Sherene Smith learned the one word which turned her life around and will inspire yours, Acceptance:

hand to hand

You can’t go back and change the past, so why even try. But you can come full circle. You can allow the realization of what you have learned to create such meaning, significance and power in your life that somehow you know it’s all been worthwhile.

For Sherene Smith, this moment arrived when she met Ron, the man who would become her husband.

He asked her one simple question…why?

With tears flowing, Sherene remembers: “Ron saw something in me, saw all this garbage I was carrying around in my head – this story I was chasing. I was thinking I’ve got to do this for my family and for my sister because it’s expected of me. I have to always show up and be the brightest star and do all of these things at the highest level – Ron was the first person in my life who asked me why. Why are you doing all of this? No one asked me that until he did.”


What Sherene was doing was trying to over-achieve to make up for what she thought was lacking in her family life – the thing which she saw as unusual, the thing that made her feel uncomfortable –  not in a cruel way – it was never about a lack of love or caring, just not understanding. Sherene thought if the outside world knew the real situation – they would view her differently.

The situation was Shanna.

“I was six-years-old when my dad sat me down and told me,” says Sherene. “He told me my sister Shanna, who at the time was only 1-1/2 years old, would never be like me, she would not play like me, she would not have friends like me, or go to school like me. It was an incredible realization that she would not be the sister I thought she might be.”

Shanna is autistic. Sherene says, “when I was younger it all seemed so natural in our house, the fact that Shanna didn’t talk the same, went to a different school, rode a different kind of bus, it was all my new normal. But then I got out into the world, junior high school and high school and I really saw that Shanna was totally different. It became hard for me in those transitional years of education, being different is not what you want in your life.”

There was a lot of pressure for me to be the best – my parents said you are the only one who we can count on to get straight A’s, go to college, get married, the only one who will ever have kids, the only one who would accomplish anything. It made me push harder and work harder for myself and Shanna –  it was like I was carrying life for the both of us.”

But there was also the work of keeping it from the outside world. From the 6th grade slumber party where Sherene says she was “freaked out” about her “mob of friends” coming over her home – knowing Shanna would be there, to the times when she encouraged her friends to walk a different way home from school, so as not to show up at her house when Shanna’s special bus might have been there in front, dropping her off.

It wasn’t that Sherene didn’t love her baby sister, she just didn’t know how the outside world could accept her too.

pic of Shanna

But what so many of us come to realize is that the rest of the world doesn’t care – not everyone is focused on you. The story you are telling yourself is not always the one the world perceives about you, others just might embrace the real story, actually accept it and give you the comfort of knowing you are not alone. That moment was coming…just not yet.

For too long Sherene says she went at it all alone. “I think in the earlier years of my adulthood it was go, go, go – do everything!! I went to UCLA, graduated in Advertising and was the best at what I did. I told myself this is what I’ve got to do, I’ve got to do this – but I don’t know if I ever did it for me. I jumped on the rat wheel of what society expects a 20-year-old to do: get a great job, find a great place to live, drive a great car, get engaged. I was at the top of my class, the top of my company and I did it all at 100% cause that’s the way it had to be. I don’t know if I did it for me.”

Pretty soon it didn’t matter. 9/11 happened and Sherene’s advertisting business, mostly focused on travel and the automotive industry, went bust.  “You hit a wall and you can’t change,” says Sherene. “That was so strange for me, I’ve always been in control of handling things. I architected my life – by 20, by 25, by 30 I’m going to do “X”. And then it was just BAM, that plan just fell in the toilet and I thought what am I going to do now?”

She continues, “I interviewed for the position of office manager at this insurance company, one for which I was overly qualified, but I really liked it and that’s also where I met Ron. And he asked me the questions that changed my life. Why?

I stepped back and took a breath – what do I want to do, what is it that makes me happy? Ron peeled back the layers of my onion and found somebody that needed a purpose.”


Not only needed a purpose, but needed to embrace acceptance, especially that which for so long was wrapped up in the story of what made her family different. In a word, Shanna.

“I think that really this is the biggest deal, (over the past 15 years since Sherene met Ron), an overall acceptance of everything. To turn and look at the person I’ve grown into today and look back at that scared and nervous teenager, I wish I could go back and let her (me) know it is going to be OK. Now I see the positive impact Shanna had on me that I didn’t see at the time. It’s appreciation of the simple things in life, Shanna appreciates them. I don’t like to be judgmental because I was there – a self-imposed state – I don’t like to judge people or situations.”

“Shanna has helped me to realize there’s more to life than just the rat race. It’s OK to be different, and believe it or not the whole world is not focused on you. Though you may be carrying stuff between your ears, the rest of the world is not judging you, or creating your story for you. You get to be just who you want to be.”

Sherene always wants to get better, as a person. Become a better version of you and people will beat a path to your door. Success attracts success.

Along with her husband Ron, Sherene is a true leader of one of the most successful sales teams in the country at USHEALTH Advisors. And she says so much of the success is tied to acceptance: “When people come to this career opportunity, nearly everybody has their situation behind closed doors and we don’t know it, so I just take them for who they are, open my arms and hopefully bring them into a different life. Because maybe I will be that person for them like Ron was for me.

“They are going to find their why here, change lives, be successful, be a part of something, maybe for the first time. It feels good. I’m telling you when people ask me what I do and why I do it – I tell them I don’t feel like my job is work. And for every single day for the rest of my life I get to do something I’m super passionate about, not everyone gets that.”

sherene and awards sherene team

Sherene continues, “I try to do this for my kids as well. My daughter is 10 and has volunteered at a special needs school since she was only four. My boys are not the teasing, joking, bad boys – they’re all super-loving and super-open to differences and being understanding when it comes to people, not being bullies or teasers. Anyone can be a jock, or popular, without making anyone else feel bad.”

nehs football2

A part of her philosophy is because of the impact Sherene realizes Shanna has made on her life as well, why she does what she does and how she lives it. “So much about Shanna is about laughter and innocence and I didn’t embrace that stuff early enough”, says Sherene. Now I see it and I love it. She keeps me grounded. She reminds me to be accepting and to be grateful.”

Gratitude is the attitude that changes everything, so is the ability to find your purpose, many times through the inspiration of others. It all comes back to that question…why?

“You gotta find your why,” says Sherene. “And then you gotta go with it and jump in with both feet and be passionate and love and live and be happy. When I finally figured it out my why was a big deal for me –  I’m such a happier person because of it.”

Sherene and ron in cabo

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Your Storyteller,
Mark Brodinsky

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