13. (S1E13) From Food Stamps to Fulfillment with Erin Harrigan

From Food Stamps to Fulfillment 

On today’s episode, we’re exploring what it means to Pursue Success God’s Way with my Success Champion Networking friend Erin Harrigan.  

Erin Harrigan writes, coaches and speaks on the healing power of trading in self-reliance for surrender to make God your business partner. As a recovering driver and striver, she teaches women how to pursue success God’s way to build a thriving business, and heal from overwhelm, overachieving and under fulfillment. 

Erin is a wife, mom, avid traveler and lover of tacos, guac and all things 80’s! 

Listen to hear her story of going from living on food stamps as a child to achieving everything she’d always considered to be success. But when she got there, she felt guilty because she still didn’t feel fulfilled. Like many, she tried to fill the void by doing more and working harder. It wasn’t until she was struck by an epiphany in October of 2014 that she was able to stop beating herself up, surrender, and find her true calling.   

Remember to check out Erin’s Hustle with Heart podcast and get chapter 1 of her book, Pursuing Success God’s Way, which you can do at her website ErinHarrigan.com.  

You can also find Erin below.

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thehustlewithheartcoach

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/erin_harrigan_entrepreneur

Clubhouse @erinharrigan

Come join us in the Fine is a 4-Letter Word Facebook group.

This episode is sponsored by Zen Rabbit. When you’re asking yourself “what’s next for me? Who am I now, in this next season of life? And where do I even start figuring out my purpose?” the F*ck Being Fine Experience is here for you. Go to https://zenrabbit.com/ to learn more or to schedule a complimentary call.


Lori Saitz (00:01):

I am so excited to have Erin Harrigan as my guest today on fine is a 4-letter word. Thank you for joining me today, Erin.

Erin Harrigan (00:11):

Oh my goodness. I've been so looking forward to this conversation.

Lori Saitz (00:15):


Lori Saitz (00:16):

Yeah, well, I'm so, like I said, I'm so excited to have you here because you have such an interesting perspective on things a little bit different than of course, a little bit different than anyone else, because everybody's story is their story. So let's start out by tell me how you were raised. What were the beliefs that were instilled in you that you carried through to your young adult life?

Erin Harrigan (00:42):

Yeah, so I grew up, I was the oldest of four to a single mom. Um, my parents divorced when I was 11 and we lived in, I mean really poverty, you know, we, food pantry, food stamps, hand me downs, all of that. And so from that viewpoint, it seemed like everything was a struggle. So work was always hard. Um, my mom probably worked at, at one point, I know she worked three jobs, maybe four to raise us. We did have, so it was raised from that standpoint of work is hard. And to get ahead, you have to work harder and no matter how hard you worked, there was always time to work more. And then on the other side of that, I was also raised with the mentality of it takes a village. So my grandmother lived with us and she helped, and my mom was a twin.

Erin Harrigan (01:36):

So my aunt helped us a lot. So it was this idea of like, there is a village, but there's always hard work. And looking around in that village, it always seemed like everybody else had money and they must have it way better than we do. So I took that into my young adult life, knowing that I needed to get a degree and get a job and work and make money because we had so little, my real short term goal of getting a degree and getting a job and making money was that I would always have AC in the summer and heat in the winter and food in the refrigerator and not just like a little bit of food, but enough, more than enough overflowing food. So those were my first goals, really coming out of college and trying to find a job and all of that. So I immediately came out of school, propped my ladder against a corporate building and pursued that way of life. Because to me that was security. If I could work my way up a ladder, if I could have a steady job, then I would never, I would never want for anything. And so that that's really where everything started for me. And kind of where I was raised

Lori Saitz (02:49):

Is that where you saw people, the people in your life that who had success, did they have corporate jobs? Is that where you got that idea? That corporate. Okay. Oh

Erin Harrigan (02:56):

For sure. They definitely had corporate jobs. I would say the people in my life that I saw mainly were probably my aunt and uncle. My aunt was a federal government employee. My uncle worked for what was Pepco. I don't even know if it's still that so very steady work. Yeah. My dad, I didn't really have a relationship with my dad after my parents divorce. And that continues a bit today, but it seemed that my dad was always in and out of work. My dad was a civil engineer without a degree, a contractor. So his work was always, you know, fluctuating based on construction availability. My mom eventually ended up in the federal government. She was, uh, a social worker for a long time. So what I saw around me was those who had money, had these steady corporate jobs. And those who didn't have money seemed to have this variability and this instability, if you will. I know my mom tried a few different kinds of businesses. Multi-level marketing businesses that just never worked for her. So all I could see was, well, if I'm going to succeed, I got to go get a job and I, and it, and I need to get stability. Okay.

