January 11, 2018

Life-Alerting Challenges Can Open a Door


My young family had just moved from Salt Lake City to Tucson. With two daughters under the age of 3, my wife and I were excited by our new adventure. We had grown up in the east and had no idea what living in a desert climate would be like. Though we enjoyed our stay in Utah, the thought of no more snow and cold winter days had too strong a pull. 

I had accepted a job with a start up radio research firm. They were in the market to buy radio stations across the country and assured me I was an important part of their plans. The future opened up before my eyes.

Less than 8 months later, their plans and my life had crashed. The purchase of the radio stations had fallen through. The president of the research company had quit to start his own firm across town. With almost no staff, no marketing budget, and me woefully in over my head, the end result was predicable. I was fired, given a small settlement, and sent on my way.

I can't describe the terror my wife and I felt. The job I left behind was already filled. There was no other company in town that was looking for what I had to offer. Four hungry mouths needed to be filled and I had no idea how that was going to happen. 

After a few weeks of panic and thinking through my options, it was clear the only logical decision was to start my own business. Had I built enough positive feelings with those I had interacted with over the previous five years? Could I develop a marketing strategy that could be put together on a shoestring budget and work? Frankly, there was no Plan B. This idea had to succeed. 

A scary 7 months later, things began to jell. One major client took a chance on me. His influence was enough to convince others to follow. Clients began to enjoy better ratings, bringing more business to my door. Two major group broadcasters  each signed contracts. Eventually, what begin out of desperation on a kitchen table blossomed into a successful 20 year business.


Sometimes what happens in life is a case of "right place, right time." Other times we make our own future through an idea, maybe a dash of luck, and an extra helping of perseverance. Prayer plays an important part for many.

I am quite interested in your story of being faced with a failure or life-altering problem, and how you turned things around. It may be a story of job loss, like mine. Or, you had to turn things around after a divorce or death of a spouse. It could be a problem with an adult child that needed a special combination of effort and luck. Maybe it was finding your life severely limited by a health issue you hadn't expected and couldn't "fix."

There is tremendous restorative power in sharing experiences. We learn we are not alone. We find we have more strength than we believed.  We may be inspired by how someone else approached a problem that bothers us. We may find a new direction to follow. 

I ask that you add to our discussion and help all of us learn from your problems and your strengths.




25 comments:

  1. I have a post coming up next Monday on my own blog that touches on this issue. After months of paperwork and loads of money spent in order to adopt our first daughter, without warning the program nearly shut down because of political issues in China. We were helpless, as well as our agency. We went through several months of deep despair before finally receiving a referral for our daughter, but what kept us going was faith, and a quote one of my professors had sent me (I was in grad school at the time):

    “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans. It is this: The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man or woman could have dreamed would have come his/her way.”

    Although hanging in and seeing things through when the end looked hopeless was extremely difficult and emotionally draining, we were committed. And that made all the difference - we were matched with the child who was meant to be our daughter. The quote has seen us through several challenges since then, but the truth of it has remained, that a true commitment to change, or to achieve a goal, has made all the difference and allowed us to face things which at the time seemed undoable or unbearable.

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    1. You are absolutely right: a real commitment to something is essential. Whether it be adopting a child, figuring out how to feed and shelter one's family, or smaller stuff like losing a few pounds, finishing that painting, or taking a difficult on line course, there has to be an acceptance of the cost of that decision and the willingness to pay it.

      I n retirement I will admit it is sometimes too easy for me to put something off or have a failure to launch, as the movie of several years ago so aptly put it. But, I'm working on it!

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  2. Whether I tend to minimize tough events that have occurred in my life, or I just have been super fortunate, I cannot point to anything as dramatic as yours, Bob. I had four major job changes, for example, but in each case when I left on a Friday I was already signed on with another company for Monday. Even the last company I was with caused me to retire at 60, earlier than expected, but we were well entrenched financially by then, and our daughter well on her way. Others may look at my life and disagree, but I consider myself fortunate, whether work related or otherwise.

    As for your situation I am reminded of the old adage - "The harder I work the luckier I get". I think that has been true for me as well when I look back.

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    1. I believe the cliche of "problems make you stronger" is true. Until we are tested by something, we really don't know how capable we are. That said, I don't wish my Tucson situation on anyone. Macaroni and Cheese or Spaghetti 4 days a week gets old mighty fast.

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  3. So, long story short, I had a private practice with my ex and the town we were in was too small for both of us. So, I moved and opened up a private practice elsewhere for a couple of years. I did well. Because I could handle murder trials, I was asked to work for local DA's office. I closed my practice, went to work for govt, and then the great recession hit. Funding for my position slowed (pay greatly reduced), then dried up. I could not switch to another position because those positions were occupied by locals with long family histories in the area. I moved three hours away, and within a few months received an offer for same position in different area. I have been here going on seven years. I left off all the financial drama.

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    1. Obviously, you had to be both flexible and good at unpacking moving boxes! On the positive side, your skill set means somewhere, someone needs what you offer.

