In this episode of Fraud Busting we’re going to get into the psychology of allowing yourself to be defrauded. We’ll learn what happened when she invested in a ponzi scheme…and sold it to friends and family to invest in as well.
Traci Brown: Welcome to Fraud Busting. I am Traci Brown. I am thrilled today because we have Chistine Parma with us. Let me tell you about Christine. For one, we grew up together. I grew up calling her Nicki, and I might slip up in our interview and call her that today, but she is going by Christine now. She has become really obsessed with helping purpose-driven leaders grow their companies. She is an amazing transformation and performance coach. She has helped me a little bit really understand my value. She helps clients get past what’s been limiting them so that they can really live the life of their dreams. She has a real interesting fraud story for us.
Christine Parma: Yea.
Traci Brown: Nicki, thank you so much for joining us today.
Christine Parma: They get a two for one here. They get Christine and Nicki on the interview.
Traci Brown: There you go. There you go. We’ve known each other since we were five. We have just kept in touch all through school and college. Now you’re living in Vietnam. That’s where we’re recording this from because your husband is over there. Tell us what he’s doing.
Christine Parma: Well, he is, oh gosh, what can I reveal? It’s top secret.
Traci Brown: Is it top secret? It has something to do with shoes.
Christine Parma: Yes, yes. He works for a major apparel brand. We’ll put it that way. He is over here taking care of expanding the company’s reach and really diversifying their manufacturing. We’ll put it that way.
Traci Brown: There you go. Alright. We’ll call it that.
Christine Parma: With the current situation going on, I think the whole question of how many eggs you put into one basket is really up for a lot of people in a lot of companies.
Traci Brown: Absolutely. Absolutely. You all have been in lockdown for a lot longer than what we’ve been here in the States.
Christine Parma: Yes.
Traci Brown: How has that been going? What’s been the strangest thing that you’ve had to get used to in not going out of the house and being locked down in a foreign country?
Christine Parma: The strangest thing, well, so we have been basically self-isolating, although it was really by choice at the beginning, but since mid-January, because we realized early on when the Lunar New Year was happening, we were kind of just tired. We wanted to stay home and rest, and we realized that was about the time that China revealed the coronavirus was going on, and we’re like OMG! There are over a billion people who travel throughout Asia and other parts of the world, but mostly in Asia for Lunar New Year. As soon as Lunar New Year is over, all of those people are going to be coming back from China, from all of these other places, mixing in airports, and the virus is going to explode. We took it upon ourselves to stock up on the things we needed to early, to make some decisions about if we were going to stay here or if we were going to go back to the U.S., and ultimately we decided to stay here partially from – and this introduces the whole concept we are going to get into here, which is about belief systems and belief sets and how people perceive what’s going on around them, because there’s a very different perception here in Asia about the coronavirus, number one, and how seriously it was taken, a lot in part because of past experience with SARS and some other epidemics that they’ve handled. What I’ve noticed is people, at least in Vietnam, the locals are for more willing to temporarily trade their freedom and certain things that Westerners would get all up in arms about, not having the right, but they will actually take the steps and follow government instruction in order to be protected and to be safe. I think it comes a lot from – in this region especially – having decades of hardship and sacrifice and they know this in this lifetime, in this generation, what that feels like, and they’re willing to make sacrifices in order to preserve the gains that they’ve had and to stay healthy, because becoming unhealthy here is a really – the medical systems, let’s just say, is not the best in the world, so you want to stay healthy.
Traci Brown: We’re recording here and it’s the end of April. We’re having protests, and they’re about to open everything back up. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll see if we look back in a couple of months and regret that or if it turned out okay. Yea, I think Americans are much less compliant.
Christine Parma: Definitely.
Traci Brown: And much more willing to speak up about what they think, especially when they have a little bit of extra time on their hands, like they’ve had here in the last couple months to sit around and think about who’s oppressing them.
Christine Parma: Yea.
Traci Brown: Be it right or wrong, it’s just the truth of how things go. Okay. I always ask my guests a couple questions so that everyone can get to know you. I am going to throw out the regular questions, and we are going to jump into a little quiz show about growing up to see if we remember it the same and how well we know each other, just real quick. What was our favorite pastime? We had two things that we really liked to do whenever we would hang out, which was like every day. What were they? Go.
Christine Parma: It was climbing trees, playing in the fort, and gosh, well, we made a zipline.
Traci Brown: With the quarter-inch rope. That thing was not . . .
Christine Parma: The quarter-inch cotton rope. That didn’t go so well.
Traci Brown: Flew out of the air.
Christine Parma: I plummeted to the ground. Playing in the creek.
Traci Brown: Yep, yep.
Christine Parma: And generally being tomboys.
Traci Brown: Generally, generally so. Yea, yea. We had that fort dialed in. Then we got to junior high and what happened? It just went by the wayside.
Christine Parma: Yea. Well, you grow up. You get older. You change your name.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Christine Parma: To Christine.
Traci Brown: You did. You changed your name. Like I said, I never got the memo on it. You’ll always be Nicki to me. If I went and told my mom, “Hey, I talked to Christine”, she’d be like, “Who?”
Christine Parma: Who?
Traci Brown: I went to your wedding and I sat at a table with people who didn’t know me and my mom and dad. I asked them, I said, “Hey. How long have you known Nicki?” They looked at me and they’re like, “Who’s that?” I’m like, “It’s the bride, you crazy.” Okay. I get you have not known here that long.
