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Late Starters Club Podcast
Late Starters Club Podcast

This is the place for inspiration, motivation, and mindset resets. You will walk away ready to take action with practical and informative advice from some of the most amazing “Late Starters” on the planet.


Ep125 Transcript: Interview with Bernadette McClelland

July 17, 2023

Andrea Vahl: After a devastating accident and a bankruptcy, my guest today, Bernadette McClelland spent the money saved under her mattress, investing in herself, becoming a coach with Tony Robbins and going on to her own coaching business.

And then in her sixties, her and her husband decided to sell everything and move halfway around the world, coming to America. Listen in to today’s episode as I interview the inspiring Bernadette McClelland.

Hello, dreamers. Welcome to the late starters club, giving you the inspiration, mindset, and tools you need to start something midlife and beyond remember, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Hello, late starters. It’s your host, Andrea Vahl. And today I am joined by Bernadette McClelland. She is amazing. I’m just going to say welcome first, and then I’m going to launch into your amazing accomplishments. So welcome.

Bernadette McClelland: Thank you, Andrea. It’s so cool to be with you.

Andrea Vahl: Very cool. But just to let you know a little bit about what Bernadette has accomplished.

She is a high content speaker on sales leadership and storytelling. She is from Australia originally, but now lives in the United States, which we’re going to dive into a little bit. She is a natural storyteller, inspirational speaker. She’s been a high performance coach for Anthony Robbins. She has been a sales mentor for Harvard MBA students, and she’s an award winning author, top 50 sales speakers, amazing stuff that she has done.

And she has a new book out called Shift and Disrupt. So welcome Bernadette.

Bernadette McClelland: Thanks so much. Thanks so much for that.

Andrea Vahl: So I connected with Bernadette through our National Speakers Association here in Colorado. And when she first joined our group and came to her first meeting, she was just like a bubbly, energetic, like warm person that just, you love to know, and I have just been fascinated with her story about moving Halfway across the globe, uprooting everything and coming here to the U. S. to start a second half of life, basically. So tell us a little bit about what led to that decision and where that came from.

Bernadette McClelland: Yeah, look, I was going to say a couple of drinks, but but no, I’ve been coming over to the United States probably now every year for around a decade.

And the reason for coming over is a community of women’s sales professionals like myself. And it was a fortunate invitation to come to Boston 10, 11 years ago. And. I’m so glad I did because there’s this community of women who are just like me. And we raise each other up and it was 2018 and my, and so in Australia, you as an employee, you get four weeks annual leave.

As paid time off I don’t because I run my own business, but my husband does. And so Tim would come with me every year and we would just take off and have a little holiday. And so we came back, went back home in 2018. And Tim said to me, he said, I wonder what it would take to move and live in America for a few years.

And so we investigated it and now there were four options that you could take. When we spoke to an immigration attorney it was either put a chunk of change on the table it was to be sponsored in by a company, put your name in the lottery and win it, or marry an American, of course. All of those were off the table and and so we just thought, no, it’s not going to happen.

And then the immigration attorney said there is one other way, but she said it’s very restrictive. Doesn’t happen all that often, but she said it’s when you can self petition direct to the immigration department and get an immediate green card, like an immediate residency without it being time.

Sensitive or tied to your employment or whatever it may be. And so we thought about it and we looked at it. There are 12 categories on the website for this particular category. And so I submitted like a school proposal, a school project rather. And I submitted nine categories, and I am a hoarder when it comes to brag files.

And I’m talking about these brag files that went back to my corporate days before the internet. And having memos and things, pieces of proof. And so I submitted it and 12 weeks later, immigration approved it. Wow. I know, 12 weeks later. And so then COVID happened and the immigration policy, the immigration process got pushed out and we thought, nah, two years down the track, this is not going to happen.

Our daughter had a baby, our son got married and we thought that’s it. We’re here in Melbourne forever. And then it was the final week in November of 2021. And there was one more step that we had to go through that simply an interview with the U S consulate in Sydney. And so we lived in Melbourne and I got this email in the final week of November.

And it said, unfortunately the U S consulates renovating their offices in Sydney and your appointment in two weeks time is in Melbourne. Oh, so we went along for the interview with the U. S. consulate and five weeks later our passports came back stamped. And so we have immediate residency for the USA.

