In these uncertain times, I find great comfort in knowing I have overcome many obstacles in my life. I was born in Hicksville, Long Island NY and was what they call an oops or surprise. My parents thought they had taken care of that, but I was born the last of five children. That year was a rough one for my parents. They married my oldest sister in March, buried my sister Ellen in August, and I was born in October. Needlesstosay, my parents were numb. Parents just don’t expect their children to die before them, and no manual exists on how to cope. My parents pulled away. My siblings were older, and I kind of got lost.
I remember wanting to do things and go places, but my parents had no energy. The life had been sucked out of them. The shell of a body remained, but their heart and soul were gone. I was a bright spot—a gift from God as my mom said—making my parents smile again, laugh, and enjoy some simple things like dancing to music. I had a spark until…
…my thirteenth birthday when my dad died of cancer. Now I was the one whose heart had been ripped out. I withdrew and became an extremely quiet and shy kid. Friends who know me now still don’t believe I could have ever been quiet, but I was the one who got cotton mouth and sweated when someone said hello to me. I didn’t have any friends and kept to myself. I was about as average as they came, until…
…one day in high school. I was watching everyone else having fun and living life. I decided right then and then that I didn’t want to be on the outside looking in. I didn’t want to miss out on my own life. I knew firsthand how short life can be.
So, I got a planner and began changing my life one decision at a time, choosing to participate and engage. Again, those who know me today would say, “Of course you got a planner!” I joined clubs, became an A student, made friends, volunteered, and got into basketball, tennis, and volleyball. I chose to be happy, despite the tragedy of my dad’s death and our financial struggles. Mom did her best to provide for us, but we lived a lean life.
Often times, I think we let our circumstances dictate our future, or we get overwhelmed by the sheer weight of it all. When a horrible life event hits, we forget to recover our life and get stuck in recovery!
Let me say that again, “we forget to recover our life and get stuck in recovery.”
The choice is always ours to be happy, content, and grateful. We must remember we hold the power to change our life. “If you don’t like your life, you only have yourself to blame.” Of course, we all could use a little help, and mine came from…
…the Interact Club at my high school. The Interact Club is Rotary International’s service club for young people. I not only joined the Interact Club, but I ran for and became President. Our club consisted of only four members. Through recruiting, marketing of social events, acquiring dynamic guest speakers, and organizing some great community volunteer projects, I grew the club to its largest size in the history of the school. I went from a wall flower to having my photo taken with the mayor for the local paper and many more write ups with all the service projects we conducted my junior and senior years.
For me, the opportunity to lead other students, speak to groups, organize community events, and volunteer was the one thing that allowed me to grow into a new and improved person. Sure, I made the decision to change, but the Interact Club helped me look past myself to serve others. It put wind under my wings, and we all need a lift once in a while.
My local Rotary Club also provided me with a $500 scholarship to college. Coming from a single-parent family where my mom made minimum wage, this felt like a million dollars to me. I worked my way through college, paying as I could afford. I squeezed those four years into seven, but I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Business Administration with minors in marketing and communications.
My decision put me on a path, and Interact and Rotary helped guide me. I learned to be a confident, self-assured leader who understood the value of serving others. I took the message so seriously that my entire business is built around it: improving the quality of people’s lives.
Today, I am a motivational speaker and author of nine books with #9 releasing today, April 7, 2020: Defy Your Diagnosis: Overcome Any Obstacle with the FIT Life Formula. I have been on national television and live radio across the country. I train, consult and coach businesses on how to be more successful through healthy relationships. My hope and prayer are to change the world for the better, one person—one company at a time. We are one. Let’s never forget the Power of One, especially in these uncertain times. Be the one who helps, encourages, and inspires. Be the one who gives, contributes, and makes a positive difference. We can defy this diagnosis together.