that ball that corporate ladder and I went through college and right out of college, I got a job in um in the radio business and that led to my dream job, the first of my dream jobs in tv And 12 years climbing that ladder. I was really excited, I was happy, I was making progress. I had a lot of the things that I wanted and I had a great fun job, had a really nice co op that I owned and I was single because I wanted the freedom to travel for business and pleasure and you know have have the life that I wanted And 12 years is a long time and and I was so happy this afternoon one afternoon and I heard in, in me a voice in the middle of this afternoon And it asked me if this is the next 30 years of your life, is this enough?

And it really shocked me. And I remember I was home, I sat down and I was a little nervous about it because I never really paid attention to any of those voices. All the voices I heard were in my head, you know, chattering away but this was different. And just as immediately I realized everything flashed back and I said, you know what, it's empty, it's busy But I can't imagine in 30 years thinking that this was a full life and and I think I might be alone and that caused me to really run through all the things that my traditional italian parents, you know impressed upon me family and Children and I have two brothers and a sister younger than I am and they followed those roots and here I was the oldest one single running around you know climbing a ladder and running around the city. And I realized that I really missed having Children in my life and I didn't think it was it was gonna happen.

I was gonna have them right then and there but I was anxious to to bring them into my life. So I started reading to Children in emergency shelters. I called the police. I asked them where they bring these Children that I had read were taken by them or by social workers all hours of the day and night to safety and shelter in my area. And they gave me some names and numbers and I called and I asked if I could read to the Children at night after I worked and they welcomed me. I guess they well I know that they you know, they had a lot to do in trying to find a safe place for these Children. So they welcomed activities for them at night and I went in and read storybooks to them and it was so quiet because clearly they were afraid and they had been traumatized and here comes this lady sitting on the floor with them reading story after story but I never felt so grounded, you know, because it was so quiet. I felt so connected to them and it was very odd which I'm ashamed to say but it was very odd to feel that connection. Now I have nephews and God's sons and a niece and I loved playing with them and being with them too.

But maybe it was these the vulnerability and what these Children had been through that really, you know, that really grabbed my heart. But when I saw where they were sleeping one night in their clothes and these clothes were not fitting them well they were soiled. The Children were crying. They were huddled together two or more on a futon or on a couch or a small bed. I just had these flashes of my mom and our bedtime and and how wonderful and and comforting and safe it was and how we felt. And these Children were alone and they didn't have any of that. And on top of that they were sleeping in their clothes. So I asked if I could bring pajamas the next time and I did and when I read to them and then started handing them out, there was a little girl so afraid of me. She just wouldn't take them. And I gently coaxed her into touching them to see how soft they were and I just didn't understand why she was so reluctant to take them. And Maybe 10 minutes later she whispered in my ear what our pajamas and that was the beginning of the end of any interest I had in that corporate job.

In the beginning of this vast journey that I have been on and it's just never been more fulfilling. It's been scary. You know. And I wrote my book all about the ups and downs and the truth, but it's never been more of a labor of love. Mm I love that. Okay, this is so beautiful in Genevieve. I have to just say like I have the chills right now and you are so remarkable. It's so amazing what you've done. I was reading it looks like you guys have given away seven million gifts thus far with your nonprofit. Yes, it's seven million new pajamas and books. But I have to say even when, even before I started pajama program, I would think, wow, one person can do so much. Just one idea, one person, one person. And when I started and it was growing, people said the same thing. Look, you're one person, look what you're doing. But you know what I have learned? It is not one person, one person is not the power of one that changes anything.

It's the power of one another that moves mountains and moves people because if it was just me, I'd still be wandering around with a sack of pajamas and books like santa claus. It really really only happens when you when you share your story and you bring other people you know to you for help. Mm I love that. That is so beautiful. Now tell me this idea of human connection. Where did that come up for you? Have you always just been drawn to people and you know because I I know I'm like that I love people. I'll talk to strangers. I can have a conversation with a stranger. You know, I'm not a homeless people. It's like I'll talk to anyone. But were you always like that or where did that? How did that come about? Um I was always friendly and I was always outgoing. I'm gonna have my share, you know, to this day of being awkward in some situations and nervous and some new ones.

But it really became evident as we grew pajama program And like I mentioned it was it was through so many crazy connections and 6° and things ideas people had that I tried and suggestions I took when I was, you know, at my lowest and nothing was working. That I saw what happens when you open yourself up to other people's ideas, when you're brave enough to share your story. Look, I started to tell people that I might give up my corporate job. I had a mortgage and just to give pajamas to these Children. And the first person I told, she shot me down, why are you going to do that? How could you leave your job? You worked so hard. How are you going to pay your mortgage? What do you what do you think you're gonna save their lives by giving them pajamas? And it scared me And it took me a while to trust my my heart again and open up to others who finally there were people who got it when I told them the story about the little girl, they felt the same thing.

