Friends... We don't just like and love them... We NEED them.

“Creating An Inner Circle Of Friends Is Key To Accountability And Raising The Bar In Your Life”

Words of Wisdom With US Ambassador of Pay it Forward Day, Coach Dar (Darleen) Santore
I had the pleasure of interviewing Darleen Santore, more prominently known as Coach Dar, CEO and Founder of PHD, Performance at a Higher Degree, US Ambassador of Pay it Forward Day, Life/Leadership/Mental Edge Coach for the Phoenix Suns, Lululemon Ambassador, Awarded the 2017 WNBA’s Most Inspiring Woman Award by the Indiana Fever.

What is your “backstory”?

The backstory to my career began when I was young. My grandfather had a stroke and, of course, for recovery, he had to go to rehabilitation which included occupational therapy. When I visited my grandfather at the hospital, I was amazed at the therapists and how they were helping people regain basic movements and strength that we often take for granted. They were actually helping the patients AND the families. Because of the inspiration of these therapists, I knew that I wanted to be and Occupational Therapist myself. After completing my education and getting my license to practice, I began working with traumatic brain injured patients and patients recovering from strokes. With every person I worked with, I wanted to help them with my therapy skills, but I also wanted to treat the whole person by helping them develop positive strategies and motivating them to live their best life. The irony, though, is that when I was 25 and working at the hospital on the neuro floor, I had a stroke myself. After the stroke, I continued to push forward but went through some very difficult times. These experiences all led to the evolution of my career from occupational therapy to using my skills to help others in a coaching setting. I wanted to pay it forward like others who had paid it forward to me. I believe that everyone needs to live their best life. We all need to reach for greatness and our full potential. This was a powerful message for me, and I wanted to share it with others. So, here I am today… a life coach, yes, but also a therapist who knows how to use positive strategies to help both the brain and the heart in everyday life. My education and experience as an occupational therapist set me up to give back in so many ways.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

Growing up, my mom was always giving to others, whether it was a free haircut to someone in need or a small trinket to cheer someone up. She was never short on kindness. Her influence on my life has been so impactful. Because of her, I’ve always taken particular notice of people who were kind and gave to others expecting nothing in return. The fact that I’m now able to help a whole movement of kindness through Pay It Forward Day is incredible. Everyone needs to strive to pay it forward as much as possible, and the world will be a kinder, better place.

What would you advise to someone who wants to emulate your career?

Getting a degree in occupational therapy or in therapy of some sort is key to helping others. I can’t stress that enough. If you want to have a dynamic practice as a life coach, take it a step further and learn the science behind how the brain works. Occupational therapy actually was the original Life Coach occupation before there were ever any life coaches. Being a therapist sets you apart and takes your practice to the next level, and I’m all about leveling up in life, work and home!

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

There are so many people, including my parents and family, that have made a profound impact on my life, but I want to share about a sweet couple in their 70’s named Mary and Vinny. Mary and Vinny were like my adopted grandparents. We lived life together, and I watched them help others, give back, do the right thing and pay attention to the little things that matter. I learned the importance of simply putting your grocery cart back in its place, so it doesn’t roll away and hit someone’s car. They taught me to take just as many sugar packets that I really need and not a handful of extra to put in my purse. They pushed me to really look inward and consider how I was doing, not just the big things, but how I was living the little things. Mary and Vinny’s example in my life was about raising the bar in everything that you do. In fact, their example is what inspired my nationwide tour called Raise the Bar.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Are you working on any meaningful or exciting non-profit projects?

This came about in an interesting way. One day I got a call from Australia from the Founder of Pay it Forward Day. He told me he was calling because he believed I was a “world changer”. I thought it was a joke, but, no, he was serious. He asked me if I would take the role of the United States Ambassador for Pay it Forward Day, a global kindness movement. I could hardly believe it. Pay it forward lines up with my life…what I’ve been taught and what I teach. In fact, Pay It Forward Day is this Saturday, April 28. I’m so excited about it! Every year we track more and more acts of kindness. There are 85 countries that participate, and last year, we tracked 17 million acts of kindness around the world! Pay It Forward Day is not affiliated with any organization, nor does it raise money or ask for money. It’s a completely voluntary movement. We are continuing to spread the word so that more and more people will help raise awareness and help to create a massive wave of kindness. What could be better than showing that you, or your company, stand for kindness. We’d love for people to visit and see how they can help.

Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

There are so many impactful stories that come from acts of kindness. One person decided to donate their air miles. This person called a local hospital and said that they wanted to give the miles to be used for families who couldn’t afford travel to see their loved ones. Another anonymously donated $10,000 to a hospital for a patient to have a liver transplant. A couple of years ago a person bought a few stems of roses and gave them out to random people. A family had their groceries paid for by a stranger who also gave them a Visa gift card. Little did the stranger know, but this family was in desperate need of help paying for food. They had just taken in a foster child, had an overwhelming number of financial setbacks and didn’t know how they were going to make ends meet… then this act of kindness came to them and made a huge difference in their lives. Not all acts of kindness and paying forward require money, though. Holding the door open for someone is easy but a lot of times we forget and the door slams on the person behind us. Smiling is simple, but people don’t smile or make eye contact much anymore because we all are looking down at our smart phones. Smiling is contagious and a great way to pay it forward.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.

Through years of experiencing success, failure and everything in between, I’d say the most important lessons I’ve learned are ones that I had to learn through the ups and downs of living life. There are several things that I’ve learned are important for living your best life.

1. Stay Committed — Life is difficult sometimes, but not impossible. You have to get your mind set on staying committed to the big things and the little things. Don’t give up. Push through and reach your goals. You’ll be a stronger person through the endurance.

2. Don’t be afraid to take risks — Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t live with regret because you didn’t try. You can do anything you set your mind to.

3. Create an inner circle — This is important. It’s not about exclusion. Creating an inner circle of friends is key to accountability and raising the bar in your life. Who do you spend your time with? Are they lifting you up or pulling you down? Think about it. Surround yourself with people who want to see you do your best and be that same person for them.

4. Be true to yourself — We spend so much time trying to impress others and do what others think we should do. We let voices from the past get into our thoughts and create a negative mindset. Let go of all of that, because it doesn’t serve you. Live your best, most authentic life.

5. Be pushed out of your comfort zone — This is a hard but a significant one. Getting out of where you are comfortable is an opportunity for growth. Develop a mindset that isn’t afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone but sees it as a challenge, and an opportunity to learn something new in order to reach new heights in your life.

I have been blessed that very prominent CEO’s and celebrities read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. :-)

There are a lot of people that I admire. My list could be really long, but the person that comes to mind because of the mission behind his work is Richard Branson. What an amazing person with a great story. He’s someone who has had challenges throughout his life, but he didn’t let those obstacles get in his way. Instead, he pushed forward. He continued to work hard and was always reaching for the next level in everything he does. I look up to people who work hard and raise the bar, and that includes more than just making a profit. Richard Branson is a giver, a philanthropist. He’s a great example of someone who lives a “pay it forward” life. What’s not to like? “Let’s do lunch, Richard! …oh, and while I’m sharing meals with people I admire, Jimmy (Fallon), I’ll meet you for dinner!”


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