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By Stephanie Hester, special to LTW
Editor’s note: Stephanie Hester is author of and also runs the consulting firm
RALEIGH, N.C. – At the beginning of 2001 my husband Chuck and I lived in a cute little house in a fantastic part of Orange County, California. We had three beautiful girls, two canine kids, four cats and a parade of beta fish. My husband and I had recently incorporated our consulting practice and were experiencing fantastic success with work and wonderful bliss at home. Life was good.
In March of 2001 our world began to shift. Due to a joint venture that went bad we lost our consulting firm and had to “wrap up” all of our accounts. During that same month I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and began experiencing health challenges that limited my ability to work. Within a short time we had depleted our savings and cashed out our investments in order to survive in such a financially demanding location.
We were however, determined to stay in the local area because we desperately wanted to hold our blended family together. But in less than a year’s time we lost our home, began renting and found ourselves on food stamps. We were without full time employment until March 2004 when my husband was hired as an independent contractor for a PR agency. By that time, however, we were so far in debt and behind on our taxes that even with this new position we were barely surviving financially.
In 2005 with our oldest daughter leaving for college and our landlords selling the house we were renting we decided we needed to relocate. Through the suggestion of a mentor we landed in Raleigh. My husband secured work at another PR agency and I continued to consult with a handful of clients I picked up along the way. The move was necessary, but definitely a bit traumatic. Raleigh, N.C. and Orange County, Calif. are vastly different. But we discovered that blessings flow no matter where you live.
As I began to regain my health I began questioning what I really wanted to do when I grew up. I dabbled in a few different areas, but nothing seemed to satisfy my desire for a career. I had an urge to do something different, but I didn’t know what that something was. Because my health was still not “normal” I couldn’t commit to going in-house for a company. I needed more flexibility than Corporate America could provide. But try as I might, my operational and HR consulting was just not picking up nor was it fulfilling.
With the support of my husband I decided I needed a little bit of time away. I was gifted with a five-day stay at a beach condo near the Outer Banks. In preparing for the time away I read books, journaled, and prayed for direction. I wanted to make the most of this gift and I wanted to understand what I should do next.
At the beach I was able to quiet the white noise that so often rumbles though our lives and I began to listen to my heart. I made a list of all my jobs, from the age of 14 on and listed what I did and did not like about each. I then listed all my skills and experiences, both professional and personal. Then came the hard part, I listed my passions – the things that get me excited and get me moving into action.
At this point I gave myself permission to dream. I asked myself with all things being equal what I’d like to do with my life. My answer really did not surprise me. I want to build people, to help them achieve their best.
I began looking at the lists I had made earlier in my retreat and discovered that some of the things that seemed random in my background were really not random at all. They all made me better equipped do what I really desired to do … build people.
So I restructured my consulting practice. I got away from operational and HR consulting and began designing team building workshops. Now I use assessment tools as a platform to teach teams how to better communicate with each other, their staff and their clients.
In addition, I devoted much more energy to a blog I had started about attitude and the power of blessing over cursing. As the blog picked up momentum in the U.S. and around the world I decided to fulfill a desire that had been churning for years … write a book. So I did.
I chose some of the best parts of the blog and repurposed them. The result, “Choose a Better Life: Common Sense for Uncommon Living,” is an easy-to-read book filled with, as I call them, tidbits of treasure – practical tips on how we can improve the quality of our lives simply by choosing our attitudes. This is a lesson I began learning in 2001 when my nicely packaged life began to become chaotic and unpredictable. And it is a lesson I continue to learn as I enjoy the blessings of life and rejoice in the freedom we have to reinvent ourselves.
Meanwhile, my husband Chuck found a great job with iContact Corporation as Communications Director. This summer he celebrated his three year anniversary with the company and is very happy with the job.
Chuck and I also host LinkedIn Live, a free networking event for Triangle businesses and residents. The event is held every other month and regularly draws over 300 attendees. Hundreds of business connections have been made and scores of people have obtained employment. LinkedIn Live is a phenomenal opportunity that allows us to give back to the community and pay it forward.
(Note: Hester will host a book launch party on Tuesday, Oct. 20, from 6-8 p.m. at 1705 Prime, 1705 E. Millbrook, Raleigh, N.C. Check the for more information. A portion of book sale proceeds will go to Urban Ministries Urban Ministries alleviates the effects of poverty in Wake County.)