Every one of my family members knew where I was going to attend college: New York.

There was no question about it even when my school of choice only offered me half of the tuition; even when their scholarship program rejected me; even after receiving no response to my letter that practically begged for more financial aid.

So when the financial office at my NYC dream school told me that no amount of loans could help me to afford the school, I remember calling my brother on the phone in tears, crying so hard that I could barely stand from the pain in my abdomen.

I’d set my hopes so high on this one college that I missed the deadlines for all the others I could have applied to except one: University of Maryland College Park. Fast forward four years and I am able to look back on that painful experience fondly, because UMD is where I have rediscovered my love for writing, met my best friends, and learned more about myself than I ever thought I could.

And while I haven’t yet landed on my purpose through this painful experience, many T4C professionals have.  Here are 5 different ways that pain has led T4C professionals to their purpose.

  1. Growing up poor or with a single parent

For Java Junkies who always felt that their socioeconomic status or home life has, and will, always adversely affect their future, think again. Please think again. Dov Baron, leadership and corporate cultural strategist, proves that it can actually help you realize your purpose. When he was only 7 years old his dad crouched down, touched him on both shoulders, ruffled his hair and said “I’m going now. You’re the man of the house.” From that moment on Dov took on the emotional responsibility of taking care of his mother and younger siblings. There was no longer any room for his feelings and as he grew up he vented his anger and frustration by becoming an adrenaline junkie. This ultimately led Dov to falling 120 feet down a huge waterfall iin Brandywine Falls British Columbia, and smashing his body into pieces. Still, it took him becoming severely depressed after the fact to rethink the direction his life was going. He learned that what he needed as a boy should became his purpose: “I am a father to men…because guess what I needed as a boy that I couldn’t get?” The truth is Dov’s purpose was wrapped up in his deepest pain.  

  1. Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone

This is a lesson I hate to have to learn. I’m one for comfort and doing things that I know I can easily succeed at, but Joe De Sena, CEO of Spartan Race, makes a good point about the necessity of really pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. During his T4C interview, he admitted that he was holding a 42-pound kettle bell and would be carrying it around all day that day. Why?  Just because. Joe’s hugely popular, Spartan Races, push participants beyond their physical and mental limits. Joe’s reasoning behind the grueling conditioning he puts his own body through is that you can’t find your purpose “sitting on a couch.” Finding out what interests you and what fulfills you, can only come by getting off the couch and putting yourself out there, even if it’s way outside your comfort zone.

  1. Advocating for yourself

This one is especially for those Java Junkies that are about to graduate like me. We face a lot of anxiety looking for that first position. No one wants to be out of work with a degree and loans. Maria Appel, Manager of Analytics at The Commit Partnership, learned to value her worth after a traumatic experience in her first job out of school. Teach For America called her back a week before graduation and gave her an ultimatum – either to work at a school in Mississippi or forfeit the job offer. Marie knew she didn’t like the Mississippi area because of a previous internship in that state, but she chose the option most of us would have. She decided to go, not realizing that if she’d have stood her ground on her location preference, Teach For America would have shown flexibility.  Instead, Marie had a miserable experience at TFA until she had an emotional breakdown. It’s very scary to turn down any job offer or to advocate for yourself, especially as a recent graduate, with little experience, but hey, don’t forget that you have skills and talents that employers want. 

  1. Embracing failure

It’s unlikely your first job will be the perfect job or that your first start-up will make millions,or that your first novel will be bestseller.  In fact, Jason Wachob only found his purpose by embracing his failures. He launched 2 other start-ups before creating Mindbodygreen, the leading independent media brand dedicated to wellness with 10 million monthly unique visitors. Jason learned through his first 2 start-ups what makes a business successful. His perseverance was definitely easier said than done, but it’s something to aspire to. I don’t want to be the person who quits after the 2nd startup or even the fourth only to find out that if I had given it two more tries success would have found me.

  1. Finding a silver lining

This is a cliché, but that’s because there’s truth in it. When Florence Williams, journalist, podcaster, and reporter, moved from the Colorado Rocky Mountains and trails to the center of D.C., she felt overwhelmed with anxiety, sadness, and even had trouble sleeping. What good can possibly come from that? The answer is plenty because Florence’s emotional pain helped inspire her to research the importance of nature to mental and emotional well-being.  She traveled around the world to places like Japan and Finland to learn from how these countries actually prescribe time in the great outdoors to patients to help them get well. Florence took a very dark time in her life and discovered her purpose which turned into a bestselling novel: The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.

Whew! That was a lot Java Junkies. I don’t expect that tomorrow you’ll have all these principles down. Give yourself some time to meditate on them. It took a long time for these professionals to identify a purpose in their pain, but if you walk away with nothing else – I hope you’ll be encouraged that there is a point to the madness. And one day, you’ll be inspired to look at the pain you’ve experienced as a door to lead you to your purpose.

 

 

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