My Story

Shaunti with baby brother - age 5My Name
First, since everyone asks, let me explain where my name comes from. My parents were Peace Corps volunteers in India before I was born, and my name is the Hindi word for “peace.” Although they came back to the U.S. to have me, my folks returned to India for a year or two when I was small, so my father (a Ph.D. economist) could do a Fullbright Scholarship. (You might say that I have a lot to live up to!)

Growing up in DCShaunti in musical theater - junior high

Fast forwarding a few years, I grew up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., where my dad worked at the World Bank, doing groundbreaking development work in many Asian countries. (He actually pioneered a now-common system of bringing together the people who would actually benefit from the massive agricultural development projects – mostly peasant farmers – to have “ownership” of the project and therefore ensure much more effective use.) My mother was a stay-at-home mom with me and my younger brother, and after a family drug-related tragedy, she founded and ran an anti-drug-abuse foundation for a decade. She later became a nurse.

Shaunti musical theater - Godspell- high schoolMy parents are both wonderful, serving, giving, big-hearted people and I’m immensely grateful for the fact that I’m their kid. From the earliest I can remember, and extending into my mid-twenties, the one thing I was most passionate about was singing, dancing, and musical theater. I can’t even count how many shows I was in, how many singing groups I was a part of, or even how many shows I eventually choreographed to make some money on the side, before, during and after college. I didn’t know it at the time, but all that onstage experience would come in handy years later as a public speaker. (Just don’t expect me to break into song in front of anyone. I’m way out of practice!)

The Good Old College DaysShaunti at  Dude Ranch -circa 1987 - riding horse

I spent four wonderful years at the College of William and Mary, in colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. I made some lifelong friends there and gained a superb education, majoring in Government and Economics. (I’m a huge encourager of anyone who wants to go to W&M — it’s a hard work, but an incredible school and community in every way.) Because I’m also an outdoorsy person, during three of my college summers, I worked at a dude ranch in the Colorado Rockies – a fun, intense opportunity that did more than anything else to drill a work ethic into me. But the most important event during my college years was an unexpected, life-changing faith awakening that occurred at age 21, a few months from graduation. (You can read more about that on my beliefs page.

CapitalWorking on Capitol Hill
After college was the first time I really saw that a divine hand was at work, maneuvering things behind the scenes, as I landed an incredible job on Capitol Hill, working for the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. Since I am socially conservative, it may surprise some of my column readers to know that I started out working for the Democrats, but I’m just not as conservative on some fiscal issues. Because I was there during landmark reform of the financial system, in the wake of the S&L and banking crisis, those years were exhausting (contrary to popular belief, many government employees work their tails off!) but the best possible professional foundation.

Heading to Harvard’s Kennedy SchoolHarvard Logo
I then moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to go to Harvard for graduate school. I got a Master in Public Policy with a concentration in business in 1994, taking all my core classes (and earning my degree from) Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and taking my electives at Harvard Business School. For those who are wondering, an MPP is an analytical, quantitatively-oriented degree that is a bit like a business degree, but for working with anything in the public interest.

Jeff and Shaunti best smileThen I Met Jeff…
The most important event of those two years was not the great education I got (by far the most demanding amount of work I’ve ever done at one time!), but the fact that I met my husband, Jeff. He was the leader of the Law School Christian Fellowship group and in their a cappella singing group – which I soon joined! On my part at least, I was intrigued at first sight. He’s an absolutely wonderful guy.

He graduated a year earlier than I did, and after I graduated we got married and began our life together in New York City, where Jeff proceeded, like all New York lawyers, to work 18-hour days for five years. I took a job that I loved, staying on top of the Japanese financial crisis for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but we knew New York was temporary — we wanted kids, and couldn’t raise a family with a dad who never saw them.

About JeffJeff Feldhahn headshot
So we moved to Atlanta. I almost immediately began writing books (which I’ll talk a little more about, below), and Jeff worked a few years for a smaller law firm. But it turns out – he’s an entrepreneur at heart. Prior to going to college, he had owned restaurants for eight years with his family near his small farming community in Michigan. (He also grew up with a wonderful mom and dad who were very supportive, and supported their sons in the restaurant business. But when the restaurants slowed down, Jeff completely changed track and ended up speeding through college in 2 ½ years as valedictorian and going to Harvard Law School – go figure!) Anyway, years after his restaurant ventures, he still had the entrepreneurial bug.

Jeff at Work
So near the end of 1999, he left his law firm and he and several partners founded a technology company that they named World2one… six months before the tech crash. Not the best timing! Even in a terrible market, their concept was so great that they managed to raise the money to get the product developed in a beta version, but at 9/11 their ability to keep the company going ran out and they closed the company’s Jeff Working Law Firmoperations the next day. They never had a chance to get the “real” product to market. But because Jeff as an attorney had the ability to develop an independent legal practice to keep the family budget going, we decided he would also keep the company going in a ‘holding pattern’ on a shoestring budget, largely self-financed, testing various markets, developing possible sales channels for down the road, making incremental progress on essential new development, and working toward the day when we might be able to make a real go of it. We are both very much hoping for that day, and if it happens it will be a fantastic story.