My husband got it purely for carrying my bags. And so we landed in Denver and, we love it. We love Denver. I told our two adult children, we’re only going over for a year to two years. It’s been 18 months now and and we’re just really settling in beautifully, but yeah, in answer to your question, we did, we sold everything.

We rented our house out and we kept a little pod, a 10 by 6 foot pod with our treasures in it. But apart from that, marketplace had a workout like you would not believe.

Andrea Vahl: Wow. So you really planned on, you just. You said, let’s just sell

Bernadette McClelland: it all, do it.

Let’s just do it. And from a logistical perspective our kids who are adults gave us their blessing.

And my daughter, she’s says to me, Oh mom, what are you going to do about this? What do you know about that? Oh my gosh, this is going to be really interesting to watch play out because we just, I don’t know. We just. We just did what was in our hearts and our gut and and just the universe just completely opened up.

Like it was just almost magical. We had enough points for a one way ticket to Denver. We had some great support here. We just, everything just fell into line and it continues to do so.

Andrea Vahl: Right, right. So, you know, Everything was the red carpet was rolled out practically to say, you need to be here. And how did you choose Denver? What was, what went into that thought process?

Bernadette McClelland: So we were always going to move to Atlanta because we have friends there. And and then I came across to Denver in December, 2019, just before COVID hit. And I went to a program. There was a program here for speakers which is where I met people like Kendra Prospero and Susan Frew and some other wonderful people.

And also some of the women in the sales professional network. There’s probably about. Five of them that live here as well. And so that was my first foray into Denver and people in Denver. And I was, we’d never thought of Denver because I’m not into snow. And then I found out that Denver has 320 days of summer and I was there in December and there was hardly any snow.

And so flying home over the Rockies, I just looked down at the Rockies and I know this sounds a bit woo. But in my mind, I could just see this circle, a blue and green swish like a kid does, like a child does with water paints. There’s just this blue and green swish and then there was this long grey streak.

So the long grey streak was Atlanta, the blue and green swish, circular swish was Denver. And I thought, nah, that’s it, we’re going to Denver if we get the green card.

Andrea Vahl: Wow. Wow. So you were just listening to your heart and your gut the whole time.

Bernadette McClelland: Logic. I think if we really went to logic mode I think fear might’ve stepped in and all that. But we’re just like, it’s supposed to happen.

Andrea Vahl: That’s amazing. And definitely yeah, definitely fear is fear pretends to be logical. I think.

Bernadette McClelland: I agree. I really do agree with that.

Andrea Vahl: Yes. That’s really amazing. And your business is virtual. So you, You were able to then pick up and move and still have your business,


Bernadette McClelland: I came over here knowing I would have to start brand new. Late starters club absolutely start brand new. It’s great to have some friends here and a support system, but from a business perspective I am going out. Brand new networking. I never used to network in Australia but I’m networking here.

I love it. There’s a different energy in Denver which I’m really enjoying. And yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to bring business with me. So the virtual aspect has allowed me to coach and train and speak through the camera but what I’m finding here is that. Face to face is really starting to open up again.

So that’s where my focus is going to be moving through that speaking channel and the consulting channel as well. So brand new. I figured if Colonel Sanders could start at 65, then…

Andrea Vahl: Thats right. That’s great. Exactly. And he also was. knocking on doors and getting out there and networking and, making those connections.

So that’s that’s important. So that’s great. But you also had, I’ve learned a story that I wasn’t familiar with with you and the whole bankruptcy when you turned 50, the whole, that was a journey. Now, did that happen when you, right when you were In your fifties or was that…?

Bernadette McClelland: Yeah, I actually it was 2009 and we had a, we had our, my husband and I owned a business. It was a wholesale and it was a retail part to it, a wholesale part and an importing part. And it was in the pet supplies industry. And and we had just had a container load of designer job beds that we used to sell and they’d been delivered.

So there were all these beds on the floor in the warehouse and I’m doing the Goldilocks thing too hard, too soft, just right. And I pulled myself up on the fork by the forklift handle. And unbeknownst to me, as I pulled it up, the handle went backwards and the forklift went into reverse and it did a huge tissue damage to my shin.

And then to cut a long story short the penicillin that they gave me eventually to counteract that, shut my liver down. So all of 2009, I was bedridden and as a result, we lost everything like the full bankruptcy story. And and so I started to get better. My 50th birthday was actually I think just around that was when I was started able to start walking again and being able to stand up after sitting without needing help and all of that kind of stuff.

