Mindful Living Expert, Author, Keynote Speaker, & Powerful Wellness Coach
I help visionaries find the right balance between their work and their life. We used to call this work-life balance, but now we know better. Work and life are integrated, not separate things. In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing digital economy, finding a way to work smarter, work less, but earn more, is the top of everyone’s list. The only way to truly succeed and keep your brand relevant is to stay healthy. I help you do just that by deploying some of the best mindfulness and total wellness hacks around. I have more than 20 years in the game and I’ve crawled out of burnout, anxiety, depletion, and overwhelm so I can devote my life to helping you stay accountable to your end goals. In sum, I support you in pressing reset so you can start walking the wellness path of real, authentic work-life integration.
I am best when I’m able to get before a crowd and inspire my audience to truly dig deep, to feel deeply to garner the courage to be present and to seize their dreams.
I value truth-telling and being authentic by living from the inside out. I have a close circle of mentors who aren’t afraid to challenge me and disagree. It’s so important not to surround oneself with sycophants in order to avoid “Groupthink.
I want to get back into going to Bikram yoga regularly. When I did, I was in peak physical condition. Businesswise, I want to develop my business to such an extent, that my daughter (who is now a teen) can either join me or inherit the business one day.
Sharing stages with and opening for some of my (and the world’s top international icons): Howard Zinn, Dr. Maya Angelou, and The Dalai Lama. Definitely speaking twice at TEDx and at SXSW. Those were all memorable moments that I’ll cherish for a lifetime.
I was nominated by my undergraduate alma mater (Binghamton University) for a Henry Luce Fellowship. The prestigious Luce Scholars Program seeks to enhance understanding of Asia among potential leaders in American society. A nationally competitive fellowship program, it provides awarded Scholars with stipends, language training, and individualized professional placement in Asia for one year. Naturally, it is a highly competitive interviewing process spread out over a few months that narrows about 100 or more finalists from over 70 colleges that nominate alumni, to less than 20 Americans were chosen. I emerged as a winner, but I had to decline acceptance because my father was dying from his cancer, and my mother needed me at home to help her. It was one of the most difficult choices I’ve had to make in my life.
“Healing begins where the wound was made.” -Alice Walker – I believe our wounds are the ways in which we deeply connect with others. I devote my life to helping others heal from trauma and to make both stories, art, and purpose out of their wounds.
The Adirondacks (my family and I vacation there annually); Austin, TX (my first trip was recently for SXSW and I fell in love with the place – it feels so much like the Ithaca (where I live now) of the South); naturally, the Finger Lake region where I reside because it has breathtaking gorges (I lead a regular hiking club), award-winning wines, and spectacular sunsets. Kruger National Park in South Africa where I went on an unforgettable safari once; Mozambique, where I was able to deliver newspapers to rural villages, among other educational excursions (with the amazing organization CouldYou?) and Puerto Vallarta where a client (Mindvalley.com) invited me to teach meditation, during their internationally-popular invitation-only “Awesomeness Fest” retreats and excursions. My daughter has on her bucket list a mother-daughter trip to Italy and Greece in two years, so naturally, we’re there.
I am passionate about devouring as many podcasts that grow my mind, my business, and make me laugh as possible.
To use mindful self-care and mindful living to fulfill the goals that help me achieve my end goals and my company’s visions.
To curb my impatience and accept what I cannot control each day. “The impatient idealist says: ‘Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth.’ But such a place does not exist. We all have to stand on the earth itself and go with her at her pace.” -Chinua Achebe (No Longer at Ease)
Make a list of the priorities and get through the top priorities. Sometimes it’s better to be a good parent than to check off every “to do” from the work list for that day.
To keep surrounding myself with people who inspire, empower, and lift as they climb.
Make every moment count. Always pay something forward each day (or weekly) if that’s more doable for you.
How did you get into the industry?
As a young child, adults naturally confided in me about their stresses, challenges, and dreams. This had both pros and cons, however, the big benefit was that I realized I was trusted by people older than I. Later, this same trust was bestowed when a college professor in graduate school was unable to attend a conference in D.C., which was an international one. As a student, I had to learn his program, present, and recruit future speakers. I was in my 20s and knew right then, speaking before a Congressional panel, that I wanted to be a speaker and consultant. I changed my program emphasis and launched my startup the minute I returned home.
Any emerging industry trends?