I felt like, oh no, this is not good, we have to fix this. We can fix this. This is not a big thing if we all do this together. So I had to learn to you know, to trust my heart was going to touch somebody else's heart? And one by 1, 20 years later it's um you know, it's a national successful thank goodness organization with people at its heart. Both the recipients and those who are supporters. Mm wow. I just love this now, tell me, you know, so when you heard this voice initially, was that the first time? Because I know you know, for some of us were spiritual, I believe in certain things that seem a little farfetched or out of the box. But for you was that kind of like what was that like? Was that the first time you kind of have this inner internal nudge or it was the first time that it got my attention and I often wondered if it had been trying to you know, whisper and I just ignored it because I was just too busy.

And um you know, my head overruled any other voices I heard, But that one was loud and clear and I have no idea why I listened to that one. Except that I was in a quiet, It was very quiet. I was alone in my apartment. Which you know, I had a busy life. So I didn't always have a quiet afternoon. But there were other times when I was alone and I didn't hear anything. So that's a mystery. Mm hmm, wow. But just following. So what is that guidance for you? Because that was clear like intuition, right? Or your own intuitive kind of higher self. So what kind of guidance do you have for others? You know to tap into that more, begin to start listening better to ourselves? Right. Well, I teach how to listen to your heart voice and go what goes along with that is finding your purpose. Which again, I never thought that most of us had a purpose. I thought that was reserved for you know Gandhi and Einstein and you know even Oprah and Deepak chopra.

I didn't think that all of us were gifted with a special purpose. But we are every single one of us and it starts with listening to that voice. And and even before listening is asking it, you know, and I work with people to help them ask themselves, ask their heart what is it that they love to do? And people are so quick to say, oh I I love to you know, be with my dog. But that doesn't mean I'm going to make any money doing it. But that's not true. There are so many things that you can do that that will bring your purpose, that purpose to others. And you can make a fine living. And people do it all the time, who would have ever thought of businesses that some of us know, wow, I can't believe they made a business out of that and they're millionaires. So I try to impress upon people that you have been given this gift and this gift will support you in so many ways and those in your in your company and those in your family and those in your community and and bring joy to others in the world.

It's not a little thing, it's a very big thing, mm I love that Genevieve now, you know what I'm getting from you, you have this just innate belief, right? So it's kind of like there's those people who see the glass as half empty and then there's those of us who see it as half full. So for you, do you, was it your upbringing, was it having supportive loving parents, like you know, you go for that corporate job and uh you know, tv news or radio and I know I was a network journalist and tv and I had so many people along the way telling me, oh it's so competitive, you'll never get in this and that, but I never listen to that. I just believe that okay if I want this, I'm gonna go get it. So that's what I'm getting from you. Where did that come from? Um well, congratulations on you. A new believing. Um I know my father taught work ethic, he worked very hard, he came on the boat from Italy with the desire with his father because he was only 15, both of them with the desire to make it in America and to raise Children, you know from my father to raise a family um the American way.

So he always instilled that work ethic and my mom was all heart and I think when I, I saw the Children and how they were sleeping, what I saw was my mom putting us to sleep. And it was an emotional moment for me To, to have both of those things in my heart at the same time, my mom's love and oh my goodness, I've never thought of this for 30 plus years, my bedtime with her and what it made me feel like in all four of us kids, how we felt what he really was giving us in those moments every night and these Children are so afraid and lonely. This is just, is just the worst thing in the world. It was such an emotional um the moment that it just, it was just so clear to me, there was not a question that I wanted them to have pajamas. Now if you had said to me, okay, so you're going to quit your job soon and you're going to be running around, you're getting pajamas to every single child that you hear about and you're not sure how you're going to make a living and you're gonna come up against people's opinions and you're gonna be in trouble financially, I would never have done it.

But the fact that I've let my heart lead while my head was telling me, I was crazy. I can consistently chose my heart that in time. It was like my heart took over my head and my head said, okay, I'm, I'm tired of fighting. She's going to do this. So let me help her because I have the brains and, and that's how it unfolded really. I don't know if I would have done it, if somebody laid it out, you know, before. If I hadn't had an emotional connection right there is though, this innate sense of belief within, from what I'm getting kind of like, even though, you know, people when you first, when this, you're led by your heart, but you, there were kind of these naysayers who are telling you this is crazy. But you just, you believed it was possible. Yeah. I had to, I had to find a way, I, I didn't care if it was crazy.

