Jill L. Ferguson is a recovering academic who has never quite recovered since she does higher educational consulting for universities and colleges and academic organizations worldwide. She is an award-winning writer, author of half a dozen books and an artist who paints comedic animals and abstracts in acrylics. She is also the founder of Women's Wellness Weekends and a sought-after public speaker and personal and business consultant.
What do I do best?
Bring enthusiasm, wonder and awe to almost everything I do. I can easily see the big picture while also paying attention to the details in a project or around me. (I was hired for a job once with the job description of “helping the CEO think and saving his ass”.) I oftentimes provide a unique perspective.
I have very few fears so I see beauty where others may not: in insects and spiders, the patterns on a snake, the facades of old buildings, the peeling bark of a tree, for example.
Also, I’m a highly intuitive empath so I can feel or see the underlying emotions of those around me, which helps me to address others’ spoken and unspoken concerns, and sometimes I see flashes of the future. People have come to me for personal and business coaching based on these gifts I possess and for that I am very grateful. These gifts also have made my writing more powerful as I feel the characters as I write them. (An example is Sometimes Art Can’t Save You. I’ve received many letters from self-injurers over the last decade since the book was published. They are amazed to find out I’ve never self-injured or even considered it. One particular woman said, “But your character Jessica voiced the words I’ve used and even thought the things I have. How did you do that?”)
What makes me the best version of myself?
Persistence. Optimism. Intuition. And never resting on past successes.
I’ve been writing for publications since I was 12 years old and public speaking and/or performing in public for almost as long. All of the success I’ve had has been bolstered with rejections. Plugging away and growing in each craft through practice, listening to feedback and being flexible to incorporate the feedback and changing as needed is the only way to thrive and reach new levels.
When I finish a project, I am rarely thinking about that project or any accolades its received. I’m usually onto the next things and how to do those to the best of my abilities and reach the next goals.
What are my aspirations?
Professional: 1) to grow Women’s Wellness Weekends (www.womenswellnessweekends.com) into a worldwide movement where women take time from their everyday lives to nurture themselves, to learn about others, to feel refreshed and supported and for self-enrichment. 2) write two dozen more books and many more articles that encourage and/or educate readers around the world. 3) Work with more universities and their faculty to help them reach their goals and further their students’ educational success.
Personal: I love public speaking and interactions in both small and large groups. I would love the opportunity to speak at more commencements, conferences and workshops. And I would love to collaborate on some creative projects, like incorporating my artwork into fashion, accessories or shoes or my writing into some form of mixed media or artwork. Working with other creative people inspires me and brings me joy.
My Biggest Success?
I believe my biggest success is still to come, but I am proud of all six books I’ve written or co-authored (and one that has been translated) and the half of dozen books of others to which I’ve contributed chapters, of the two books that will be forthcoming this year, of all of the paintings I’ve done that were commissioned by people of their pets or other people’s animals as gifts, and of the work I’ve done with some fine universities and faculty around the world. I’m also very proud of the four La Roche College scholarships I’ve funded annually since 2000.
But personally, my biggest success has been learning to trust my intuition even when it is telling me things that don’t make logical sense. It has never let me down. And another success has been learning to trust my intuition and sense of knowing when other people consult me for advice.
My Most Challenging Moment?
My most challenging moment was deciding to end my first marriage. I had been raised with the mindset that 1) everything can be worked through and 2) it’s noble to take care of those around us. When I realized these beliefs weren’t always true and could be to our detriments and decided to put myself and my well-being first, I got a lot of push-back from some family members and friends. (In fact, my grandmother who was dying at the time, told me what I was doing went against God.) But I knew that living the way we were was causing negative health effects for me and was not my best life. I had to trust that what I was feeling was my truth and honor that and trust that my future would not only be fine but that I would flourish. It took a lot of faith and working through pain. But it taught me to stand up for myself and for what I think is right for me. And I’ve since applied that lesson to other aspects of my life, both personally and professionally.
I love the Rumi quote: When you do things from your soul, you feel a river of joy within you.
And like Kyle Gray, I start every day with a sort-of prayer: I thank God for all of my many blessings, I declare I will not try to control my life but will be open to whatever it is I am intended to do. I express gratitude for the people I will encounter that day and for all of the situations I will be in. And I say I am open to embracing new opportunities.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
My two grandmothers. My paternal grandmother was born with half an ovary and told she would never have kids so she planned a career and was an entrepreneur way ahead of a time when that was really an option for women. And miraculously, she gave birth to three sons in three years…and had a housekeeper/nanny care for them as she pursued her career. My maternal grandmother was the oldest of 10 kids and only went to school until eighth grade since she had to drop out to care for the younger siblings. But she met few strangers that she didn’t try to befriend or that she didn’t ply with coffee and home-cooked food. She understood the power of connecting with people and how to be a friend.
Judy Blume. She’s built a successful writing career by crafting books for all ages that speak to exactly where people are.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
I love to travel. I may be a weird person because I love airports, airport lounges and being on planes. Instead of being perturbed by the process, I’m in a happy peaceful space, and the longer the flight the better. I’ve spent much time the last three years in Singapore and enjoyed every minute of it. The staff at the Shangri-La and the Fairmont made my birthday celebrations memorable in 2017.
I loved exploring the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand and the city of Phuket with all of its incredible food, colorful temples and Big Buddha presiding over the whole island.
Both Japan and Germany feel like second homes to me. And San Francisco, Toronto and London rank among my favorite cities (of course I lived in San Francisco for 15 years so I became quite familiar with its charms and challenges).
My Favorite Products/Objects?
I have a gold, enameled and jeweled elephant that was given to me in a roundabout way from the Dalai Lama. A former student of mine, from Japan, moved in with me with her newborn while we was escaping an negative marital situation. She and her baby lived with us for two years. Her uncle’s best friend was close with the Dalai Lama and they traveled from Japan to Europe where his Holiness was undergoing medical tests. I’m not sure what exactly was said, but the Dalai Lama gave the elephant to the uncle who then had to sent from Japan to the U.S. to me to thank me for taking in his niece and her baby. The elephant arrived from Japan the same day my students and I had been discussing a book in class that included the Noble Truths of Buddhism. So that elephant reminds me of my friend the student, her son, and the serendipitous way life often works.
One gold sea turtle earring (I lost the other). When I was a freshman in college I was part of a drama troupe that performed throughout Maryland and Virginia during spring break. We did skits and sang songs at schools and churches. One Sunday evening, I sang a solo and two women approached me afterwards, one was from Portugal just visiting for a few weeks and the other was her daughter. The older woman spoken little to no English, but through the daughter’s translation, she told me how much my singing and the emotion behind it touched her. Her eyes were teary. She said she didn’t have much but she wanted to thank me for what I brought to her life, and she removed the earrings she was wearing—gold sea turtles—pressed them into my hand, hugged and kissed me and walked away.
Paintings we create each Women’s Wellness Weekends event. From our very first Women’s Wellness Weekend, participants have written a big canvas their takeaways and things they have been grateful for during the weekend, one-day retreat or workshop. Each canvas is dated and marked with the event name and I have a stash of them and these canvases will one day decorate the walls of the Women’s Wellness Weekends offices, once we move into that space. They are reminders of whose lives we’ve touched, new friends we’ve made and how we’ve grown both as individuals and as a company.
My Current Passions?
I love hiking and walking the dog a couple of times per day.
I love cooking plant-based foods, creating new recipes and adapting older ones (though I am not a vegetarian or vegan but I do cook a lot of both types of food).
I love driving fast cars with big engines.
Travel. I love exploring new places and meeting new people and learning history and culture.