Christine Parma: Yes. You’re from the way back people or the direct family members. Not many people know that about me. Now, your listeners know that about me too.
Traci Brown: Yea, yea. Right. Call her Nicki. She’ll think that you’re old pals.
Christine Parma: Yes.
Traci Brown: Anyway, okay. Now you’ve got to ask me a question.
Christine Parma: Okay. What was the coolest birthday party of mine that you ever went to?
Traci Brown: I know this. I know this one because you always had the cool birthday parties. I’ve got to tell you, because your birthday is December what?
Christine Parma: The 8th.
Traci Brown: The 7th or 8th. I knew that. It was always the beginning of the Christmas season, like Christmas started after your birthday. Even to this day if I think about it, I’m like, oh, Christmas is starting. Starting Christmas. You had two that I remember. I think the coolest one was when ya’ll were about to remodel your house and we put up plastic around to block off the part that wasn’t – like a dust shield – the part that wasn’t going to get torn out.
Christine Parma: Yep.
Traci Brown: And your mom went out and bought us all this spray paint we could legally buy, and we graffitied the whole inside of your house completely. If we had lit a match in there, it would have gone up in just one big explosion.
Christine Parma: Yep.
Traci Brown: I remember we kind of portioned off places for everyone to have their own little artwork, and by the end, nobody was paying any attention.
Christine Parma: No, no.
Traci Brown: It was complete chaos.
Christine Parma: I think it was really, it was extra cool because I think I was like 8, 8 or 9, we were quite young, like way too young really to be trusted with spray paint cans, but it didn’t matter because the house was being bulldozed, that part of it.
Traci Brown: That was so fun. Okay. Alright. We did good. We did good on the how well we know each other quiz. Okay. Now let’s talk a little bit about your history with financial fraud because it’s been pretty severe, I would say.
Christine Parma: Yes.
Traci Brown: One of the things that I noticed as I read your bio that you sent, like you always had a big heart to really help people, so let’s talk about how you got into the situation, like what you were doing, and then what happened, the whole thing. Let us know.
Christine Parma: Really, this took me . . . It was a very, very painful time in my life. It took me over 10 years to be able to talk about this because I felt so ashamed and guilty. I’ll get into why, all of that, but part of the reason I wanted to talk about this in the context of fraud is because it can happen to anybody. Over the years of trying to really heal from this experience that was deeply traumatic for me, I’ve learned a lot about myself, mindset, human psychology, and what really allows people – how they allow themselves really to be convinced that something is true, and to maybe someone else it’s pretty obvious that it’s not true, and allow themselves to be suckered in or defrauded. But the reason I want to share this is because I’m hoping that it will help someone not go through this and if you have been defrauded, if you have lost money, that you can move past the shame and the guilt and the beating yourself up because that goes along with it. The situation that we find ourselves in, just like your interview with I believe her name was Mary, she was talking about . . .
Traci Brown: Yea, Mary Kelly.
Christine Parma: Yea. When times get tough economically, that’s when, number one, the fraudsters come out even more, but number two, when people are far more susceptible to being defrauded. To give you the short version of my story, it was about 2004 or 2005 when the situation, that I ended up basically being a part of a Ponzi scheme, started happening. To give you some context, I lost my sister to a car accident in 2002 and that was far more devastating and traumatic to me than I even could have imagined. I was in a depression for several years where I couldn’t control myself, emotionally. I would cry in the middle of the grocery store. Every day I was crying.
When you think about what’s happening and what could be coming up as a longer period of stress and anxiety and financial uncertainty for people, some people are in a very similar emotional state where they feel devastated right now.
Traci Brown: A big loss.
Christine Parma: They’re grieving for what, the dreams that they lost, the life they had, the connections they have to other people, so in a lot of ways it’s really similar to experiencing like the loss of a loved one. When you’re in that state and that mindset, you’re not thinking clearly, and it really comes down to that your ability to perceive and suss out what’s true and what’s not true can be compromised in a really big way.
Traci Brown: Oh, yea.
Christine Parma: I had gotten this job in financial services and had a mentor who was helping me learn the business. I kind of fell into this. I trusted him, and I looked up to him. Another part of it is this people have the tendency to give more authority to people they perceive as more experienced.
Traci Brown: It’s called prestige authority. You accept their prestige suggestion. That’s what they call it in hypnotic speak.
Christine Parma: Right. Right, which is very understandable. If somebody has more years in the industry or more experience under their belt, you’re going to look at them as an authority and be more likely to trust them. That’s what happened, and unfortunately, what happened, and I truly believe this man was deceived himself because he actually put a lot of his own money into what ended up being this Ponzi scheme, but the guise that this Ponzi was wrapped in was something that looked very legitimate. They did everything right as far as making it seem real.
Traci Brown: What are the things that you looked at and you were like, yep, but other people looked at it, because I know you said your mom even looked at it, and she was like nah.
Christine Parma: She has a fraud detector that’s just natural.
Traci Brown: Nothing past your mom, growing up, nothing.
Christine Parma: No. The lies. Yea, that made it tough as a teenager to go out.
Traci Brown: We got some stuff passed my mom, but man, no, not Sue Parma, no.
Christine Parma: What happened is it was a real estate investment into resorts, almost like what you would imagine is a hotel chain in Cancun. On the surface, it’s like Cancun is very popular, a lot of tourists go there. They kind of set it up like you might call it, almost like a timeshare. You were buying units almost like a timeshare situation that when those units were rented out by the hotel chain, then it was income to you. It was kind of like an investment property.
