Igniting Change by Using Your Voice: How One Instagram Post Turned into a Powerful Movement with Sharon McMahon: Podcast Ep. 331

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We are wrapping up our podcast series on Using Your Voice with a very special guest.

Sharon McMahon is a former high school government and law teacher whose Instagram went viral in 2020 (she now has over 1 million followers!) and who is the host of the podcast Here’s Where it Gets Interesting. 

Sharon is “on a mission to combat political misinformation by sharing non-partisan facts about the US government and democracy.” 

Our lead speaking coach Diane Diaz is a super fan of Sharon and has been following her since the 2020 election season. 

Diane reached out to Sharon who graciously agreed to chat with Diane and share with us how she started using her voice where she was with what she knew.

In this episode, Sharon shares how her journey began with one small post on her Instagram about wanting to change one person’s life through a monetary donation and has since grown into 1 million followers on Instagram and a community of people, lovingly dubbed the Governerds, who’ve raised over $7 million for various causes.   

Diane and Sharon talk about:

  • How Sharon’s podcast was born out of her audience demanding more content than she could share on Instagram
  • Why Sharon decided to write a book 
  • Why Sharon challenges the notion that small contributions are insignificant, especially for women
  • How Sharon manages the haters and trolls that can come with using your voice to do meaningful work
  • The importance of thinking beyond the present to understand the ripple effects of your voice and actions
  • Why each of us should embrace the courage to speak up, even in the face of criticism

Sharon’s belief that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something, emphasizes the power of small contributions.

Sharon’s journey is a remarkable reminder that our voice has the potential to create lasting change. She believes we must shed the belief that our contributions are insignificant and instead embrace the power we hold to shape our world. 

We hope you’ll feel inspired by Sharon to find your courage, use your voice, and engage in meaningful action so that you have a bigger impact in the world!

 

About Our Guest: Sharon McMahon is on a mission to curate facts, fun, and inspiration by educating Americans on democracy, politics, and history. After years of serving as a high school government and law teacher, Sharon took her passion for education to Instagram with a mission to combat political misinformation with non-partisan facts. Sharon has earned a reputation as “America’s Government Teacher” and quickly amassed over a million social media followers, affectionately known as “Governerds.” Sharon is also the host of the top-rated podcast, Here’s Where It Gets Interesting, where each week she provides entertaining yet factual accounts of America’s most fascinating moments and people. In a time where flashy headlines and false information often takes the spotlight, Sharon is a reliable source for truth and logic. She has shared her knowledge with CNN, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and Good Morning America. In 2022, Sharon was the recipient of PRWeek’s Communicator of the Year Award as well as the the noteworthy Jefferson Award.

About Us: The Speaking Your Brand podcast is hosted by Carol Cox. This episode is hosted by our lead speaking coach Diane Diaz. At Speaking Your Brand, we help women entrepreneurs and professionals clarify their brand message and story, create their signature talks, and develop their thought leadership platforms. Our mission is to get more women in positions of influence and power because it’s through women’s stories, voices, and visibility that we challenge the status quo and change existing systems. Check out our coaching programs at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com

Links:

Show notes at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/331 

Sharon’s website: https://www.sharonmcmahon.com/ 

Sharon’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sharonsaysso/

Sharon’s podcast “Here’s Where It Gets Interesting”: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/heres-where-it-gets-interesting/id1576266622

Discover your Speaker Archetype by taking our free quiz at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/quiz/

Join our Thought Leader Academy: https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/academy/ 

Related Podcast Episodes:

331-SYB-Sharon-McMahon.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

331-SYB-Sharon-McMahon.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Carol Cox:
Can your one voice make a difference? It absolutely can. Hear how one Instagram post turned into a powerful movement with our guest Sharon McMahon, on this episode of the Speaking Your Brand podcast.

Carol Cox:
More and more women are making an impact by starting businesses, running for office and speaking up for what matters. With my background as a political analyst, entrepreneur and speaker, I interview and coach purpose driven women to shape their brands, grow their companies and become recognized as influencers in their field. This is speaking your brand, your place to learn how to persuasively communicate your message to your audience. Hi there and welcome to the Speaking Your Brand podcast. I’m your host, Carol Cox. We’re wrapping up our podcast series on using your voice with a very special guest. You may have heard of Sharon McMahon and her very popular Instagram channel called Sharon Says So it now has over 1 million followers. Sharon is a former high school government and law teacher whose Instagram went viral in 2020. She’s now the host of a podcast called Here’s Where It Gets Interesting and a forthcoming book to be published in 2024. Sharon is on a mission to combat political misinformation by sharing nonpartisan facts about the US government and democracy. Our lead speaking coach, Diane Diaz, is a super fan of Sharon and I do mean super fan.

