Cancer alone is frightening enough. Add being a young parent of three children with her whole life ahead, and the stakes are raised that much higher.
That was my reality when I was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 32. Throughout my treatment, friends and loved ones showed their support, but it was one tiny, flickering gesture that helped see me through.
I’d bought my then-husband glassblowing lessons for his birthday, and he brought back for me a tiny piece he’d made. After dropping a tea light in and seeing the light mesh with the color of the glass, I felt a strength and calm come over me.
Find Your Power Source
The feeling that votive-and-light combo gave me the first time is what I strive to give others, so my company pledges 10 percent of our revenue to foundations dedicated to healing the planet and the people on it.
One charity we’ve been helping is near and dear to me because it appeals to that very maternal instinct I had all those years ago. Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. helps with gun education and supporting mothers touched by death, having had children killed on the street.
While my goal was to be there for my children day after day, these are women who’ve lost theirs through unspeakable tragedy. The revenue my company gives away each year could be life-changing for some businesses, but to me, success is using our giving model to help foundations like Harlem Mothers that aim to heal.
I focus on feeding and nurturing families, helping the planet, and healing in other ways not measured by revenue. And it all stems from leading my life by this code of giving. When you pursue giving and live it in every facet of life, it just becomes a part of you.
Living Life With More Meaning
Just as success isn’t a given, neither is living a life of bravery and conviction: Instead, it’s worked toward with vigor, commitment, and rationale. Here are some helpful hints to get you there:
1. Know your strengths.
Our company receives a lot of pressure to alter our business model. Investors would be more apt to fund the company if we didn’t donate a large portion to charity; people could purchase more products if we made them cheaper by producing the glass in China.
Everyone has ideas that flow through her life. Sometimes they are big enough to make you pause and contemplate the specifics. Grab that idea, and follow through with it.
Feeding your bravery and conviction is what matters most when pursuing your goals, and those two traits can ultimately make the world a better place. These make it easier to stand up for the ideas and people you believe in.
2. Know it’s OK to fall.
I’m the queen of giving myself a break. I don’t live every day with conviction and bravery. I try, but I don’t hold myself accountable every day.
People need to give themselves breaks. You can’t wake up and think you’ll be the best version of yourself every day. I couldn’t possibly do that. There were times when I was so sick that I couldn’t get to my treatment. It’s important to roll with the changing tides and be flexible.
And when you see that white light and that path all the way into your soul that’s telling you something, ride with it. Grab on for as long as you can. Every little bit helps, and it always strengthens you somewhere.
3. Know your own “right way.”
There is so much pressure on everyone to follow a specific path and to do what everyone else does: Go to college, find an internship, get a job, consider graduate school. It’s right for some, but it’s not right for everyone.
We need to listen to what is our right way—rather than someone else’s right way—because there’s a lot of gray area in-between.
Any traditional businessperson would scoff at our giving approach and say we can’t run a company that way—in fact, many have. But our model and our vow to create all our products on U.S. soil are what we do, even with wiser business minds telling us to try another tactic. Whether you call that bravery or blind strength, it’s the only way I know.
As I look to continue growing my business and living my life, I’m still looking for ways to touch and affect people by helping them find the strength and bravery to fight the daily battles we all have. I learned from the people who didn’t make it out of the chemotherapy room, even though they worked equally hard.
I was lucky.
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- How to Embrace Your Strength to Live With More Meaning - September 7, 2017