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.