Traci Brown: Right.
Christine Parma: I even went so far as to fly down to Cancun with a group of other people, with the guy who I trusted, and other people who I deemed as smarter than me, right, more savvy, been around, been in the financial services for a lot longer than I was. Everything, the hotel was there, the rooms were they, they were full, all of this good stuff, so it seemed like I had done my due diligence, or at least to some extent, but this is the really important piece to pay attention to, number one, is there was a part of me, in my gut, call it intuition, your higher self, divine guidance, whatever you want to call it, or just gut knowing, that was like, eehhh, uncomfortable, but I allowed my mind and what seemed like logical reasons that this was a good investment to override my inner knowing. Then, on top of it, like you said, my mom, who has this like fraud-detector nose on her, said, “Something doesn’t seem right about this. It doesn’t seem right at all that you should do it.” But I had people who were authority figures in my life saying this is a great deal. It wasn’t so crazy. There was a return on investment, but it was like 11%. That’s what they were touting. Not totally unreasonable, especially at that time. That would be the average return. Everything, and this is part of what they did so right, is they made everything seem reasonable, like reasonable enough that if people were having doubts that this was a legitimate thing that the evidence, the “facts” could override the doubts in certain people. Some people I’m sure said no. Lots of people I’m sure said no. Even though I had kind of like this inner warning, looking back on it this is how I have this perspective. This is now over 15 years later.
Traci Brown: Right, right.
Christine Parma: Then of course, there was my mom, who I had, let’s just say, the relationship has not always been fantastic, not as good as it is now, so there was that. I was looking at her saying, “Don’t do this” through the lens of well, if you’re saying not to do it, then I’m going to do it.
Traci Brown: Oh. Okay.
Christine Parma: Like that teenager pushing back against the parent shaking their finger at you. Right. This is all subconscious, of course, as you know. There are all of these factors going on. It went well for a while. Right. I actually am very thankful because of the emotional distress I was still in, I didn’t actually, what I did is I ended up telling other people about it, and they invested as well, but not that many people, I mean less than a handful.
Traci Brown: Now let’s get back to that. Were you selling this to your clients because you were working mostly with teachers, if I remember, or tell me about that.
Christine Parma: Teachers. The financial place I was at the time, their target was teachers. That’s what I ended up . . . There were two teachers and then there was a family member I told about it. You talk about guilt later. Compared to the overall losses of this Ponzi scheme, which were immense, and there were a lot of people, even judges, people you would think, like a judge, would have good judgment, discernment, right, that got sucked into this. It went on for years. But the guilt piece, it’s not only the guilt and the shame around losing my own money because I put my own money into it, but that I had allowed myself to be deceived to the extent and talked into believing it. I have to take full responsibility, this was allowing this to happen to me and no matter what the circumstances were that I was approaching this with perhaps compromised discernment and judgment given my depression, it’s still my responsibility in that I recommended it to other people and they lost money.
Traci Brown: Let’s talk about that. Do you want to reveal how much you put in? You don’t have to.
Christine Parma: The sum total of the money that everyone put in, myself and the people I recommended it to was under $100,000.
Traci Brown: Under $100,000. Okay.
Christine Parma: Which later, I was so grateful for, especially there were people who put in many hundreds of thousands of their own money. If you’re a teacher, it doesn’t matter. If you’re a teaching, losing, it doesn’t matter. Really the amount is not what was so horrifying to me. It was the fact that I had trusted these people and they had lied. They were deceitful. I allowed myself to be sucked in, but that I actually recommended this to other people and thereby perpetuated the harm that was done. That’s what was so horrifying to me, because I would never ever want to do that to someone. Things were afloat for a while.
Traci Brown: You’re getting your checks, like quarterly, or how are they?
Christine Parma: Some people were taking checks and some people were, if you want to say, allowing the investment to accumulate.
Traci Brown: Okay. Reinvesting.
Christine Parma: Just like reinvest the dividends kind of thing. When I started getting the inkling and hearing that people all of a sudden weren’t getting their checks anymore, I thought, oh no, this is not good. I tried to correct it. I hired attorneys to try and force the company, what ended up being the Ponzi scheme company, to refund all of the money essentially. Unfortunately, when a Ponzi scheme is falling apart . . .
Traci Brown: That’s it.
Christine Parma: That doesn’t work. A series of very . . . it was really traumatic, everything that happened, because now I was in the full-on guilt and shame and the panic of how do I fix this? How do I undo the harm that I’ve unwittingly perpetuated upon other people? I was fully focused on that. Then when we got to the point where I’m like it can’t be fixed, then it’s like, oh my God, how can I fix something that was unfixable? The realization that everyone was going to lose their money and that I had made life more difficult for them became almost unbearable.
Traci Brown: Wow.
Christine Parma: And then there was legal stuff that happened. People sued me. It got so bad. Mary talked about what happens when people are under financial stress, the emotional, I was still dealing with all of depression and the emotion from losing my sister, killing myself crossed my mind more than once. Honestly, more than once. The thing that kept me from doing that was I could not do that to my mom.
Traci Brown: Right. Yea.
