An Open Letter to the Man that Screwed Me Over 15 Years Ago… Thank You.

I feel like I’ve been crying practically nonstop for the past 16 hours. The tears started with anger, frustration, and mega doses of fear. Now as they slowly cascade down my cheeks to splash on my keyboard while I write this, they’re tears of relief, gratitude, and dare I even go there… maybe joy?

For you to understand the depth of my past few hours, I have to go back to 2003. My ex-husband and I were asked to help a man start a publishing company. The “boss” was highly successful and wanted to get in on the ground level of this new technology called “print on demand”. Not knowing anything about publishing at the time, but having always loved books and writing, I agreed to help start the company. I quit my corporate temp job and threw myself head first into this brand new world.

Fast-forward about nine months and I was managing well over a dozen authors, stretching my new marketing muscles, and suddenly we stopped getting paid. He told us he had a job with his primary business that fell through and he would catch us up on pay the next week.

The next week came and went. He left the country for a business trip… and the first month of no pay passed by. At this time we started scrounging, quite literally, for food. We were already in the process of building a house and suddenly found our savings quickly depleted. We immediately started looking for other work.

Five resumes went out each day. Then ten. Then fifteen… and the rejections poured in. I heard statements like, “You’re overqualified because you have a college degree.” And, “I’m sorry, but we’re just not looking for someone like you right now.” In the meantime with nothing else to do, we kept working to build the man’s publishing company, in the hopes that he’d use the money we brought in to pay us.

Three months of no pay, hundreds of resumes and a hell of a lot of desperation later, we finally decided to quit and start our own business. The “boss” told us that paying his mother’s $3,000/month mortgage was more important to him than making sure we had money for groceries, and then he threatened to sue us if we started our own publishing company, even though we never signed a non-compete agreement. I remember getting in his face and screaming, “Go ahead, you’ve already taken everything from us, what else could you take? Our debt? Go for it—I QUIT!”

After we left and started our own company, some of the former authors (who weren’t getting any answers to their phone calls) tracked us down online and we agreed to re-publish their books for them as long as we re-designed everything so it was fully under our label, at our expense… Then the old “boss” threatened to sue us again for “stealing” his clients. I determined to be a success in spite of his antics.

Meanwhile, our school loans were still in deferment, we used credit cards and checks from credit card companies to pay all our bills in our new house, and thus began a long, hard year and a half. We only ate because my mom bought our groceries each week. The internet and electric was only paid because we used credit card debt. And when we met with a financial counseling service, they said we were doing everything we could and there was no help… or hope… they could give us.

It was then that I swore an oath that if I ever had employees or contractors, I’d never be late paying them. In fact, when I did finally get another supplemental job, in my interview I told my boss-to-be that if she was one day late I’d walk out the door and she’d never hear from me again. There was one time in the couple of years I worked for her that she was going to be late on pay, only because the book keeper was on vacation… so she hand-wrote me a check. I then swore to be like her when I became a boss.

Fast-forward to today and my husband Tony and I have three very successful businesses… and I discovered even successful businesses aren’t immune from mistakes. Last night a $9,500 “mistake” that was no fault of mine sent my world into a spiral. In-between phone calls to multiple banks to figure out what happened and how to fix it, I found myself on the floor in front of my desk in a full-fledged panic attack… the kind I haven’t had in almost two years. I was finally facing my deepest fear

While I used to suffer from chronic anxiety (more on this in another post), I’d just started to feel a turn… a shift… almost a lift-off for my businesses. Yet there was this little voice telling me to pay attention to an emotion that kept creeping up, usually accompanied by the thought, “I will never be like him.”

Did you know that if you focus so hard on not being like someone or doing something, you’ll practically will it into existence?

And that’s exactly what happened. It took a $9,500 “mistake” for me to wake up and listen to that voice. To realize that no business was immune to the same mistakes that he made. I realized my focus on not being “him” didn’t keep those mistakes from making me just like him. He didn’t start out malicious. He started out with an honest mistake, and didn’t have the foundation of integrity to do the right thing, then took advantage of us when he saw we’d stay on and work for free.

I thought I’d forgiven him. Thought I’d moved on, built an awesome new life, and was ready to see all my dreams fulfilled. Yet in the back of my mind this one nagging thought said, “This is going to ruin you if you don’t pay attention. You will lose everything you’ve built and worked hard to achieve.”

So after a chat with my coach, my best friend, and a very very long talk with my incredible, supportive husband, I allowed those tears of fear and anger to dissolve into tears of realization and gratitude.

So to you, the man that screwed me over all those years ago, THANK YOU. If I could go back to my younger self and tell her how what YOU did set her on the path to the most incredible life she could ever have dreamed of, I would.

To the person that made the $9,500 “mistake”, THANK YOU. If it weren’t for you, I may have self-sabotaged myself right out of my biggest dreams. Because of what you did, my stubborn self finally listened to the fear and anger I had buried so deep inside me… and faced it head on.

You may have huge dreams and goals and wonder why you just can’t get closer to achieving them. You may also have that little voice creep up every so often and give you whispers, hints of something you think is entirely un-related to your dreams. My wish for you in reading this post is that you listen to that voice before it becomes a 2×4 covered in nails swung into your head. And if you had a heart breaking experience or tragedy in your life, look back at it and ask, “How did this circumstance contribute to who I am today?” You may be as surprised as I was at the connection you find.