So it really was starting again from a physical perspective but also we, both of us ended up being on welfare. And in Australia, we were on welfare on Centrelink for six months and we were able to get a little tiny little bit of cash out of the business in the last couple of weeks because our Admin girl had been putting it into the bank account that we weren’t able to withdraw from. So all this kind of stuff and so we looked at this literally had this cash in a little black evening bag under our mattress.

And we lived in a country town in Victoria, and we looked at this money and we thought, okay, we can do one or two things. We can keep it under our mattress and I can go get a job probably at the local chemist or pharmacy, or we can take that money and invest it in me. And. We did the latter. And so that was scary because not only were we bankrupt, but what little cash we had was now invested in me, but that was a decision that, it’s a bit like sliding doors.

You don’t know what’s around the corner until you actually do something. And so that was 10 years ago. And now we’re over here and life is different. So there’s the blessings, there were blessings in bankruptcy.

Andrea Vahl: Wow. That’s just amazing to go from. And there, you hear those stories about people, I was homeless and living on a couch and then…

it is amazing. So that’s just been 10 years, a 10 year span to go from absolute zero to now being able to move halfway around the world and have a thriving business. So I think that’s just a, especially, in your fifties to, to build that back up. And that’s just amazing. And I think that’s a great message for anyone who is feeling like they’re at rock bottom to know that you can make a decision that’s going to change your life and take a drastically different swing, upwards. So that’s great.

Bernadette McClelland: And I think the word that you used there just to know, the word no there, people will say, how have you done it? And yes, I’m probably lucky I’ve got good resilience genes but also.

Tim and I we really focused in on a couple of things and one was we were debt free and that was a lifetime goal we’d always had, and so it was gifted to us, not just in the way that we wanted it, but it was gifted to us and it was like, okay, we can go anywhere now. We can literally rewrite the script.

And so it’s, money is not a driving force. In fact, we’re not front financially. We are not what you would class as wealthy people at all. We’re really focusing in on a couple of things. One is our role model status for our Children. Because they are in their twenties and, you know, both of them are 20, late twenties and, mid thirties and their lives are just taking off like ours did at that age and they’re going to hit, they’re going to hit roadblocks like, so we would really focused in on, okay, how can we be the role model for our children that says it’s going to happen and how you get through is just, you’ve just got to have a knowing that it’s going to be okay.

Andrea Vahl: And that’s a hard thing to do because again, that fear can kick in and just mind starts going and what about this? What about this? What about that? Like your, daughter was talking about with moving halfway across the country. And if we listen to that voice, it’s just going to stop us from doing amazing things in our lives.

Bernadette McClelland: And yeah, and it’s just a part of it. It’s human. It’s just such a human biological factor that it kicks in. And we’ve got to over, we’ve got to override it. And I keep telling myself that every morning when I need to do exercise, I’ve just got to keep going.

Andrea Vahl: And did you have a time where, during That time of bankruptcy, did you have a, some dark moments where it felt like there wasn’t a lot of hope in there? Or what, how did you push through that?

Bernadette McClelland: So like I said, I think what I did and I’m might, my husband had a totally different experience.

So I went into complete logic mode. I went into, okay, what do I need to do? So there was real, it was a real I’m just trying to think of the word I just went into, oh, what’s the word I’m thinking of? A robotic kind of like, okay, so. what do I need to do? Start at the end, you know, start at the end.

What do you want to do this, quarter or what do you want to do? Where do we want to go first? And first things first is we’ve got to move back down to Melbourne. So I got really logical about things move out of the country, go down to Melbourne. This is what we need to do. Find a rental. So it was all that kind of stuff, right?

I think it was while I was in bed. So I literally was bedridden and I needed help with everything. And I think it was in those moments I lay there thinking, okay, I’m not going to be here very shortly. Like I am on my way out and it was things like. Okay. If I make it through, not when it was, if I make it through, what are the things that you’ve regretted?

And it was just a couple of, that’s why we’ve probably gone all in with what I’m doing now, because at the end of it, at that, when you put your head on the pillow for the last time it’s not about money. It’s, it is about those things. What are those things that I wished I’d done or said or not said or whatever.