Christine Parma: She had already lost one of her daughters. I wasn’t going to hurt her in that way. Now, a lot of people, and I’ve known people who’ve committed suicide, they don’t have the mental capacity or the support system or the people around them to allow them to see hope at the end of the tunnel. If you don’t have hope . . .
Traci Brown: You’ve got nothing.
Christine Parma: Then you’ve got nothing. Yea.
Traci Brown: So how did this thing play out? You’re hiring lawyers. People aren’t getting their checks. You figure out that this is a Ponzi scheme. How did you figure that out? Because there must have been a lot of people.
Christine Parma: The first signs were that people weren’t getting their checks. Then the older man, he started panicking because he’s like, he’d put in over $100,000 of his own money. Yea. He had a lot of people that he had recommended this investment to. We hired attorneys. I hired my own attorney separately as well to try. We had a meeting with these investors that we recommended, and you talk about hard is to call together the people who you have inadvertently harmed and stand in front of them and say, “We’re trying to fix this.” But there was – oh – a lot of anger.
Traci Brown: Yea. You think.
Christine Parma: And vitriol. Justified, right. That was just absolutely gut wrenching. When you think sometimes, if you’ve ever felt like everything in life is going wrong and then life heaps another scoop of shit on your pile.
Traci Brown: Yea, yea.
Christine Parma: That’s what happened because we were literally in the meeting with these investors and the attorneys that my mentor had picked these particular attorneys that were recommended to him
because this was international, we were trying to deal with international stuff, the attorneys, all of a sudden, say, “I think you should sue Christine and this man.” They turned on us like in the meeting.
Traci Brown: The attorneys that you hired turned on you?
Christine Parma: Yes. Yes! It was so f- up. The man was like, what?! Hold on. Just a minute. It turned into a shit show, like that whole meeting. So it’s like the best efforts to try and fix the situation just blew up. Right.
Traci Brown: I guess.
Christine Parma: In our faces. Then it got worse for me later because I made the huge mistake of . . . I was very new in the business at the time and under this mentor, and I had gotten my securities license. To heap pain upon pain, then not only were a couple of the individual clients suing me, but the Securities and Exchange Commission came after me.
Traci Brown: Oh man.
Christine Parma: I was like, I am a very, very tiny minnow in a very big pond of a lot of people, but this is what happens. When you look back at decisions that you’ve made before and you wish you could undo them, this was at the top. Right. I’ve spent a lot of years looking at what allowed me to get myself, like make the decisions and a series of decisions that allowed this situation to unfold.
Traci Brown: Right. Let’s talk about that.
Christine Parma: Very painful.
Traci Brown: You’re not afraid to look inward and get some answers. Right. That’s what you help clients with now. What did you come up with? What’s the psychology of being defrauded?
Christine Parma: I think it starts with vulnerability. The vulnerability in yourself, like if you want to call it having your defenses down, can be caused by a lot of different things. It could be something traumatic, a traumatic situation. It can also be conditioning where if you’re brought up or told over and over that you don’t have good judgment, that you’re conditioned to trust authority figures. I mean, you look at the whole school system.
Traci Brown: Right, right, right.
Christine Parma: You look at culture in general, at least in the Western world. What are we told growing up? That we should trust our elders, that their judgment is better than ours, not to trust your inner knowing and your intuition, rely on the facts. Well, the problem is, facts can be manipulated. Right. And to not trust yourself.
Traci Brown: We’ve got fake news all the time.
Christine Parma: Right. It’s even more prevalent. I don’t even know. I’m sure it was a thing back then, but it wasn’t like it is now.
Traci Brown: Right.
Christine Parma: When you are conditioned to not trust yourself, to not trust your intuition, to give over your power to others because they know better, they’re experts, you’re not.
Traci Brown: Right.
Christine Parma: Then it really puts you in a vulnerable position. Then when you heap financial stress because what’s happening now and what happened throughout every great downturn in like the market and the economy is people get desperate for money, and like Mary said, good people do things that end up being “bad things.”
Traci Brown: Yea. They just go over the line just a little bit.
Christine Parma: So not even intentionally. I mean there are people who go over the line intentionally, but then there are the people who are the good people and normally if they weren’t under the duress, or the strain that they are in that situation, they would be able to make better decisions. But because they need the money or the job or they had some kind of emotional trauma or their conditioning, it’s like a crack in the armor. The people who are the white-collar criminals, the people who are really good at convincing you and using the psychological triggers, your own brain’s natural tendencies against you and exploiting those weaknesses, it allows you to convince yourself that the picture that’s being painted of everything being great, or oh, this investment is going to return 20%, because here are all the facts that they laid out, or whatever it is, is actually believable and you end up convincing yourself of what you want to believe. Right.
Traci Brown: Right.
Christine Parma: I wanted to believe. There was a part of me, and I’ve gotten very clean on this over the years, there was a part of me that deeply wanted this, to believe that this was a real investment because I had been and was in so much emotional pain that I needed a win.
Traci Brown: Yea. Something good to happen.
Christine Parma: Something good, and I felt so inherently, and this goes really deep, into my own struggles with feeling worthy and unworthiness.
Traci Brown: Ah, yea.
Christine Parma: There is that proving, like, oh, if this is a real thing, and everybody makes money, and there’s the happy ending that they painted a picture of, then I can feel good about myself.
Traci Brown: Right.
Christine Parma: But then there’s the opposite: When things don’t work out. It totally proves to me again how unworthy I am. Now, that’s a false belief.
Traci Brown: Sure.
