Successful companies encompass the founder’s values and perspective on life. Never was this more clear to me than when my life came to a screeching halt just a couple short years ago.
Two years ago I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and my life was suddenly and frighteningly put into perspective.
I was instantly taught many things but the most important thing I learned was that nothing, not a job, company, title, or material item, will matter much to you when you fear for your life. The only thing that truly matters is friends and family. This may seem obvious, but we can become lost in life and start to give things more merit than they deserve.
When I was diagnosed, I was seven months pregnant with my first child and in the midst of starting up a jewelry company, Sally Jane, with my aunt. I can tell you with all honesty that the company was the last thing I thought of when I heard the words “on average you have two years to live.” I was 31 years old, happily married, and for the first time feeling like I was exactly where I was supposed to be in life.
Like the scene of a disaster, everything to do with our company was untouched from that day on, as if people had left in a rush. The notes I had written for our story, the samples of charms and chains tucked in the draw of the desk in my guest room, the product-less website displaying our logo and “established in 2012,” all hung in the abyss. We left everything as it was and began the work of beating the disease.
I went through a year of grueling treatment including four surgeries and eleven rounds of chemotherapy. Once I was rid of the disease and feeling stronger, I decided that I wanted to think about working on the company again. It was not something I took lightly because anything that took me away from time with my son would often fill me with guilt. However, I knew that I had to start living again and that meant fulfilling my life dream of being a jewelry designer as well as a mom.
Finding everything to do with the company a year later, exactly how we had left it, remained unfinished and with loose ends was emotional. Reconnecting with suppliers and explaining why we had dropped off as we did was painful. Perhaps this was because, in a way, it brought me out of the shock I had been living in and forced me to reflect, for the first time, on how much my life had changed.
These experiences have shaped me into the person I am today. Our values at Sally Jane have become so much more apparent and powerful because of them. I am a much wiser person and feel that so much anxiety and worry about trivial matters has literally been lifted from me. I can physically feel that. Yet with that has come extreme fear for my life. This continued fear gives me a constant sense of perspective on business.
What could be more scary than the thought I might leave my husband and baby?
It has freed me up to go for things with a confidence I never would have before. I wish I knew that it did not truly matter if the company has a setback, or a marketing campaign fails, without having to go through what I did, but I had to. This sort of confidence and perspective has had a major impact on the impression I give to people and I believe truly aides in my success.
People react positively to a confident person who knows her values and what is important in life.
Cancer never truly leaves you once you have been diagnosed. The emotional trauma lingers, even when your body has been rid of the disease. In order to lead a productive life you have to find ways to manage your fear. Yet it also is incredibly liberating. If you can approach your work with an attitude of, “what do I have to lose?” you can become a force to be reckoned with.
Hopefully others will not have to go through what I did to learn to put their ego to the side. Your work defines only a part of you as a person. You are not the product. So when someone criticizes your work, or suggests you take a different approach to something, recognize they are not talking about you personally or what you might think of as “your baby.” Use their advice to advance your goals.
You can check out Sally’s inspirational jewelry lines, at SallyJane.net.
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