I didn't care what the odds were. You know, as we grew pajama program, I learned the odds of nonprofits, you know, being able to sustain and any business being able to sustain. But I just knew it had to, I knew that it came to me. I knew it was something that was mine to do. I knew I heard that voice that came from somewhere. I thought that was much bigger than me or, or any human. So I believed in it and I trusted it and thank thank goodness, you know, it was bigger than me, wow, I love that. That is so remarkable. Now Genevieve do you believe and this is part of what you teach, let's talk about this heart voice, you know, help us understand that, right? Well, it's it's clearly not in your head and you physically can tell the difference. So I teach and and actually on my blog on Genevieve Patrol dot com and on my blog a couple of months ago I did a long blog on how to start to find your purpose.

And it's really a matter of the discipline to sit quietly for for 11 time for you know, an hour and a half. And I tell people you can have a glass of wine, you can have a cup of tea, you have cookies and ice cream just as long as you are alone and you have paper and pen, no computer to write with and you really, really write down things you love and things you love to do and you're you're honest and and not nothing's off the table. Like I said, you love walking your dog, you know, you love eating um calamari doesn't matter, put it all down because you'll start to think of other things that you never would have said, oh and I love Shakespeare. Oh and I love to read mysteries and oh I I love, you know um red wine. All these things come come up when you're free when you let yourself, you invite yourself to talk to yourself.

And then there's there's more there are more exercises to narrow down, narrow down, narrow down to meet some people to talk to. Some people. To research some people when you get down to those five things that really make you feel so much joy and your heart if you let your heart lead all the way it will lead you. It will lead you right to the center of what can be your purpose. And there are so many ways with so many topics for you to make a significant change and not just your life in other people's lives. Mm hmm And always believe it. And I understand that but more and more people are seeing that purpose and meaningful lives are what really matter now. Mm hmm And now tell me what, what was the difference for you? Like? What has it been like for you personally spiritually on this deeper level to do this. Amazing, beautiful purposeful work.

Well I know anything is possible. I know we have the ability to do anything if we believe in it. If we are not afraid to ask for help if we talked to enough people and share our ideas and listen to what other people are looking for and who we can help. It's really about service when you get down to it. You know any company is about service. Any life worth living is about service And it really is it really changes everything. It changes everything in your life from the people you associate with who you call your friends to the relationships you have with your family too. How you make a living to how you live your life. It's just it's just an incredible change and you want to do more. So after 20 years of running pajama program I said to the board, you know I've met so many adults who have asked me to mentor them and I want to write a book and I want to help people honestly who have a big dream.

We think it's impossible. Show them, look if I can do it, you can do it and bring people together with purpose and the human connection as the pillars of of a business or or anything they want to do. So we I passed the baton of executive directorship to a woman Jamie who's was our board president at one time and she's doing a great job so that I can now build my career and my living helping people and companies really really understand how pivotal it is when you put purpose and human connection front center. Mm hmm. And now so tell me Genevieve, I wanna so like you know you said something harry you said it's anything is possible. So what I want to know about you because I'm just really getting this from you right like you believe this and I think that's so amazing. Was it the pajama program and finding success with that, that kind of affirmed that for you or did you always kind of have this within?

Well, absolutely. It affirmed it for me because I talk about having having nothing, but I I say an idea, but it was just a thought or or not a voice, right? So absolutely, I can tell you that that affirmed and confirmed. But if I look back and think of all of us do things happen for a reason and things that we focus on come to us and things that we want. Um you know, we we can have and if we're if we really love and want something and treat it well, then that's we can bring it into our lives and it could be part of our lives. And the opposite is true things that we we don't want or we don't treat well aren't a part of our lives. So I realized, I have realized that we attract so many things to us good and bad by how we feel, what we think, what we do, how we treat people what our dreams are and and how much self confidence we have and that's where we're all vulnerable.

We're all nervous. We all look at other people and say they're better. They can do it. I can't do it. But you know, we have to chip away at that and some people are better at chipping away at that. It's still there's a number on me and I have to, you know, literally tell myself, look, you did this, so don't be afraid. You you've been afraid before, you can get through it. Hmm, wow, I love this. You are just, I'm feeling so inspired and so empowered by your energy and just this belief. I love that Genevieve. Now let me ask you this, you know, for people, there's always because I really believe in human potential. I believe that we, anyone can do what they put their mind to if their heart is in it, right, Because you got to kind of really want it. But, you know, for people who don't believe that, what is your practical advice or guidance, like where does that mindset shift happens, you know, versus okay, I don't think anything's possible to, yes, I can do this.