In the meantime, he and several friends from law school joined up with other attorneys who had left big law firms and created an independent legal partnership, FSB Corporate Counsel – an entirely new business model for the legal field. Under their model, these attorneys are retained by corporations and individuals who need specialty representation but who either don’t need an in-house attorney or whose current attorneys don’t have the time or the expertise to run a particular type of deal. Each attorney works at their client sites, or from home, so they have very little overhead. It’s a great model, and allows a lot of flexibility.

Jeff the FatherJeff the Father
Because of that flexibility, we’re so grateful that Jeff is able to be such an involved dad. When we got married, a friend joked that Jeff just wanted to have kids so he would have someone to play with … and there’s something to that! Because he and I both have flexible schedules, he is able to step in when I’m out of town for an event and do all sorts of fun things with the kids. In this culture, where it often seems like the kids get lots of Mom time and very little Dad time, we are very, very grateful that our kids have a back-and-forth with both of us.

And whenever we can, I bring one of the kids (or sometimes the whole family) with me on my trips, which brings me back to the story of how I ended up as an author and public speaker. The short version is this – and every time I recall it, I’m reminded of how obvious it is that I could never have arranged this particular life path and that there was a divine hand working behind the scenes.

Y2KThe Writing Begins
Essentially, in early 1998, newly-arrived in Atlanta, I had this odd, strong conviction that I was supposed to write a book proposing a balanced, faith-not-fear response to the approaching Y2K issue, as a counterpoint to some of the current thinking that was saying “grab the dog, the shotgun, and head to the hills.” I had done some analysis of Y2K in my New York life, and I knew that no-one could make a prediction that it would be a crisis… or that it would be nothing. At that point, it was just too early to tell – but I knew that the “protect yourself at all costs” thinking was not faith-filled thinking, or productive.

But although I had this weird feeling I was supposed to write a book, I knew nothing about publishing… only that it was impossible to get published! I knew it was impossible to accomplish something like that. But I was also doing a new personal devotional study called Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby, and on the same day that I had this strong feeling about writing a book, I read an astounding comment in the study. Blackaby said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “We so often limit God, by not responding when he calls us to do something, because we look at that thing – whatever it is – and we say ‘I can’t possibly accomplish that.’ But that is the whole point! If it is really something we can’t accomplish it, only He can accomplish it, and then it becomes obvious to everyone – including us – that it was a God-sized work and was not our own doing.”

Making of a Bestsellerdynamic_image
Somehow, I just knew I was supposed to try it. Just test it out and see what happened. So I said, “Okay, God, I will do what I can do, which is pull out two years’ worth of collected research on Y2K and start writing. But You are going to have to do the publishing thing – because I can’t possibly accomplish that!”

Two days later I just “happened” to be introduced to a man named Calvin Edwards who found out that I was working on this project, and looked astounded. “You’re not going to believe this,” he said, “but just last week I had breakfast with a friend who is the acquisitions editor for a major Christian publisher, and he told me they really wanted to publish a book on a balanced response to the Y2K issue, and if I happened to run across anyone writing a book like that, to let him know.”

Two weeks later I had a contract, and it became a surprise best-seller. I was very grateful that so many leaders in the faith community told me that that book was a real catalyst to help people confront uncertain times in faith rather than fear. Once 9/11 happened and we entered this new age of unsettledness about security, I understood even more why that message had been so important.

Jeff and Shaunti with babyAnd then the Children Came
Okay, so fast forward again a few years. Jeff and I had a baby daughter, and then two and half years later, a son. I had a pretty challenging time with the birth of our son, and apparently came pretty close to not making it. It was an eye-opening experience to intimately understand why the leading cause of death among women for most of history used to be childbirth. And it’s a cliché, but coming close to death truly does help bring such an appreciation for the time that one has been given!

All that said, we’re very grateful for this sweet time with our children. They are small now, but growing up at that all-too-rapid pace that we’ve been warned about. We are enjoying every minute – well, almost every minute! – of watching them grow and explore their world.

Writing the Fiction Books
During this time of having the kids, I also wrote two novels – two spiritual thrillers, The Veritas Conflict and The Lights of Tenth Street. I’m a keen fiction reader myself, and it was fun to learn from and try to incorporate some of the styles and ideas of several of my own favorite novelists, like Frank Perretti, Dick Francis, Francine Rivers, John Grisham and Randy Alcorn.

