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More 1-on-1: Erin Brockovich

In 2000, Erin Brockovich went from being an unknown to become a household name, with Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts playing her on-screen. But that was a decade ago. Today, her identity is uniquely her own.

Brockovich is brassy, bold and actively compassionate. She is the president of Brockovich Research & Consulting. 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, it’s her continued efforts—to encourage individuals to be proactive and to force companies to be accountable—that drives her continued success.

SUCCESS: You encourage people to evaluate decisions using their head, heart and gut. Why do you believe doing so helps people make better choices?

Erin Brockovich: When your head, heart and gut are in alignment, in agreement, you know it. But if something keeps eating at you, stop and consider the issue. Do a head, heart, gut check and ask, What seems off? And if it eats at you again that next day or that night at the dinner table, follow it. Do the research, get the facts, be aware. When you find the truth, you are empowered to make better decisions.

But it takes courage to go with your gut, especially when the facts seem to indicate that a different choice would be more appropriate.

EB: It does. But courage comes from listening to your heart and gut. I remind myself that I’m the one who has to live with myself, I’m the one who doesn’t get any sleep because something’s bothering me. Courage also comes from believing in yourself. Outside pressure can make you want to turn away and follow the crowd, but that’s the moment it’s critical to stand and make those judgment calls. We have to turn to ourselves and start empowering ourselves. Check your head-heart-gut alignment and use networking, education and research to take the power into your own hands.

Has your gut ever led you to the wrong decision?

EB: Sure. But you make a choice about how to handle the something, and if you make a bad choice, you have to be accountable. I always ask though, What if I’m right and I don’t do something about it? Make that decision, make that stand. If you’re right you’ll find more courage. If you’re wrong you still develop courage; it’s a learning process.

You especially encourage people to listen to their gut when it comes to personal health. What best practices have you learned through your research and consulting?

EB: Be proactive, be reactive… just be active. For example, if you have health issues you must consult with your doctor. And don’t be afraid to let them know the symptoms you’re experiencing. And, ask questions. Make it your business to know the potential side effects of the prescription drugs you’re taking. Use the Internet to research ingredients. And, by all means, if you’re taking something and you don’t feel right, talk to your doctor about it. People don’t want to feel stupid, but we learn and grow by asking questions. And then, don’t wait. People tend to wait for government agencies to help. But very often those agencies are understaffed and underfunded. And the reality is that companies may not be concerned with what they perceive as minimal risks. What I’ve learned is that when all else fails, you have yourself. Take back your voice, your health, your community, your water, and make decisions that are good for you and your family. When you get involved, it starts a cycle that gets others involved—then real change can occur.

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