Is there a mindset shift? What is that? How do you help people kind of see that? Well, it's interesting to ask people over the course of their lives. What percentage of the time do they trust their intuition? Their hunch the little voice and a lot of people don't trust it. They trust what other people say. They trust, what they've been trained to believe and do they trust the road there on no matter if it was a mistake or not, they continue. And so many of us don't pay attention to the intuition. We don't trust it, We weren't taught most of us to trust our intuition, how does your body feel a lot of this exercise about purpose? If anyone reads it, it's about how does your body feel when you think about the things you've written down, when you think about enjoying a glass of red wine, enjoying taking a walk with your dog, you know, enjoying whatever it is that you wrote down that you love to do.

It's about our physical body helping us feel what's natural, what's right for us and what's wrong? How many times have we have we felt terrible about the idea of doing something. We've done it anyway. We've we've betrayed that voice. We betrayed our natural self for a number of reasons. And I've done it. And so many people do it regularly and I'm not sure why except that we don't trust that voice and we have to, we have to learn to mm hmm. And obviously I'm gonna say it's safe for me to assume that after that initial voice kind of led you down this path. You trust yourself more and more. Now I do. Now. That doesn't mean it's not scary to do something new. I'm doing something new. You know, I walked away from being from, from a salary from, from pajama program to make my own because I felt and heard my body say this is part two of your purpose.

This was all to get it to a place where you could then help others find their purpose. Because if we all are closer and more people are finding and living their purpose, it just brings love and joy to the world. So I know it sounds you know Miss America I want to bring peace to the world but it makes a difference. And certainly now after what we've been through and still what this world is going through, I think that that's one of the most important things that we can do for each other. So I'm trusting myself to find my way to find the right people in the right groups to work with who want to live a meaningful, more purposeful life. So it doesn't mean it's not scary. But I do trust it. Mm hmm. And now you know this idea of service like we all know or you know a lot of us who read and our learned, we know that people who give back and are in service are generally happier, right?

There's this part in our fulfillment that happens. So for you, Genevieve, what what is it I mean like how is this for you on this personal level to just now it's like your purposes just your hair to serve, right? You started pajama program and now you want to go deeper with that and get you know reach out to the masses and help people one on one to kind of go serve in there world or communities. So what is that like is there just like this now kind of drive and passion to keep serving because it's so fulfilling. It is. And until you do it, you don't see how it takes you off of the, I'm not good enough. I can't measure up. I could never do that because if you, if you can concentrate on someone else and helping them or serving them or making them feel better taking them out of maybe a bad place.

You forget about your troubles. I can't tell you how many volunteers over the years have said to me when they came to pajama program too, be with the kids or drop off pajamas or whatever after an hour with with us or with folding pajamas or with the Children, they'll say, you know, I almost didn't come today. I can't even tell you what a bad week this has been And I forgot all about it. And it's so true. I've read that I've heard other people say that and I've experienced it. It's so true. When you take your mind off your troubles, you forget about them. I'm not saying that they go away. But it gives you a better perspective when you go back to them. When you've shared yourself with someone else who really might need it. Even if you don't know that it's just something that you have to experience and then you get it. Mm hmm. And now you know, I know like you believe clearly believe I believe this as well that we do all have a purpose. But there's many people who don't believe that, what is your response to that to those people who don't believe they have a purpose?

Um I believe they do. I believe that for some reason wherever they are in life in their career, things have happened to not let them feel worthy of having a special purpose. Um maybe they have a lot of responsibility and they have put that above themselves which is which is admirable. And I get that. But that I wish they would understand that if they're living their true life, it's it's more joyful for everyone in their lives. But I understand that some people have come so far and to detour means sacrifice for others who would have to, you know have to deal with the changes and you would you know making it different, making it difficult for them. I get all that. But I think it's sad to go through life giving up your dream, giving up a chance to be better for everyone in your life, to serve everybody better to be a better person in the world and to teach those around you what that looks like.

And and I would I would love to just talk to them for an hour and and just see if there's something that I could do or say just give them pause and at least explore some options to to slide in that purpose. They don't have to jump off the ladder? Like I did. They don't have to go into financial debt. Like I did. They didn't have to risk a relationship like I did. But they can bring it into their lives in the slide and and even that will bring them joy and they will, they will light up. Mm I love that. That is so beautiful. And now you know, for people who kind of there's some people, it's like, okay my the ship has sailed, time has passed. It's too late for that. What are what's your response to that? Yeah, there are a lot of people that say that and it's never too late. I actually teach your master class, it's never too late. Chapter two, chapter three, chapter five. Never too late. And even like I said, no matter if you're 85 years old, you can find some time to slide in that purpose you've had on the back burner into your life in some way, shape or form and have that have that joy, It's never too late.

