How a personal crisis shaped my business

I don’t typically write about personal “stuff” on the SEO copywriting blog. Marty Weintraub’s post, “Manage Like You’re Dying: A Humbled Entrepreneur’s Reflections” inspired me. Thank you, Marty, for sharing your story so others can do the same.

I’m going to tell you a story not many people know.

Eleven years ago, my then-husband committed suicide. Saying that I was “devastated” doesn’t come close to describing how I was feeling. I don’t remember much about that time. That’s probably a blessing.

At the time, SuccessWorks was barely two years old. SEO copywriting was a brand new concept. I was still very much in start up, with less than two nickels to rub together. Suddenly, I found myself grieving, damn near psychologically comatose and in an incredible amount of personal debt. But if I wanted to stay afloat, I had to suck it up and keep my business running.

That dreadful experience shaped my business more than any book, conversation, or mentor. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  • Life is short – enjoy what you do. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a few buyout offers and job opportunities. I would be a much richer woman had I taken advantage of even one of those opportunities. I couldn’t – and didn’t – because I wouldn’t love what I did anymore. I wouldn’t have my self-employed freedom.  If you’re in a job you hate – or working with clients that make you twitch every time they call – consider if it’s really worth it. The answer: Probably not.
  • Believe in your vision – even if others can’t see it. There were times that I wanted to roll up in a fetal position and stay there. I’d look at the debt and the bank balance and wonder WTF I was thinking. At the same time, I was blessed with incredible focus. I choose to not think about the “bad stuff” and turned my attention to what was working. That minor attitude shift made all the difference.
  • Asking “why me” does nothing but zap your energy. If you’re going through crisis, by all means, grieve. Rant. Cry. But know that it’s not personal. You were not singled out for this experience. We all have dark nights of the soul. It’s part of the experience.
  • Treat your supporters like gold. I learned who my friends really were during that time, and I love them with all my heart. Today, I’m blessed with a number of cool confidants who let me be my weird, neurotic self and don’t judge me. They help keep me sane, and I would do anything for them. At the same time, I also learned to…
  • Cut loose anything that emotionally drains you. There are “emotional vampires” who suck your energy. Let them go. Others may be nice to your face, and drive the knife in the second your back is turned. Be kind and be compassionate, but don’t engage. Still others face draining situations or jobs. Determine how to find peace, or learn to walk away. It makes life much happier.
  • Trust your instincts. I found myself “managing by my gut” when I had no other frame of reference. If it felt good – I’d do it. If it didn’t – I wouldn’t. That’s helped me steer clear of some mighty bad business situations – and succeed in situations others thought I was insane to try.
  • Be clear about what’s fear-based behavior, and what’s real. If you’re in crisis mode, everything and everyone feels like a threat. You start to contract. Suddenly, you’re afraid to do things (expand your business, try public speaking, work with bigger clients) because you’re “not ready.” Examine your real motivations and take many calculated risks.
  • Believe in your abilities. Always. My experience 11 years ago helped me psychologically survive the worst of the recession and keep kicking. I may not have been in the best mood some days (major understatement.) But I’m still here and stronger for it.
  • Give back. Always. It blows me away to remember how many people have helped me throughout my life and career. Back in the dark days, complete strangers donated money so I could go on a mini-cruise with my friends. My mechanic worked on my car for free. It was incredible. Because of that experience, I make it a point to give back to my friends, my community and my industry. Everything and everyone is connected. It’s the least I can do.

Life has certainly changed since then. In fact, today is my two-year anniversary with my wonderful husband. SuccessWorks weathered the recession, survived and thrived. And, because of that experience 11 years ago,  I have a perspective that I never would have had.  In the words of Winston Churchill (one of my personal heroes,) “Never, never, never give up.”

Those are wonderful words to live by.

 

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30 replies
  1. Courtney
    Courtney says:

    Heather – thank you so much for sharing your story and I’m sorry for your loss all of those years ago. As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve had a tough time in the past embracing my derailments due to some health issues. But I’ve learned that my journey has made me who I am today and has impacted my business outlook positively. For example, life’s too short to work on projects that you don’t care for! Thanks for being inspiring!

