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For many people, figuring out what they want to do with their life is neither straightforward nor easy. Whether you are switching majors, going back to school, switching careers, or trying your own thing, one thing is certain: finding a life activity that makes you fulfilled and interested as well as generates wealth can sometimes be difficult.
Specifically, I find this to be especially the case for aspiring entrepreneurs with a natural instinct to start something on their own but who have no idea what to do or where to start. So, where can we look?
The answer might be closer than you think. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson says, “The best businesses come from people’s bad personal experiences.” People who aren’t necessarily in the startup or entrepreneurial space should pay close attention to their life experiences and real-life frustrations, as successful ideas often arise from the necessity of dealing with them.
One example of this is Bloomberg L.P., a media and technology syndicate founded in the early 1980s by Michael Bloomberg, three-term Mayor of New York City. After nearly a decade working on Wall Street, Bloomberg created a business data information platform after observing that interest rates and bond prices
weren’t being communicated across the market fairly or transparently. Today, Bloomberg is not only a multi-billionaire, philanthropist, and political figure; he is also one of the most respected CEOs.
So, you might be asking, how in the world can the average person achieve something like that?
I asked Dr. Sonja Stribling, a life and business strategist who started her life out with crushing odds against her. After having a child at just fifteen years old, undergoing a horrific rape experience, spending 15 months in a war zone in Iraq while serving her country in the US Army, going through a gruesome divorce after 18 years of marriage, and living with clinical depression after losing her home and assets, she came out even stronger on the other side.
Dr. Stribling used her negative experiences to create her business, which allows her to not only help thousands of women through some of their biggest hardships in their personal and professional lives but also to live life abundantly.
“You know, one of the most difficult things in the world to go through is a divorce. I remember going through that and being so depressed, lost, angry, and confused at how I could ever trust anyone again. I paid out massive fees to handle the cost of the change, along with some of the mental recovery I needed after the emotional battle I faced.
“I had an extremely hard time facing my children and telling them that mommy and daddy were getting divorced and couldn’t stomach what I knew I might be putting my kids through. The entire process was a mess! I said to myself, there is no way I can focus at work right now. All I can think about is the disorder going on in my life. How can I continue to sustain myself and remain responsible in such a difficult time? Looking back on all of those feelings, it finally hit me… I can help others go through what I just experienced! What if I become a divorce coach? I sure am credible in that field after going through it and learned the best ways to do things from the mistakes I had made. So, I decided to run with it, and have since found myself grateful and appreciative of how possible it is to take your life experiences and turn them into your best expertise. No one could have told me that three years ago I would consider suicide and in a span of only three years build a million-dollar empire helping women who are lacking confidence and direction in life and business. I never thought I would be helping them in their Next Level journey, which helps them win, dominate, be amazing… all while owning their own P.O.W.E.R (Possibilities, Opportunities, Wealth/Worth/Wellbeing, Excellence, Responsibilities).”
While Dr. Stribling has used social media to share her story and experiences to connect with people, this entire model is also replicable in other industries.
It’s like a business in fitness or nutrition; when someone loses a lot of weight and shares their journey and education with people on social media, they become credible because they have gone through it themselves. Or something a bit more off the charts – think about someone who has gone through a mental illness, such as an eating disorder. After their recovery, they can share their journey and share how they were able to get better and become a consultant for those dealing with similar challenges. Ideas are all over the place!
Dr. Stribling left me with one key piece of advice about being able to really define your expertise through your life experiences: “Remember, there’s nothing more credible than going through something yourself. Your life experience and your story are all you need in your life… It’s the most important thing you own and your biggest competitive advantage. Use it.”