Lori Saitz (04:02):

So you did that. And how, how did that work out for you?

Erin Harrigan (04:06):

So, absolutely it provided stability my career. So my, my corporate career span 25 years from the time that I left college and got my first job to the time that I was let go from my job, um, to due to some reorganization in 2012, progressively working up the ladder. I am a driver and striver by nature. I'm an achievement chaser. So it's really important to me. The money was very important to me, but also the recognition and the increasing leadership and the increasing titles that came with that.

Lori Saitz (04:36):

I'm Guessing that partly comes from being the oldest.

Erin Harrigan (04:41):

Probably, probably. Interestingly, my younger daughter, I have two daughters and my younger one seems to be more of that than my older one. So I don't really know what happened there, but that worked really, really well. And it enabled us once I met my husband and got married and started a family, you know, I was making six figures, I guess I probably hit that six figure mark in my thirties, um, which seemed like a massive deal to me because that was like, whoa. And so it enabled us to have some different choices, allowed my husband to be a stay at home dad for a little while. So we kind of became accustomed to that lifestyle. And therefore the trap of that, that is you're always seeking the higher level. You're always like, it's never enough. And so they're not satisfied, you're not satisfied. And so you kind of have this hole and you're unfulfilled.

Erin Harrigan (05:34):

So what I say is in my personal business, I coach women to pursue success God's way. And what I find is that we are overwhelmed. We are overachieving and we are under fulfilled. So I had a lot of money, but I didn't have a lot of time. So I took to just filling our life with stuff to fill up that hole. And so then therefore the more money I made, the more stuff we had, but less time I had with my family also. And I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but I knew that I wanted to be more available to my children. And that's probably about the point where I hit the wall where, you know, fine became a four letter word in my Life.

Lori Saitz (06:09):

So, right, right. Well, backing up just a step, was that drive to keep reaching a higher and higher level coming from internally or was it, because you were in corporate, was it also, were there external drivers on that too?

Erin Harrigan (06:25):

I think it was probably 80 20. So I think it was 80% internal because it was, I think growing up, I always wanted people to see me as a big deal. I wanted people to see me outside of like, I'm just the oldest and I take care of my siblings. So I wanted to be known, like I wanted to be known. I wanted people to be like, man, that big deal helped me. You know? So I think it was definitely a lot of internal. And then I think the 20% that was external was the idea of being a woman in a corporate setting that was very male dominated and feeling like I was going to prove, like, not only was I worthy as a woman, but I could do this so much better than the men. So I think it was sort of that kind of a breakdown.

Erin Harrigan (07:09):

How long were you there? So I spent 25 years in corporate America. I would say the last four is really where I learned the most about myself and inequity and was the most unfulfilled in the work that I did. It's a very toxic environment is very male dominated environment. I don't necessarily think that's what made it toxic, but it just, it was what it was. So that lasts for years was probably the toughest of the 25. And about two years into that journey is kind of when I hit hit wall number one, and I was like, going well, I'm successful and make a lot of money. I have a nice house, but like, is this it? It's just sort of like fine. You know, it was not what I thought it would be.