Carol Cox:
Diane’s been telling me about Sharon and her content since 2020, when Diane found her during the election season and has been following her ever since. So a couple of months ago, Diane and I were brainstorming about potential topics and guests for this podcast, and she said, Well, what about Sharon McMahon? And she said, you know, she’s a she’s a pretty big deal, so I’m not sure if she’ll say yes. And I said, Well, let’s reach out to her and find out. So Diane reached out and Sharon graciously agreed to come on the podcast to talk with Diane and to share with us about how she started using her voice, where she was with what she knew. If you’re new to speaking your brand, welcome. We work with women entrepreneurs and professionals to clarify their brand message and story, create their signature talks and develop their thought leadership platforms. Our mission is to get more women in positions of influence and power, because we know is through women’s stories, voices and visibility that we challenge the status quo and change existing systems for the better. You can learn more about us at speaking your brand.com. Now let’s get on with the show.

Diane Diaz:
Welcome to the Speaking Your Brand podcast. Sharon McMahon Oh, thanks.

Sharon McMahon:
So much for inviting me. I’m happy to be here.

Diane Diaz:
Oh, I am so excited that you’ve agreed to come and chat with me and I want our listeners to know how I came to know about you. So I stumbled across Sharon’s content on Instagram during the 2020 election madness that was happening, and I was looking for factual information that I could use to counter other people’s arguments that I felt were not based in facts. And I was looking to learn more about how the process of elections work and disagreements about elections and how that works and what can happen with that, what can’t happen with that. So I was looking to educate myself. So I stumbled across your Instagram feed and started following you there. And so before we start chatting about how you came to create your Instagram content and and your podcast and all of that, I just want our, our audience to know a little bit about you. And so and then you can tell us like maybe fill in the holes. I’ll let you talk about your background and how you got to this point. But where you are now is and just looked at this, you have a million followers on Instagram, which is astounding. And you also have a podcast which I listen to called Here’s Where it Gets interesting. And I love that podcast because on that podcast, Sharon breaks down what can be really complex topics like the internment of Japanese American citizens.

Diane Diaz:
So there’s a whole series on that and there’s a series on the Civil War. There’s also a fantastic series called How Women Won World War Two, which will give you some mind blowing facts that you might not have been aware of. Super interesting. And so topics like that, but also featuring authors on important topics, historical topics that we some we might know about, some we might not know about. And then Sharon also has a book club which you can join, which I did join for one semester and I read the book The Woman They Could Not Silence, which was both enraging and also inspiring. So highly recommend the book club and that book if you have not read it. And Sharon also offers workshops on important topics to help you better understand things in government and politics. And again, I just think that this could benefit everybody. Sharon was also recently part of an event called Freedom Matters at the George W Bush Presidential Center, which I did watch your interview there, which was phenomenal. Oh, it was wonderful. So thank you. So I just wanted to give our audience a little bit of background on who you are. But my first question would be, how did this happen? So if you can give. Give our listeners a little bit of insight into what you did in the before days and then how did it get here?

Sharon McMahon:
Well, I’m a long time government and law teacher, so that’s really my like academic background is in the study of government and political science and constitutional law. And so I did that for many, many years. And I have also owned other businesses. So I’ve been a small business owner for many years. And, you know, for most people, 2020 was a challenging year for a variety of reasons. I don’t know anybody who was like, this is the best year ever, right? It was just like really challenging. No matter what your feelings on any of the topics that were happening in 2020 elections, COVID, whatever was no matter what your feelings were, you felt like this is bananas. I don’t know what is going to happen next. So, you know, one of the things that happened in 2020 for me is that my my husband got a kidney transplant. And so that really and my mother actually donated one of her kidneys to a stranger so my husband could get one from a stranger. So we found ourselves with a lot of time on our hands while he’s recovering from a kidney transplant, which is a very serious thing. But I won’t go into all of it right now. But it’s not just like a quick surgery that you just are like, great, it’s been fixed. So I as I had all of this time on my hands due to events of 2020, I found myself being a little frustrated with some of the misinformation that I saw online.

