If life has you knocked down, get ready to pick yourself back up and give your problems the boot. That’s right, when Sheila Mac tells you to pull up your boot straps and bra straps, it’s time to take action. Whether you’re a new mother or a seasoned businesswoman, Sheila guides you from starting over, to creating the life you always desired. Her voice is that of a mentor, a life coach, or an entrepreneur but it’s all rolled up into the feeling of being a best friend. As you’ll see in this episode, Sheila walks the walk.
Whether it’s overcoming the death of loved ones, losing everything in a fire, or being in an abusive relationship, you can get your life back on track no matter how many times you hit rock-bottom. In this episode, Sheila shares with us her Boots Formula to help you find a way forward, build a new identity, produce more income, and create a new life for yourself. And of course, we discuss her new book, Boot Straps & Bra Straps, which is packed with actionable information to pull your life back on track, no matter the struggles.
During a time like this, her message has never been more important. Enjoy.
Miles Rote: Hey everyone. My name is Miles Rote and I am excited to be here today with Sheila Mac. She is the author of Boot Straps and Bra Straps: The Formula To Go from Rock Bottom Back into Action in Any Situation. Sheila, I’m excited you’re here, welcome to the Author Hour podcast.
Sheila Mac: Thank you, it’s so good to be here, Miles. I really appreciate being invited on.
Miles Rote: You’ve been helping women level up their lives for about 25 years now. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that, your background, and what inspired you to write this book?
Sheila Mac: It kind of happened with me helping myself out and figuring things out, as I’ve hit my own rock bottoms in life. Then starting to help friends and family and getting a lot of training in helping other people get through things. But, what started this book and everything to really take shape was that I had gone through many rock bottoms in my life on and off but always landed on my feet in one way or another–going from an abusive family and then moving on to being homeless from the age of 10 to 13 and a half, then going into foster care–I ended up graduating high school early and going off to college on my own and providing for myself.
Things were great. I raised three of my own children and then I fostered two and adopted three more children. I had a bunch of gift stores that I opened, and I had a big program to help all of these kids that were in foster care. They were emancipating and nobody wanted to hire them. So, I had a whole training program. That’s one of the secrets that I share in the book is that as you give back, you receive. It’s not in giving to receive, it’s when it’s coming from that intention that everything shows up for you.
Now, those people are adults now and a lot of them went into their own businesses as entrepreneurs. After all that, I was really blessed to invest in properties, so I had passive income. I ended up renting the buildings out when I had all these children at a certain point. When they were old enough, I traveled for seven years straight and studied with the top people that you would want to study with on the planet and I learned so much. Then I came back and I had one thing after the other. I had a vacancy in a property and then another vacancy, we had gone through this at different times. I was getting on my feet and I bought a beautiful home for my daughter and I, in Ventura.
A Fire that Changed Everything
I actually closed on November 3rd. Then on December 3rd, I had set everything up. You know you take about a month to move over and get everything nice–put my furniture, all my belongings were there. That week, I drove home on December 3rd late at night and this was 2017. I saw the Ventura fire, which went for miles, and I was able to pull my cat out and a couple of other things. I lost the house and I lost all my belongings.
I ended up having this little mobile, pre-fab cabin kind of thing that I had been renting out on a vacation rental platform. The little side shed was 400 square feet with running water. It had a little bathroom but no kitchen, it was very small.
I ended up staying there. Then the cat got out, it got eaten, I lost my car, all within a few days. I have always been one to just be able to get up and go start again, but I know I was getting into a bit of a depression. The fires continued for about a month and within a few days, I realized that I needed to make a shift. I started doing the rebound and affirmations and the neighbors in these little cabins were there and they were looking at me like I had lost my mind because this is a terrible time. I said, “No, I need to do this.”
I managed to get one of my children to loan me a beater car. I fixed it up and I made it the best car–you had to roll the windows down and it kind of drove sideways a little bit toward one side. Obviously, all my money had been put into this house, I put a big deposit and I didn’t have any liquidity really with all the loss of the car and the house. It was just terrible and I said, “Okay.” I went to the dollar store that was open and I bought these little stickers. They said, ‘blessed’, and ‘happy’ and all these pretty little positive words. I put them inside the visor and everywhere in the car. I bought a fancy steering wheel cover and one of my sons said, “Mom, you really suped it up.” I said, “That’s right. I’m going to make it the best. If I’m going in a beater car, it’s going to be classy. It’s going to be positive and it’s going to have good energy.”