My husband was a different kettlefish. He, being the provider and protector of the family, felt that he was letting everybody down. And so he had some very dark moments. And he doesn’t mind me sharing this because we’ve both shared it together on video on LinkedIn, especially through COVID when businesses were going You know, downhill, but there was one particular time and I’d started my coaching journey.

So I was getting better now. And he had gone to the doctor and this may be relevant to your listeners as well. He had gone to the doctor and he came back and he said. Doctor Power says I’ve got depression and I hit the roof. I know because my mom had been on medication just about all my life for breakdowns, depression, and I did not.

I was so scared that I would lose Tim and I said to him. No, you’re not going on medication. And he said, Who’s this about you or me? Anyway, he said, Okay, I’ll go a few weeks without any form of medication. And with that I had learned at that point, I just started to work with Anthony Robbins, Tony Robbins, and there was something I’d heard that if you go into a depressive state, you are thinking about the past and you are thinking about yourself.

And so I, we had this conversation and he went into the spare bedroom for about a month, sat in the dark room and he built my website. Now, I’m not saying people out there that have depression, that it’s, that’s not what I’m saying. It’s not about, it’s about him in that particular point in time.

And so he did. And so I think that’s part of our journey is always looking on what’s next and not looking at the past, but moving forward in different ways.

Andrea Vahl: Right. Right. That is definitely a great way to, Train your mind because I think that if you just have some goals ahead of you and to really see if you can drop the past and leave it, then then that can be a good way to just keep moving forward one step at a time, right? So yeah, that’s interesting. I hadn’t heard about the past and yourself. There’s different ways people respond to depression. And of course everyone has their own unique journey. And, but as I’m sure as a spouse, you have a good vision into his personality and knowing what might help him. So that’s great that worked.

Bernadette McClelland: And everybody, I just want to make that clear. Everybody is on their own journey. And yeah, totally.

Andrea Vahl: Yep. So yeah, so you started the coaching journey with Tony Robbins. And while you were bedridden and started to learn about that and get into that, is that how that works?

Bernadette McClelland: When I got better, that was the investment was into a deployment. Wasn’t with Tony at that stage. So I went to a, like a coaching school in Melbourne. I did an 18 month diploma in everything, executive coaching, business, sales, you name it every form of coaching and came out with my diploma.

So I had to I had to complete that, in honor of us investing all this money and and it was while I was doing that, I saw a free coaching session on, online and with the Tony Robbins coach. So it was. It was obviously a a sales strategy for them. So I did this free coaching and I said to the guy, Steve, who was on the phone, I actually thought he was a coach, but he was the salesperson.

And I said, I’m just going to copy you. I’m just letting you know. And so anyway, my got off the phone and my husband said to me, so what did they try to sell you? And I said he didn’t sell me anything. And I said, But, obviously it was a, in the intro into the coaching and Tim said, go back and find out how much it costs.

And so I did. And my daughter ended up paying for that for me cause we had no money and which we. We had to pay her back, of course. And it was probably three months into that coaching of me being coached by a woman called Cynthia. And the phone rang one morning. I was making my son’s school lunch, and Tim answered the phone, and he said, there’s a guy from America on the phone to you.

And I’m like, that’s a bit weird. And I said, who’s that? And it was Steve. And I said, what are you doing ringing me? You already sold me, and he’s gone. Tony wants is looking for 20 coaches globally and Cynthia and I said, you have to put your hat in the ring and this is really weird. So Andrea, the day before Cynthia had given me homework to do and that homework was to write a manifestation letter.

And I’d never heard what that was. And it’s like. Go into the future a year and write a letter to someone you haven’t seen for ages, telling them everything you’ve done. Of course, you don’t have to send it. So Steve’s run and I’m on the phone to this guy and I’ve, and he’s told me that Tony has opened up this spot, blah, blah.

And so I said, Oh my God, I said, walk with me. And so he, when I took him into the office on my phone and I said, let me read the final line of my letter. That I had written for homework yesterday and it said Tony Robbins has rung me to congratulate me on an awesome year and asked me to be his coach for Australia and New Zealand.

And I knew then that whatever hoops I had to jump through, that was mine. . So once again I, my daughter paid for my ticket. I went across to uh, long Beach and did the training. And of course that just opened up a stream of income for me and opportunity to, I never drank the Kool-Aid.