      Seven years in one spot - does that constitute putting down roots?

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    2. Lol. I think so, at least until retirement in less than four years. I may stay here after that also. We shall see......

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  4. My husband took a very good job that made our future look extremely bright. About three months later a book was released that mentioned that job, ten years before, in a disparaging way. His position was attacked and there was an in depth investigation done. Since the organization wanted to "do something" he was, eventually fired for some crazy reasons. We were floored, hurt and hustling for something to feed our young family. He turned his college transcripts/work experience over to a friend who knew the firing had nothing to do with him. That friend searched for a good placement, and found one in a tiny part of the organization. My husband applied and got the desired position. The new position pushed him intellectually. Our family life took off and never looked back. A huge life change cause by something that happened ten years before we were even there. I have called it the Hand of God for a very long time. ~Janette

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    1. I'm not sure I have heard of someone having to pay the price for something that happened 10 years before even being there. That sounds like the script of a Hollywood movie.

      Much like my situation things worked out well for you though it probably gave you two some early gray hairs and more stress than either of you deserved. Funny how things do eventually work out, usually for the better. Trust in God's plan? Yep.

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  5. Dave and I had very different experiences. He started with a major retailer which hastened our getting married because right away they transferred him from Pittsburgh to West Chester County in NY. I was a stay at home mom for a while as he was promoted and moved annually. As the kids got older I needed to get out of the house. I quickly learned, (within a week), I was not cut out to be a waitress! But I found a nice little gig in sales for a small newspaper. I liked the flexibility of it which made it easier to still stay close to what the kids were doing. We stayed in one place for about six years, I think that was the record. While there I started my own company, a modeling agency, and it was quite successful. Dave kept moving up the ladder and we covered a lot of the East Coast! I worked in radio sales for a while, which was fun. But, ultimately I like to be my own boss. All of those things led me to appreciating the gifts I was given as an artist and a writer. I have to say, it's been really nice here in Cape May the past 3 1/2 years knowing all that change is over. Now we are settled in!
    b

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    1. The move to Tucson did one important thing for us: we felt comfortable with this part of the country and have been here for over 30 years. Growing up I moved over 20 times before even leaving for college. It is good to feel settled (though if I had the option I'd be in Hawaii for part of each year!)

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  6. Wow, Bob, that is quite a story. I have no comparable story in the professional realm--I was always very lucky in that regard. But I have had some unexpected and, at the time, scary and devastating changes of fortune in the personal realm. Like you, I had to take a deep breath, try not to panic, and take stock. And figure out how to make lemonade out of lemons. Looking back, I see those times as opening up new opportunities and led me in good directions. Your story models a willingness to be flexible and find a way to do what needed to be done.

    Great post, as was your last one which I just read!

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    1. Thanks, Galen. We humans do have the ability to learn and adopt, but it is not always easy! When things fell apart in Tucson Betty and I would not allow ourselves to go anywhere near a shopping mall for a full year. We become very good at living beneath our means. That habit has been part of our lifestyle for almost 42 years.

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  7. Bob, In 1978, fresh out of the Army, I bought a small truck and began a business with two employees insulating houses. By 1989 the business had grown to 50 employees and 30 trucks. I thought I was bulletproof. In 1990 a recession hit and many home builders began closing their doors and could not pay me for many thousands of dollars they owed me for completed work. In order to avoid bankruptcy, I had to sell the business leaving me with no cash, a mortgage, and two sons nearing college age. At age 40, I was starting over and scared out of my wits. I had the support of my family. After a couple of months of Army Reserve duty to pay the bills, two friends offered me an opportunity to join their real estate development company which led to my obtaining a contractor's license. Twenty years later and approximately 125 home constructed I was able to retire in dignity and in comfort. What did I learn? I learned that friends, family, and a strong work ethic can go a long way in overcoming a fear of failure. I also learned that prayer helps and money is not the most important thing in life.

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    1. Excellent lessons learned. Your situation was probably more stress-inducing than mine: Starting over at 40 with older children is no easy task.

      Your comment reminded me that when we were in Tucson the nearest family was nowhere near us and we hadn't been in town long enough to establish solid friendships. We had brothers and parents back east so Betty and I were really on our own.

      In your case, having a supportive family and group of friends made a big difference in how quickly you could get back on your feet and set yourself up for a solid career.

      Thanks for the inspirational story.

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  8. This is an interesting post. I will add mine. When I was engaged to my first husband, I put him through medical school. After our marriage, I continued to work at my profession for several years until the second of our 2 children was born. At that time, he was already a physician and convinced me to quit my professional work and become his office manager in order to "save money on overhead" .

    I stupidly agreed, and was paid no salary for many years, but it did not occur to me that I would need one. At that time, my former husband began to spend so lavishly buying himself a luxury sports car, expensive clothing, and I could not keep track of our money. It turned out he had several other women. Eventually we divorced.

