By Lisa Cypers Kamen.
Once upon a time, in a not so far away land, there lived a wife. A trophy wife to be exact. She was living the “dream,” with every single one of her “wants” more than fulfilled.
Loving, affluent husband? Check. Two beautiful children? Check. Vacation homes? Double check. Travel, jewelry, fashion sprees? Check, check, check. Busy social calendar? Check to the nth degree.
How do I know all this? Because that trophy wife was me, living my personal Disney fantasy. That is, until the music stopped. The façade fell down. My marriage failed. The economic recession knocked on the door of my life like a tsunami. My lifestyle and life as I had known it evaporated.
And I was left to realize the truth: despite my once flawless exterior, internally is where I had learned to create authentic joy. And with all the superficial distractions suddenly swept aside, I was finally in a position to do something with it.
I was eager to make a change, so I put my trophy self on the shelf. And that’s where the fairy tale really begins. After cultivating a life for my husband and children, it was time to cultivate a life of passion and purpose for myself. It wasn’t easy, but nothing worth anything ever is. I knew from the philanthropy I did during my trophy wife days that I thrived when giving back.
So I put myself in a position to have something to give. At the young age of 41, I went back to school, simultaneously completing my bachelor’s in Architectural Design and obtaining my graduate degree in Psychology. And that’s how my new story began.
Because we all have the power to change our stories – I did it, and so can you. I used my education, my training and my passion for connecting with individuals and communities, to create my company Harvesting Happiness. Through Harvesting Happiness, I take a unique approach to positive psychology, blending filmography, felicitation, and philanthropy, to change stories, one person at a time. With the launch of Harvesting Happiness, I’ve had the good fortune of securing for-profit gigs, like coaching corporate teams around the world, to support non-profit ones, like organizing retreats for Veterans and their loved ones through my non-profit Harvesting Happiness for Heroes. Juggling cash flow, managing employees, and constantly evolving my work hasn’t been easy, but like I said, nothing worth anything ever is.
I’m excited to share my story with you through this series of blog posts, but to get things started, here are 10 lessons I’ve learned along the way, each of which I’ll cover in more detail in this column:
1. Identify strengths and use them as the basis for creating a business and life of doing what you love.
I knew as a wife and mother that I thrived when cultivating happiness in others. By starting Harvesting Happiness, I’m now able to do just that every day, and on a much larger scale.
2. Ask for help. (A biggie for women. We feel we should be able to do it all).
I didn’t get where I am by myself. I’ve had the good sense to create around me a talented team of warrior women who teach me something every single day as they support my work and me. Plus, consider creating a Master Mind group of like-minded colleagues from different disciplines. Support, mentor and shepherd one another towards success. Together you will be more powerful than operating as a Lone Ranger.
3. Have patience. It can take years to cultivate a profitable business.
I’m still working on making my business profitable so it can adequately support my children and me. But I’m moving in the right direction, and I have no doubt it will get there. It just takes patience, hard work, and faith.
4. Be prepared to do other work or projects that can help sustain you while you nurture your business. This is in support of you, your family and your vision as it develops.
This is an important corollary to point number 3. Without a sense of security, it’s hard to nurture your passions. Keep that day job until you are certain you have enough to sustain you as you build your new business.
5. Be willing to stretch yourself. Experience and enjoy the growing pains, the long hours and discomfort of exploring “parts unknown.” This is where growth lies.
Rewriting my personal story has been extremely fulfilling, but not without pain. Watching my ex-husband go through bankruptcy and endure medical issues has been extremely difficult. The uncertainty that comes with being a single mother and starting and sustaining a business keep me up at night. But that’s okay. I embrace the pain. And revel in the uncertainty. Both have contributed to the most significant personal growth of my life.
6. Your business will not flourish with a Monday-Friday 9-5 mentality.
Being an entrepreneur means you are an “alwayspreneur.” To succeed, you must always be on. (Yes, nights, weekends and holidays, too.) Don’t worry though, the payout, both personally and financially, is worth it because the sky is literally the limit.
7. Strive for excellence beyond measure in all that you create. It is your signature.
Want to stand out from the pack? Be your best you. It’s that simple.
8. Humor… humor… humor.
I cannot emphasize this enough. It has taken me years to establish my brand. If I did not approach the serious business of happiness with lighthearted humor I would have been disappointed and considered giving up.
9. Do not give up.
Many new businesses fail because the entrepreneur gives up too soon. With due diligence, market research, intention, a viable action plan and passionate execution, you will succeed. If you’ve started but haven’t succeeded, you’re not done yet. Keep going.
10. Be flexible and open to course correction while on the journey. Where you start may not exactly be where you end up!