Lori Saitz (07:58):

Yeah. Start Questioning. Okay. I've reached this level that I thought I wanted to be at and it's not what I thought it was going to be. So now. And so

Erin Harrigan (08:10):

It was sort of like, okay, well where do I go from here? So from a career path standpoint, I knew exactly what was next on the sort of compensation plan if you will, in the corporate organization. But I didn't know that I wanted to go there. And so then I was like, I can remember having conversations with people that I respect and saying, well, should I go get my masters or should I take some leadership classes? Like what is really next? Because this is not, this can't be it like, this is it. You know? Um, the conversation I had with a friend of mine where I was so desperate to change the dynamics of our time and to be able to make what I was making, but be available to my family. And I just said, you know, I just want to help people. And I don't know what that looks like, but I want to have an impact and I want to have significance. And she said to me, you know, but what if you only ever impacted one person like that's enough? Like you could change somebody's life and you don't even realize it because you're so concerned about the significance, equaling the numbers,

Speaker 5 (09:14):

Getting your value from, from numbers, completely getting

Erin Harrigan (09:19):

My value and wrapping my identity up in the achievement 100% that way. Yeah.

Lori Saitz (09:24):

And when we talked to off, before we recorded, you were telling me about a story of a conversation you had with a coworker. And that I think is I would bring it up because I think a lot of people who are listening can relate to that in that you had every external material, not just material, you had, what you said you wanted as success and it still wasn't enough. And so could you just share that

Erin Harrigan (09:52):

Conversation? Sure. So it was, we had moved. So we grew up, I grew up in Maryland, outside of DC, my husband outside of Baltimore. We spent most of our marriage here, um, in, in Ellicott city. And then we moved to Arizona. We, I lost my mom in 2003 and that summer we went on vacation to visit my in-laws in Arizona and kind of over margarita as we were like, we should move here. So we did. And my job at the time allowed me to be able to do that. But it also meant I was traveling a ton like every other week I was traveling back to Philly. And so we moved back to Maryland in 2008 for me to take a different job. And when I was at that job, I was probably a year into that job. I started feeling this sort of like, this is not so fulfilling.

Erin Harrigan (10:39):

It's a success kind of thing. So I had a conversation with, uh, a friend of mine who was on my team at my previous job. And I said, I know this sounds crazy, but I feel guilty that I want something different or something more that I'm not fulfilled because like I'm making this money and I have this house and I have this going on. And I just said, I feel like I shouldn't want for something more. And, um, we'll come back to like how I see that differently now. But in that conversation, it, I was feeling really guilty about wanting more. And I can remember him saying, you're really good at what you do. Go find a place to do that, that fulfills you, that isn't toxic, that provides you more than the dollars on paper, right? This isn't about money. And when I think about that person, we, you know, kind of keep in touch on social media. I've seen him jump from job to job, to job in the last, I don't know how however many years that we haven't worked together. And I'm always like, dude, what are you doing? But to him, it's not about the dollars and the title it's about where do I feel fulfilled and where do I feel like I can make, bring the most value? And so in that moment I was not feeling that at all. But then I was also feeling guilty because I thought, but I have everything.

Lori Saitz (11:56):

Yeah. Why can't I be happy with what I have?

Erin Harrigan (11:59):

That's it? Why can't I just be happy with what I have? Why can't I just be content that I even have it? Yeah. Which I see differently now because of my relationship with the Lord. But at the time it just made no sense to me. And I felt shame because I had worked so hard and I had created this whole new life that I never had growing up. And I was like, oh my gosh, how can I feel like it's not enough? How can I feel like, I sh like, it's just fine. Yeah. I

Lori Saitz (12:27):

Have so much already, how is it not enough? How, and I've heard from a lot of people that then they start questioning what's wrong with me? Why, why can't I be happy with this? Right. And it's because I know we're getting into this, but there's your soul. It was not for me.

Erin Harrigan (12:46):

Right. And I love what you just said, you know, what's wrong with me because when I think about it, that's completely where I went, because I thought, well, there must be something wrong with me. Or maybe I really haven't found what I'm supposed to be doing. Or maybe, maybe I should have studied this major. I mean, it took me back regret, regretting a lot of the decisions that I made, which now of course, I know like there are no accidents, right? Like you go through these stages in your life purposely. And then I can remember this. That was after I lost my mom. But I talked about this the other day when my mom was 50 and I was 27. So I was just on the cusp of getting ready to make that job change. That led me to the six figures. I can remember saying, I just want to know what I'm supposed to be when I grow up. And my mom was 50 and she was like, I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Right. So it was sort of like that coming full circle in the conversation that I had with my friend Wil and him saying like, it's not about a title or a role or so I feel like he was trying to say to me, none of these things are going to fulfill you because you're not supposed to, but I absolutely thought there must be something.