Christine Parma: The unworthiness. But in my mind, it’s like every time I tried something and failed, and this was all through school growing up, that’s why I had to get the A’s.
Traci Brown: I know. You always made A’s. You are smart.
Christine Parma: I had to because if I didn’t make the A, then I didn’t have proof that I was a good person.
Traci Brown: Oh, okay. Okay. Yea.
Christine Parma: This goes really, really deep. This is so prevalent throughout society because we are conditioned to need to prove our own inherent worth, through grades, through good sports performance, through getting a good job, through earning “enough money”, through getting the promotion, getting the raise, and if people don’t have that positive feedback, if they’re struggling with lack of self-worth, and all of a sudden their ego mind, all of what they’ve built for themselves as far as the psychological comfort zone, is threatened.
Traci Brown: Oh man, that is deep. I knew we’d do something deep here. Okay. Let’s talk about that because, how can people catch themselves from bumping into one of these traps with their money? If we’re going to look deep emotionally inside, the cue is going to be probably just a little bit different for everyone, but there’s going to be a commonality there. What is it and how can people recognize it before things go out of control and they’re out $100,000?
Christine Parma: Yep. This is where it gets really tricky. This is a huge part of the work that I do is the deconditioning and getting people to the point where they can actually trust themselves and trust their own internal guidance, even in the face of someone else’s authority that is “much greater than theirs” because it really comes down to there will be a knowing, a feeling in your gut, depending on how, if it’s auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc., how it will show up for you, but there is the part of you that always knows the truth that it has the amazing BS detector because at an energetic level you are picking up on other people’s energy, and you can feel the lack of integrity and the lie. The lie itself has energy. But what happens when you get that feeling of no, that something’s not right . . .
Traci Brown: It’s just a little bitty whisper.
Christine Parma: It’s a little whisper, but then especially if your mind can’t immediately back it up with logical reasoning why you’re hesitating, then the mind starts to discount that inner knowing and that feeling, so you’re sabotaging yourself. In that way, given whatever belief systems you have going on and how strong your conditioning is, and how deeply you trust or distrust yourself, your mind will override you inner knowing. You’ll convince yourself that the facts on the ground are more compelling, and I’m just having this uneasy feeling because I’ve never done this before because I’ve never invested in real estate before. Sometimes that’s true. There’s a subtle difference between fear that is coming from a place of stretching your boundaries in a good way, you’re doing something you’re haven’t done before, and the discomfort of knowing when something’s wrong, that’s something’s off. This is also where not only trust in yourself comes in, but faith in yourself, because it takes a lot of faith if you’re getting a “no”, like if somebody says, “Hey, do you want to invest in this?” and it looks great on the outside, and you’re a getting a “no” internally, to say “no”, to trust that even though all the supposed facts, everything looks wonderful, that you’re going to say “no.” But of course, then the mind goes, but wait, you’re going to miss out.
Traci Brown: Right.
Christine Parma: You don’t want to miss out on that fantastic return, and you’ll never get another opportunity like this again. Then people will tell you that because they know that’s what’s going on.
Traci Brown: Exactly. The thing is, there is always another opportunity.
Christine Parma: Yes.
Traci Brown: There always is. Scarcity will get you in trouble, like the scarcity mindset, time after time after time.
Christine Parma: Absolutely. Right.
Traci Brown: That’s one of the things I’ve had to learn, not necessarily with investments. I should say, I guess, my business is an investment in me and my life. Whenever I rush or I hurry or anything, it is the wrong thing every single time.
Christine Parma: Yes.
Traci Brown: I think that’s one of my lessons is to slow down and analyze a little bit more and if they’re like, come on, come on, I’m just like, sorry, I’ve just got to say no. It’s just not right. I’ve had to learn that because, you know me, I like to go fast. I’m like let’s get some stuff done and keep moving. That is just not the way the universe wants to do things. Some people do operate well that way. Not this girl.
Christine Parma: You can when you’re really clear. Right. A good rule of thumb here for people to take away, if it’s not a strong internal “yes”, it’s automatically a “no.”
Traci Brown: Right.
Christine Parma: You apply that rule in your life, you’ll be spared so much pain and suffering and struggle. If it’s not a clear “yes”, even if it’s like an “I’m not sure”, it’s a “no” for now. It’s a no for now. But getting to the point where you can move forward on that no, and you’re just like, it’s a no, it doesn’t matter what I may or may not miss out on because I do know and I do trust that there are other opportunities that will come that are probably even better than this one.
Traci Brown: Oh, yea.
Christine Parma: That’s the problem, especially when people are under a lot of stress, they allow themselves to convince themselves or be convinced by others that there are not any other opportunities.
Traci Brown: Exactly.
Christine Parma: The faith part is when you cannot see what other opportunities there are, but you still say no to things that are a no for you. I was in that position, coming back to the story, the SEC was going after me. They didn’t come after me until I actually had a really good job at Merrill Lynch.
Traci Brown: Let’s talk about how they come after you. Do the guys in the black suits knock on your door? Like what happens?
