“I have always believed in a whole person approach to life. At a turning point in my own life, I wanted to be taught by a woman living her passions. I’m so grateful to have discovered Feroshia and Coach Training World… my life has been dramatically transformed!”
At 68, Barbara Cerullo is just getting started. She is currently an executive at a popular cable television network. She has co-hosted two long-running international inspirational television programs and authored numerous magazine articles. And throughout a highly notable career, she has also maintained a 48-year marriage, caring for her family as a mother and grandmother.
Despite unquestionable success, Barbara felt there was more. So, in 2018, she returned to school at the age of 65. After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in counseling, she was faced with the big decision: what now? Earn a master’s and open her own practice? Or pivot more in alignment with her heart’s true calling?
“Women at our age have wisdom; we have experience,” she says. “So now we face the question: do we want to give back? Do we have a desire to contribute to someone else’s life? Because that’s always a possibility.”
Barbara has spent her entire adult life in ministry. It’s a choice motivated by genuine faith in the Divine, yet also a deep and abiding love for people. Suddenly, she found herself at a crossroad. What should be the focus of her future? Would continued education provide the one-on-one connection with others she craved? No, she decided, it would not.
“I wanted to come alongside people,” she says, “affirm them, encourage them, help them make their own discoveries about themselves, and be a trusted guide for them on their personal journey.”
Barbara began to reach out and explore her options. She discovered the International Coach Federation and, from there, found her way to Coach Training World. During her training here, she became a Certified Enneagram Approach Practitioner and Whole Person Life Coach.
“As I went through my classes, I realized I had stumbled upon my life’s calling (at 65 years of age) which was incredibly rewarding and freeing in so many ways,” she says. “I also formed beautiful, supportive bonds with my fellow coaches in our cohort. To this day, several of us continue in a study group together, encouraging each other in priceless ways.”
If it seems unusual to highlight her age, it’s because Barbara herself is unusual in the most inspirational of ways. She models the value in experience and wisdom, as well as the benefit and importance of giving back in our wiser years. The drive to seek out and pursue a new avenue for her passion, at a point in life when many people simplify and focus inward, makes her truly unique.
“I looked around and so many women my age seemed to have settled into their lives,” Barbara says. “They had stopped learning, stopped growing. They’d lost their passion and zeal for life, knowledge, understanding, and community. So, I made a decision: I’m not going to do that.”
This decision came 42 years into her marriage. And it caught her husband by surprise for several reasons. As president of a successful television network, he was looking toward the future himself. To have Barbara actively pursuing something new, a pursuit that would demand a great deal of her time and energy, was something he had not anticipated.
Added to that was the cultural expectation of a rigid evangelical and religious background. Simply put, women in Barbara’s world were taught and expected to be submissive and obedient.
“My husband doesn’t quite know what to do with me,” Barbara says. “I’m speaking my truth – always kind and respectful – but I am definitely saying to him, it’s not business as usual. This is who I am.”
Who is that exactly? Someone drawn to understand the motivation behind behavior – why people do what they do – then use that insight to facilitate awareness and growth.
Barbara was immediately drawn to the people in their TV company. But to coach employees demanded a lot of trust. (Imagine sitting down with the boss’s wife and sharing your most personal concerns!)
Yet as word spread and her reputation for creating a safe space grew, so too did the number of employees who came for help. First it was women. Many were at a junction in their lives, having lost their vision, hope, passion, and desire to continue growing. Then men began showing up at her door. They sought direction through her expertise with the Enneagram and relationship coaching.
In this process, Barbara discovered a recurring need. Much of what her clients shared dealt with hurt and pain, people being misunderstood. In this, she recognized a common desire to break free of the ideologies and limiting beliefs placed upon people throughout the course of their lives.
“In this state, people have never been able to give their whole selves,” she says. “They’ve never even given themselves permission to question the things they’ve been brought up to believe in, or to say: ‘wait a minute, I do have my own opinion and it may differ from what I’ve been taught my whole life.”
Today, Barbara is the company’s Executive Vice President of Organizational Development. With a staff of more than 250, she is combating fear culture and providing new opportunities for education that allow individuals to learn, grow, and advance.
“I told my husband: this is my legacy,” she says. “I’m the staff advocate.”
In her practice, she aims to help women develop greater self-awareness and define what happiness feels like to them. To facilitate deeper growth, she plans to offer intimate women’s retreats at her childhood home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which she purchased and recently remodeled. She envisions a two- or three-day retreat for three or four women during which she will offer one-on-one coaching. It will be a time to share without fear, judgment, or shame while also incorporating elements of ceremony.
“If there was a woman who had seen my own struggles back in the day, someone who took me aside and gave me a safe place to talk and figure things out for myself, I would certainly have made different decisions and been ‘reborn’ earlier,” she says. “I don’t discount my journey. I am who I am today because of it. But there are moments of regret where I wish I could go back and redo certain things.”
Barbara exemplifies a way of being she hopes to pass on to her clients: the reclamation of your authority, the permission to fully embrace yourself and your life, and the confidence available in new freedom.
She’ll be the first to tell you, you can be so much more than you realize is possible!
Connect with Barbara through her website: thepathforward.com