    Reply
  2. Heather
    Heather says:

    Thanks Courtney. Hehe, I very much like the term “recovering perfectionist.” I can completely relate. :)

    It’s true that our most difficult life situations can have the biggest positive impact in our lives. Thanks for sharing a little of your story, too.

    Reply
  3. Ryan Boots
    Ryan Boots says:

    Heather, I am so very sorry for your loss. Having had a few family members take their own lives, I can understand something of what that terrible phase of your life must have been like. Thanks so much for sharing so openly.

    Reply
    • Heather
      Heather says:

      Thanks Ryan. Having a “few family members” take their own lives must have been incredibly difficult for you. I’m sorry for your losses.

      Thank you so much for your kind words. :)

      Reply
  4. Amy C. Teeple
    Amy C. Teeple says:

    Hi Heather.

    I missed this yesterday because I actually took a day off to go zip lining with my wonderful wife. (Doing my best to live life to the fullest.)

    Wow. Thank you for sharing this oh-so-personal and powerful story. I can’t even imagine what you went through, but am even more inspired by you than I was before I read this.

    Also, thank you for showing how this personal crisis helped you not only survive in your business, but also truly know what it is that you are passionate about.

    You have definitely given back to many – me included. Thank you.

    I hope you have a wonderful anniversary celebration with Ron.

    Reply
  5. Heather
    Heather says:

    Amy..

    OMG, zip lining. That sounds like a blast!

    Thanks for your comment. One of the blessings that came out of the situation is how I no longer ignore my passions. I live my life the way I want to, without any regrets. Some folks never get to learn that lesson. I’m glad I did.

    Reply
  6. Matthew Newnham
    Matthew Newnham says:

    Hi Heather,

    Greetings from sunny (and yes, warm!) Edinburgh.

    Your post really touched me, and I wanted to thank you for sharing the depth of your experience, emotions and how you succeeded through it all.

    Reading your post this morning is incredibly timely for me on several fronts, and I’m grateful to you and the Universe for reminding me of the truths you’ve highlighted.

    And I couldn’t sign off without saying how much I love your authentic blend of focused professionalism, infectious enthusiasm and giving back to others – fabulous energy and fun!

    Have a lovely week :-)

    Reply
  7. Mercy Mathews
    Mercy Mathews says:

    Thank you Heather for sharing your story and for especially wanting to give back (seldom do people think of that). Winning that free course was amazing especially since I would never have been able to afford it otherwise! Thanks again.

    Reply
  8. Sarah Clachar
    Sarah Clachar says:

    Heather, what a dose of perspective! Your story reminds me how easy it is to lose track of the good things in life . . . and also how much capacity we have to manage the tough things. I’m so sorry to hear about this tough time in your life. Grateful for the wisdom that you’re sharing today from it. – thank you.

    Reply
  9. Marissa Bishop
    Marissa Bishop says:

    Heather-
    I can’t thank you enough for sharing — I am sure it wasn’t an easy thing for you to do. Today is the third anniversary of my brother’s death — a tough day. I am at the beginning of a start up (which I don’t think I would have done if my bro were still alive), and the bank book is close to $0 — but I know I will get there. Thank you, thank you for these words of inspiration — what you said feels just right.
    Marissa Bishop

    Reply
  10. Kay Alexander
    Kay Alexander says:

    Heather, thank you so much for sharing this and I am so sorry to hear of your loss. What strength of character you have and what a fantastic example to us all. Just this weekend my husband and I went through a tragedy, it cannot be compared to yours but we both feel numb by it. Already though – as a result – I have thought very much the way you describe and somehow the things that worried me before this weekend, don’t any longer. Life IS too short, let’s remember the blessings we have and let the rest go. Your writing is inspiring.

    Reply
  11. Heather Georgoudiou
    Heather Georgoudiou says:

    Heather,

    Thank you for opening your heart! Although there are so many things I absolutely love about learning from you, the biggest is by far your passion for life.

    From Mac & Cheese to Starbucks coffee to wrestling with language, and teaching others, you approach everything with your heart wide open. I sincerely appreciate your constant encouragement to students and your amazing example of perseverance.