Christine Parma: Papers. Papers showed up first, the lawsuit papers. I felt like I was trying to like leave it behind. I was like, oh my God. It was so painful for me. I didn’t want to look at it anymore. I was like, it’s somehow going to fix itself. I don’t know. This is all going to go away. Interestingly, I had a client just a couple weeks ago who came to me with a very similar situation where ages ago he made a decision that violated some kind of securities laws. He was also in financial services, and now it’s 10 years later and it’s coming back around to bite him. For him, everybody was paid back. There was the violation of the law, but everybody was whole long ago, so for it to come back around now is even more like, what the heck is going on? Right. In my situation, I ended up getting to a place, this was around I guess 2005, that – the timing, it’s so long ago now. There are parts of me that are very much wanting to forget this. Right. Then the SEC got into it. Then I had to hire an attorney. I ended up being in debt with legal fees for $60,000.
Traci Brown: Oh. Ouch.
Christine Parma: Easy. I was actually talking with a bankruptcy attorney. Then I had just recently gotten married, so you want to talk about compounding even more guilt, I felt like the giant lead anchor pulling my husband under. Right. Someone who I deeply cared and loved about. Again, when these feelings of like, well maybe it’s just time for me to exit the planet, that would be the alleviation of the pain that I was in, came up very strongly, but then it got to the point where I reached with the SEC and with the lawsuits. It was at that point that I’m like, how am I ever going to be able to pay this back? For me, it was really, even with the monetary portion paid off, because it was a settlement, it was a percentage of, not in whole, there was still the part of me that felt hugely ashamed and guilty because these people were not whole and I did not have the ability to make them whole financially. There was all of that that I drug around, gosh, for 15 years, never feeling good enough, but I got to the point where everything was so painful to me that in looking back on it, it was a blessing because I was pushed to the point of surrendering and not surrendering as in giving up or not trying, but stop trying to figure out from my limited perspective, my mind’s limited awareness of what opportunities could come up, so for I said f- it. I’m done. I cannot take this anymore. I was working, again, trying to prove my worth, especially now that I was in trouble with the SEC, prove my worth to my director, who was an authority figure at Merrill Lynch because he believed in me enough to give me the job. I felt obligated to prove my worth to him, so I was at the office until 11 pm every night, and he would actually come into the office at 11 pm. He would see me sitting there. I knew in his mind he was like, Christine’s a hard worker. She’s earning her keep. Right. So it just perpetuated this really destructive cycle in me of having to prove my worth because I felt even more unworthy. Right. At that point, it was a subzero feeling of worthiness. But I got to the point where I could not take it anymore, emotionally, mentally, everything, and I just went into his office one day, and I was like, “I’m sorry, but I have to quit.” I just started bawling, which of course, you’re not supposed to do. It’s not professional.
Traci Brown: Crying. Yea.
Christine Parma: I didn’t really care at that point. It had literally gotten to the point where I’m like, I cannot . . . I obviously have messed up my life so bad, like God, universe, source, whatever you are, you’re going to have to show me the way, higher self, something better because all I see is blackness. I see absolute . . .
Traci Brown: Yea. No hope.
Christine Parma: No hope in this. My husband was wonderful. He was a bright point in my life, a couple of my friends, like you and a couple other close friends who were trying to prop me up when I was just a ball of mess. But I let go. I was like, you know what, do what you will, because I’m already on the brink of declaring bankruptcy. I’ve already gotten into all this trouble. I’m already so emotionally tapped out from everything that’s happened in the last five years of this that it was, that if it’s my time to go off the planet, that’s great.
Traci Brown: There you go. Yea.
Christine Parma: So I don’t have to be hurting so much anymore.
Traci Brown: Then what happened? How did you get out of it? Let’s talk about that. I think there are a lot of people who are probably in a similar situation, like they made a mistake maybe it’s financially, maybe it’s another way in their life. What did you do? Let’s talk about a few tips, just give people a few tips to chew on here before we wrap it up.
Christine Parma: I love to give action, I call them action steps. That’s the coaching part of me. Take some notes here, you listeners.
Traci Brown: I’m taking them. I’ve got them.
Christine Parma: For the listeners, the action steps to take, because number one, I would say what was so key is me essentially allowing to release myself from, if you want to call it my ego, mind’s control and limitation for just long enough for like a good opportunity to sneak in the door. I cracked the door enough, given this point of surrendering to allow a good opportunity, which I’ll tell you what it is in just a second, to come in. I was also very blessed to have friends who were supporting me and took me to the right place to receive this opportunity physically. One of the things, I would say the first action step is to realize that the mindset, the behaviors, the belief systems that got you into the mess in the first place are not going to be the ones that can get you out of the mess.
Traci Brown: Oh yea. That’s huge.
Christine Parma: With those same belief systems, you can’t see the new opportunity. So the first step is really you have to be willing to change. You have to be willing to really look at what’s getting in the way, my belief systems, what behaviors have I been participating in or doing that are unsupportive of the life that I really want to have, and do the work, do the inner work, do the change work, even if it’s on yourself, if it’s in the form of journaling. One of the questions I love to use with my coaching clients is: What needs to be cleared, released, healed, or transformed in order for me to x, y, x? In order for me to make better financial decisions, in order for me to believe in myself, in order for me to get the job I want.
Traci Brown: That’s a great question because here’s the deal. When you ask yourself that question, the answer will come in instantly. It always does. You may not want to believe the answer, but the first thing that comes in is always the right answer to that.
