Most definitions of resilience go something like this: the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt to change, and keep going in the face of adversity. Last week I had the distinct pleasure to chat with Nancy Depcik, President/Founder of Unshakable Success™ her very successful, Chicago based, public speaking company. Nancy’s story gave me a whole new appreciation of resilience and should provide plenty of motivation to anyone facing adversity in their lives.
You see, up until the age of sixty, Nancy’s life was going pretty much as planned. She and her husband owned a very successful property management company. She had much to be thankful for.
At the end of 2008 Nancy’s world as she knew it came crashing down. Like so many businesses during the “Great Recession” the company went under. This downward spiral was compounded by a separation from her husband. On her own with no job and significant debt, Nancy remembers her nephew helping her move into a tiny condo. No additional help was required as she only had eleven boxes to move. In order to help make ends meet she found a job in the bridal department at Bloomingdales. She spent the next year doing her best to hold things together financially, ultimately the hill proved too high. In 2010 she was forced to sell her condo and ended up renting a 10’ by 10’ room in the home of a stranger. How do you spell ROCK BOTTOM?
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.- Mahatma Gandhi
With countless reasons to give up and start blaming the world for her situation, Nancy chose to persevere. I asked Nancy how she made it through what must have been an amazingly difficult period. She said that most importantly she had a group of friends that stood by her throughout her struggles. During this time a number of people suggested that Nancy should check out a local Toastmasters chapter (Non-profit organization developing public speaking and leadership skills through practice and feedback in local clubs since 1924). What seemed like an inconsequential event at the time turned out to be the key to the amazing path that Nancy presently finds herself on.
As an experienced school teacher and then sales and marketing executive, Nancy had done her share of public speaking, but nothing could prepare her for the success she found through Toastmasters. In fact she won her first speaking contest within three months of joining. The combination of very supportive club members combined with early speaking success was a game changer in helping Nancy regain her confidence and self esteem. As most of her speeches were based on her recent journey they also proved to be very cathartic. The more she spoke about her story the more success she had in competitions, the more people she impacted with her positive message of hope, the more she was able to heal.
It was only a few months into her time at Toastmasters when she was approached by a woman and asked if she was available to do her talk at a local library, It would be her first paid speaking engagement. It was at that moment that Nancy realized that not only was public speaking something that brought her joy, but it could be her road back to financial stability.
From those humble new beginnings Nancy, at 67 is now a professional speaker, public speaking coach and workshop facilitator. Audiences are captivated by her engaging style and moved by her message. She has delivered keynote speeches to Fortune 500 companies, universities, and numerous conferences and she is just getting started.
So what are Nancy’s lessons learned for aspiring 50+ entrepreneurs?
Don’t listen to the naysayers. The most dangerous of these can be the person in the mirror so beware of negative self talk.
You need to surround yourself with people that will support you. True friends who will stick by you regardless of your circumstances.
You will need hard work and patience. There is no shortcut for hard work especially for a solopreneur. It is very unlikely that your business will scale as quickly as you would like so put in the work and be patient with yourself.
There will be many twists and turns along the way. Nancy said she replaced the word scared with curious. She could have never imagined becoming a professional speaker, but was both flexible and fearless enough to follow the dream when opportunity came calling.
Always continue to learn and grow. Take classes, join mastermind groups and continuously network. Become a lifelong learner.
Nancy is at peace with the past and recognizes that she would never have found the amazing life she has today without the struggle that preceded it. One of her greatest joys is the opportunity to chat and provide encouragement to the people who always line up to meet her after her speeches. This is the tangible evidence that her words are making a positive impact on the lives of others.
Article originally published on Huntington Post.