    You are an inspiring mentor! More importantly you’re all heart.

    Reply
  12. Heather
    Heather says:

    Wow.

    I had no idea when I wrote the post that it would touch so many people. Thank you, everyone, for your kind words and your fantastic comments. I firmly believe that “we’re all in this together,” and we have so much to learn from each other. When we share our pain (and how we’ve healed,) it helps others to do the same.

    Marissa, I’m sorry to hear about your brother. It sounds like you’re honoring him today by launching a new business – and being able to face the start-up fear head-on. Good for you.

    Kay, I’m thinking of you and your husband during this tough time….

    Reply
  13. Susan
    Susan says:

    Heather,
    Great post- thank you so much for sharing such a personal experience. I always say that everything happens for a reason and whether you realize it or not, going through this and now sharing your experience with others is such an inspiration that so many need these days. Personally, this could not be more of a perfect time to read this as I go through my own challenges right now. Thanks for sharing and giving me the much needed inspiration and advice!

    Reply
  14. Juliet
    Juliet says:

    “I choose to not think about the “bad stuff” and turned my attention to what was working. That minor attitude shift made all the difference.”

    “We all have dark nights of the soul. It’s part of the experience.”

    I don’t read every e-news you send, but so glad I read this one. These are words I needed to hear today – thank you so much for sharing your story.

    Reply
  15. Ka Hang Leoungk
    Ka Hang Leoungk says:

    This post slipped through the gap in my inbox and I just read it now. I’m so glad I read your post, and thank you for sharing it with us.

    As I often tell patients in my practice, “cutting loose anything that drains you” is so important to our health and wellbeing. The days don’t always shine brightly, but life is what we make of it.

    Reply
    • Heather
      Heather says:

      “Cutting loose anything that drains you” is wonderful advice. It may seem too painful to do sometimes – but you make the break, it’s very, very freeing.

      Thanks for your comments. :)

      Reply
  16. Rachel Karl
    Rachel Karl says:

    WOW. Heather you have always been an inspiration to me as a copywriter and as an amazing woman who seems to juggle it all with a smile and a ready laugh – and that was without knowing your back story. You are not only a pioneer in SEO copy, but you are one of the coolest chics I know, and I’m SO glad you didn’t give up because my life and career have been enhanced by knowing and following yours! BIG HUGS!

    Reply
  17. Kel
    Kel says:

    Hi Heather. Just taking a wonder through the back posts of your extensive, educational, entertaining and inspiring blog. Thanks for sharing your amazing story (all that time ago). Personal tragedy and difficulties shape us for better or worse. We have to make a choice. I believe that’s where the true journey lies. Yes old WC certainly had his way with words. One of my fave’s is “when your going through hell make sure you just keep going!” (or thereabouts). You certainly are testimony to that.

    Reply
  18. Jonathon
    Jonathon says:

    WOW. I’m so glad I ran across this article posted on Twitter today! Very helpful, insightful info. The one point about fear based behavior is something that is so true. Our businesses can succeed or fail, based solely on unfounded fear. Thanks for sharing your story. Although a terrible tragedy, living through something like this has undoubtedly helped others (like myself!)

    Reply
    • Heather Lloyd-Martin
      Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      @Jonathon – I’m glad you liked the post. Living in fear is so easy to do. It sneaks up on you. One day, you put something off because you’re “not ready.” Before you know it, a year has gone by…and you’re still “not ready.” I literally work on this every single day. The more I keep on top of it, the less fear “owns” me. :)

      Reply
  19. Kristen
    Kristen says:

    Wow…such an inspiring post and really brave of you to share it! I would have never guessed what you had been through given you’re always so upbeat and personable. I love the tips…especially the fear-based behavior as society is so programmed to function based on fear. Thank you, Heather and happy anniversary!

    Reply
  20. Shany
    Shany says:

    Heather,

    I am truly sorry for your loss. And I am happy for what you are now. I think I should have read this a long time ago. You are a wonderful person and really inspiring. Thank you for motivating me to start to learn to walk away. Thank you!

    Reply

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