Christine Parma: Yes. That’s why I say, write it down. NLP, as you know, it’s like first thought, best thought. Write down what comes. Allow yourself the grace of believing and allowing whatever wants to come through to come through, and then you can go back and look at it later. Right. But write it down because instantly your mind is going to come in and go, no, no, no, that’s not right. That’s not the right answer. What is the right answer? It has to be a better answer. It has to be one that I can think of. Or is it the one that just pops in? First action step: Be willing to change. Second action step: Ask yourself that question. The third one would be when God, the divine source, whatever you want to call it, life, the universe, puts a new opportunity into your field of awareness, follow it. Right. In human design, they talk about reacting and responding to the world, same as in NLP. From an energetic, if you want to call it from a manifestation standpoint, from even an I create my life standpoint, when you desire something, we live in a mirroring universe, it will come back to you in some form. I was very much desiring a way out of the pain.
Traci Brown: Right.
Christine Parma: Something to show up that was better than what I had, and the way it showed up for me was two of my friends took me to one of these multi-speaker events. It was on personal development. Mark Victor Hansen was there, Robert Allen, and some other speakers who I don’t remember at this point, but T. Harv Eker was there. Something in what he said, and I don’t remember what it was exactly, but again it was that internal, it was a yes, there’s something here for me. I don’t know what it is, but yes. What I believe he was able to do, in whatever he shared, is he was able to inspire me to have hope.
Traci Brown: There you go.
Christine Parma: That I could have a better life, a hope that I could feel like myself again, that there was actually a possibility, there was a way out even if I didn’t know what it was out of my pain and my struggle. I was so intrigued and really desperate for hope that I flew from Texas all the way up to Toronto, Canada, because that was the next event he was speaking at, and at the time he was doing live events and it was called the Millionaire Mind Intensive. Now, of course, it’s like you hook them in with what they want, and you give them what they need, completely applied to that event because even though it was called the Millionaire Mind Intensive, it was all personal development and inner exploration in that three-day event. I went there, and it was so profound for me because I was in the space of hope and possibility. At the event, the experience that I had that actually opened that door for me. This was actually prior to me quitting the job at Merrill Lynch, but then when I quit the job at Merrill Lynch I ended up purchasing some additional programs from Harv, all live events, and I was like, well, I have this time on my hands now. I’m already going to declare bankruptcy so I might as well fly myself to these events and try to get some good out of something before I declare bankruptcy. It was only a month and a half after I quit my job. I was sitting in one of those events, and he never, ever talked about job openings at his company. He starts talking about these job openings. I think the event was about life purpose. I had been doing the exercises, just like with everybody else about what do you want to create in your life? I was like, oh God, I really want to empower people. I don’t know what it’s called. I don’t know. It’s helping to inspire people, helping to empower people, and part of it was I wanted healing for myself.
Traci Brown: Yea, totally.
Christine Parma: I wanted to help other people heal and not go through what I was going through or at least not hang out in that bad place, that undesirable place, for as long as I did. Then all of a sudden, he’s like naming off all these tech things that I can’t do. I’m like, God, I would so love to work with him because it’s a place of growth and inspiration and hope and possibility. He gets to the very last thing, and he says, basically I’m looking for someone to create my high-end retreat program. It’s like the top of his programs because his clients were asking for something. What’s next? What’s next? It was like a mastermind retreat program. As soon as he said it, literally, Traci, it was like a lightening bolt hit me and I jumped out of my seat. It was completely involuntary. I was like going, oh my God, oh my God, that’s it. This is it! This is it! This is the thing. My friends around me were like, woman, what happened to you? Jesus? You’re having like the Holy Spirit?
Traci Brown: Yea.
Christine Parma: Maybe I think it was, in hindsight. But it was such a strong yes. The thing is a lot of people think it has to be that strong of a yes in order for it to be a yes. Most of the time, it does not come as that strong of a yes.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Christine Parma: I was like, this is it. This is my opportunity. Like I knew that. I had zero else to lose. So I’m like going for it 100%. Now, the other trap that people can fall into is when that new opportunity shows up, they think it’s got to happen right away, and it’s going to be easy if it’s the right opportunity.
Traci Brown: No. It’s going to be hard. Are you kidding?
Christine Parma: It can be. It can be. The insight I’ve gotten, really actually quite recently, is what I call the splatter zone. When you are in that place of a the fear and the desperation and all the shame and the guilt and you’re projecting that out, and that’s the energy you’re putting out for years, for me it was, sometimes for people it’s a lifetime, their whole entire lifetime, it’s like you can get the new opportunity, but you still have been putting that out there for so long that given time and space, I’ll call it that for now, you’ve still got some crap to work through, the repercussions, the consequences of that way of thinking and being that you were for so long. So it doesn’t necessarily happen right away. It can’t. The opportunity can be easy. It’s can come. It’s aligned. The clearer you get, the more that happens. But in the meantime, when you get the yes, this is where the faith part and the trust in yourself is so important because it’s going to allow you to walk through the splatter zone when you’re like, hey, I thought I’m now thinking right. I’m now putting out what I want. I’ve gotten my beliefs cleaned up. Why does my life still look like crap? That’s the splatter zone. Right. It’s like a swarm of locusts. You’re driving down the road and it’s up ahead. You created it five years ago. You’re going to hit the swarm of locusts, and it’s going to be splatter, splatter, splatter all over your windshield, but eventually you get to the other side of the swarm. That comes from the place of creating from that clarity and that trust and that faith and that knowing and the beliefs in the ways of being that support that. It took me seven months of trying, of going to every event that Harv was at, putting myself in front of him, auditioning to be one of his trainers, which I didn’t really want to do, but I’m like, if he’s there, I’m there. Right. This is where the action, your part of co-creating with the universe and co-creating your life, if you want to call it that, comes in. You have to follow up with the aligned actions. Literally I got to the point, the brink again, where seven months down the road and my husband’s going, maybe you should look for a job? That’s what happens. Then people start to say things like that, or you start to think things like that, and you start to doubt yourself. I literally reached the point where, again, it was that place of surrender. I was like, okay, I’ve been balls to the wall with this – pardon the expression – for seven months. Did I get it wrong? Did I misinterpret that strong yes? Did I go down the wrong path, God, universe, or am I just inches from the finish line? Right. Because that’s when the stuff gets really thick a lot of times. When are just inches from getting that thing you want, from stepping into a whole new way of being, achieving what you want to, and you give up. I said, you’ve got to tell me. You’ve got to tell me now because I don’t know. I was crying and I checked my inbox and there was nothing, you know, as far as the job. I was like, you’ve got to show me. Send me an email. I love really obvious stuff.
