Advice for the Graduate: A Conversation with Author Lisa Shumate, Author of Always and Never

interview by Wendy Jackson Slaton


Meet Lisa Shumate at our upcoming Mom*Me Market Presented by Texas Children’s Hospital on Saturday, May 18 at Evelyn’s Park in Bellaire.


With graduation season upon us, HFM spoke with Lisa Shumate, author of Always and Never: 20 Truths for a Happy Heart and Always and Never: A Companion Journal (Lucid Books) on sharing wisdom and encouragement to young men and women entering adulthood. The books provide an excellent gift for a new graduate.


What inspired you to write the book?

I’m the mother of two grown children and as they were headed into their twenties, I wanted to give advice to them that would guide them for the rest of their lives. You spend so many years getting your kids to that point, time flies by, and you wonder, are they ready? How can I send them off into the world with encouragement, inspiration and the fundamental wisdom you hope you taught them over the years, but many often forget?


How did you arrive at the 20 Truths?

I started with a blank journal and wrote words that matter, words that everyone can relate to, words that are central to the quality of life: trust, time, faith, love, forgiveness, gratitude.


You mention the truths act as guardrails. How?

The guardrails occur when you place Always and Never around each word. For the word trust I wrote: Always do as you say will do, Never undermine trust others place in you by not keeping your word. We know that trust is more important than any degree, skill or anything else you think you have to offer. Nothing can replace being reliable. Trust is what holds together every important relationship whether at home, work or community.


How did your background influence the writing of both books?

Everything from my Catholic School upbringing, and loving parents who set down very clear rules, to a career in media that tested my skills as a leader. Personally, being married for 36 years, a parent for nearly 35 years, aunt, godmother, and now grandmother taught me how important it is for parents to encourage children to try new things, set a good example, and be interested in their interests. Now working at the University of Houston, I see that students need and want mentors, to be empowered, and to know that it’s expected that they will make mistakes.


You mentioned that you learned the concepts in the book the hard way.

I wish I knew from the beginning how much control I have over the way I think. If you want to change your life, you must change the way you think. Too many years and tears were spent on what others thought about me, told me and what I told myself. I credit my mother and my husband for consistently reinforcing the notion that the only limits in life are the ones we put on ourselves.


How did you become a mentor?

My role as mentor began in my early thirties when interns were assigned to work with the programming department at KTRK-TV in Houston. I enjoyed working with them and seeing the business through their eyes. It has continued over the years as I joined the management ranks. Friends, colleagues, the University of Houston and professional organizations have asked me to advise students or professionals trying to get to the next level.


Why is being a mentor important to you?

I owe my start in media to a woman named Mickey Wellman who hired me at WWL-TV in New Orleans, mentored me by giving me new opportunities to learn and by encouraging me when I faced challenges. She made the time to listen, teach and promote me to other station leaders. I will never forget her impact on my career, and I will always find a way to say yes to someone who needs advice, encouragement or guidance that helps them take another step toward realizing their dream.

What were the issues brought to you by those you mentored? What was your overall advice?
My advice centers on the questions and activities in The Companion Journal. It begins with deep self-reflection on habits, greater self-awareness of negative patterns and pointing out options within control.


Tell us about The Companion Journal.

The Companion Journal has one goal—to enable readers to learn how to and practice being CEO of the way they think and feel about themselves. Through a series of exercises, self-reflection and taking the time to write down responses a new state of consciousness arises. With it comes more control over happiness. At the back of the Journal there is a guide for shared learning that offers the benefit of group discussion.

Lisa Trapani Shumate is Associate Vice President at the University of Houston, General Manager, Houston Public Media, and also serves as Executive Director of the Houston Public Media Foundation. She holds national leadership roles with the PBS Board of Directors and the Public Television Major Market Group Board.

With more than 20 years media management experience, Lisa is the recipient of numerous awards and earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Houston and participated in an International Business Residency in China. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

She is a mentor in the University of Houston PropPel Leadership Development Program for high potential staff, serves as Advisor to Public Media Women in Leadership and is also a mentor to the group’s founder, Deanna Mackey. She is a frequent lecturer on topics ranging from leadership to the importance of financial literacy in leadership communication.   

For more details, visit alwaysandneverbooks.com

Facebook: Lisa Shumate and Lisa Shumate, Author page
Instagram: ltshumate
LinkedIn: Lisa Trapani Shumate
Twitter: @ShumateLis

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