In 2000, Erin Brockovich became a household name, with Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts playing her on-screen. But that was a decade ago. Today, Brockovich’s identity is uniquely her own. She is the president of Brockovich Research & Consulting, and as such she receives countless e-mails from people across the nation concerning a variety of health and environmental issues. Through her research and public speaking career, Brockovich works to help people inform and empower themselves. While she is frequently asked about the case that made her famous, her current efforts—to encourage individuals to be proactive and to force companies to be accountable—drive her continued success. We talk as she drives across the California desert, and she explains that her mission is helping people take responsibility and control of their lives.
SUCCESS: How would you describe the focus of your work today?
Erin Brockovich: My real thrust is the people. I see myself as a consumer advocate. My focus is on how people are being harmed or taken advantage of. That may have to do with the environment, but it also has to do with their finances and especially their health.
So how do you protect yourself from being taken advantage of in those areas?
EB: I listen to my gut and I take in the information, circumstances. Then I weigh my instincts and the information.
But you have to listen to your gut. Whatever the circumstance, no one knows what’s going with you better than you do. You’re the only one standing in your shoes. When you’re faced with a decision or dilemma, check your head, heart and gut. Do your logic, feelings and instincts about the situation line up? If they’re not all in alignment, you know something’s off.
When we pay attention to our logic, feelings and instincts, we can get good results—we can confidently move forward. In this information age, we’re discouraged from using that instinctual knowledge—but to me it’s the key. I’ve learned that when I have logically thought one thing but my heart told me something different, my heart was right almost every time. The feeling or message your heart sends may not be quantifiable, but it is usually right.
But what if your heart isn’t right?
EB: What’s the worst that could happen? If you have a feeling that keeps tugging at you and you take the time to investigate the situation and find out everything is OK—your fears are calmed.
Rather than asking what if my heart isn’t right, I ask what if it is right? I’m the one who has to live with myself. I’m the one who doesn’t get any sleep when something is bothering me. But once you find out the truth, you can be empowered to make decisions. And even if you’re wrong, you are at least equipped to reevaluate your decision and your feelings so you don’t make the same mistake next time.
What do you do when things don’t line up between all three—your head, your heart and your gut?
EB: Out of my own frustration I came up with a program I call RAM: Realization, Assessment and Motivation. It’s a process I teach to help individuals empower themselves, check their own head, heart, gut alignment and then to take action.
Realization is the epiphany. It’s when you realize your happiness and success, even survival, begin with you. I’ve been down on my luck plenty of times, and I know it’s easy to blame others. But that moment of realization is when I get honest with myself and take responsibility for my actions. That may mean saying I’m sorry, or evaluating my involvement in a situation.
Assessment is the process of taking stock—not in what you have, but in who you are. If your self-esteem is telling you that you are anything other than priceless, you’ve got to make some changes. Assess your skills, your attitude, your beliefs, and if you don’t like what you see, don’t be afraid to remodel. Tear things down and start over if you need to. Give yourself an appraisal and allow yourself to see who you are—and then trust who you are.
M is all about Motivation. We all know plenty of people who are talented but unsuccessful. And we know people who aren’t all that talented but are exceptionally successful. Those who aren’t successful aren’t motivated. The key to finding success is to find your motivation. Your motivation is the fuel that will keep you going.
To find your motivation and to acquire and maintain the creativity and positivity required for success, you have to find a method of self-renewal. When you’re stuck, take yourself out of the situation. Get away for a day or two. Stop and smell the roses. That pause gives you the time you need for self-renewal. And it gives you the space you need in order to get a clear perspective and to find your motivation.
Once you have your RAM in order, you have to take action. You can’t just talk about it; you have to step up to the plate and take your best shot.
Would you describe that as the secret of your success?
EB: When you’re climbing up from the bottom of the barrel, you don’t stop just before you get to the top. Being active, seeing things through, and living with your head, heart and gut aligned, you can get anywhere you really want to go in life. Just don’t give up.
To me, success isn’t necessarily about finances or money. As a mother, success is seeing my children find their own success in life. And as an individual, it means feeling good about myself and being able to say ‘I like you and I’m proud of you.’ Success means knowing I’ve weathered the storms and I gave it my all.