Apparently when my parents named me Cassandra that stood for “The Queen of Setbacks” or at least you would think so with how my life has gone. I am a meticulous planner, and have a day to day paper planner- it is my second bible. It doesn’t surprise me that as I got older- and after many life altering events- I became an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs have a Type-A mentality and are the hustlers of the world. Entrepreneurs can see the future in a way most people can’t, that’s what makes us entrepreneurs. We also face many setbacks, and we have all learned that the road to success has many hills and blocked off roads. We all run out of gas sometimes, but we tend to feel this way when our plans do not work out the way we hoped. Sometimes it is because we did not plan properly or work as hard as we could have, and other times we gave our all and our plans still fell through.
Every setback prepares you for your comeback, but man, it is hard to come-back again, and again, and again.
My original plan for my life was to be classical ballet dancer, I worked for that since a young age. I had the opportunity to train under a Boston Ballet and Alvin Ailey Professional since the age of 6, and started privately training with her at 13. That all paused when I was injured, and after months on crutches with no improvement I was diagnosed with RSD/CRPS. I had to go through intense rehabilitation, and used my drive and dedication from dance to push harder than most. I came out of there with a projection to make a full life-long recovery. I relapsed a couple months later when I started training again. The ages of 10-16 are very important and are commonly referred to as the “sponge years” because it is your time to absorb all of your technique. I kept training and working in rehab despite the injuries. I started seeing my plan A drift away, it only pushed me to work harder. In my spare time I founded a non-profit to work to find a cure for RSD/CRPS, got a teaching opportunity under my mentor and coach, and started an interactive community/blog for those with RSD/CRPS.
Then it happened. I had a major career ending injury. I knew the moment I hit the floor that it was over. I had to grieve the loss of my career but couldn’t bear not dancing and training 6-10 hours a day- so I jumped to Plan B. Build up the RSD/CRPS nonprofit and start teaching and working to get my dance teacher certifications. I was on crutches for over a year because of the serious injuries and in my spare time (because even with my new job, studying for certs, high school, and the nonprofit it didn’t fill all my hours) I started dating my childhood best friend, Jared. Two years later after many relapses, I also graduated HS, got my DTC’s, started officially courting Jared for marriage, and organized a pilot study in dance medicine for a program I created.
I thought that I had a new plan for my life. I was accepted into a good school to study dance medicine, was teaching dance pre-professionally, and was planning to marry Jared after college. To top it off my pilot study was a success, and I started my own coaching service out of my mentors studio. My life was planned out. Life was good again. A few months later, my whole life stopped when I suddenly had a near death trauma; because of this I had to drop out of school, stop coaching, and fell into a deep depression. That following winter, I was coming back and trying to pull my life together. I even contracted with my university to do a massive research study on my program I had piloted the year before.
That winter as I was preparing for my new plan to start, I was back in the ICU, needed surgery, and had amnesia. Oh yeah. Full. Blown. Amnesia. I didn’t remember who I was and vaguely remembered who anyone was. Talk about a change in plans. There was no plan at that point besides re-acclimating to my life, learning who my family was, and Jared was actively trying to start a friendship with me again. If you think of the movie The Vow and what Channing Tatum went through, that was Jared in that time. Having amnesia did not change my personality or who I was- even if I did not know who I was. I was still a driven, passionate woman who couldn’t sit still. As I learned more about my company, my memory about my job, the terminology, and all of that started coming together. Ballet and Dance Medicine are the only things that, for the most part, truly came back (even though my doctor’s hope overtime my childhood memories come back.)
Then the planning started again. I started dating Jared again for the second first time, got to know my family, and was determined to build up this company. I was in a wheelchair still which highly affected that planning, but I was pushing on. I went back to school part time and was in intensive rehabilitation. Life was going okay and things felt more normal again. I am sure that you know where I am going, but the plans changed again. My joints started dislocating when I was learning how to walk again for my fifth time. School stopped again, my coaching stopped again, and I went through lots of testing. Within two months time, I was diagnosed with EDS. EDS is a hypermobility disorder that affects your connective tissue, and in short, it turns all your ligaments into garbage.
Now I want to flash-forward to Summer 2016. I was still in lots of braces, and using mobility devices as needed, but was finally running my professional research study and OST became an official company. I got engaged to Jared, and started embracing my setbacks.
As entrepreneurs, ideas are what get us started, but once we run our own business- we face setbacks and comebacks like CRAZY. We get to see our ideas come to life and make the world better. Our visions come from our life experiences and wanting to help make others lives easier. Now sometimes we face setbacks whether that’s unsatisfied customers, legal blocks, lack of financial standing, or gaining a reputation- starting a business is not easy. If you have not started a business yet, do not let this scare you. I encourage you to embrace the ups and the downs because you will have both- which is what will make your success taste that much sweeter. If you have already started a business, congrats you are on your way! Continue to be authentic with your brand and keep pressing on.
We do not always get to decide when our success comes, and no matter how hard we try there will be setbacks. If I could talk to my younger self, after being setback, here is what I would say:
- Allow yourself to be a bit upset, you can not move on from something you have not processed.
- Take a small breath or break before jumping back up. This small breath can be as long as you need as you need: a day, a week, a month- it does not matter! You define your break. What matters is that you are mentally ready to get back up.
- Plan. Make a plan before you jump up to put ouy fires or you will risk burning out. The best plans are SMART plans (if you don’t already use this planning strategy you should google it- it will change your life!)
- Know that plans change and be open to that change.
- Keep on hustlin’ because you will find success even if you get to Plan Z and it does not turn out the way you planned- you will get there and start Plan AA. Trust me. If I can- you can.
We all have a story and I hope when all is said and done, yours is a story full of comebacks no matter how hard or how many times you get knocked down.
So where am I now, well I was doing better and achieved different certifications and am continuing school, but have had some more recent setbacks. Right now, I am dealing with the EDS as it has progressively spread to most of my joints, and now has started attacking my hips. I had to take a break this summer, and am now starting somewhat fresh. I’m hustling just like you to build back our client base and start filming programs/courses to sell, in case I have a major reconstructive surgery after my wedding this Spring. I am happy though, because this will only make my success taste that much sweeter and my story that much stronger. This is a new season and like all new seasons you choose your mindset, and I choose to make this a season of growth.
Let’s face it, as an entrepreneur I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s to Plan AA.