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Inspired Passion (A Special Mother’s Day Post)

Inspired Passion (A Special Mother’s Day Post)


Guest post by Jeanette Coon

[Editor’s Note: Originally conceived as a mother-daughter project, I’m honored to share my own mother’s story and contribution to the Global Girls Project on this very special Mother’s Day. While her story highlights her passion for learning, it is also a story of courage and resilience, and of using her own cancer walk to advocate, inspire and support others who have walked this journey, too. She is a true force of nature and my own personal hero and role model for what it means to truly thrive in the face of adversity, while staying forever open and curious along the way!]

To have a passion for learning is to have a basic interest in the world around us – people, places and things…

It’s like a good dessert – You can’t get enough of it!

Personally, I have always strived to be the best that I can be in whatever I’m doing. If I find something that I’m especially interested in, and I can’t rest until I have learned everything I can about that subject or perfected an art to the point that I have reached my personal limitations.

Often we are able to share what we have learned with others. Sometimes opportunities just present themselves; other times we have to find a way to share. Some of us, for example, aspire to be professional teachers. When I was in college, I related “teaching” to “teaching school”, which I was not interested in. Later in life, I discovered that my gift was coaching and teaching young professionals in the business world – specifically communication skills, which included etiquette. I felt so strongly about the lack of communication and etiquette skills in the business world that I formed my own company, enabling me to reach out to others.

Sharing can be something as simple as helping one person, even if it’s just to give them an ear. Often we can do the most good by just listening to others. Sharing can also be in the form of Public Speaking. Not everyone is comfortable getting in front of a room full of people, but since that has never bothered me, I was able to fulfill the roles of leader and speaker throughout my life.

Sharing can also be in the form of entertainment. One of my “passions” has always been Ballroom Dancing. I love to dance and have studied to become the best dancer I can be. I never became a great dancer, but I reached my personal goals/ limitations. Putting on shows was a way to share this art with others. It also was a source of inspiration to many.

From a passion for learning comes opportunities for sharing what you have learned. I was fortunate enough to live overseas for fifteen years and one of the places I lived was Singapore. I found the people to be absolutely fascinating. This led me to a curiosity about their language, so I began the study of Malay. Along the way, I was also introduced to “The Art of Fruit and Vegetable Carving” by Akiri Tachashi, the world master at that time, from Japan. Eventually, I began teaching this art at The Chinese Women’s Institute and was preparing to teach it in Malay when my husband was transferred to England.

Years later after we had moved back to the United States, I found myself in a situation where I was able to teach ASL (English as a Second Language). My church had a group of Asians who spoke very little English and were trying to adjust to living in the United States. The Asians in Singapore had always been so kind to me that I was thrilled to be able to help them here in my country.


Throughout my life, I have had many wonderful opportunities for learning and sharing in many different capacities, though I believe that my life has had the most impact as a result of my “Walk through Cancer”.

In 1982, we were living in England when I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was flown to Houston, where I underwent surgery. From birth, my lungs were in bad condition, so I was given very little chance of surviving the surgery. Obviously, I survived, but after removing two lobes of my right lung, 2 ribs and part of my chest wall, I was given less than 5% chance of living 5 years. Because I had little feeling on my right side, I was also told that I might never have full use of my right arm. I went home prepared to die.

After the five years passed, and I was still in this world, I decided that it was time to get on with my life. My husband and I joined a dance club – and the ballroom dance lessons began. I LOVED IT! I just could not get enough of it. I kept dancing with my teachers! I didn’t seem to have any physical limitations as a result of my surgery, and my arm was just fine. Perhaps a little short on air, but I was told that I could expand what was left of my lung with exercise – so more dancing! I was soon participating in Dance Competitions and doing shows. Over the years, I had the opportunity of dancing at many dance studios, including the Hobby Center, Wortham Center, and the Miller Outdoor Theater. I also had the opportunity of dancing in a movie with Sally Fields – “A Woman of Independent Means.”

In 1998, I had to have lung surgery again. Fortunately, there was no malignant tumor, but they did have to remove ¾ of the remaining lobe in my right lung.

After a brief recovery, I was back to dancing again.

In 1999, I was feeling the need to do something more with my life. Sometimes finding ourselves can be a case of trial and error. I joined Mary Kay Cosmetics. I was very successful at this and I became Queen of Sales and Queen of Recruiting, but this was not giving me the sense of fulfillment that I was looking for. Although I have a BBA Degree from the University of Miami, I went back to school to study fashion and image management. I sat for exams to become a certified Image Consultant.

Being an Image Consultant can involve different things to different people. I discovered that my passion was in helping young professionals, so in June of 1999, I formed Professional Presence, LLC and developed Communication and Etiquette Courses that I could offer to the business world. I also became involved in the world of fashion and became Houston Regional Director for The Fashion Group International.

After 10 fabulous years, I retired. I haven’t slowed down much but am focusing my time on my family.

I still share “my story” so that others may not give up when faced with seemingly overwhelming obstacles. Keep your passion alive!

Regarded as one of Houston’s top professional speakers and seminar leaders until she retired in January 2011, Jeanette was president of Professional Presence, LLC (dba Professional Polish), a full-service image consulting firm – serving corporations and executives since 1999. In September 2008, Jeanette was recognized as the 2008 Woman of Excellence by The Fashion Group International of Houston, Inc. The Federation of Houston Professional Women and the FHPW Educational Foundation holds an annual event to honor outstanding business women from member organizations. Jeanette attended the Finishing School at Gulf Park College in Gulfport, Mississippi before earning her BBA Degree from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. Jeanette furthered her education in Fashion and Image Management at Houston Community College and was recognized as a Certified Image Consultant in 2000. After growing up in Florida, Jeanette lived in the southern United States and around the world – Australia, Singapore and England. She has resided in Houston since 1982. Jeanette has two grown daughters and three grandchildren. She is a member of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church.

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