The neighbors thought I had lost my mind. I was leading online classes with real estate agents at the time and that was my main thing. I got invited to work at a new office in Beverly Hills and I made a bunch of commissions because of that mindset–the mindset has a lot to do with it. I would have to rent cars and my credit wasn’t great because I had just lost the house. It was just really bad. I thought, “Well, okay, I’m renting these cars and I’m paying over a thousand a month to rent cars to take my clients out to buy homes.” It was really expensive.
I had a friend that actually was moving to Beverly Hills and she said, “I need help, I need to get a home, I need to get it this weekend, I’m going to fly in. I’ll rent a car but I can’t drive.” She was from the Virgin Islands and she couldn’t drive in America yet. She wanted me to drive and she would rent the car. She rented a Mercedes and she said, “That looks good on you,” and I said, “I got the beater car.”
Because she’s my friend, so I’m telling her everything. Then I had another client and I needed to rent another one of those cars and that car broke down. I thought, “My gosh–it’s hot, I’m stuck in this car that I rented out on a commitment for like $600 for the week and it broke down. Now, what am I going to do?”
I look at my phone and I got this random email from a car dealership about a car that’s not a car that would really work for a real estate agent. It was for sale, and it was one of those things where if you come in and you drive the car, you get a $100 gift card. I said, “Well, I could use $100 for groceries,” because the cars were costing me so much to rent and I was paying debts off and getting straightened out.
I went in and there’s something about humbling yourself and saying, “Okay, I’m going to go look at these cars, and they don’t even fit.” But the beater, it was really bad, it needed brakes, it needed so many things fixed. It was on its last leg and it was upside down. I had to actually pay 3 or 4,000 to get out of it–to clean the slate of that car. It was something with one of my kids and I helped them up.
I go to the dealership and there in the lot, there are all these cars that aren’t the right fit, they’re newer cars but they’re not the style for a real estate agent in Beverly Hills.
There on the lot is one Mercedes, and it had some miles, but it was the exact car that I had driven that my friend rented out. I said to the guy, “Here’s where I am at because all this happened and if you can get me into that car, I have this much cash to put down. I would love that car because that’s the one I really need to do my job and not have to rent a different car.”
I got that car and I thought, “Wow, what a beautiful thing.” And then the man that shows you how to use the car–all the buttons that they have, he comes in and he looks like my father who had passed away. I thought, “Okay, this has got to be a gift. I’ve got an angel watching over me, this is a miracle gift.” This was a few weeks after my house burned down.
I cried all the way home in this car, I was so grateful. I still have the car a few years later, and it’s great. I stayed at a friend’s place who rented in Beverly Hills. Then I got my own place and I kept doing well.
I went back to that little cabin house when they said I couldn’t do vacation rentals there anymore. I decided to sell it. When I went back, I saw that most of the people there were still in the same place as when I left them–in that mental state. They were still in the fire in their minds, they hadn’t progressed. People get stuck really easily in life when something happens because you don’t know what to do next. That was when the idea of the book was born.
I sat down and said, “Wait a minute, I’ve done something really different here compared to most of the people around me.” What was it? I went and I wrote down this formula and I said, “Now, I was all alone, none of my neighbors could help me, none of my friends could help me.”
I thought that I would love to be able to take and write something out so that if it was my best friend or sister or relative, whoever, and they were going through something, I could say, “Hey, I’m going to hold your hand and we’re going to go through these steps and you’re going to get back on track in no time.” That’s why that book was born–for whoever out there that needs something.
The BOOTS Formula
Miles Rote: A lot of people get stuck in the stage of, “What do I do now?” It is hard to figure out what to do. One term that you mentioned in your book is emergency mode–when people hit rock bottom and how you can’t function as a regular person. Instead, you need something to grasp on to that makes sense. The formula that you offer in your book, which I love, is BOOTS. If you could break that down for us and walk us through what that means.
Sheila Mac: The boots formula is what I came up with. B is for being, it’s about who you’re being and all that you’re doing and who you need to be during this situation, whatever it is for you. For me, I had to decide who I needed to be in order to get out of losing everything within a week to get back on track. The B in boots is for being.