Sharon McMahon:
And I was like, I need I felt like I needed to do something, but I didn’t know what it was. And I definitely know that arguing with strangers online is a waste of your life. Like you got it. You’d be better off drinking a cup of coffee and watching birds fly by then arguing with strangers on the internet. So I knew that, like engaging in 40 million individual arguments of like, No, that’s not how the Electoral College works. No, that’s not what’s going to happen. You know what I mean? That was not going to be the right answer. So I started making these little, very simple, five minute, nonpartisan, fact based explainer videos about things like how the Electoral College works, what will happen if no winner can be determined during an election? How would we choose a president? Things of that nature. And I quickly discovered that there was a huge hole in the media landscape for this kind of content. So often when you tune in to this news channel or that news channel, you feel like you’re being told what to think. And very infrequently are you being encouraged to think for yourself and given information that allows you to think for yourself? So that’s the that’s the genesis is I just started creating this kind of content and I found that people really were hungry for it.

Diane Diaz:
And then did you so then did you create your Instagram channel for so you were doing the explainer videos on Instagram? And then how did the podcast come about from that?

Sharon McMahon:
The podcast came because people were demanding it. They wanted more content than Instagram had time for on Instagram. You know, when you post Instagram stories, you have a very finite window of time. Even if you are posting subsequent stories, you can only tell so much of a story on Instagram. And as much as I love the platform, it has its limitations. So the podcast came about just because of demand for more content, and we spend a lot of the podcast talking about history related content, little known events from history, people who you probably have never heard of, or it’s an aspect of their story that you didn’t know. And then we also talk about, you know, new things that are happening in the world with conversations with authors and things of that nature. So it came about just because people were demanding that I do it.

Diane Diaz:
Yeah, I love that because I think, you know, that’s one thing that we say to our clients and and a lot of people in our audience will have probably heard us say this on our podcast interviews before, is that when you have an opportunity to use your voice in a way that makes an impact, obviously you should. And I think especially as a woman, because we need more women’s voices. But when your audience is demanding more of your voice, give them that. And so, you know, I know a lot of our clients and do end up they create their talk and then they end up starting a podcast because they find the same thing that it’s a it allows them to go deeper into the content and explore more topics than just maybe in one public speaking engagement or through a channel like Instagram. So you can actually go much deeper. And before we started recording, I was telling Sharon that I that is one of the things that I liked about the podcast and about what she shares on Instagram is that I feel like there’s so much that I did not learn in high school or college taking history classes. And of course you can’t retain everything anyway, So I feel like I’m filling in holes of things that I wish I had known and I think just. As American citizens. It’s important for us all to try to better understand how our government works because it is our government and we are voting for people. So that’s right. So I think that this is just a really, you know, to our listeners, this is a really great example of how one person’s voice can have a huge impact because we all operate in this society and in our country and need to better understand how our government works. And Sharon is providing that information to help us all from a factual standpoint, understand the ins and outs of government. So obviously your voice is very important in that realm. So thank you for that. So I feel like it’s a public service almost.

Sharon McMahon:
Oh, I appreciate that.

Diane Diaz:
Okay, so now we know how you got to where you’re at now. And by the way, I know that you’re in the process of writing a book. How did that idea come about? Can you give us any sneak peeks into what it’s about? Like, how did it how did that whole thing arise?

Sharon McMahon:
Well, again, this went back to sort of public demand for more topics, more, you know, like can you can you provide something that I can give to my neighbor? You know, like that is one of the beauties of a book, is how easily it is passed from one person to another or you feel like you can say, you know what, I have a fantastic book on this topic. Let me give it to you. You can order a book on Amazon and have it delivered to somebody else’s house, right? And so podcasts are wonderful and I love them. But it is a it’s a different medium that then books are and not everybody’s into podcasts, whereas books have many thousand year history, you know, like everyone’s comfortable with the idea of a book. So it’s part of it is just the demand to have something that people can keep and read again and have on their shelf and give to a friend or give to a loved one. So that is the genesis of the book. But in the book are going to be again, a little bit like what I do on the podcast stories of people who have changed America, who maybe you have never heard of, but now that you will learn about them, you’re going to be like, Dang, I did not know that and now I’m so glad that I do. That’s that’s always sort of I call those brain tangle moments. Those are always moments that I love having those kind of moments. Personally, I’m always looking to try to help other people have those kind of moments where you’re like, I didn’t know that and it blows my mind. I love it.

Diane Diaz:
And when will this amazing book come out? Do we know yet?

Sharon McMahon:
March of 2024.

