I first met Aliza Sherman a few years ago at BlogHer. She walked into the hotel room that I was sharing with my sister in law, wearing a pink boa and exuding a joie de vivre air that was infectious. And that image has been indelibly sketched into my brain to this day. So, I was thrilled when Aliza wrote in response to my open call for Reinventing Women with a desire to share her story of evolution and consistent change. Just like a chameleon, it appears that deliberate transformation, however challenging at times, has allowed her to thrive.
Data have shown that when faced with significant adversity, many individuals are able to harness their experiences into ‘stress-related growth,’ thereby achieving positive and constructive change in their selves and in their lives. Aliza explains that drastic changes in her life began to unfold in the 90s, when she was held up at gunpoint and kidnapped. While she managed to escape her captors, she says that it was a turning point for her, and altered how she looked at her career. Although only in her 20s at the time, she had already lived two professional lives, first in the music business working with Metallica and Def Leppard, and then with a small non-profit working on domestic abuse. “I think that I was lucky in my unluckiness of being held up,” she says.”I lived to realize how short life really is and how I needed to pursue my own dreams.” And pursue them, she did, founding Cybergrrl, Inc — the first full-service internet company owned by a woman — and then Webgrrls International, a consortium known as the first global women’s new media networking organization.
For Aliza, reinvention refers to constantly rethinking what she’s doing — how she’s living, how she’s behaving, how she makes decisions and how she presents herself. “For many years, I’ve said I admire Madonna for the way she reinvents herself. Every few years she pushes creative envelopes, becomes a new ‘persona,’ and controls her destiny. I love that.” Similarly, every few years, Aliza has pursued new lines of business and changes what she focuses on with her work. “While I don’t fundamentally change as a person, the incremental shifts of getting older make me want to do bolder brush strokes to redefine how I spend my time and energy and put myself out there in the world.”
Putting oneself out in the world has taken on a new meaning for Aliza. While she regrets never hitchhiking across Europe right after school, she did head out into the world in the figurative sense, forging a new and important digital path for women. That path took her out of NYC and West, first to Wyoming, where she worked for the State in a public relations capacity, started an internet marketing company, and then stopped consulting and became a television producer with Wyoming Public Television and Public Radio. Not one to rest on her laurels and clearly, changing colours yet again, Aliza explains that she met her future husband, moved to Alaska and transformed her business into a social media marketing consultancy and then an agency in a matter of only three years.
The positive aspects of Aliza’s chameleon nature have a darker counterpart. She explains that because most of her constant changes occurred while single and living on her own, the impact on others was not immediately apparent to her. “Once I got married, suddenly my reinventing felt stymied and having a baby with several years of severe complications after, I was in a fog and a very bad place.” This challenge is one that continues to haunt Aliza; she says that knowing that her husband and daughter are affected by her choices makes it more difficult to find the the proper balance between doing what’s right and best for them and what’s best for her. I’m ‘still trying to work out that dance,” she says.
Still, a life without change would be a regretful life. Never believing in the ‘shoulda woulda coulda,’ Aliza’s story forces one to focus. Her advice to other women in similar predicaments, with a wanderlust and a joie de vivre, facing significant adversity? “Trust your instincts. Realize life is short and you can’t keep saying you will get to something later because later may not be an option. The worst that can happen is you fail. And then? You pick yourself up and start over.” To Aliza, failure is fuel and she says that it should be regarded as fodder for one’s next success. “Don’t let the naysayers stop you. Surround yourself with cheerleaders. Don’t live a life of regrets.”
Aliza’s mother of reinvention has clearly been to consistently paint with a broader brush stroke. Now 47, she appears to only be warming up for what’s next on the horizon.
(If you are just catching up with the Reinventing Women Series, I want to hear your story of midlife (or like Aliza, constant) change. Just like Hessie Jones and Karen-Rogers Robinson and my friend Aliza, I am sure that your personal pearls of wisdom can help thousands of other women. Write to me at email@example.com)
I enjoyed this post and the peek at the "behind-the-scenes" of alizasherman 's transformations. I have followed you and admired your work, Alizafor what feels like a long time. And I share your love of reinvention. Liz , what a great post and series. Go you!
allenmireles alizasherman Thanks so much Allen! Hope that you might lend your story as well!
What a great post! Aliza is a long time friend and while I know much of her story, it's lovely to see it shared here, Liz. She's the real deal.
ShellyKramer Her story truly serves as an inspiration Shelly. Harnessing adversity is not so easy. Thank you for sharing this!
I first learned of Aliza back in her Digital Marketer days. There was so much here that I never knew. And I've always wondered how she ended up in Alaska. Great story of reinvention.
KatyTafoya Aliza has a six degrees thing going. She must be related to Kevin Bacon or something! :-)
Wow. There are elements to Aliza's story I never knew, having only just recently gotten to know her a bit. I can't wait until I get to sit down, face-to-face and get to know her better. I do know, lizscherer , that if she's your friend, then she must be pretty kick-ass. :)
AmyVernon lizscherer Thank you both! Great way to start the week. I look forward to hearing from other women about their reinvention(s).
alizasherman AmyVernon Aliza is such an inspiration and has done so much in such a short time period! There are so many elements to all of our stories that shape who we are and how we live. To me, Aliza shows us that adversity can be harnessed in such positive ways. And speaks very deeply. Thank you Aliza for your candor and presence. You are such a force!