CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 15, 2015 — Southeast Missouri State University alumna Janet Eckles of Orlando, Florida, spends her days bringing change to a world in need.
Janet is a “master interpreter,” author, writer, published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” international speaker, radio host, missionary, life coach, host of “Cooking in the Dark” video segments and founder of JC Empowerment, Inc. Her plate is full figuratively and literally.
“Although I didn’t pursue a traditional career in the corporate world, my entrepreneurial spirit came alive some years after graduation from SEMO. Oddly, it was sparked when a retinal disease robbed my eyesight completely. But my blindness didn’t slow me down. Rather, it fueled my passion to move forward,” she says.
Her days are packed full of excitement. She interprets for a few hours and then continues to write her novel or children’s books or her latest masterpiece, “Contagious Courage: Your 3-day Journey to Overcoming Stress and Anxiety.”
“Then it’s time to impart inspiration through social media,” she says. “I craft insights to lift the day of my readers and followers through Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Google Hang Out, etc.
She says she also prepares for upcoming speaking engagements, outlining her message based on the needs of the group, identifying creative props, working on the delivery and preparing the trip should the speaking engagement be out of town. These engagements are for faith-based groups or corporate events where on one occasion she had the honor of sharing the stage with John C. Maxwell.
“Another task is to craft material for my radio show which is broadcasted live over the internet and archived. One of the segments reached 103,000 listeners,” she said. “The topic is different each segment—from issues of overcoming tough times to seeing God’s miracle in daily living.”
For her “Cooking in the Dark” video segments, Janet says she prepares by choosing the recipe and gathering ingredients to begin recording.
She loves to take her message worldwide as well.
“A few times a year, I head to other countries. This requires much preparation as I travel alone and the arrangements take time and must be outlined with anticipation,” she says. “During my last trip to South America, I spoke to nearly 4,000 folks who were transformed and equipped to face adversities and to live victoriously.”
Janet credits Southeast with helping her attain the success she has achieved.
“The blend of caring teachers and counselors who took added interest in students gave me confidence in my academic endeavors. The clear guidelines and rules established by the president and faculty offered a safe environment teaching me that life has boundaries,” she says. “We gain when we respect them. We lose when we disregard them. The expectations by faculty members and counselors gave me a sense of purpose. Meeting their expectations taught me to comply with what is expected, to achieve what is set forth and to fuel the passion to persevere.”
At Southeast, Janet earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a minor in Spanish. She chose Southeast because it was close to his home and she loved the atmosphere.
“The warm, friendly atmosphere was inviting. SEMO offered the degree I wanted to pursue,” she says. “Cape Girardeau was not only relatively close to home, but offered large university’s attributes nestled in a unique college campus.”
Her favorite memories at Southeast were the days she encountered everything that helped shape her life.
“The moment I was walking down the street to my English class and I stopped at the AK Psi house – that is where I met my husband to be,” she says. “My second memorable moment at SEMO was walking in my cap and gown to receive my diploma. We cheered, we hugged, and some shed tears. But graduation didn’t mean good-bye. For us it meant the continuation of close, lifetime friendships that have deepened and blossomed even after nearly four decades,” she says.
In her free time, Janet can stays busy dancing, teaching, spending time with her husband Gene, taking a Caribbean cruise or just playing with her beautiful two grandchildren.
“I teach Sunday school at my Christian church and that position has taught me the most about selfless giving, to give our time with no expectations and to think of others first. I also love to dance, from Flamenco to Salsa, Tango and Cumbia,” Janet says. “One of my hobbies is to experiment and create unique, healthy dishes and some I present in my ‘Cooking in the Dark’ video segments.”
She says, “Another passion is to get on the floor and play with my grandchildren. I aim to teach them that blindness is an inconvenience, not a limitation. It’s a unique position, but unusually rich, as I teach them to see life with their heart and not with their eyes.”
To Southeast students she offers this advice:
“As I address commencement exercises for colleges, I impart a message called the ‘Secrets of Excellence.’ They are: Control your thoughts. They have the ability to defeat or drive you to the greatest heights. Embrace the gift of gratitude. More than gold, the ability to be grateful for everything adds richness to your life. Never compare yourself to others. You’ll boast, making you unpleasant. Or you’ll be bitter, making you unproductive. See the best in others. The way you see them is a reflection of how you see yourself. Set your goals for today. Success begins not with the goals you set for tomorrow but with the steps you take today. Lastly and most importantly, place yourself in God’s care. It’s in His care that success has no deadline, and greatness has no limits.”
She adds, “I was where you are now—insecure about my dreams, unsure about my future, confused about my choices, overwhelmed by life’s issues, fearful about my success and worried about my grades. But looking back on all those emotions, they only robbed my joy. Instead, I wish someone would have told me: ‘Your feelings are real, but they don’t determine your path. Your emotions may be dark, but they don’t define your future.’ And it’s your passion to overcome, your perseverance to keep going and the purpose you live by that will take you to the top.”