Diane Diaz:
Oh, I can’t wait. Okay. So I will be pre-ordering that whenever it is available. So I would encourage everybody listening to do the same. I think that’s a really good point is like these these brain tingle moments is this information that you share on Instagram in your podcast. They are things that are oftentimes little known facts. I mean, it’s digging deep into things that we didn’t know, for instance, how women won World War Two. I mean, we all know, yes, there were women in World War Two. Of course we know that. But the stories that you share are so mind blowing. And so I think stories of people who were so integral in seemingly small ways that had really big impacts. Yeah, totally. And that’s what I love about it. And that is this message that we try to get across to our clients and to our listeners is one person’s voice and actions, even if it’s tiny, can have such a big impact. On the world, on your community, on your neighbor, you know, on your family. And so it is important for us to use our voices in that way. And that’s that’s the series that we’re in right now on this brand podcast is using your voice. So it, you know, nicely aligns with that.

Sharon McMahon:
I think a lot of women feel like, you know, I’m not Warren Buffett, I don’t have billions of dollars. I don’t have a private jet. I don’t have reporters flocking to me asking my opinion on whether I should invest in Berkshire Hathaway. You know what I mean? They feel like their small contribution pales in comparison to what we see these, you know, giants of industry doing. It’s a very common way to feel. And it’s it’s an understandable way to feel right. Like you can I’m sure most of us have felt that way at some point. Like what good is it going to do if I run for school board? Nothing. What good is it going to do if I give a speech at the library? Nothing. But that is exactly one of the reasons why women have not had a seat at the table throughout the entirety of humanity. Why women’s voices have been either unintentionally or intentionally lost to history. This is the chance to change the trajectory of not just your life, not just your daughter’s life, not just your neighbor’s life, but to change the trajectory of the country and by extension, the world by refusing to be shut out of the rooms that women have been denied entry to for for millennia.

Sharon McMahon:
So I always encourage people to think beyond the here and now. Giving giving a speech today is probably not going to make you a billionaire tomorrow. And that is the mindset that you need to leave behind. What you can’t see are the incredible ripple effects of daily putting one foot in front of the other, using your voice to advocate for change, using your voice to encourage people whatever it is. Everybody has a different a different role, right? Not everybody is meant to have a million people following them on Instagram and to, you know, talk about government professionally. Some people are meant to encourage the discouraged. Some people are meant to bring healing to a sick body or mind. Everybody has something that they can do, a unique talent that the world needs. And finding what yours is absolutely does matter, not just to you and your family, but it matters to the world.

Diane Diaz:
Preach love to hear you say that. It’s it is so true. And I think that we do often, especially as women, tend to minimize not only what impact we might have, but the importance of even speaking up and using our voices. And sometimes this is because we often, when we speak up, get haters or get trolls. And so I would be willing to actually I saw recently you you had so to everybody listening Sharon gets some trolls understand it so I saw you recently posting about oh my fingers have been so busy now I’m very comfortable now blocking these people. And you started blogging by Jim, By John, By Chad. So, so, so talk to me a little bit about when you first started creating, especially during 2020 and the madness of all of that and you started creating this content on Instagram, did you have any reservations that because social media is so easy to be a troll on social media because you’re behind, you can hide basically. So did you have any reservations and concerns about like, Oh, I might get a bunch of haters and what is that going to feel like and how did you manage that and how do you manage that? If you can talk to our audience a little bit about that.

Sharon McMahon:
Yeah, absolutely did. I was terrified the first the first six months, I literally lived in terror of like, what? When will the tide turn? And there will be angry people at my door. I literally lived in fear of that, that if I said one wrong thing, I was going to end up on some news program and people were going to find my children at the school, you know, like I absolutely did feel that way. One of the things that I’ve learned is that people who have contributed anything meaningful always have people who oppose them. Always. We don’t remember the people who literally lived in a house and never left it and never spoke to a single individual. Those are not the people with large impacts on the world. Anybody you admire. I mean, if you just take a second to think about anybody from history you admire, it doesn’t matter if it’s Martin Luther King, It doesn’t matter if it’s a religious figure, pick anyone. They had a huge audience of people that hated them. And it doesn’t mean that they. Enjoyed it. It doesn’t mean that they were like, Yeah, love the fact that like in the case of Martin Luther King, that people are trying to shoot me, stab me, blow up my house. It wasn’t that it didn’t matter to him.

Sharon McMahon:
It’s that the work mattered more. The work mattered more than the personal risk to him. Now, I’m not encouraging people to do things that are going to get them their house blown up. I’m not encouraging that. I’m just saying that throughout history that has always been the case that anyone who does anything that matters will have people that oppose them. So the question then is how will you handle that? And there is not one specific list that I can give people that’s like, here is the checklist to how everything will be fixed in your life. I can tell you that setting up really firm boundaries helps that. Deciding what kind of people I will engage with online helps. Again, going back to my my edict of I don’t spend my life arguing with strangers like I like to think about when I get to be 99 and I know my time is short. You know, like I don’t have that much time left when I’m 99, am I going to think to myself, I’m really glad I argued with Chad that one time. You know what I mean? Probably not. But I will be glad that I said or did something that impacted my community in some way. Me arguing with Chad and no hate to people whose mothers named them Chad, You know what? I’m just pulling a name out of the hat here.

