I shared this speech in 2014 at an Omaha Young Professionals event called, The Catalyst.
The premise was to share how your failures shaped who you are today. This day was very inspirational and I loved every minute.
My 2014 Speech
Today, I’ll share some of the ugly events that have helped mold me into the human I am today.
It is the first time I have shared these stories outside of my very core group of friends and family.
My goal today is that by opening up in this setting you find something to identify with and be inspired to overcome your own challenges.
Let’s start with…Who I am today.
A blessed mother of 5 of the most fascinating children you’ll ever meet.
A wife to the smartest and most supportive man in this room.
A friend. So ridiculously blessed to have an entire row of ladies here that love me.
An employee. Work at West Corporation providing thought leadership & strategy consulting to one of their largest accounts.
A community advocate. I serve on the council for the Greater Omaha Young Professionals & am working to make our community a more inclusive place to live.
I’ll share 5 events/forces that I see as failure in my life – whether than be my own failure – or that of others failing me — its all shaped me into who I am today and then I’ll share 5 of the factors I attribute most to redemption.
Failure shows itself in many ways.
Lack of role models.
I grew up in a very loving home with a mom who chose to stay home to raise myself, my sister & brother in the hills of Appalachia – in Kentucky.
Expectations of women hovered around the servitude of your husband. Smile. Cook dinner. Clean your house. Take care of your family. You are a success.
The problem with that was, I didn’t fit that mold. I married young (try 18). I participated and led in bible studies. I made 2 beautiful babies. I served my friends and my husband. But, I felt empty.
What my (group) didn’t do was support independence. Celebrate the new, the different, the aspirations. What makes us unique. We didn’t dream together.
Women I knew didn’t climb. Didn’t push. Didn’t strive. I couldn’t find someone like me.
Failure of choices.
I’d venture to say every person in this room can attribute some failure to a stupid choice they have made. “if I only I could go back in time.”
I have a litany of them. Marrying the only man I had ever dated – at 18. Neither of us with a college degree. No 5 year plan but single wide trailer that his parents bought for us for $500. We were POOR. I waited tables at Cracker Barrel – balancing a tray of cornbread & biscuits on a 9 month pregnant belly. The epitome of barefoot and pregnant.
I remember driving to the restaurant to clock in for my shift often considering what might happen if I just kept. on. driving…..
Failure of self talk.
Mental health issues permeate my early years as I was surrounded by people who were struggling. Depression. Panic Disorder. Anxiety issues. Agorophobia.
When I struggled with a decision or an opportunity negative self talk was all I knew. It was a crutch to me and felt natural and normal.
I’m an impostor. People can see through this charade. I’m not worthy or capable of the good things. And I certainly deserve all of the bad ones.
Ugly. Debilitating self-talk is failing you.
The ultimate failure for a woman who grew up in my church was getting a divorce. My identity – according to my entire sphere of influencers – was servitude of my husband. I failed.
Failed at the caring for that man. Failed at keeping up the charade that was expected of me. And i failed at keeping my family together.
My friends shared verbally their disappointment with me. Turned their backs to protect their own marriages and abandoned me.
The marital divorce was sad and I mourned the loss of a traditional family unit for my beautiful daughters – but the divorce of my friendships – so integral to who i was – were the worst. This time was dark.
I wasn’t sure how to recover and develop back into the cheerful/excited/passionate person I knew was hiding inside.
What turned the page? The page of poverty, struggle, low expectations, and defeat?
Power of cheerleaders
I mentioned earlier a husband and a group of girlfriends who have absolutely changed my life.
A pivotal piece of my redemption came as I found a mentor in a college professor during my undergrad studies at Morehead State University. A history teacher who read an essay of mine and booked an appointment to celebrate my writing. He applauded me. He believed in me. He cheered me on my entire undergrad career.
This helped me see….there really is more….I can really move past Cracker Barrel and a miserable marriage….
Stay close to your cheerleaders.
Power of Audacity
My husband jokes that I always expect to get what I want. Let’s be fair, he’s right. But that trait of expecting the good – whether walking in a room when I am preparing to negotiate a large sales contract or planning my future I do expect good things. I’m no longer afraid to verbalize those dreams, those desires, and take control of my own life to make them happen.
Be audacious enough to always anticipate the good.
Power of Self Belief
I found myself volleying the negative self talk I spoke about a moment ago when I was floundering at my first sales job. I graduated college – moved to Nebraska – got a job at the Lincoln Journal Star to sell online advertising in 2006. Granted the internet was still scary in 2006 – but this job where I basically made the same income but could trade my brown apron for a pair of black high heels was everything to me.
I spent the first 3 months in tears. i was lost at how to be successful – doors were being closed on me left and right.
I vividly remember an evening on my front porch crying. My boyfriend at the time (now husband) challenged me to think differently and push the negative self talk out. I can recall the specific moment when I chose to believe in myself. 3 months later I celebrated a huge win – the Lee Enterprise group (a network of 100s of newspapers) ran a sales contest. I won. That prize – an all expenses paid trip to the mountains in Montana – became our honeymoon.
I’m convinced there’s no greater power than that belief in yourself.
Power of Connecting
When people say “its all in who you know” with a negative regard I chuckle. Yes, it’s all in who you know – and what an easy bridge to success!!
In 2009, I had 5 very young children – i.e. an expensive daycare bill – so I chose to try my hand at freelance work. I made some business cards and a website and was determined to bill clients at least $400/month (which equaled my previous salary minus daycare). Having only moved to Omaha 6 months prior – I didn’t have a network to start with.
My lead generation strategy was to put myself out there. Talk to people. Go to events and be bold enough to share my dreams.
One Sunday afternoon I decided to attend a cooking class at Williams Sonoma – I stood beside a gentleman and struck up a conversation – left with my biggest billing client ever – one that eventually offered me a full time position as their director of sales and marketing.
You never know who you are sitting next to. Maybe someone who can help you – or even better maybe you can help change THEIR life.
Be bold. Share.
I’ll continue failing every single day of my life. But those failures – the negative self talk, the friends who abandoned me, the single wide trailer & crumbled marriage all make me more resilient – more open – and more grateful. Bring on the failure – as long as you can take time and find the lesson.
Here’s to still becoming.
Thank you, next
It’s fascinating for me to read these old transcripts of speeches I have shared. Here’s another one if you are entertained/inspired!!!!