Mm I love your energy and your affirmations are just so powerful. I think it's so cool. This attitude, Tell me what it's been like for you what? Because you know now this kind of second part of this journey where now you're working with people to help them do what you've already done, find their purpose and live this more purposeful life. What is that like for you on a personal level? Well I never thought that I would have started this my chapter two or 3 at the beginning of the pandemic. So as we all did I had to find a way to get my message across and I did master classes and what I found with my book and my topics was as we went through the isolation and the fear and everything over these two years. What's coming out is that people want to live a meaningful life. They want to find purpose.

Companies want to align their values with their employees values and find that shared um culture, the thriving culture that you know that they can be successful with. So I feel like I'm part of the that growth period and that I have a contribution to make. So that part is really fulfilling. It's still tricky. We're all trying to figure out how to you know make our new world how to make it successful. And I am too. But when I speak now and thankfully it's more and more in person. I feel energy from the audience. They come up to talk to me and and most of them want to say that they are thinking about their purpose now and that they realize a lot of things and at least I feel like I'm part I hope I'm part of the movement toward people realizing it it's their time. Mm hmm I just love that now.

A hypothetical scenario for you. I am a person who I just feel stuck. Like I don't I'm just stuck in life. You know, being a victim. I'm feeling sorry for myself. I'm stuck. I don't really, I'm not in a good place. I'm not happy. I want change. Where do we kind of start with that? Where does that person begin to kind of turn that corner? Well, that's personal to everyone. Right? So if it was somebody that I was talking to, I I want I want some time with that person and I want I want to sit down in a quiet place and here a little bit about what's been happening in their lives, but more I'd rather hear about what they wish they had done what they loved to do, what they don't do. It doesn't matter why they don't do it. I want to know what they wish they could do Because once you bring some of that into their lives, even for an hour a week they're so stuck. They don't even realize the difference it'll make in their lives in their life.

So I want to really hash out all the things they love, especially the ones that they've never done or that they've never explored even and focus on a couple of those things though, that will change people that will give them hope. Which we really can't live well without. That will give them just a feeling that they are deserving because they are giving this gift to themselves and it's a gift? They will see the difference it makes in their relationships with other people because it makes you generally feel better and a little happier if you're doing something that you love even an hour a week and it's it's noticeable. It's noticeable by others. And I think I think you know that's the best way to take people out of their their stuck nous and have them be part of the human connection doing something that they love and and meeting and being with others who are doing it.

Mm hmm. Okay. And now in closing, you know, I just want to say you're so amazing. It's so incredible the work that you're doing and you're such a light in this world and I just I'm so honored to have had this time with you. Um So in closing, what is your message of hope or you know, just something that you would like to leave people with, what would be that one message you would want people to have from you. Well, I agree with you, believe, believe in yourself. Go in and figure out your loves figure out what you enjoy the most. And just for a little while put aside your responsibilities and the road you're on and just think about what you love and think, I mean it could certainly reach out to me. It doesn't cost anything to have a conversation. I'll help you brainstorm. Or I'll just listen and really think how can you bring something that you love that's on the back burner into your life for one hour.

Can you volunteer? Can you go and find somebody who's in that world? Can you sit in a quiet place and read a research what those people are doing in that world that you wish you were a part of. Just just go in and ask yourself for a list of things you love, write them down, stare at them every day Until you finally can say, okay, I'm gonna find somebody related to this. I'm Gonna do this for one hour and just do it. Mm I love that Genevieve. Oh my God, thank you so much. You have been so amazing and so inspiring. And I just thank you so much for your time today. Well I can tell that you believe the same thing. I believe. So. I while I appreciate you giving me the floor. I think that what you're doing is really great in sharing and allowing us to share our stories from a place where you believe mm That means so much to me.

Thank you so much. My pleasure. And I just hope that there's somebody listening out there that might take a few minutes to talk to themselves and listen. Yes, absolutely. You were wonderful. So I know there's uh there's gonna be a lot of takeaways from your guidance and insights today. Thank you so much. Thank you. Mm hmm, mm hmm, mm hmm.

Blossom Your Awesome Episode #40 - Purpose & Passion With Genevieve Piturro
Blossom Your Awesome Episode #40 - Purpose & Passion With Genevieve Piturro
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