As an Eastern traditional healing art, the practice of mindfulness is not new, however, the West’s integration of mindfulness is fairly recent. A recent Harvard studyshowed that through meditation, a mainstay of mindfulness, the brain was able to create new gray matter. Increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection was discovered in this study. I believe that we’ll continue to explore the link between brain health and emotional intelligence and how it impacts our workplace dynamics, health care costs, and overall productivity in the work-life integration model.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
It’s essential in business to clearly understand your digital strategy and how to make it responsive to the digital needs of your future customers. The more agile, flexible, and educated we can be about the digital needs of tomorrow, the more we are equipped to stay relevant today. Because many of us working as B2B coaches, speakers, and trainers do 1:1 coaching as well, I found it made intuitive sense to partner with CommonGenius for my live coaching calls and training sessions. They’re a great company to partner with and they’re right on the leading edge of what’s hottest that’s happening in tech right now. https://commongenius.com/expert-consultant/michelle-courtney-berry
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
Many visionary leaders, despite their best efforts, are held back by low energy and high-stress levels. I help people get back to peak performance by coaching them on how to mindfully reduce stress and in turn, restore their health.
As a survivor who has crawled out of anxiety, depression, overwhelm, and living a life on full throttle with no downtime when I launched my start-up, I take my lessons (both successes and failures) and help others either interrupt or prevent burnout.
Because of my deep devotion to helping visionaries thrive, I partner with the brightest minds in the wellness industry to create collaborative cultures of preventive health care to interrupt the cycle of unmitigated stress that leads to skyrocketing health care costs. My big picture vision is to substantially improve the health of New Yorkers in less than a generation.
What’s next for the Business in the near future?
According to Gloria Mark, professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, office workers are interrupted or self-interrupt every three minutes during the day, with distractions coming from both digital and human forms.
In another study in the Wall Street Journal, published by Mark, reported that, on average, employees visit Facebook 21 times a day and check email 74 times. (Source: Forbes). So the business now and of the future must recognize that interruptions are one of the biggests sources of stress, job dissatisfaction, and costs for the organization. More mindful approaches to how we deal with these interruptions and much better coaching on how to organize and prioritize is needed from our top managers of tomorrow.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
When you’re talented at many things as so many of us are, it can be hard to laser-focus into a match between the top thing you love and what’s most scalable. I found that by doing less, I earned more, and I was able to truly drill down deeply into not only what moved me the most in my work, but what the best match and fit was for my clients. From the whole realm of topics related to stress and burnout management and reduction, I found that mindful approaches to either reducing or avoiding incidences of burnout were the best fits for my passions and my client’s needs. Making a business case for the ROI for teaching mindfulness was easier than I realized. Future-thinking workplaces are already moving in this direction. With skyrocketing costs of healthcare that are often brought upon by disorders and diseases that could be prevented through better diet, more movement, and less stress at work, the case for mindful self-care is easy to make.
Your most difficult moment at the Business?
I have a solid background and expertise in marketing and brand management. It’s tempting to do it all yourself when you do, but it’s a mistake. I lost thousands of dollars trying to do all of my own marketing and website design (which was mostly crappy because I’m not a website design expert). So, you need other eyes on your brand. You could be the very best expert brand manager for someone else, but you’re not objective enough to market yourself without other experts on the case for you.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
My clients who are coachable, want to grow, and are truly invested in being held accountable to end goals, find that they are immediately able to develop actionable steps by starting slow, getting laser-focused, and developing small wellness practices that
How do you motivate others?
I motivate from a place of deep authenticity. I share the struggles, failures, and successful techniques I’ve used to overcome the same challenges that my client’s are facing (work-life integration, time management, and mindful eating, working, and living).
Career advice to those in your industry?
Ignore the naysayers (many of whom will be well-meaning but come from your circle of friends and family). Sometimes people who want the best for us, bring their fears forward instead of understanding your big picture dreams. Get many mentors outside of your immediate circle, so you can receive more objective feedback while getting crystal-clear on what you truly are born to do.
