by Linda Allen
The memory is still vivid. I was newly separated and living in a very modest apartment with my daughter. My income was solely from working a swing shift job, and it wasn’t even enough to meet our essential monthly expenses.
I looked around at the little place we called home. While I was grateful to have escaped the abusive relationship I’d been in, this was a no-frills existence. The front room had a donated sofa bed, worn and covered with a blanket. Our eating area consisted of a folding card table so wobbly that spills were frequent. And in my bedroom was a twin-size mattress laid on top of cardboard apple boxes as a base. There was no dresser. What would normally have been in a drawer was placed on the upper shelf in the closet. Yes, I looked around. And said, “Oh, hell no. This is NOT what my life is going to look like.” Those three words have been my personal mantra since that moment.
Determination, x 10
In the following weeks and months, I began to build my first real business. My daughter and I started by posting ads – handwritten cards – on area bulletin boards. My first paying customer was for a job much bigger than I’d dreamed, but I took a deep breath and took it on. The rest, as they say, is history.
Over the course of a few years, the business grew and evolved to one that supported me and a full-time crew of six. Not big business, but it provided a very good living for all of us, and it was my creation.
Knocked Down: An Opportunity To Rise Again
I’m sure you remember 2008. The year the Great Recession hit. Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Within 60 days, I’d lost two healthy streams of income. Property values, as you know, tanked beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Before the dust settled, I’d lost about 80% of my net worth, a nest egg that was critical to a secure future.
As I looked at where I was, and at the years ahead, once again I said “Oh, hell no.” As my mother would say, it was time to roll up my pant legs, wade into it, and get to work. Time to get back up and make it happen. There were plenty of very long days. But through sheer gut-level determination, I earned most of what I’d lost back in just six years.
Whether we’re entrepreneurs or have positions as employees, we all have these times of trial in our life. They’re the times that test us. That takes us down to our knees. That’s when we get to decide what we’re made of. That’s when we are truly at choice. To accept defeat, and wither. Or remember that we’re strong enough to meet any challenge. And in defiance to our momentary conditions, say “Oh, hell no!”
Linda Allen is the editor of Ms. Career Girl has been a lifelong serial entrepreneur and considers herself a “Jill of all Trades,” having operated multiple businesses and held positions with both a major consumer electronics company and a New York financial services firm. But her passion is helping other women (and men!) navigate their personal and career paths.