Lori Saitz (13:56):

Yeah. So then after that conversation with him, what changed? What, what did you do differently?

Erin Harrigan (14:03):

So a couple of things changed first and foremost, I started looking for jobs and in the middle of looking for jobs and recruiters sort of laughing at me to say like, well, you can't make that and not travel like that, that doesn't happen. A friend of mine presented me with a new network marketing or multi-level marketing opportunity. And so I decided to try it because I was like, well, what do I have to lose? And then as I started that entrepreneurial endeavor and began to see what was possible at the time with that particular company, it kind of opened my eyes. She will hold on a second. As another friend of mine says, I don't have to do this the way I've always done it. I don't have to walk this path just because that's what those before me have done. I can do something different. I can own a business. And what could that look like? And so I started my business in 2010 and then promoted very quickly in that business, but see, that's me the achievement chaser. Right.

Lori Saitz (14:58):

Um, did you, when you say I could do this differently, did you mean your corporate career or the network marketing and then the overall path Of making money and having a job and success?

Erin Harrigan (15:09):

Right. I didn't have to look just like I work 40 hours a week for 40 years. Right. Okay. So when I got into my network marketing business, I rose very quickly to three of the four levels. And so then I started to plan my exit strategy because I was like, well, hold on a second. I could build this business and I could leave corporate. I could replace my income. And as I started planning that out, I was having my best career year ever in my corporate world. And I was on track to finish the year at 160%, which meant a six figure bonus. And so knowing that I was like, kind of planning out my time and they let me go, wow. And that could be a million reasons that they say that they let me go. But there were two of us that got, let go. Both of whom were overshooting. Our goal, both of whom were going to have going to be paid six figure bonuses while the rest of the organization was suffering. So it's clear to me that choice that they made was really based on, like, we just don't want to pay you that bonus.

Lori Saitz (16:14):

It never makes any sense to me when I hear companies making those kinds of decisions. And I know it's not really part of our conversation, but it blows my mind. So

Erin Harrigan (16:23):

A little sense, but at the time, obviously it was shocking, but two things happen in my brain. Oh my goodness. Now I can focus on my business. Like I can just go build the heck out of my business. One and two. I am never going back to corporate again, ever, ever. Right. So what ensued from that was I took all of that drive and strive and achievement trait chasing that I had done my whole life and had hit that pinnacle that I always wanted, but yet quickly forgot that it was unfulfilling. And I put that into my business, my network marketing business, which very quickly burned me out. And the other thing that happened is our income suddenly dropped. So my business hadn't replaced my income. It was probably two thirds of my income at that point, but we were still living as if we were making, you know, the higher level.

Erin Harrigan (17:11):

So that sort of fine moment that I had in that conversation with my friend that led to me starting this business, which kind of covered up the fine very soon after like four or five years into that business became fine again. So I sort of hit wall number two. And I was like, I have the company car, it's a luxury car, like who knew that would happen to, you know, little Erin from PG county. Um, I have the big house. I have the time freedom. I can come and go, as I want, I'm working my business, I'm making okay money, but we're racking up debt, which I was kind of like putting to the side and like, but I still don't feel like this is enough. Or I, I just, there was still that hole. And because of that, I reached out to a mentor because this coming to the second time of feeling that way, I was sort of like, okay, this must be me.

Erin Harrigan (18:04):

Like there must be something wrong with me because the common denominator is me. Like, there's a saying like, wherever you go, there you are. Right. So if that was the situation at that company, and that's the situation now, and the only common denominator is me, there must be something wrong. So I reached out to a mentor and I said, I don't know what's happening here, but this is not fulfilling. And I'm working so hard because I felt like, well, I just have to do more. I'm just not doing enough. I just like, I'm lazy. And so I need more action. I need more activity. And you know, all of those things,

Lori Saitz (18:41):

That's the thing about our society, especially is the key to success is to just work harder

Erin Harrigan (18:48):

110%. And it's underpinned by the freedom that's discussed in entrepreneurship yet the message that sort of flies in the face of that, which is will activity solves everything. And so if you're not where you want to be in your business, because you're just not doing enough or you don't believe enough,

Lori Saitz (19:09):

Those are the things that every entrepreneur is told and never, never give up. You just need to work harder and work on your belief and work on your personal development. Yes. And then you will succeed.