The next thing is to know your orientation. I had to really sit down and look at my finances, my credit obviously, and different pieces–where I am living now, I’m in this little shed and I have to go to a gym to take a shower. Crazy stuff. I don’t have a kitchen and it’s this little 400 square foot thing and it wasn’t quite working.
I said, “Okay, it’s not better than it is, it’s not worse than it is. This is the reality.” You have to be so honest about where you are on the map in order to say, “This is where I want to go.” The goals may change. For instance, in 2020, everybody had their new year’s resolution and didn’t know we were going to have a worldwide pandemic and different rules that we would have to follow.
We had to course correct and in order to really stay on top of things, we had to say, “Okay, this is where we are now in March when things started closing down.”
Our goals may have changed or had to change. That’s our orientation, the first O in boots.
The next O is order of operation. With order of operation, also, now I know who I need to be, what the new reality is, with the house fire. Now I need to decide what needs to be done first, and second, in order to get on track because the order in which you do things can make all the difference. I had to make the commissions in order to pay down the debt, in order to get the credit enough to qualify for that car, in order to get back on track and stop spending so much renting cars, and then move over. I had to go in a certain order. You know you can’t do one thing without the others. So, that’s the second O.
Then the T is for thinking. That is where my mindset came in. At that moment I decided that no matter where I’m at–a little shed, in a mobile home, in a cabin in the hills with not even all of the things you need to really have an operable home, I need to have the mindset that I am going to make my environment beautiful. I am in a beater car for a minute and that is okay. I am going to make it the most beautiful, happiest little space I can because it keeps my mindset where it needs to be.
People can feel that even in business–if you are running a business or you’re the manager of your home. Now you have your kids homeschooling this year, whatever is going on, your thinking is that you’re the leader of your business–your work environment or your home environment. How you show up in your mindset, your thinking creates the space and energy and models it for everybody else around you.
The S in BOOTS is for stepping up and that is taking action. That was renting the cars and grabbing everything I could out of the house and making things pretty and then actually going out and accepting new work opportunities. I loved the office in Beverly Hills and everybody was so friendly and wonderful and I thought, “Wow I didn’t imagine I’d be moving here and doing all of these amazing things, but what a gift.”
I had to be willing to step into a new environment and also be humble enough to go to a used car dealership that wasn’t even in the right part of town because I needed groceries. and I thought, “Okay, you know I don’t know if I should do this.” But I had to step into it and because I did, it was like there is the car that you really need and want and guess what?
Because it was in a rough neighborhood, it wasn’t a nice part of town. So, I got it six or $7,000 under bluebook, because they needed to get rid of this car. I knew that it was the car that I needed. I paid what I could down, and my payments were so much lower than what I was spending on the rentals that I was saving money. It was perfect. So, that was stepping into it.
Stepping into it is sometimes doing things that we don’t like to do or rolling up our sleeves and doing the work yourself or taking that risk for the new job in a new area when you are not sure. That is stepping into it.
The other pieces in BOOTS have to be there in order for you to be able to step into it with confidence and know that you have different courses of action you can take.
Miles Rote: In your book, you talked about how you applied for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab to work there and how you got that job. Can you tell us that story and your experience with the importance of asking?
Sheila Mac: So there I was, I was a young girl. I was going to college at 17 and a half-ish. Then I got a programming certificate back in the day when we were on DOS and we were doing database 3+ and all of these programming things. Honestly, I literally had graduated high school at 15 and I was emancipated and on my own. I had to check out a book at the library to figure out how to do algebra to do the programming.
It was that kind of programming, we actually did the math. So, I was a student in the class that they did during extra hours. I got there early in the morning and stayed late at night because I really wanted to be able to pay for my needs. Although there were students that were far smarter than I in programming–we all have our gifts, and that was not my talent or gift. It was something I learned. So, you can learn anything.
I was a good C student. I never cheated. The teacher said, “Oh Sheila, I know you never cheated because it took you five pages to write out this program that everybody else wrote out on one page.” She caught a group that cheated and said, “But not you, Sheila, because I know you got to the right answer. You just took a really long way around.” I thought, “Okay, well I passed.”
I said, “Well, where is the best place near where I live to go get a job?” And it was the Jet Propulsion Lab.
