At 20, I exited an exceptionally unhealthy relationship to find out soon thereafter that I would soon become a single, unwed mother. I was broken-hearted and afraid that I had already set my unborn child up for a disadvantaged life. I was also keenly aware of the gossip and disappointment of many. Their expectations were extinguished and so were mine as well. Unsure of what to do or how to go about living under this new set of circumstances, I spoke with the University’s Dean of Students. She advised it was best to put off further college until my unborn child entered kindergarten. An authority figure, I took her advice, but thankfully only for a brief period of time.

Universal Truth: It’s a mistake to let other people’s insecurities, fears, or constrictions limit your own vision and opportunities.

Why wear someone else’s shoes that don’t fit?

I made the quiet, executive decision that my child and I simply would not live a life of scarcity or limited opportunities. Once that decision became resolute in my mind, the rest unfolded, despite naysayers and cynics. The creative, “gritty” mindset kicked-in and some incredibly supportive people seemed to materialize out of thin air. One semester later, I returned to college, ultimately graduating summa cum laude while also fulfilling the role of a full-time single parent and working a full-time job.

I’m so glad I didn’t take a stranger’s well-intended advice to put my dreams for my daughter’s and my own life on hold. This first step opened successive opportunities for many others. It’s what allowed me to attend law school, work at a national law firm, have my own legal practice, serve as a senior executive of a large company, and then start my own business helping others. Most importantly, through it all, my daughter not only survived, but she thrived.

There is absolutely nothing exceptional about me or this story, but sometimes people ask, “What kept you going?”

Looking in the review mirror, here are 7 life-principles that kept me going.

  1. Naïveté. I’m a big fan of naïveté under certain circumstances. For example, why listen to someone else’s cynical story of how awful something is going to be (root canals, law school, or other major life adjustments)? Shut cynical stories and voices down. It’s a personal experience. Make it a good one.
  2. “Be All In.” Sometimes circumstances require an “all or nothing” approach. My circumstances required me to “be all in”. I had nothing to lose and a purpose larger than myself – my child. Find your purpose, then “be all in” in furtherance of your purpose.
  3. “No Fear of Failure.” I was not afraid of failure, because failure was not an option. If an anticipated or conventional route closes, self-correct and find an alternative route.
  4. Challenges will arise. Embrace them. When you do, you will overcome. Challenges ultimately become unlimited sources of strength, wisdom, and inspiration.
  5. Opportunities often arrive gift-wrapped in life’s biggest challenges. Unwrap your gifts. Look for the opportunities. They’re there, and they’re yours for the taking.
  6. Time marches on, no matter what. There’s no need to wait for a “perfect” time. Make the most of precious time; it’s always perfect.
  7. There are incredible people to support you along the way. Find them. Yes, there are some “bad” or uncaring people in this world. There are some really great ones too. They will drop into your life. Let them in to support your walk.

Do you refer to your past stories in a cynical tone and self-limiting way, or do you find yourself liberated by them? What has kept you going?

Cynics see the world for what it is. Optimists change it.