Sharon McMahon:
Arguing with Chad is not my highest calling. And so figuring out what is your mission that really helps you figure out what your boundaries need to be arguing with. Chad is not my highest calling. It’s so consequently, it is not going to be how I use my time. So I use the tools of technology to set up things like Instagram filters that filter out certain kinds of words. I set up tools that make it harder to DM me. If you if you don’t follow me, you can’t DM me. And that that prevents a lot of these trolls who are who see your name mentioned somewhere else, who are like just going to quick fire off a message telling you to commit suicide. It prevents those people from doing things like that. It’s not perfect, but the thing that is so set up these boundaries for yourself. Some people are still going to get through the boundaries and it is going to feel uncomfortable. In some cases. It’s even going to hurt your feelings because it might be people that you actually really know and know and like. Um, that is the price of admission.

Sharon McMahon:
That is the price of admission for doing something impactful. It is something that will bother you. I promise it will bother you, but it is also something you can live through. It’s something you can live through if people you know, I like to think about people because I love history. I love to think about people like Sojourner Truth, who literally like what she managed to accomplish with so little. If they can do it, so can I. If people who had no hope of ever achieving an education can do it, so can I. If people who have no financial means can do it, so can I. Here I am in my nice warm house. I got clean clothes to wear. I have a jewel, a jewelry on my fingers. I have a fridge full of that full of food. I don’t even really want to eat because there’s never anything good in there. You know what I mean? What an incredible place of privilege to be able to turn on. The tap and clean water comes out. If people with no education, no running water, no ability like a barely able to feed their kids, can do important things, then so can I. And the price of admission is sitting with the discomfort.

Diane Diaz:
That is so well said. Thank you. Yes, I would just again recommend that book The woman they could not silence because that is a prime example of a person who and it’s a true story, a person who literally could not was prevented from doing anything and then still did so much. She was literally held captive. So I would encourage you to read a book like that and see exactly in action what Sharon is talking about. And I agree with that. And, you know, I think I think it’s also not that haters online and trolls online are unique to women and women’s content, but we do seem to attract quite a few of them because, I don’t know, people feel like the emboldened to shut us down and want us to be quiet and be small and not take up space. And I do think that it it is so much more of a powerful message when you are able to just set that aside. And you’re right, sometimes it is personal and sometimes it does hurt. But if you can set it aside, I like that idea of thinking about how much more important the work that you’re doing and the impact that you’re having is than that one person that’s bugging you or being a troll. And there are ways to shut trolls down. Like you said, having those boundaries and setting up processes in place to to manage as best you can those people, but not letting that deter you from the important work that needs to happen for whatever the subject matter is that you’re speaking on or that you’re sharing content around, or that the work that you’re doing so that it doesn’t keep you from making the progress and having the impact you want to have.

Sharon McMahon:
I like to remind myself sometimes, you know, like I have a few little, you know, mantras that I repeat to myself. I refuse to be distracted from my important work. And that is exactly what haters and trolls are trying to do. They’re trying to distract you from your important work. If you are spending all of your time fretting about a stranger telling you that you’re ugly, then you are being distracted from your important work. And I refuse to give that power to somebody I do not even know. It’s one thing if it’s your own two year old, of course they’re going to distract you from your work. Sometimes it’s your job as your parent, their parent to care for them, but refuse to be distracted from my important work by people who do not even know me, by people who do not care about my best interests. So I find that phrase I refuse to be distracted from my important work really useful. And when you view haters and trolls as a distraction, that I feel is a useful reframe. You don’t have to think about how terrible you are and how much they hate you, and the whole world hates me and I’m really ugly. And why am I old and I weigh too much and like all the things that go through women’s minds, you know? Um. When you think of when you set that thinking aside and you focus on the work and you realize that nothing will dissuade me from doing my important work, and you view Chad as a distraction, it’s easier to shut him out than when you are not internalizing what it is that he’s trying to tell you.

Diane Diaz:
Such a great point. Yes. And so so to all of our listeners and especially to our clients, when we work with them on their talks and they’re creating content, creating a podcast and worried about worrying about saying uncomfortable truths, say them. You have to stick to what your goal is and not let the haters distract you from that work. So thank you for sharing that. And and I think it’s especially meaningful coming from someone who has such a large following because that just means more and more haters. And so it’s, you know, becomes more of an issue. So I think it’s important for our audience to hear that because you can still continue to do the work and put your messaging out there on the important things you’re working on, regardless of how other people feel about that. So continue to do that work.