Erin Harrigan (19:25):

Yes, Yes, yes. That's absolutely what I was taught. And for me as an achiever, like that's a trigger for me. Cause when somebody says like, well just got to do more. I'm like, okay, I'm a rule follower. In the standpoint of like, if you tell me I have to do these five things to get that I'm going to do those five things. And when I finished doing those five things, I'm going to show you my list. Right? So for me it was like, yeah, absolutely. That makes total sense. But because I was hitting this wall again and then what began to happen is as hard as I was working, my business stopped growing and it was just stagnant. And in fact began to go backwards. I was like, this physically makes no sense. Like I'm talking to more people than ever. And yet my business is not working.

Erin Harrigan (20:10):

So when I had the conversation with my mentor, the biggest aha through it was sort of two pieces. One is that I am a very responsible person and have been my whole life, which of course comes out of my childhood. And therefore I'm going to do whatever I need to do, which is great, except that I'm very self-reliant and I'm very, you know, self-centered in the way that I don't want help. I'm not going to ask for help. And when things aren't feeling fulfilled, I'm going to blame myself, which is exactly what I was doing. So how can I fix it? So there was a lot of I language in what I was saying. And then she said for, you know, you don't know who you are or who's, you are, you've wrapped your identity into the achievement and the dollars and the stuff and the right, because you're always trying to fill this hole, but this hole is a God-shaped hole.

Erin Harrigan (20:59):

And for me, as she was saying, you have a savior and Jesus is here. And, but you're trying to do all this on your own. And God is really, I believe trying to tell you, like, you can continue to work harder, sweetheart, but it's not going to get anywhere. And the reason is because I had made work money, my business and idol, and I had put it on this pedestal and I had made it my savior, meaning it was going to fill the hole. It was going to be the thing that fulfilled me. It was going to solve everything. It was going to save me. And so then what God was trying to show me was no, like there are to be no gods before me and yet here's what, here's what I see. So it just was this epiphany in October of 2014, that it didn't matter how much stuff or money or success or recognition or the stage or the title.

Erin Harrigan (21:48):

Like none of that mattered when, what was missing. The contentment that I was seeking was not contentment with the stuff. It was contentment with. He who made me and that shifted everything, Lori, because it was from that point that I began to see that in any culture, in any organization in the world today, there are measurements, math doesn't lie, but how we internalize that math and how we interpret that math is everything. It's just like a marketing message that can be spun or statistics and data that can be reported out a certain way. And that the world says that success is having all of these things. And to me as a kid, that is what success was because I didn't have any of that. So of course that's what I chased. So that was the second wall that I hit and having that conversation with her and for me, you know, giving my life and surrendering my life to Christ and going, okay, I know you've made me a certain way.

Erin Harrigan (22:46):

You've made me ambition. You ambitious. You've given me gifts and talents that you want me to use. So now I need to let go, like literally Jesus take the wheel and I need to allow you to lead me because when I allow you to lead me, then I don't get in the way. And I don't take myself down these dark paths that lead me to idolizing a Mercedes or idolizing the big house or, and there's nothing wrong with those things. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being wealthy at all. There's nothing wrong with having a six figure income. I agree. The issue is what have we tied up in all of that, that gets us to this place where like, well now I have it, but it's just sort of, meh.

Lori Saitz (23:28):

It’s not Fulfilling. I want to go back to a point you made a minute or two ago about the taking responsibility for your decisions and where you were versus blaming yourself. Cause you said it must be me again. I'm the only common denominator. It just pointing out that there's a difference between taking responsibility for your actions and blaming yourself because things aren't going the way you think they should.

