Emotion and business shouldn’t mix, right? WRONG. Here’s why I decided to make the public stand of sharing my most vulnerable story — and how it lead to the business of my dreams.
I could barely get out of bed. Some days, I couldn’t even do that. I could only feel the guilt and the shame. I just wanted to sit there, blaming myself like it was my job. But it wasn’t my job. In fact, I had a very real job, a growing business that needed my attention and leadership. And I had none of that to give. I’d lost my child, and I felt like I’d gone with him.
My son, Drew, died in an accidental drowning. When it happened, I was so filled with grief that there wasn’t enough room to feel anything else. I closed up. I shut down. I refused to move forward in any way. That’s what my grief looked like, and I didn’t know how to experience it any other way.
I was suddenly and completely unable to live the same life.
While I flailed, my husband at the time threw himself into his work. but I’m a feeler, so I was stuck in the feelings. It was really hard for me to understand how someone could go to work, carrying this pain, when I struggled to get out of bed.
Everyone handles grief differently, but the vast difference in our experiences made each of us feel even lonelier. I felt so disconnected from the world around me that I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and hide. I simply didn’t know how to exist in a world without Drew.
The thing about tragedy is, one day, the world forgets about yours, and it moves on — without or without you.
That was about the time I started to paint again. One day, I just picked up a paintbrush, and I painted and painted and kept painting. Just like that, my healing journey started.
Painting became my way of clearing out the grief, one brushstroke at a time. It gave me the space to feel what I needed to feel, to create from a place of emotion, to make something out of my pain. It helped me explore what I’d been hiding inside me. My art morphed into a journey to express myself, and that journey gave me purpose again. That was a big deal. And rather than ignoring it, or quitting my day job to become a starving artist, I steadily pursued it.
I followed my emotion, my gut, and it led me to a whole new profession.
My whole life transitioned at this point. I shifted from loss to gratitude, from devastation to expression. I made the choice to step out of my grief and move into grace.
What did that look like for me? Telling my freaking story.
Once I opened up the self-expression floodgates, I just started talking to people. I shared my pain and my grief — and what I did to lift myself out of it. I asked them about their pain, and they shared their journeys. I was simply connecting. And the result was stunning, my friend.
Each exchange of gratitude and inspiration was infectious. I could feel the healing in me, and in others, every time I shared my story. I was connecting in a way that was more powerful than anything I’d ever experienced before.
So, once again, I followed my emotion. I pursued a speaking career, started writing books and leaned into my community. My ideas became prolific. My capabilities grew. My internal resources turned on. I was using my healing journey to cultivate my strengths, build a community and make a difference.
Most importantly, it was working.
Each opportunity grew into another, and soon, I had a burgeoning speaking and coaching business, as well as a full-scale media distribution company and my own TV show. Better than that, my community became an audience.
Today, I feel genuinely connected to the people I reach, as well as the people I lead. I have many reasons to get out of bed in the morning, including a loving family at the office and at home.
Looking back, the decision to let my emotional journey guide my business has transformed me into the capable, confident, savvy entrepreneur I am today. By following my gut and allowing myself to feel, I invited evolution into every area of my life — especially business. And I am so so grateful.
Now maybe you hear my story and think:
“Great, Melissa! I’m glad that worked for you. But emotion doesn’t have a place in my business.”
“I don’t even understand my feelings! How am I supposed to let them guide my business?”
“I’ve shut off my emotions for so long. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
One of the best ways to let positive emotion and authentic storytelling into your business is simply to start looking for it. By searching for ways to be more empathetic, aware or understanding, opportunities will begin to manifest themselves. Start as small as you possibly can, and commend yourself for every effort. But most importantly, trust yourself enough to be yourself. Check in. Listen to the way you feel, and listen to others.
So this was a big topic. That’s why I want to leave you with one easy way to implement these ideas into your business today: Write your WHY. Your “WHY” is the reason you do what you do. Why did you start your business? Why do you continue to wake up every day and return to it? Why did you choose this?
And it should come in the form of a brief brand story. Your WHY is the core business story that lets people know who you are. You can see mine here in this very post:
After my son died, I searched for a way to step out of my pain and find purpose again. My journey to healing led me to rebuild myself, and in the process, I launched a speaking career, became an author and started a media distribution company — not without missteps along the way. By telling my story, I created the kind of success I could only imagine, and it’s my passion to help others do the same.
My WHY is dripping with vulnerability and feeling — as it should be. Emotion compels people to connect and act. It builds audience and community, one that can move mountains. Don’t you want that for your business?
Implement It NOW
Take 15 minutes, right now, to write down a few sentences about why you do what you do. Try to explain your WHY in the form a short story.
And don’t tell me there’s no story. There’s always a story.