I just do want to put that out there. But an opportunity to really understand the psychology behind individuals and businesses and teams. And all the rest of them.

Andrea Vahl: That’s amazing. You’re a master manifester. I think

that is awesome. And that is awesome. I think that what is cool about this story is just how you’ve gotten creative in financing these dreams and. And obviously your family has been very important in your, in your success as well. So that’s great that you’ve been able to connect with them and make that all happen.

Bernadette McClelland: Definitely. Definitely.

Andrea Vahl: Now is your husband able to work in the US or is it…?

Bernadette McClelland: He got his social security number the week we landed. So we’re both.

Andrea Vahl: That’s amazing. That’s so great.

Bernadette McClelland: That is was a gift, a real gift.

Andrea Vahl: Very cool. And then have you, obviously you haven’t had any regrets with leaving everything behind.

You’ve been enjoying yourself and just letting it unfold. Is that the strategy there?

Bernadette McClelland: Yeah, look, we’re going back in August to see because our daughter had a her second little girl two days ago. Ye ah, so it’s wonderful. So we’re heading back in August for, I’ll be over there for three weeks.

And we’re not missing Australia. We’re not missing our beautiful, our house was only five years old. We built it. We’re not missing our house. So we’re just loving it here. And yeah, people like you that there’s, our communities are just wonderful people and have welcomed us just like family. So it’s been beautiful.

Andrea Vahl: Have there been any unexpected challenges with Moving into a brand new culture. It wasn’t really brand new to you. Obviously you’ve been coming over here a lot, but is there any…?

Bernadette McClelland: Yeah, there have been differences. We really, Melbourne is, I think the coffee capital of the world and we are really missing a really great cappuccino made by a barista that knows what they’re doing.

And just things like it took me, we talk about. you talk about fear. I don’t know what it was, but it took me six months to actually get in the driver’s seat of our car. I went around Costco car park, but it’s just driving on the other side of the road. I was so nervous about that.

I went and got my license at it. I’ve been here a year. I went and got my license. And so I really took my time about that. Business wise I’m really ramping that up as we speak right now. I. I’ve been working out of still with Australian clients. So it’s time now I got into the US side of business. That’s on the horizon.

Andrea Vahl: That’s awesome. That is awesome. Of course, all the best of luck. I know you’re going to just continue to be amazing and shine here in in the Denver area and the U S and we’re glad to have you here. That’s just, so one of the things I always love to ask people is their favorite inspirational quote or saying, I’m such a quote junkie that I love to hear what other people resonate with.

Bernadette McClelland: Yeah, there’s there’s one that, my son, when we were going through tough times my son, I think he was probably only 17 at the time and I must have been crying or whatever and and he’s come up to me and he said, mom, and I’ve, I’ve stuck with this. This is almost like a mantra and he said, mom, it’ll work out in the end and if it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end. And I kind of overlay that on everything now, business building friendships, whatever it may be. But that’s, yeah, that’s stuck with me.

Andrea Vahl: I love that. I love that. And yeah, just very inspiring. So well, Bernadette, thank you so much for your time and inspiring the listeners here at the Late Starters Club.

I know everyone, I know there’s. Probably a lot of people who have thought about moving halfway across the world. And so it’s interesting to hear how you’ve done it. And that’s such a cool story that everything just unfolded so well for you.

Bernadette McClelland: Thank you, Andrea.

Andrea Vahl: Yep. Thanks. And we’ll have your, just let people know where people can find you easiest. We’ll have the links in the show note, but show notes, but go ahead and share that with our listeners.

Bernadette McClelland: On LinkedIn Bernadette McClelland on LinkedIn on YouTube at The Story Seller and I’m just trying to think, I don’t know if threads is going to be…

Andrea Vahl: I know, I know as of this recording…

we’ll have links to your website and LinkedIn, all that stuff, YouTube all in the show notes. But thank you so much for your time.

Bernadette McClelland: My pleasure. Thanks. Thanks so much. Great show.

Andrea Vahl: Hope that was helpful and make sure you grab the free guide top tools for late starters on the website at late starters club. com and let’s turn dreaming into doing.

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Late Starters Club Podcast
Late Starters Club Podcast

This is the place for inspiration, motivation, and mindset resets. You will walk away ready to take action with practical and informative advice from some of the most amazing “Late Starters” on the planet.

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