As a girl, when my mother referred to a time before I was born, she would say, “Back when you were just the light in your father’s eyes…”. As a girl, I wasn’t sure if I understood what being the light in my father’s eyes meant. But it didn’t matter, because when she said it, I felt wrapped in my father’s love and reminded of how special I was to him.
My father was a legendary man. People recounted stories of his superhuman feats with awe and admiration. He was six feet, six inches tall, and everything about him felt strong, certain, and generous. Although he looked formidable with a long beard, tattoos, and Harley Davidson leathers, strangers were mysteriously drawn to him. I think they could feel his commanding leadership was sourced in goodness.
If you were to stereotype my father for the generation he was born in, the hobbies he loved (anything with an engine), and his sheer masculinity, you might imagine that he felt barren without a son. But oddly, I never once felt him aching that I came out a girl. He doted on me, played with me, comforted me. There was a purity about our connection that I simply swam in as a child, but as an adult, I now know it was a rare and even mystical alliance between father and daughter.
When I was 13 years old, I was at summer ballet camp thousands of miles from home, training to be a professional ballerina. At 5 a.m. the phone in my single dorm room rang. It was my mother’s voice, shaking and exhausted, “Your father is dead.” I remember lying on my twin bed, the turquoise and white striped sheets spreading around my body like a maze. My whole system froze in suspended disbelief. Then, the sound of screaming pierced the quiet halls of sleeping ballerinas. While it felt like I screamed for an eternity, no one came rushing to my room to comfort me.
As much as I’ve healed and grown through it all, his death is still my deepest wound and the grief of losing him still comes in haunting waves. But his death was also his last great gift to me, for it held the fertile seed of my life’s purpose.
Like an industrious king, my father was an ample and strong provider. Financial scarcity was a breed of fear I’d never known. In the midst of my mother’s and I’s shock and grief, his death was also a quick contraction of our financial reality. Like being bitten by a lethal snake, my nervous system was immediately overwhelmed with a primal fear for survival.
My father’s death was the reason I soon left home at 15 to move to New York City by myself, determined to (at least) control my financial fate in an otherwise uncertain world. His death was the reason I soon earned three times my mother’s salary; learned to manage money from a husband and wife team on Wall Street; and began traveling to foreign countries. It was during my travels that I came face-to-face with the global disparity of wealth—the uber, uber rich and the super, super poor—that my Middle American upbringing was blind and silent to. His death became the reason I vowed to be part of the solution to economic inequality, and went to college for Economics and International Affairs.
At this point, I was still fairly unconscious that I was bent on alleviating global poverty in order to save others from having the financial rug pulled out from under them, like I did.
Then it all came clear.
As a result of my father’s passing, I was hypersensitive when watching my girlfriends, who were artists, healers, and creative types, struggle financially and try to raise children without financial security. Because I had been self-employed since I was 15 years old, and learned so much about financial literacy to keep myself safe, I kept noticing that my girlfriends were building businesses based solely on their passions, gifts, and talents (which I love!), but without the requisite business skills necessary to create a profitable business for them and their families. Out of this, my company, WINC (www.WomenInCommunity.com), and my life purpose, emerged. WINC showed me the vision of helping women build successful businesses as an economic development mechanism that changes their lives, their families’ lives, and ultimately, our communities and economies, all over the world.
In discovering my life’s purpose, it was like being shown an intricate review of my entire life and how my deepest wound had birthed my greatest contribution of helping women become financially secure. Through working with hundreds of women entrepreneurs in WINC’s business training program, I discovered that I am not alone. The majority of women I work with are birthing incredible businesses from wounds that took them down on their knees and literally forced them to gain profound wisdom simply in order to survive.
One woman is helping teenagers learn healthy sexuality, another is supporting the elderly in dying, another is bringing stress relief to overburdened mothers, another is using her upbringing in Montana to create sustainable jewelry design. The list goes on and on and on. With this hard-won wisdom, we—women entrepreneurs—are transforming our culture and economy by providing for ourselves and our families.
I’ve come to find out that our greatest wounds are goldmines.
If you’re trying to start a business or hope to grow your current business, I lovingly invite you to look closer, and closer still, at the greatest heartbreaks in your life. You just might find your profitable life purpose in them.
What great challenges have you overcome? What glorious and gory wisdom have you gained, just by surviving? Have your wounds already revealed themselves as goldmines? Or, perhaps are you seeing anew how they could?