The ColumnDiane Glass
In 2003, when the second of those novels was being published, I also was invited to become an opinion columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, debating a liberal counterpart, Diane Glass, pictured here, every week in print on women’s issues and pretty much any hot topic you can imagine. It started out as an online point-counterpoint column that eventually got noticed and syndicated nationwide by Universal Press Syndicate. It’s currently printed in about fifty newspapers each week, and is a terrific chance to use my analytical experience in a totally different way, on the policy issues that so intrigued me in graduate school. Diane and I partnered together on the column for four years before Diane tragically lost her battle with a rare form of cancer. Andrea SavardyIn September 2007, Andrea Sarvardy, joined the team as my new debate partner.


The “Only” Books
home_page_books_20110708
As I explain in the opening of my book, For Women Only, the research about men for the 2003 novel is also what opened up the need to jump back into the non-fiction world. I’ve been extremely grateful for the eager reception of For Women Only, For Men Only, For Young Women Only, and For Parents Only. With each of these books I have the same sharply focused goal: to identify, investigate and analyze important surprises that we as individuals really need to know about others who are close to us – those truths that they really wish we understood.

I’ve had readers ask, “Are you going to do the next book on this or that subject?” The answer is this: because each of these books is based on a special-purpose research study, and each requires a massive amount of effort, expense and analytical time, I’m committed to only adding books to this series if they accomplish that laser-focused objective of bringing important surprises to light. I’m not a counselor or a psychologist; I’m just an analyst who happened to stumble across some fascinating surprises and had the ability to dig into them and bring them to other people. I’m not trying to cover the waterfront of “everything you need to know about marriage,” for example. There are plenty of organizations, psychologists and books that are already covering the waterfront and do a much more extensive job than I can do, of exploring a wide range of issues. I simply open people’s eyes to these very specific things they didn’t “get” and then refer them onward to the books and resources of others who can go in much greater depth in those areas.

 

The Life Ready WomanThe Struggle to Juggle

In January 2011 I had the privilege to see the release of a book which I co-authored with Robert Lewis. The Life Ready Woman: Thriving in a Do-It-All World .  Robert Lewis is the founder/creator of Men’s Fraternity  and the author of Raising a Modern-Day Knight, Rocking the Roles: Building a Win-Win Marriage, Real Family Values, and The Church of Irresistible Influence just to name a few. The Life Ready Woman: Thriving in a Do-It-All World, reveals a profound biblical roadmap for how each of us can find the abundant life we are longing for, rather than the stressful, torn, how-do-I-balance-it-all life we often feel like we are trying to keep up with today. Actually being a LifeReady Woman means that you are clear about your life, bold in your faith, and able to find God’s best for you, and the end result will be that you not only survive but thrive in our do-it-all world.

Women in the Workplacefor-women-only-workplace

Early on in my research for the personal relationship books, it became apparent that there were professional applications and insights to some of my findings.  After years of more extensive research I finally finished the first workplace book in a new series starting with For Women Only in the Workplace: What You Need to Know About How Men Think at Work for the faith-based market. The Male Factor:The Unwritten Rules, Misperceptions, and Secret Beliefs in the Workplace is the general-market edition of for Women Only in the Workplace, which I launched on the Today Show in 2010.

Feldhahn family - main photoWhere I am Now

I’m enjoying the speaking invitations and opportunities that have risen up around the For Women Only series. I travel extensively, which is sometimes pretty tiring, but it is so thrilling to stand before an audience – anything from a small intensive couples’ retreat, to 30,000 women in a stadium telecast, to 50 women at a time cycling through their company’s training room – and actually watch their eyes being opened to things they (like me) just didn’t see before.  These are my ‘babies’ a few years ago, but as you can see they are growing before my eyes!
The other reason that traveling can be difficult, obviously, is that it is so hard to be away from my family! Lisa A. RiceEspecially with young children, we need to be really careful. So in addition to my husband’s flexible schedule, what we also try to do is travel together as a family as often as possible on weekends. Its getting more challenging now that Jeff and I are getting joint speaking engagements, so we try to be very selective about which engagements we will accept as a couple, which I will accept alone, which Jeff will do by himself, or which would be a better fit for Lisa Rice, my co-author on For Young Women Only and For Parents Only (As the mother of teens, Lisa is terrific at the youth events; check out the partner speakers section of this website.)

Thankfully, in the midst of this traveling, when the kids can’t be with us, we have a wonderful network of friends and helpers in our area who pinch-hit when necessary – not to mention that our parents just love having some good grandparent time!

rn1_6798 - scf best shot - straight on -croppedWell, that was probably more than you really needed to know about me and the crazy life I’m living at the moment, but I was asked to be detailed, and detailed I was!

I’m grateful for your interest, and hope you enjoy exploring other areas of this website… and, more importantly, the messages of my books.

Warmly,

Shaunti