    I had 2 small children, no income, no job, was awarded child support which he refused to pay claiming he had no money. The courts could not do anything since he was self employed and apparently had hidden his money.

    I had to sell our starter home, and the only job I was able to find in my profession, since I had not worked in many years and did not have my state license in my profession, was a part time beginners job.

    My children and I moved into an apartment and eventually I was able to secure full time employment. I passed the state licensing exam and worked my way up steadily. I was able to successfully sue my ex for non-payment of child support and he was forced, kicking and screaming to pay me not only the child support but three years in arrearages.

    Subsequent to that I met and married my current husband and we have been happily married for the past 18 years.

    I continued working at my professional job, I was able to retire this year after 35 years in that job. I thank God every day for his help and provenance.

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    1. Wow, that is a heartbreaking story, but with an optimistic end due to your perseverance and tenacity. Thank you for sharing and being so open.

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  9. Bob Your point on perseverance is spot on. That is the most important thing we can all do (right after being honest). No matter how bad things get, most time if you just persevere things will work out.

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  10. My first husband was a professional athlete and moved up and down from semi-pro to pro after college. We moved a lot, and it worked ok until we had kids. We were living on the East Coast far from family when he injured himself in a semi-pro league and needed knee surgery. While he was in a cast the team he was playing for folded and most of the other players were picked up by other teams. Of course, no one needs an athlete in a cast, so we figured we would have to file for disability. Unfortunately, we found that "Mr. Richy Rich", the team owner, hadn't been making his disability insurance payments and we were left high and dry. We hired a lawyer to sue him, but meanwhile we were really young and dead broke, far from home and I was pregnant with a 2 year old. We were scared to death. I had a part time clerical job, but nothing that would support us for any length of time.

    One evening we heard a knock on the door and there stood a member of the local booster club. He brought us two boxes of food (including a large frozen turkey) and an envelope of money. It was about $500 - a small fortune at the time. We insisted we couldn't take the money, but he said it was all donations and they wouldn't know how to begin returning it. So we humbly thanked him and he wished us well and left. Those people saved us from going hungry and we eventually got back on our feet. My ex left the sport and got a 'real' job and we eventually moved back near family. But that was a scary time. We eventually got a small settlement and we were able to use it as the downpayment on our first house.

    I haven't thought of this for a long time (it was 40+ years ago), but it was the first thing that popped into my mind when I read your story. Perseverance indeed. Great topic.
    --Hope

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    1. I was pregnant plus HAD a two year old. The way I worded that sounds like the world's longest gestation. Ha!
      --Hope

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    2. That is an excellent example of what we are capable of when things look the darkest. Plus, it is a vivid demonstration of the importance of caring for others. Even after 40 years you remember every detail.

      Yes, I figured out the birth thing!

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  11. When I completed my graduate degree, my first husband and I moved to another city with our young children (the youngest a newborn) so that I could accept a good career position. The plan was that he would be a stay-at-home parent for a couple of years while also completing his graduate degree. I was the sole wage earner for our family. Less than two years after we moved, my husband passed away unexpectedly. I was left with three young children between two and eight years of age, and I was immobilized by grief. I was still in the probationary phase of my employment.

    I am very grateful that the senior officials at my place of employment took steps to approve a leave of absence and to make sure that I was awarded long term disability payments for a period of time. As soon as I was able, I hired a live-in nanny to care for my children and I returned to work full time. For the next two years, every cent I earned went to the mortgage, bills, groceries, and to pay the nanny. Once all the children were in school, childcare costs decreased a bit, and I began earning more over time, but finances remained tight for a long time. Although I had no family in the city, I did have family living fairly nearby, about half a day’s drive away, and they were a tremendous support to me. I am also very grateful to friends who helped me through that terrible time.

    I raised my children as a single parent, and did not meet my second husband until my youngest was a teenager. I compartmentalized my life between work and home. At work, I worked extremely hard at my job and ended up becoming successful and climbing the career ladder. At home, I poured my time and energy into my family, and I am extremely proud of them; they have all grown up to become amazing, wonderful adults.

    When something terrible like a death of a loved one occurs, it seems as though life is over and you can’t go on. But the world keeps turning, and over time you discover that life does go on and there are many joys and wonderful experiences still to be had.

    Jude

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    1. That is a powerful story and reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. I feel like giving you a big hug of congratulations for turning around not only your life, but the one you provided for your kids. The pride you for in them is completely justified; the pride you feel in your efforts should be every bit as strong.

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  12. short story long, the recession of the 70's took me from the farm to the factory, the recession of the 80's took me from the factory to carpenter work, the recession of the 09s took me from carpenter work to retirement and happy ever after. lot's of this that and the other things in-between but now we are truly happy ever after.

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    1. Eventually, consider putting "The recession made me do it" on your tombstone!

      Life is a journey on a crooked road with lots of fallen trees in our path. Those of us who can climb over or walk around those trees come out the other side stronger and more convinced of our ability to handle what the path of life has in store for us.

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