How to Turn a Negative
Experience Into a Positive Way to Make a Living Without a Job
In my last article,
Profit from Experience: The Key to Your Right Livelihood
May Be Right in Your Own Backyard (ChangingCourse.com/archives/issue136.html),
I talked about the fact that all three of the businesses I've
were born from my own personal experiences. In this second of a two-part series
we'll look at how even negative experiences can be the catalyst to a positive
You know the old expression, when life gives you
lemons, make lemonade. You're about to meet seven people who took adversity, bad
habits, betrayal, and loss and turned these sour experiences into satisfying
livelihoods. The experiences and approaches to generating income vary. Some
wrote about their experience, some created products, some now teach or counsel
others on how to avoid or handle the same problem they once lived through, some
created recipes, and one even syndicated his humorous take on a bad situation.
Put It in Writing
Joan Sotkin spent most of her adult life in a
state of what she calls financial dysfunction. For Joan this meant a pattern of
under earning and compulsive debting. After her two brothers tired of bailing
her out, Joan discovered the 12-step program Debtors Anonymous (DebtorsAnonymous.org).
It worked she says, for a while.
You'd think that when Joan's Venice,
California-based retail and mail order business grossed $325,000 in its third
year, her financial woes would be over. But the death of her father three
years later prompted her to revert to old behaviors. Soon she was $40,000 in
debt. Less than a year later, she closed her business and declared bankruptcy.
Eight years later, at age fifty-six, Joan relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico with
a mere $200 in her pocket.
Losing her business propelled Joan to learn more
about her financial dysfunction by digging deeper to untangle the deep emotions
and family issues associated with money. "I gained a deep awareness of my
financial attitudes and behaviors," says Joan. "I now understand that prosperity
is not only about money but also about feeling comfortable, satisfied, and
secure, and that sustaining prosperity requires both an ongoing financial
education and a willingness to deal with the responsibilities and many changes
that come with material wealth."
Today Joan uses what she's learned to help others
who are similarly stuck in unproductive money patterns. Her comprehensive money
self-help manual, Building Your Financial Muscles (TinyURL.com/lsnry)
contains nine exercises and dozens of resources for people who are searching for
a way to relieve financial pressures and change the
way they deal with money. Joan could have just learned her own lesson and moved
on. But instead she put her fingers to the keyboard to pass on the secrets to
her hard won prosperity with others.
The Wake Up Call
Some people find their calling as a result of a wake up call. It might be the
death of a loved one, a health crisis, or the loss of a job. For Linda Blachman
it was the combination of all three. When her daughter was 17-years-old, Linda
says she, "developed a condition that threatened my way of life and sense of
myself. An inoperable back injury led to three years of disability and
uncertainty about whether I would walk again. During that time, I lost my
employment, my mother died, and my daughter graduated high school and left home.
My world collapsed along with my spine. For consolation and inspiration, I
turned to the stories of others who had lived through serious illness. And I
began to reconstruct my own narrative."
was lucky enough to meet Linda a few years ago when she attended the Making
Dreams Happen workshop in Boulder, Colorado. She came to the workshop, in part
to get unstuck around a book she'd wanted to finish and hopefully see published.
Well, she did it. Another Morning: Voices of Truth and Hope from Mothers with
Cancer is a beautifully written book that couples passionate first-person
narratives with the Linda's own reflections on motherhood and mortality (LindaBlachman.com).
What some might see as a painful topic was for Linda deeply healing. But there
is more to Linda's story...
Start a Non-Profit
don't know if there are statistics on this but common sense would suggest that
the overwhelming majority of non-profits grew out of someone's desire to help
others who find themselves in similarly challenging circumstances. Linda's
personal illness and loss prompted her to start Mothers' Living Stories (MothersLivingStories.org),
a small nonprofit project that helps mothers living with cancer record their
life stories and legacies for their children. As the project grew, she trained
Volunteer Listeners in "providing a meaningful service while exploring their own
responses to illness and death." It was also what led her to write her book.
Gaetana Aliotta knows what it's like to have
cancer. While undergoing treatment for breast cancer in 1995, she realized
through her own experience, and that of other cancer survivors she had met, that
there was a need for more supportive services in her community. Gaetana
envisioned a home-like setting where people could come for psychological,
emotional, and educational support and where education about treatments,
medications, and clinical trials would be available. It was also important to
her that no one would be turned away because of money. Today the Cancer House of
Hope has grown from one to two homes, serving hundreds of people a year at no
(Linda's book makes a wonderful gift to donate to a local cancer support program
my own copy resides in the lending library of the Cancer House of Hope.)