Sharon McMahon:
That’s right. Your good work is not dependent on everybody agreeing with you and making everybody feel comfortable because not even everybody feels comfortable with Dolly Parton.

Diane Diaz:
Right. And she’s a national treasure.

Sharon McMahon:
And she’s a national treasure. So there’s there’s it’s you will never achieve a status of everyone feels comfortable with my work because not even Dolly can do that. So stop having that as a goal.

Diane Diaz:
Yes, I like that. Think like Dolly. Just keep doing the work. That’s right. Well, so, now, along with having some haters, you have also more importantly developed this following that of people lovingly referred to as the governors. And this following of people is not only a community around helping to support the content that you put out and the work that you do and help to educate themselves and educate other people on factual things around government and politics and how our world works, but also this community. And you can share some of the facts if you don’t mind sharing, but this community has also. Done. I’m just blown away when I see whenever there’s some sort of something happening to raise money for and especially around the holidays. But they will raise money. And I’m talking to the tune of millions of dollars for people in need. First of all, how did that begin, that whole sort of governance? How did it become the governors? How did this charitable arm of it start to form? And if you can share with us some of the some of the things that you’ve raised money for and maybe how much money you’ve raised, just to show again, to illustrate the importance of this is literally just one started with one woman’s voice, and that is how this happens. So if you can just talk to us a little bit around how that unfolded.

Sharon McMahon:
Well, it again, goes back to 2020. And we were it was November of 2020. We were at the hospital where my husband was getting a checkup for him having had his kidney transplant. And again, there’s a lot of waiting around and a lot of like sit in this room for two hours while we put this infusion, you know, like it’s a lot of just downtime. And I was talking to the governor on Instagram and saying how, you know, someday I would like to be the person who could just walk up to a waitress and give them $1,000 or how I could, you know, wouldn’t it be amazing to just make someone’s day by, you know, just you’ve seen those videos where people are like, Here’s $1,000 and the people break down crying. I’ve never really wanted to film people doing that, but I but I would really just always wanted to be that person. Um, you know, that sort of Oprah effect where it’s like you get a car and you get a car and that sort of thing. So I was sharing this and I was thinking to myself, Wouldn’t it be so cool if while we’re sitting here at the hospital, we could, like, raise $1,000? And I could find somebody who needs it too, and give it away to them. So I asked people if they would Venmo me $0.50 and that maybe we could raise $1,000. And that idea quickly turned into overnight. People sent me $11,000 and I was so overwhelmed. I was crying on the Internet. Like I just couldn’t even believe that people would just send me $11,000.

Sharon McMahon:
Well, by the time this was all said and done, people had sent me over $125,000 that I then gave away to individuals who were nominated by somebody else, like my my neighbor her. She hasn’t It’s, you know, it’s getting to be December and her furnace hasn’t worked in a few months. And I know she really but she’s on fixed income and she really needs her furnace fixed things of that nature. These are the types of situations where a short term gift of some kind really does make all the difference for somebody. Like if you can have heat that makes such a huge difference, you feel like you can go on the next day. Right. But it’s also the type of situation where it’s very difficult to obtain assistance from other organizations. It’s difficult to go to, you know, a government entity or another charity and be like, my kid does not have any shoes that fit him. And I’ve been out of work for six months and I don’t I don’t have money for that, you know? Do you know what I’m saying? Like things of that nature. So we started by giving money away in the form of like, gift cards and things of that nature to thousands of individuals. And over time, that has grown to the point where we’ve raised over $7 million in the last couple of years. We raised in one weekend last July. In one weekend, we raised over $1 million to give out as teacher grants because teachers first of all, I won’t get into the whole situation with teachers, but it’s it’s a pretty dire situation.

Diane Diaz:
We all know exactly what you’re talking about. Yes, pretty dire situation.

