Overcoming Adversity

Author: Charly Leetham

In 2003 I was working full time in an IT career I had spent 24 years building my career and I had had enough — enough of working long hours, admittedly for a good pay, but not honouring me or being able to spend quality time with my family. I was ready for a change and had just returned from a three week holiday, where all we did was travel and enjoy ourselves as a family. I knew I was doing it wrong and that I needed to change my life; the question was how? Funny how "the universe provides" when you start asking for help. Within 6 months of making the decision that it was time to change, we (my husband and I) had bought into a franchise retail business and were having a really great time.

It was our first real expedition into small business ownership and retail at the same time and things were looking great. The two franchise stores we had bought (we don’t do things by halves) were performing in the Top 5 Stores for the Franchise nationally, and the turnover was excellent. Within 18 months, we owned 3 stores and were managing a 4th on behalf of the franchisor however, by this time, the numbers just weren't stacking up.

Each month we posted a loss, despite being some of the top performing stores in Australia, and no amount of discourse with the franchisor regarding this disparity was reaping any reward. The reality of providing a niche product which quickly became a commodity item had far reaching effects on our bottom line which, when coupled with the high rents in major centres meant that the business model was not sustainable. We made plans to exit the franchise, but we weren't quick enough. By the time we 'walked away' from the business (in June 2007), we were in debt to the tune of $1 million. By selling our investment property and other assets, we reduced this to around $600,000 and had no idea what we would do next. We did know that bankruptcy was not an option for us, so we had to come up with a plan really, really quickly.

My husband and my father started an electrical contracting business, literally the day after we walked away from our franchise, and my husband decided he liked working with his hands that he became an apprentice electrician.

For me, I was able to take my IT skills and do exactly what I wanted to do 16 years before. I created a successful business that was based from home, helping other women get their businesses online. I have clients, colleagues and friends all around the world and I haven't been happier. This article shares how I recreated myself, overcame the challenges and kept motivated.

Never Give Up!
The first lesson I learned was to NEVER GIVE UP. Winston Churchill (I believe) had it right — Never Give Up! It is the drive to succeed that keeps us going. Yes, I had my dark days where all I did was cry and hide away in my bedroom, but ultimately that didn't put food on the table and I had more than just myself to think about. Being stubborn and just putting one foot in front of the other, was enough to keep me going. I also learned that it's OK to lock myself away in my bedroom and cry — just not for too long! Eventually, you have to take action and just move forward.

Without a doubt, I felt like a failure. How could it have gone so wrong? Surely there was something I should have done? These were the thoughts that were flowing through my mind at the time. I felt like I was to blame for where we were at —surely there was something I could have done.
The reality was that it did go wrong, and in hindsight there wasn't a lot more we could have done. However, it took a long time for me to realize this. This is where my mindset really needed readjustment. The thoughts of failure and blaming myself were only holding me back and in some cases I was self- sabotaging. I had to change my mindset, if I was to overcome the guilt and become successful again.

Whilst there was no one thing that worked for me, there were many things that worked together including:
  1. Acknowledging the guilt and failure I felt
  2. EFT and ZPoint energy therapies helped to move off the 'bad energy'
  3. Listening to others share their stories and realizing that I wasn't alone
  4. Realizing that people like Robert T. Kiyosaki and Alan Bond, who have been considered highly successful, have been in possibly far worse situations than I.
  5. Ultimately, I realized that how I saw myself had the biggest impact on how successful I could be. I started recognizing adversarial situations as opportunities to grow - no longer did I think "Why Me!." I started thinking "wow, what I can do with this?"
  6. The biggest single change was that I started treating my $1 million debt as my bill from the University Of Life.

Be Prepared To Invest In Your Future. After losing so much money and being so far in debt, I was terrified of spending more. I couldn't see how I could justify spending money to build another business when I still owed from the last one. This meant I wasted a lot of time trying to do things myself. I also tried to use a number of free resources that were just flaky and required more of my time to resolve issues and potentially, the issues damaged client relationships.

The big lesson here was that because I didn't value myself, I didn't value my time and ended up spending energy on tasks that provided little return to my business. It's funny how things change and I now see that spending $100, $200, $1000 can actually help me grow my business and realize far higher profits and reduce stress. That's not to say that free resources aren't good, there are some excellent ones out there, but it makes you realize that sometimes spending money can move you forward a little faster.

The other part of my investment was to invest in myself. Taking time out, doing some personal development, believing in myself — it was all important.

Ignore the Nay Sayers There are many people in our lives who are well meaning, but they don't 'get' our circumstances and offer advice that is contrary to our goals. When we walked away from our failed business, I had any number of friends and family suggests that I go back to paid, full-time work. After all, I could earn a six figure income again and wouldn't that solve all my financial issues? However, it wouldn't resolve the life balance issues that started this adventure. A six figure income requires me to devote 6 figure hours to my new employer — something that I really wasn't prepared to do because I did have other options. I love and cherish my family and friends, but there was a time that I had to distance myself from them so that their advice didn't have too much of a psychological and social impact on me while I was reinventing myself.

Get a Mentor This journey really couldn't be undertaken alone. I found that having 'mentors' —people who I respect and believe in, but who are not emotionally tied to me were a key factor to achieving success. The type of mentor I needed changed as I developed in my business. Initially, I needed a personal development coach — if only to tell me to "grow up" or "get over it". Of course, my coaches used much nicer language and were far more tactful, but ultimately that's what it was about. As my business grows, I often seek advice from Business Coaches as to my 'next steps' and 'vision'. Often, a business coach provides a good sounding board to test my theories against.

My $1 Million Debt to The University of Life
I hope you can learn from my $1 Million debt to university of life. Summarizing all the points above the biggest lesson that I have learned is to focus on the things that are going well, don't give too much energy to the negatives and to be thankful for what I have.

Overall, I'm nowhere near as financially wealthy as I was, but I'm spiritually and emotionally far more wealthy — for me, it's not about the money, it's about the good that I can do for myself, for my family and for others. How to Stay Focused on Your Dreams?

1. Believe in yourself - - Do whatever you have to do to believe in yourself.
  • Get a coach or mentor; use energy therapy and surround yourself with like minded, successful people who motivate you.
  • Never Give Up — if your strategy doesn’t work this time: review it; adjust it and implement again. Just don’t give up. …
  • Write down three good things about yourself or your life. Pin this list to your fridge or message board and read it every day. As your life changes, review this list and update it.

2. Ignore the Nay Sayers
  • My favourite phrase is “I’m comfortable for you to feel that way” (Courtesy of Skip Ross). That helps me deflect the implied criticism of my decisions.
  • Distance yourself from well meaning, but uninformed friends and colleagues. You can be friends, but maybe you need some space. Don’t try to justify your decisions to them, love and cherish your friends by all means, but understand it’s your life.
  • Develop your phrase to deflect the implied criticism’s — feel free to borrow my favorite phrase.

3. Get a Mentor
  • Start today and find the mentor you need to achieve success.
  • Write down what you to achieve and write down the questions that you would have of a mentor — even if that is, “How can you help me?”

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