Erin Harrigan (23:58):

Yeah, no, that's such a, such a great point because I think sometimes there's shame and blame and everything that the world wants us to feel, which from my perspective is absolutely like, that's how Satan gets us. He wants us distracted and discouraged and doubtful and all of that wrapped into how we can blame ourselves for, for it versus like, you can't say that and then say, I'm going to surrender my life to the Lord. And I'm just going to lay on my couch, like, no. Right, right, right. So we do, we are responsible for the steps that we take and there is action to be taken. But the question is, what is the impetus behind that action?

Speaker 5 (24:37):

Is it inspired action?

Erin Harrigan (24:42):

Yes,Yes. Or is it action because somebody said you need to be in more activity if you were in more activity or if you took more action or if you did more than you would be at that pinnacle and you would feel better and, and all of those things. So yes, there's absolutely that difference. My friend, Dr. Sherry says, it's the difference between surrender and apathy. And that is pretty powerful when you think about it. Because a lot of times the world wants us to believe that in our surrender we've given up. Right. And that is not the case at all. Not at all.

Lori Saitz (25:13):

It's just surrendering control over everything because we really don't have control. Like we think we have it, we want it. And that is not really in our domain. We have control over the actions we take and the inspiration that we follow in taking those actions and what happens then is not our control.

Erin Harrigan (25:38):

Absolutely. And I firmly believe that when we are aligned to what our assignment is, that even the smallest step is exponentially impactful. But see, we want to take 15 steps. Like one is never enough for us. Right? Sure. Or we don't want to take the little steps. We want to take the big leap. Right. Which by the way, the big leap is a fantastic book. It is. I agree. It's, it's, I'm taking responsibility for what I can control. And knowing that as long as I'm walking in the center of God's will, and I'm aligned to the assignment I've been given the outcomes happen because I took the small steps.

Lori Saitz (26:18):

Right? I want to ask you, what is the song that you listen to when you need inspiration, when you need to get hyped up, when you need to get yourself in that place of motivation. Although it doesn't sound like you need too much motivation because you're pretty much, but we all have at times,

Erin Harrigan (26:36):

No, you'd be surprised. So there is, there's a song by Danny Gokey who was on American idol way long ago, called the comeback. And what the comeback reminds me of is this is your time just when you think it's over, it's not now I'm forgetting the lyrics just when you think they've got you game set match, it's like, oh, here comes the comeback. Like just when you think you've hit the end of that rope. And sometimes we do need to hit the end of the rope so that the only place we can look is up. Right, right,

Lori Saitz (27:10):

Right. That a Phoenix rising from that. Yeah.

Erin Harrigan (27:13):

But that comeback piece for me, and I heard the song last year, I spoke at a conference and I had just heard the song for like the first time. And that was my, that was my, um, whatever they call it, like your entry song, like walk up song. I walk up song. Right, right, right. And immediately I was like, I'm so drawn to this because so many times we want to give up on ourselves and we want to say, I messed this up or what's wrong with me that I don't feel fulfilled. Or the common denominator is me. And like, God wants us to know. No, no, no. If you're still here and breathing, I'm not done. So we always have the opportunity for the comeback. Always.

Speaker 5 (27:52):

I love that. So that's why I think that's my song. Fantastic.

Lori Saitz (27:56):

We'll put a, what to put a link to that in the show notes. And speaking of which, how can people get in touch with you if they want to know more about it, talk to you more about your story, hear more about what you're doing now.

Erin Harrigan (28:08):

So I like to hang out on Facebook and Instagram I'm so on Facebook right now, I'm the hustle with heart coach and on Instagram, I'm Erin Harrigan entrepreneur, but really the best place to go is my website, which is ErinHarrigan.com because you can download chapter one of my book Pursuing Success God's Way, which really tells the whole story there. So get chapter one free, but then you can see, you know, just kind of how I talk about what it looks like to pursue success God's way. And you'll know when you land on the site, if, if that's for you and if you want to learn more, my podcast is there. All, all things are right there. So that's the best place.

Lori Saitz (28:43):

Thank you so much for sharing with us today. Erin on fine is a 4-letter word. Thank you.

Erin Harrigan:

Lori was such a pleasure.

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