Day in My Life:
What do you love most about Your City? I lived here while attending graduate school at Cornell University. I moved back to the metropolitan areas of NY and DC, but I knew when I thought of raising a family and living somewhere rural but cosmopolitan, Ithaca would be where I ventured back to. With more restaurants per capita than NYC and a scenic beauty that takes your breath away no matter how many times you’ve seen it, Ithaca deserves all the many awards it gets for being one of the best cities to live in in the nation. https://www.visitithaca.com/awards-mentions
The Finger Lakes region in Upstate New York gets its name from 11 long, thin lakes that were forged by glaciers thousands of years ago. The upheaval created breathtaking geography—more than 1,000 waterfalls spill down the sides of the area’s famous rocky gorges. Fishing, boating, and hiking are its biggest draws—head to Watkins Glen State Park to follow a 2-mile trail past 19 waterfalls—along with more than 100 wineries.
Ithaca, which borders Cayuga Lake, is the region’s largest town. Come for the postcard-worthy views of Ithaca Falls, and stay for the small-town charm. Downtown Ithaca’s historical buildings house bistros, boutiques, and taverns that serve local wine from the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. This is also where you’ll find Cornell University, one of New York’s two Ivy League schools.
Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?
Stone cut oats, almond milk, and slivered almonds with just a drop of Vermont maple syrup.
Favorite restaurant in my hometown: Just a Taste.
Favorite restaurant in Manhattan where I was born: Water
111 E. 7th St., nr. Ave. A; 646-767-0476
What are you doing at:
6:00 AM – Sleeping, hitting snooze, or I’m already on the road.
10:00 AM – Selling myself to new clients or collaborating with existing ones. This is one of the best times of day to convince others.
12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal?
Hiking in the “Gorges” Finger Lakes then grabbing a healthy salad at Core Life Eatery.
7:00 PM – Nagging my teen to get off Snapchat and do her homework.
11:00 PM – Curled up in bed with the heating blanket on, reading The New Yorker or reading a good book, with my cat Caitlyn snuggled next to me OR snuggled on the couch with the family watching something on Netflix or Hulu.
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
I don’t need any drink that’s not water to get through the day. Starting with hot water with lemon and drinking 70 oz or more of water and plenty of fruit. I also make an “Alkagizer” morning greens drink from the “Wild Fit” program.
Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?
Facebook and LinkedIn.
Favorite gram account – humansofny or dumpedwifesrevente
What should everyone try at least once?
Reading science fiction by black women authors. If you haven’t, you have no idea what you’re missing, but now you will know.
Where do you enjoy getting lost?
Inside the pages of that great novel you put off until summer vacation and there you are, suddenly catapulted beyond time and space. Check out N.K, Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, among others. Dazzlings stuff.
What Else to Know?
My recent talk at SXSW, “Mindful Self-Care as the Antidote to Burnout at Work” was considered one of the surprise hits of SXSW and included over 1800 likes and people interested in attending my talk, which led to being asked to do an encore presentation in my first appearance at SXSW which was simply amazing.
Reviews about My Talk from Audience Members https://www.edelman.com/insights/sxsw-2019-detox-and-download?fbclid=IwAR0eiv9LEyiAy7lf4CacZU766YXDBgV7Rd5xJNOtnMKwP3O7iXFn_G8vN44
Blog Post about my talk from the UK
My most recent SXSW Talk https://schedule.sxsw.com/2019/speakers/2005044 with audio
Her top presentations include two talks (one was an encore presentation) at SXSW 2019 (entitled: Mindful Self-Care as the Antidote to Burnout at Work”) which was hailed by numerous attendees from around the world as “one of this year’s best sessions;” her first TEDx talk (“Heartfelt Communication in Stressful Times”); her second TEDx talk (“Waking Up to Your Wonderful Life”); as well as transformative training and coaching sessions delivered throughout the U.S., Canada, and Africa since 1990.
Michelle holds a graduate degree in Organizational Communication and Risk Communication from Cornell University and a dual-BA degree in English, Literature & Rhetoric and Political Science from Binghamton University, where she was the Commencement Speaker. She has also been a Summer Scholar in Economics and Media Ethics at Georgetown University’s Institute on Political Journalism. Born in Manhattan, Michelle is an American of African and Scandinavian heritage, who was was raised two hours north of New York City in a tiny cabin in the Catskill Mountains. There, she blossomed as an early creator, writer, poet, critical thinker, nature lover, and entrepreneur who earned her stripes in almost every form of outdoor recreation imaginable.
* Mindful Self-Care as the Antidote to Burnout at Work
* Meditation 101
* Catapulting Productivity through Outdoor Fitness
* Making Conflict Work – at Work
* How Authentic Communication Drives Innovation
* The Link Between Health and Wealth
* The Financial Benefits of Gratitude