Life struggles are universal.

What defines us – distinguishes us – is how we respond to them.

Caryn Sullivan is no stranger to challenges. Starting at an early age she powered through family crises and health challenges with a stoic resolve. When her son was diagnosed with autism she left her law career to be his advocate. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer she declared, “I’m not going to die from this.”

But when her husband’s heart failed, Caryn’s resilience was put to the test. Would she bend or break?

The answer came unexpectedly from a priest she met at a social function. His response to questions such as “Why me?” and “Why my family?” offered her a lifeline.

“We can’t control what happens to us. But when adversity strikes, we have a choice. We can be bitter. Or we can be better.”

Caryn chose better. She garnered strength and wisdom from people who confronted adversity with grace and courage, many of them subjects of her newspaper columns. She stumbled upon a new purpose: to illuminate the choice for others. Drawing upon stories in her award-winning memoir, Bitter or Better, Caryn offers audiences a roadmap to readiness and resilience.

“Caryn Sullivan delivered a message at our annual meeting that resonated with an audience of over 1000 attendees from 39 countries. I would recommend Caryn as an inspiration to your audience through her writings or presentation.”

– Dr. Jeffrey Chell, CEO, National Marrow Donor Program

Wow, what a journey! Adversity doesn’t always define character…it reveals it. Thank you for sharing your character with the Easton Utilities family. We were all very impressed with your poignant story and how it was presented.” 

~Arnold Boughner

Easton Utilities Company

“Caryn told her inspirational story of courage with warmth and humor, and won the hearts of the audience in seconds. She crafted her message of “the only certainty in life is life’s uncertainties” to underscore the importance of financial planning. I highly recommend Caryn.”

~Christopher Bentley

CFP, Ameriprise Financial

Caryn helped our seminar attendees better understand issues that are otherwise too nebulous to apply to their professional and personal lives. She brought the right perspective that helped them walk away with great information and guidance. Caryn was easy to work with, worked hard to understand what we wanted her to bring to the program and delivered exactly what she promised

~Tom Watson

Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Ins. Co.

Caryn was perfect to present at Minnesota Lawyers Mutual’s Team Building meeting to help employees make sense of the heartaches and tragedies they will face - health issues, eldercare, childcare, work/life balance issues, etc. Caryn’s presentation on planning and “perfecting the pivot” was well received and started the necessary discussions we all have to have.

~Tim Plunkett

Minnesota Lawyers Mutual

Caryn gave a wonderful and heartfelt presentation to our Rotary Club of Edina. Her inspirational thoughts were very well received by our membership, both young and old. I highly recommend other organizations have her share her history and recommendations on what people need to do in planning for their future – one of the most important transactions in a lifetime for all families.

~Bradley J. Hepp

CPCU, ARM, Hepp Risk Consultants

Caryn is a gifted writer and speaker.

~ JB Ball

BC&I Wealth Management

Caryn is a natural storyteller. She inspires others to reflect on their own lives and how to be more mindful about the approach they take to life and its many challenges. If you need an inspirational and informative speaker I highly recommend Caryn!

~ Diane Cross

CEO, Fraser

Caryn has shared her Roadmap to Readiness and Resilience with a variety of audiences.

Caryn’s target audiences are women and professionals whose work involves helping others.

  • American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies (AIAFS)
  • Ameriprise Financial
  • ARC Greater Twin Cities
  • Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM)
  • Be the Match
  • Camp Widow
  • Capital City Grief Group
  • Children’s Hospital Association
  • Convent of the Visitation
  • Easton Utilities
  • Edina Chamber of Commerce
  • Fraser
  • Minnesota Lawyers Mutual
  • Minnesota Association of Patient Representatives
  • Minnesota Occupational Therapy Association
  • Minnesota Social Services Association
  • Minnesota Marine Moms
  • National Sheriff’s Association
  • Rediscover U
  • Rotary International
  • St. Thomas Academy
  • Starkey Hearing Foundation
  • The Refine Conference
  • Team Women
  • The Woman’s Club of Minneapolis
  • Upper Midwest Symposium on Autism and Asperger’s
  • Wisconsin Lawyer’s Mutual Insurance Company
  • Women Who Make a Difference

Speaking Topics

Bitter or Better: Three Steps to Living the “Better” Choice

Everyone has a story. What defines us – distinguishes us – is how we respond. While living the choice to be “better” isn’t easy, it leads to greater joy and satisfaction in our personal and professional lives. Caryn offers audiences a roadmap to living the “better” choice, marked with examples of others who have faced adversity, made the choice, and inspired her to do the same. What’s your story?

From Procrastinator to Planner: A 4-Step PLAN for a Life Well Lived

When she was widowed in 2009, Caryn Sullivan was ill prepared for emotional decisions (burial vs. cremation) and for practical issues (Where were the documents and passwords? How much life insurance did she have?) Drawing upon her personal and professional expertise Caryn Sullivan offers audiences a values-based PLAN™ – and rationale – for anticipating and preparing for personal and professional life choices integral to quality of life and legacy. Professionals can use the PLAN™ with clients who need to plan or problem- solve – as well as with their colleagues and loved ones.

Special Needs, Special Concerns: A 4-Step Readiness PLAN for Those We Care for and About

Individuals with special needs often require life-long care and support. Where will they live? How will they spend their time? Who will oversee their financial and medical concerns? Who will care for them when we are gone? These issues can be daunting for those who care for and about individuals who rely upon others to navigate life. Busy with just managing present-day issues, it is often easier for caregivers to procrastinate than to plan. Drawing upon personal and professional experience, Caryn Sullivan offers a roadmap to help individuals, families and/or caregivers to ensure our special folks have the protection they need and can live their best lives.

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Caryn Sullivan