The man who didn’t pay me for three months forced me onto a solid path of entrepreneurship. It’s because of him that The Book Ninja exists. If he hadn’t set me on this path, I wouldn’t have made over $1.5 million in the publishing niche in just the past few years. I wouldn’t be starting other businesses like our toy store(s), using the knowledge I gained from the ground up building The Book Ninja. I wouldn’t be providing jobs to families. I wouldn’t have helped thousands of authors’ dreams come true. I wouldn’t have built a solid foundation to launch my new brand, The Business Ninja. Frankly, I wouldn’t be the success I am today if that man had continued to pay me on time and kept me employed.

I can finally say with confidence that I am grateful for what he did to me. It’s taken me 15 years to see it, and due to who it made me today, I wouldn’t change a thing. Now I can finally heal, put aside this part of my own self-sabotage, and build something amazing. And I give you permission to do whatever it takes, even cry like a baby for a full day, to heal and build your own amazing life.

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  • Judy Jackson
    May 20, 2018

    As usual, your ‘counseling’ is spot on.

    Two weeks ago a ‘mistake’ came to light that I was not in any way responsible for, to the tune of about $27,000… so far. Do we have a spare $27,000+? NOOOOOOoooo. We were/are in the middle of preparing to move, build a house, do some major lifestyle changes… all was good. But I was overwhelmed, extremely stressed, and veeeery unhappy.

    Sh*t hit the fan and hubby and friends thought this was it, the end of everything. But no. Everything we’d planned has changed except for the moving, still got to do that. So we make new plans. Ultimately it’s really nothing, just money, and we, I, can make money. I’m not particularly upset about it even – well yeah, I was at first, VERY angry, a little scared but given some time to step back, see the big picture, and come up with a plan and it’s only a moderate biggie.

    I’m quite happy about it, even joyous. I don’t see it as a problem. It’s brought hubby and me together closer than we may have ever been. It’s finally given me a “Why” to build a business(es) that I never had before. It’s given me the opportunity to lay out my ideas on how to create a financial empire and ‘they’ are listening this time and rooting for me. I see soooo much opportunity in this ‘disaster’. There are a number of areas I can help others going through similar circumstances. I can write articles, books, journal/planner/workbooks create support/action memberships, create courses, maybe even speaking and podcasting… So many things. It’s a blessing and a God thing going on.

    Listening to you, Kristen Joy, these last few years has really bolstered me and my belief, teaching me many life lessons through your experiences and lessons learned, that I never would have had otherwise. Hubby is still in a bad place over this and just a little bit ago when I told him about your post and my response he apologized for not being where I am with it. Then he waved his hand at the computer and said, “I haven’t been involved with all that” referring to your counseling and teaching and encouragement etc. giving you the credit— Though he is the one that wrote “I am enough…” on the bathroom mirror after I made him listen to your teaching on it… and it’s still there.

    Thank you for being brave and sharing your insides with us.

    Reply
    • Kristen Joy
      May 24, 2018 Judy Jackson

      Judy! I’m so thankful to have been an influence for you. And good on ya for making your hubby listen to me… LOL! I LOVE that you have “I am enough” on your mirror and that HE put it there – how cool! Big hugs to you as you go through this. You’re right… we can always make more money. 🙂

      Reply
  • CryStal Dean
    March 3, 2018

    Amazing! Thanks for sharing! So glad we met years ago!

    Reply
  • Eric Johnson
    March 1, 2018

    Amazing post. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  • Donna K Fitch
    March 1, 2018

    Thank you for this inspiring story, Kristen! It amazes me how horrid experiences can come around to help us grow. Not everyone listens to those lessons–the fact that you did, and used it for a positive growth opportunity, is just another example of what an amazing woman you are!

    Reply
  • Doris Sampson
    March 1, 2018

    Kristen Joy Laidig, America’s book publishing “ninja”, is MY writing coach! I’m still on a long journey with her many, many educations provided that ultimately will lead me to important publications. She shared this blog with members of her followers, students and most-recently, members of her incredible Academy–an online “university”, so to speak, of authorship learning. I’m one of her founding members, securing authorship educations for me all the way into the future. This blog is exceptional! I believe that everyone has to deal with blips across life that are awful to endure, and I have had many of them! I learned long ago what Kristen learned (even though our experiences widely differ): that EVERYTHING I’ve gone through has been given to me to endure, sort of like a gift in reverse–but ultimately still recognized as a Gift. EVERYTHING has provided life-changing hard-core EDUCATIONS to me–all of which I’ve gathered into volume after volume of documentations in my computer which will, when ready, begin to spin out of me as books. It’s truly hard to see so far forward in the middle of some tornado that one can gain some degree of peace and hope that Reasons ARE there that will come back to transform into blessings. In spite of evolving through this across decades of time, quite far back ago I already recognized that God was giving me educations and learning processes that I would someday use to be able to reach and teach others. Once I would be able to step away from each fire, I would recognize a new plane of freedom was mine. And if I still had scars, I also would settle into resignation that I WAS on this Journey to somewhere. Just knowing that, under God’s ultimate revelations of Plans for my life, enabled, and enables me to NEVER lose sight of hope, faith and hard-core belief of a destination to where I want to be, who I want to become, and why I want to use everything I’ve learned to . . . teach.

    Reply
  • MARISA FERRERA
    March 1, 2018

    What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing it. It’s so liberating when we can forgive those in our past who caused us to experience pain and see the blessing in it today.

    Reply