Sharon McMahon:
Most teachers do not have what they need in their classrooms. They do not have what they need. They do not have adequate materials. They do not have adequate instructional materials. They don’t have things like a granola bars, you know, things that that children actually need in their classrooms. And in part, it’s because children are coming from poverty situations where parents are unable to provide what the children need. And so if you have 15 kids in your class that come with all their supplies and 15 that do not come with any supplies, you’re not going to teach 15 kids and exclude the other 15 and be like, Sorry, oh, you guys don’t have markers, don’t do any of these activities for the rest of the year. But that is not how any teacher wants that scenario to play out. So the average teacher spends over $700 a year of their own money on materials. So we decided we would give out $500 teacher grants. And it certainly doesn’t fix the systemic problems of education in the society. But to me, I view it as, you know, if a person comes into the E.R. and has a gunshot wound to the chest, but they also have cancer first, the patient has to live through the night. We have to fix the gunshot wound to the chest before we start chemotherapy. Right. And so that is how I view a lot of what we do. It’s not fixing like, yes, I acknowledge that me giving out $1 million in $500 grants is not fixing all of the systemic issues we have in education, but what it is doing hopefully is giving enough teachers hope to remain in the classroom another year where we’re facing very critical teacher shortages in many in many areas.

Sharon McMahon:
By giving them hope, it helps them give children hope. We can’t forget that these people are teaching our children, our community’s children, and that there is no school without people to teach the children. So it’s things like that that governors really loved, love to do and love to contribute to. They love to see the actual direct impacts. And giving out $1 million in teacher grants impacts tens of thousands of America’s children. If one teacher has 25, 30, or if you’re a high school teacher, you might have 150 students. That is tens of thousands of America’s children that your money is going to help. And it really does. It. There is this goes back to this lesson that we were talking about before, that one person can make a difference. It doesn’t mean that one person handed me a check for $1 million. What it does mean is that 5000 people sent me, you know, a small amount of money. They sent me their Venmo balance. They sent me $0.50. They sent me 20 bucks. And collectively, all of our voices can make a huge, huge impact in ways that perhaps we never even thought possible.

Diane Diaz:
That’s such a good message, Sharon, because it demonstrates that idea of any little bit you can do and for your audience and the governors, maybe it was giving $0.50 for people in our audience. Maybe it’s speaking at a local chamber of commerce about something important to you, whatever that looks like. That little thing has such an impact. And it’s a really great example with the teachers because they are educating children who will become the doctors, the EMTs, the, you know, whatever is in our community. And don’t we want them to be educated. So when we have a voice in our community, whether it be through donations or literally speaking, having a voice, it impacts everyone, not just not just the, you know, the immediate audience you’re speaking to. It has further reaching impacts. And that’s why I feel it’s so important for us to speak up and use our voices when and where we can in whatever way that we can. And, you know, for some people it might maybe they’re uncomfortable. I know sometimes our clients say, well, I don’t actually want to speak on stage. I say, That’s fine. You don’t have to. You still need to understand your message because you might use your voice to speak to an individual client, or you might use your voice to volunteer in an organization, whatever it looks like. But your voice has power and your voice, your voice might be like for for your audience donating that $0.50. That’s having a voice. When we vote, we’re having a voice. I know you always mentioned that it’s so important. So I think we have to all take a look at how we can what is that little bit that we can do? For some people, it’s going to be more and not not necessarily just financially, but just in whatever work that we do. Our voice might be a bigger voice on a bigger stage or it might be a, you know, something on a smaller stage, it doesn’t matter. But you you have to speak up.

Sharon McMahon:
Everyone can do something. Yes, yes. But no, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. And learning what your something is, even if you feel like, what is this doing? I really do also believe that giving and speaking again, regardless of if that’s on a stage or if it’s testifying at a hearing or writing a letter or helping a client or whatever that is, all of those things matter because that is not going to fix everything, but it is going to do something. And collectively, all of us doing something achieves far more than five people trying to do everything. A thousand people doing a little something achieves way more than five people trying to hoist the weight of the world on their shoulders. So do not underestimate your small contribution, what you perceive as your small voice. It is needed. We all need to be doing something.

Diane Diaz:
Yes. Yes. And I think if anybody again, I highly recommend all of you follow Sharon and just see the movement that has been created with the governors, because I think it’s a really great illustration of that. It’s all these people donating whatever small amount that they can, and it has an enormous impact. It’s just it’s just math, right? It’s just it really just shows you how how much one small action can impact other people. And our world for good.

Speaker4:
And all of this started, all of this started because I made a little video about the Electoral College. I used what I had, where I was with the resources available to me, which was, you know, in the middle of 2020, the world is gone crazy. What I had available to me in that moment was some of the knowledge in my mind and an iPhone. That is what I had available in that moment. You also I do think there is this sort of element of faith that like, if I am doing what I am meant to do, if I’m walking in my life’s purpose, if I am contributing in the best way that I know how in this moment that that is going to be enough and it might grow to be something unrecognizable that you are like, How did I even get here? Or it might not. Or it might be that you stay home with your children and your impact. Fact is, in raising those children, the best way that you know how I think that either way, no matter what doors you end up opening, you cannot underestimate the impact that your small actions might have. You can’t say I don’t. Making a little video. What is that going to do? Nothing. You know what I mean? That is the that’s the wrong attitude that is being distracted from your important work. The world does need what you have to offer, even if it doesn’t immediately deposit $1 billion into your bank account the next day. Can’t underestimate how important your work is.