So, I ended up working there by the time I was 18 until 22 or 23 something like that–until I opened my gift stores. I worked at the jet propulsion lab in the engineering department and did programming and handled all of these accounts. The reason they hired me–I didn’t have a degree, I had a certificate, I wasn’t the straight-A student–I knocked on the door. So, one of the things I put on the book, is that the secret is to knock on the door and ask.
Miles Rote: Although it took you so long to get to the answers of things, one thing you talk about in your book is that it doesn’t have to take that long and that there are tools that we can use to get to where we want to go.
So, can you share a little bit about the exercises and the things that you have in your book that really help people take practical action on these things?
Sheila Mac: Yes. So, for each chapter, our life especially for moms and women, we wear so many hats. I have chapters on grieving, on finances, on career shifts, relationships, parenting, parenting our adult children even, parenting our parents with elder care, dealing with abuse if it is your own situation or someone you love is in an abusive relationship or situation. We get into relationships, dealing with addictions, and then lifestyle redesign on your terms.
With that, in each chapter, depending on the topic, there are different activities that a person can do, that help them walk through the BOOTS formula. For instance, with grieving, we learn the seven steps of grieving and how to get through that, and different things you might need to know or connections that you might need to make. So, there are lots of references to connect you with resources you might not know exist.
For instance, with elder care, there are many ways to get help that are free and low cost that people aren’t aware of. I actually took care of my grandparents and parents until they passed away. So, I had to learn those things on my own. I wish that I had a manual where I could get resources and get the answers that I, as a young person, didn’t know. I had to find out the hard way and sometimes I overspent or made choices based on the little bit that I knew. I didn’t realize there were all of these free resources that would help.
Each chapter has its own formula based on the BOOTS formula and then activities based on that. For parenting, there is a contract you might make with a young adult. Or maybe you’re a young adult and you are trying to move out of your parents’ home but they still treat you like a child. Or you could be 55 and your parents still treat you like a child. So, there are activities to help you through that.
Miles Rote: One of my favorites is the relationship agreements that you have between two parties, where you sign an agreement saying, “Here is what we’re deciding upon for our relationship.” And although at first, it may feel a little bit strange, it can add so much value to the relationship to get really clear about expectations. You provide all of these things on your website if you purchase the book all of the resources are free and available, which is something that I really love. If readers could take away one or two things from your book, what would it be?
Sheila Mac: There is always a solution to every problem. Sometimes when you find that one solution it gives you 10 other solutions. One of the things that kept me going my whole life was that when I was a little girl, I had my grandmother. She had these ladies that were her age group, in their 60s and 70s. This was the Los Angeles area, so they were very diverse.
There was a lady that was in a concentration camp when she was little and lost all of her relatives. Here she was, running a business and she had her own home. Another lady was from Greece and her husband passed away. Back then it was taboo for women to run a business, but she took over the restaurants, and she ran these beautiful restaurants and traveled the world.
Another couple, the lady and her husband lost everything because there was a different ruler in the country where they lived. They didn’t speak a stitch of English when they moved over as our neighbors and they made a successful life for themselves.
I was maybe four years old and I thought, “Oh my gosh, everybody goes through something and they all have these stories.” My grandmother was alive during the Spanish flu pandemic and the great depression. So, I had all of these rich stories but what it gave me was that together in community the women were able to support each other.
Also, that we all can make it, even if we are in a tough situation there is future and hope. So, the other thing I designed along with my book is a community. So, whatever someone is going through, there is a free Facebook group community. Whoever is going through the steps, whether they get the book or not, there’s a community of other women that together we can support each other, so that we’re not alone and we can share our stories as a community. That’s something that I thought because those women and their stories carried me through, we all have incredible stories and ways to connect and support each other through whatever thing that we need to reboot from.
Miles Rote: That is such an incredible story and for it to make such an impact, to know at such an early age, and for you to carry that with you your entire life and then be able to give that back to people is really a beautiful thing. Where can people find you online or in that community or on social platforms if people are looking to learn more?
Sheila Mac: My website is www.sheilamac.com.
Miles Rote: Perfect. Sheila, this has been such a pleasure, I’m so excited for people to check the book out. Everyone, the book is called Bootstraps & Bra Straps: The Formula to Go from Rock Bottom Back Into Action in Any Situation.
Sheila Mac: Thank you.