Every survivor of abuse wants to succeed, but few know how to do it. My heart breaks for the foster alumni I’ve seen who have tried, failed, and who then find themselves in an emotional ditch, unwilling or unable to risk the pain of failure. They’ve endured too much pain already without risking the heartbreak of perceived failure.
Having gone from abandonment, abuse, and poverty to successful business person, child advocate, radio show host, author, and speaker, I’ve learned how to go from less than nothing to survival to authentic success, and I am now focused on significance.
In response to the struggling I’ve seen in the lives of my foster alumni brothers and sister, I’ve created a training program that I’ve named YOUR REAL SUCCESS. I gave it that name because I wanted to emphasize that each of us is unique in the world, so what success looks like for each of us will be unique. For example, my personal and professional success started with a career in insurance. Whodathunk it?!
Insurance taught me how to manage risk, it taught me how to look beneath the facts for the triggers that cause tragedy, and it gave me the means to invest in the things that have reaped the financial rewards that have allowed me to help others in ways I could never have imagined. When my passion about helping kids who have been abused intersected with what I knew about risk management, my unique success helped me go to the next level of doing something significant with my life.
YOUR REAL SUCCESS probably won’t look anything like mine. Just like there being only one Taylor Swift, only one Blake Mycoskie (founder of Tom’s Shoes), only one Larry Page (co-founder and CEO of Google), only one Oprah Winfrey, and only one YOU. You may not know what you were created to do, but there are clues that will help you find it and characteristics and coping mechanisms that will help you make it a reality in your life.
One of the most important things you should know as you work to earn your success is what makes YOU so awesome! Know who you really are, what you are passionate about, and what bothers you. Know what you do well. Know what comes naturally to you. Mine the lessons out of what you’ve been through and what you’ve learned along the way, especially those things you are able to do because of the unique “training” you’ve had through abandonment, abuse, dysfunction, chaos, and whatever else you’ve experienced. This reflection on yourself is important because once you know your unique combination of skills, strengths, and abilities, you can learn how to communicate them to others, and in so doing, you’ll be positioning yourself to connect with others who can help you create your real success. Knowledge of yourself and the ability to communicate it is one of the keys to success!
Two words of caution about communicating your awesomeness: First, this does NOT mean talking to everyone who will listen about all you, what you’ve been through, what’s been done to you, and what you’ve done and want to do with your life. It DOES mean communicating in a clear, concise way, who you are, what you want to do with your life, and how you want to help others. This gives potential employers, business partners, and colleagues a clear understanding of how you might be a good person to fill a need. Secondly, learn to communicate about yourself in 3 minutes or less and then STOP. Give others an opportunity to speak, to tell about him or herself, to ask questions, or to change the subject entirely. I’ve noticed that too many foster alumni destroy opportunities by spewing out TMI (too much information) about their personal lives, choices, and other issues that are not relevant to creating success. The sad thing about this is that most alumni who shoot themselves in the proverbial foot have no idea that they’ve just destroyed their chances of success with everyone within earshot.
In my upcoming YOUR REAL SUCCESS program, participants will learn how to mine the lessons out of what they’ve been through, and then how to effectively communicate their unique combination of awesomeness.
One of the most significant aspects of the program is that participants will learn to identify in themselves the characteristics of successful survivors that have been acquired and honed in the adversity they’ve experienced. It’s those characteristics that can be our “secret weapon” in the creation of our authentic success.
So, what are the characteristics of successful survivors of trauma? I have identified 15 characteristics, but we’ll focus here on the five most common “secret weapons” of successful survivors.
#1 We’re stronger than the average person
- When adversity strikes, we may be saddened or angry but unlike people who are debilitated by the trauma, we take the development more or less in stride.
- We are known for pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps to keep going despite the challenges, how we feel, or how bleak the future may appear.
- We see adversity as a challenge and an opportunity. When others go to bed and pull the covers up over their heads, we dig in and get to work.
#2 We’re tenacious, persistent and assertive
- Our experience tells us that we’ve made it through worse, so if we just keep trying, we’ll make it through our present challenges too!
- Like the young mother who went to 27 different apartment buildings before she convinced one building manager to rent to her for what she could pay rather than the advertised rent.
- We aren’t afraid to ask for exceptions. Being told “NO” isn’t nearly as bad as what we’ve experienced in our lives!
#3 We’re resourceful
- In going without some of the necessities of life, we’ve had to figure out how to get by.
- We can make a meal out of the heal of the bread and a couple drops of ketchup.
- Without the money to replace what was broken, we had to figure out how to fix it.
- Without money to buy a new pair of pants when we grew too tall, we figured out how to let out the hem or hem them into shorts.
#4 We quickly shift from fear to action
- In the event of an emergency, you want us around! If anyone can survive a crisis, it’s going to be someone who’s survived some rough stuff in their life.
- We make excellent first responders, emergency room staff, combat soldiers, or any other position that requires rapid decision making and the ability to act decisively.
- The military trains this ability, which they call “mental toughness.” We already completed a more dangerous form of boot camp when we were too little or too vulnerable to avoid it.
#5 We’re courageous
- We’ve shielded younger siblings from abuse or sexual molestation.
- We’ve tried to protect our mothers.
- We’ve learned how to walk through embattled neighborhoods and how to survive interactions with gang members and drug dealers.
Hopefully these five characteristics that are common to successful survivors of abuse have given you an idea of the types of characteristics that you have, or that you can develop, that can be translated into success in the workplace, which translates into income, which is the tool you’ll need to establish independence and financial security.
You may not have every one of these characteristics, but you have exactly the combination of strengths that you will need to fulfill what I call your “life assignment,” which is the creation of your own personal and professional success. My hope that is that you learned something about yourself that you were previously unaware of. You have strengths you have yet to uncover.
Once you know your unique awesomeness and learn to articulate that to employers, colleagues, and potential business partners, you’ll be well on your way to success!
To fast track your success, start by signing up for the online, self-paced course, Succeed Because Of What You’ve Been Through Level 1. For your copy of my free ebook on Success Tips, emails, and event announcements, subscribe at www.rhonda.org. Much more information will be in the YOUR REAL SUCCESS program. To bring YOUR REAL SUCCESS to your area, contact Rhonda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to start her own business and develop it, along with her other investments, into a multi-million dollar balance sheet. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to a great future. www.rhonda.org