Diane Diaz:
Well, could you ever have imagined when you were creating that one little video? When you look back on it now, do you think, oh my gosh, look how it has grown into this movement? Is it of course, just mind blowing?

Sharon McMahon:
Absolutely. I’ve absolutely no, there was no way to even conceive of what lie before me. There was no these are dreams that I did not even dare to dream. Right? Like I didn’t even know what was possible until I took action. And that is really the difference between so many people with good ideas and so many people that are out there impacting the world is actually getting started. It’s actually just putting one foot in front of the other. I could have thought all day for 15 years about how silly it was that Chad believed the wrong thing about the Electoral College. By the way, he thought it was a real college you could attend.

Speaker4:
Okay. Well, I mean, you thought it was like a place where you could get a degree. You don’t.

Diane Diaz:
Know what you don’t know.

Sharon McMahon:
Yeah, he was out there trying to educate other people about it. It wasn’t just that he was wrong. I don’t care if people are wrong, but don’t try to tell me that you don’t try to pass off your wrong information. You know what I mean? Um, I could have just stewed about it in my mind for the next ten, 15, 20 years. Or I could have done something. And I’m not holding myself up as a hero in any way, shape or form. I’m just encouraging people to actually put one foot in front of the other. It’s a hard row to hoe if you want to make that that idea impact somebody else. So you actually just have to get started. You have to just do something even if it ends up being the wrong thing. That’s actually really valuable information.

Diane Diaz:
Yes, what a great point, because we do talk about that a lot. And the Thought Leader Academy is just getting your message out there imperfectly. You know, minimum viable product. Just get the message out there, because even if it’s not quite right, you will get back valuable information to make it better.

Sharon McMahon:
It’s actually way more valuable to put out bad. I’m not saying wrong information. Don’t be, Chad, but I’m saying information that is not, um, that’s not the the perfect product. That’s not the exact right way to phrase it. That may be like the way that we positioned this product in the market is not exactly how it would be. Best getting feedback from the wrong choice actually is a conduit to doing the right thing much more quickly. You you actually just thinking about it is not always going to help you make the right decision If you want the it’s like, you know I forget which billionaire says this, but the fastest way to be right is to fail faster, like fail faster, do the wrong thing more quickly. And that gives you incredibly valuable information that you can then choose to take and and channel into doing the right thing.

Speaker4:
Yeah. So. So with that, then I’ll take that as the advice that you would like to leave our audience with is to get out there and start using their voice, getting their message, their work out there, as imperfect as it might be at the moment, and start to get the feedback to make it better because the impact is just going to grow, the better that gets.

Speaker4:
That’s right. If you want to get better at it, you have to just do it in practice. It good.

Diane Diaz:
I love that. I love action. All right. Well, Sharon, again, I just I cannot thank you enough for coming on the Speaking Your Brand podcast and sharing your experience with our audience. And also just some words of wisdom that I think as potential future speakers and current speakers, they do want to hear and need to hear about, you know, the impact that their voice can have. So thank you for inspiring all of us. And if you would, can you share with our listeners how they can find you, where they can find you and where they can connect with you?

Sharon McMahon:
Well, thank you so much for inviting me today. It was really fun chatting with you. You can find me on Instagram at Sharon Says. So you can also visit my website, which is Sharon mcmahon.com. Those are probably the two easiest ways to contact me, but you can also listen to my podcast on whatever platform you like. The podcast is called Here’s where it gets interesting.

Diane Diaz:
Yes, and I will second that highly recommend listening to that podcast and we will share all of those things in the show notes, of course. So once again, Sharon, many, many thanks for coming on our podcast and letting our audience hear from you because. I just think it’s so important to see someone doing what you’re doing and so they can see how they might have an impact too. So thank you. Thank you.

Carol Cox:
That wraps our series on using your voice. Make sure to go back and listen to the other fantastic guests that we’ve had. Next week, we’re starting a brand new series all around your personal brand, including defining your personal brand to become a thought leader, building your personal brand both online and offline, styling your personal brand and amplifying your personal brand through public speaking. So make sure to hit, subscribe, or follow in your podcast app so you don’t miss any of these upcoming episodes. Until then, thanks for listening.

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