Traci Brown: Yea. I know.
Christine Parma: Letter. Phone call. All great. I looked up and no joke, Traci, I looked up and I saw not a new email, it was down. I had not seen it, somehow, or it was not there before. I don’t know exactly how this played out. It was an email, and I opened it and basically it said, you’ve got the job.
Traci Brown: Perfect.
Christine Parma: I was literally, I was so dumbfounded in that moment, I’m like, did I just experience a miracle? I think I did. I think it was a miracle. I think that was a real miracle. I was like, oh my God, thank you. Of course, throughout that transition, because just for context, everybody, I was in zero way on paper at all qualified for that job. Zero. I had no experience creating programs or retreats. I was like, high-end people? I’m the one in debt here, and I’m going to go ask somebody for $20,000 for this five-day retreat? Like, what am I thinking? But I was so desperate that it was actually a gift. My desperation in that time was a gift because I was like, I don’t care. I’m just going for it because I have nothing to lose.
Traci Brown: I think there’s something to be said for that.
Christine Parma: Yea. That’s what, for me, turned everything around and opened up this whole entire new chapter of my life. I would not be doing what I am now otherwise.
Traci Brown: Right. Let’s talk, real quick, about what you’re doing now, how people can get a hold of you, and all that good stuff.
Christine Parma: What I love to help people with is to help them move past their own limitations and move past whatever it is that’s blocking them and really step into the clarity about what they want, about what needs to be let go, letting go of all of that through the different transformational modalities I use, like neurolinguistic programming, working at energetic and soul levels, in the clearing work that I do, and really getting to a place of even allowing yourself to have the good life, the great life that you want. All of the goodness that is really possible for you, and coming from a very strategic place, like I said, you can do the asking. You can think the great thoughts. You can re-configure your beliefs, but it doesn’t matter how long you meditate for, like the bag of money . . .
Traci Brown: It’s not going to fall on your head.
Christine Parma: It’s not going to fall on your head. Right. Aligned action. That’s where people really get tripped up and why I love to support people in being accountable in not only making those shifts but taking the aligned actions and helping them overcome that mind chatter. The work that I do is deeply transformational. It gets absolutely amazing results for people. At the core, it allows people to perceive new opportunities for themselves so that they can actually have them. Because if you can’t perceive something different for yourself, you can’t take action on it. You can’t allow it in. It’s all of this shifting, this transformation, this healing work that goes on that allows you to perceive differently so you can see the opportunities that are all around you, to have, and be, and do whatever it is that you want, that you’re just getting in your own way.
Traci Brown: Right.
Christine Parma: A really important point here, and you’ll agree on this, Traci, is that it’s not other people who are getting in our own way. It’s ourselves.
Traci Brown: It’s all yourself. Yea.
Christine Parma: Yea. All we can ever control is ourselves and our responses to what’s happening in the world or to other people. If we think we can control other people, all of that, that’s complete BS.
Traci Brown: Ain’t it though. Ain’t it though.
Christine Parma: People will change in response to you being different.
Traci Brown: Oh yea.
Christine Parma: They will. But it’s not you making them different. It’s you being different, making yourself different so that the way the world and other people respond to you is different and it’s like, oh my gosh, now magically, I had a client say, oh my God, my daughter’s changed so much. I said, well, you’ve changed, so of course, number one, you’re going to see her differently, but number two, she’s going to respond to you differently.
Traci Brown: Absolutely, absolutely. Okay. How can people get a hold of you? What do they need to do? Let’s talk about that.
Christine Parma: They can go to ChristineParma.com. You can learn more about me there, first of all, and the work that I do, and also in the navigation bar you’ll see a tab that says Free Resources. You can always click there and grab one of my recent resources. I help a lot of entrepreneurs and company leaders who really want to transform themselves and their businesses in the way that they help their clients and serve the world, and also people who are really looking to find that joy again for themselves.
Traci Brown: There you go.
Christine Parma: That joy and happiness. Somehow, somewhere along the way, they lost it. They know something’s missing, and they haven’t been able to figure out how to get to that place of joy again, I love helping people do that.
Traci Brown: Oh, and you’re good at it too. You’re good. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
Christine Parma: It was fun.
Traci Brown: And how to get to the other side of it. Make sure, get in touch with Christine. She is fantastic. If you call her Nicki, she will like you more.
Christine Parma: Traci sent you.
Traci Brown: Yea. Tell them I sent you. Yea.