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How My Wife Helped Save My Career

It has been said that you may be a-nobody to the world, but to somebody you are the world. To understand what to be somebody truly means, one must experience unconditional love in his or her most vulnerable moment. That love might be the only thread to hold on to as the wounded soul navigates through the tides of life to a renewed hope and focused sense of purpose.

One of the largely unknown aspects of building a professional speaking and/or training career is that the would-be speaker or trainer must pay his or her dues in the school of hard-knocks. Lack of business and name recognition is the force that demands astonishing efforts to be devoted in getting people to know your work, hoping that effort will lead to business opportunities. The mental and physical challenges one has to endure in the process have forced many peaking or training dreams to be changed. Financial constraints seem to be the axe that transforms aspiration into desperation.

My moment came in the spring of 1998. It was about one year since leaving corporate America. The dream career seemed like I was running after a mirage. The challenges that relegate 80% of all businesses to oblivion in the first year had infested themselves in my efforts. Two to three months would pass easily without a single call from a possible prospect. Forget health insurance and the luxury of paying bills on time.

Then the flyer came. I was invited for an event in Seattle with the potential of speaking to hundreds of thousands and being a guest on one of the NPR?s programs. I could not let this opportunity pass. But it was up to me to pay for my airline travel expenses and be willing to stay with a host family. No problem. I had done it?traveling from Boise, Idaho to Midland, Texas to speak to a library storytelling group and a Toastmaster?s club with no payment agreement besides the opportunity to sell some books.

The program was unfortunately not publicized. The host, bless their hearts, did their very best with what they had and I am grateful for that. In a one-bedroom apartment, I had to share the living room with four dogs that didn?t seem comfortable with a stranger. I have no hidden dislike for dogs. But these became alert and ready to attack by the slightest movement. I resolved not sleep, and not to be eaten without putting on a fight. This battle of wills between a would-be speaker and dogs lasted for four days and nights.

The trip to the airport from those dogs brought unforgettable comfort. With a bruised ego, four sleepless nights, a depleted wallet and an uncertain speaking future, I was ready to throw in the towel. My wife picked me up at the Boise airport at noon. I had shared my situation as I gave her information about my arrival time the previous night. She took the day off from work and drove to my favorite restaurant. After lunch we went to Ann Morrison Park and relaxed as we reflected on the ebbs and flows of life. There was no discussion about unpaid bills or a career that seemed fabling.

By the end of the day, all frustrations and disappointments I had experienced started to lose their grip. I was ready to wake up and go back to the trenches of building a speaking business.

Now, six years later, I wonder what could have happened if after feeling like a nobody, I came home and my feeling were affirmed by words said to me or actions that reflected negatively on my miseries? That inspiration from my ever supportive wife re-focused my course more than any book or seminar on how to be tough in difficult times could have done.

It is the special attention and sense of belonging we receive when we have been wounded in the battles of life that become the source of much needed hope and rekindling of our sinking faith to carry on, just for another day. That?s what makes a difference along the paths we have chosen to travel in life. It is the ingredient that makes an experience a positive memory rather than a graveyard of dreams.

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