Package What You Know
Health or rather the neglect of it is what
drove Lindsey Williams to his calling. Lindsey is the grandson of the owner of
the famed Sylvia's soul food restaurant in Harlem. The good news for Lindsey is
that he got to grow up in his grandmother's kitchen where he enjoyed generous
servings of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, sweet candied yams, ham hocks
and other delectable of African American and southern cooking. The bad news is
that a steady diet high in fat, salt and sugar can, and did, lead to childhood
When Lindsey hit a high of 400 pounds in 1997, he
knew something had to change. So he set out to find a way to create healthier
soul food. He succeeded. Today this buff, 180 pound chef runs his own soul food
catering company and recently authored a cook book called
Lindsey is not the only one prompting a culinary
revolution. After watching relatives die young of heart disease (nearly15% of
blacks in the U.S. have diabetes compared to 8% of whites), Alabama native Wiley
Mullins made disease prevention among African Americans his mission. He travels
the country giving cooking demonstrations at churches and bookstores and selling
his spice mixes. Apparently his product is a hit because Wiley's Healthy
Southern Classics line of soul food seasonings are now sold in stores all over
the country including Wal-Mart.
Packaging can take many forms and one that has
exploded in recent years is information packaging. One person who has
successfully packaged his experience in the form of information is James Lehman.
After being abandoned and then adopted at age two, James grew up to be a
difficult and defiant kid. As he got older, things only got worse. He dropped
out of school and, for a time, became a drug addict living on the streets of New
York. Not surprisingly, James ended up in and out of jail where he was given the
opportunity to participate in an accountability focused treatment program. It
proved to be a pivotal experience.
James went on to earn a Master's Degree in Social
Work and began working with difficult kids a residential treatment center. His
search for tools to help parents, teachers and case managers to help children
develop the skills they need to be successful without relying on disrespectful,
obnoxious or abusive behavior led him to create a series of CDs and other
materials called the Total Transformation Program (TheTotalTransformation.com).
Could another mental health professional have
developed the same program? Perhaps. But the fact that James was himself a
troubled youth lends significant insight and credibility to his program. It was
no doubt a labor of love that helped James himself to heal as well.
Turn Pain into Gain
James is not the only one to turn pain into gain.
If you've ever experienced the pain of infidelity then you know how difficult it
is to recover from this kind of betrayal. Not only did Anne and Brian Bercht's
marriage survive an affair but their book,
My Husband's Affair Became the Best Thing That
Ever Happened to Me, is fast becoming a best-seller in Canada
and landed them a spot on shows like
Oprah and Montel
What could have simply been a painful personal growth experience has for the
Bercht's become a new career path. This husband and wife team are now authors,
speakers, and relationship coaches and Anne will soon succeed affairs expert
(now there's a title!) Peggy Vaughan as the new director for the International
Beyond Affairs Network (DearPeggy.com).
Find and Share the Humor
Sometimes a bad experience can lead you to see the humor in life. And if you're
smart, and have a gift and are willing to hone it, then you can find a way to
sell that humor to others. That's what cubicle-dweller turned-cartoonist Scott
Adams did. Adams' used his mind-numbing experience in corporate American as the
inspiration for his management lampooning cartoon Dilbert.
Dilbert is a composite of Adams' co-workers that over the years emerged as the
main character of his doodles. When he started using his Dilbert character for
business presentations and got great responses, he bought a book on how to get
syndicated and followed the instructions (amazing how the basics really do
work). Today his internationally-syndicated cartoon is read by millions and his
cubicle is a distant, and at the same time, continuously profitable memory.
It's said that the most painful times of our lives
turn out to offer the most opportunities for personal growth. If you're curious
to know how you might share your experiences with others, you might begin by
making a list of ten difficulties, challenges, hardships, or losses you have
experienced and what you learned from each. How did this experience make you
stronger or wiser or healthier? What advice would you offer someone experiencing
what you experienced?
Then make a list of your natural gifts things
like writing, sewing, or listening. Then, just as these innovative people did,
find a way to use your love of teaching, creating, counseling, writing,
speaking, organizing, cooking, drawing, and so on to share what you've learned
with others. The tough times in life are as inevitable as the joyful ones. As
you continue on your quest for right livelihood, keep in mind that your own
challenging times may be ripe with opportunities to turn lemons into lemonade in
the form of a rewarding new career.
Learn how you can Fast Track Your Dream of working at
what you love on your own terms.
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About the Author
"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.
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