Over a decade ago, I ended my corporate sales career and started a life coaching business from my living room. I had no other job lined up. I cashed out my 401K. And I spent $200 to set up shop online with a do-it-yourself website and a 500-count box of glossy business cards. Being a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed newbie at the time, I thought everything would be smooth sailing as long as I got rid of my “limiting beliefs” and turned my passion into action. Boy, did I get the wake-up call of a lifetime.
The adage “stress kills” is no joke.
For the first two weeks as a new life coach, I was living on adrenalin. Contacting 100 people I knew. Becoming a frequent networker at local business and social events. Staying up all night working on building the business. Spending all my spare time learning how to run a successful business. Despite all the effort, I heard crickets. But I was on top of the world and on my way to living the dream. So if I wanted to be a successful entrepreneur, I was hellbent on wearing my hustle and grind like a badge of honor.
Then, everything came to a screeching halt.
I got sick three weeks into my new venture. Reluctant to get medical attention because I was underinsured, I eventually called for an ambulance. I was taken to the ER and then hospitalized. While under observation for 7 days, I was forced to fast so 7 different doctors could figure out what was causing the pain and inflammation in my abdomen. On the day I was discharged, there was no definitive answer for my mystery illness. I left with a $40,000 medical bill and a $40 prescription to treat the parasitic infection I contracted from the hospital bed.
Nearly one month into my new venture, I returned home unable to eat, drink, and walk unassisted since my muscles had atrophied. My mom, who had traveled over 300 miles to visit me, stayed for a week to nurse me back to health. She fed me, bathed me, cleaned up after me, and cared for me until I was strong enough to move around on my own.
To say I felt like the biggest failure in the world would be an understatement.
I had worked so hard to show people this poised and flawless version of me. Now, I was being hand-fed by my mom and barely able to function on my own. There was no way I was in any shape to work on or in my business. And returning to the workforce during the economic recession seemed out of the question.
Every morning was the toughest time of the day for me. I’d wake up being reminded of my new reality, and my thoughts would take me to dark places:
I’m a coach, how did I let this happen?
Who was I to think I could make a difference in the world? It’s hard enough to just get through to today.
I want to disappear and never think about coaching or building a business ever again.
Everyone was right, I was crazy for quitting my job.
As I played the shoulda-woulda-coulda tapes in my mind during my downward spiral, even the coach in me knew I had to get off that couch and out of my head if I was going to recover from this.
Between the inner chatter, I could faintly hear my coaching mentor’s voice:
As I took those words to heart, I committed to doing one positive action each day just to get through that day. Every day that followed, I continued with this practice. By day 36 of my recovery, I landed a new sales job and decided I’d put the coaching business behind me.
As I began rebuilding my life, career and self-esteem, I returned to networking within my local community. Instead of showing up as an attendee pushing business cards on as many people I could meet, I volunteered on councils, committees, and offered pro bono coaching as a way to pay it forward.
Then the unexpected happened.
It was uncertain times during the recession of 2008, similar to the climate of the global COVID-19 pandemic. People were yearning for inspiration, clarity, and guidance on how to navigate their life, health, and career transitions. And, somehow, they wanted to hear my story and learn from my experience in real-time as my health was still recovering and I was in the trenches with them—only a few steps ahead.
People don’t want lofty answers, just real talk.
This was not the side of me I had intended to show the world. But this was the part of my life people wanted to see.
Pretty much overnight, I became a professional speaker and sough-after life coach expert—two goals I wanted to achieve in my lifetime. And it wasn’t because of my successes or buttoned-up advice, rather how I overcame my failures.
It was a humbling experience, my foray into coaching and business ownership. Since that time, I’ve had the pleasure of helping thousands of people at the crossroads of a life or career transition.
Here’s what I know to be true:
We are all inherently good human beings who want to make a difference in the world.
We all dream big.
We all have high hopes.
We all want to make money doing what we love.
We are tired of feeling less than or like a 75th-rate version of someone else.
In this season of our lives and careers, we want to do work that matters. And we want others to know they matter.
Knowing what I know now, how would I answer the question, Who was I to think I could make a difference in the world?
It takes a village to move mountains. Find your village or build one. Be you and only you. And show up every day doing the best you can. Who says you have to do this work alone?