In 2008, I took a leap of faith from my cushy corporate sales job and launched my first entrepreneurial endeavor. I had little cash reserves but a lot of ambition.
As with any major transition, I got sick three weeks into building my new venture. I got hospitalized for a week and was forced to fast during my entire stay. On day seven, I was discharged with a $40,000 medical bill and a prescription for a $40 antibiotic to kill the parasite in my colon I had contracted from the hospital bed.
If you’d have said to me, ‘Things happen for a reason,’ I would have told you to take your yoga mat and shove it where the sun don’t shine.
The saying “stress kills” is no joke. Nothing can ever prepare you for epic fails like these.
Times when your back is up against the wall.
Losing thousands of dollars quickly.
Feeling like a good-for-nothing waste of space.
For a few days during my downward spiral, I entertained the idea of letting myself wither away to nothing so that my son could collect my life insurance.
When you’re stuck in a funk replaying the I shoulda-woulda-coulda tapes, it’s hard to break through the negative self-talk alone. I thank my lucky stars I surrounded myself with good people. I needed help (A LOT OF IT!) getting out of one of the most debilitating times in my life.
One golden nugget I keep with me every day is something my coach taught me that cold November day in 2008.
Have an attitude of gratitude.
She said, “Take one positive action each day. Undoing the past is impossible. Worrying about the future will keep you feeling paralyzed. Focus on the present, it’s a gift.”
One week into my recovery, I volunteered at a non-profit organization. I needed to get my mind off of my first failed business attempt and a recent breakup. Serving others more in need became my saving grace. Doing good work for the sheer sake of the good-doing gave me a greater sense of purpose outside of my own four crumbling walls.
Some call me emotionally resilient for being of service when I was in dire need of help. The truth is, I was looking for any reason to wake up at all each day.
Day by day, my health gradually improved. I had to retrain my body to swallow food, walk, and drive after my muscles had atrophied. I was desperate to rebuild my life, career, and self-esteem. So I decided to get back on the job boards and put my entrepreneurial failure behind me.
By day 36 of my recovery, I landed a new job.
Nine months later, the universe tossed another boulder on my plans. I was back in transition once again.
Standing at those crossroads this time around, I realized I had reached another season in my life. For over 12 years, I had chased someone else’s dream thinking I needed more stuff to prove to everyone I had “made it.” But no matter how much I had accumulated or achieved throughout my corporate sales career, nothing money could buy would ever fill the void inside me.
So I chose to follow my heart and trust my intuition.
I began offering pro bono coaching services to support an organically built network of aspiring entrepreneurs and dislocated workers who were feeling hopeless, powerless, and defeated during the recession. Within weeks, I was being sought out for speaking, training and writing projects by workforce development groups and local universities.
For over a decade, I devoted my life and work to coaching, consulting, and training thousands of people on how to speak up, stand out, and change their corners of the world. Most of that time, I continued to give away much of my work for free.
Then I reached another season in my life and career. I was lonely in my solo business and craved connection.
So I took a hiatus from coaching and consulting. And I joined an entrepreneurial team in the public sector where I ran an integrative health education center for over a year. It was unbelievable! I had manifested my dream job simply by showing up as who I am, expressing what I stand for, and sharing how I wanted to use my gifts and talents to make a positive impact in the world.
Many euphoric beginnings can have an excruciating ending. As was the case for me. It was an invaluable experience, nonetheless. And I left with hundreds of new friendships that I cultivated over that year. More importantly, I grew in so many unexpected ways.
Every time my integrity was challenged, I continued to implement my own strategies and tools to stay true to my core, to be brave even when it was inconvenient, and to remain resilient. And by living and breathing my brave bear ethos as I navigated that chaotic chapter in my life, I somehow reignited the joy and excitement I once had for coaching and consulting. Any doubt I had in my ability to make a difference—to speak up, stand out, and change my world—gone.
The lesson: “You already are enough.”
Duly noted, Universe.
THE STREET CRED
Hi, I’m Berni Xiong (shUNG).
I’m a truth guide, intuitive coach, creative strategist, and proud mom.
I’ve given talks and interviews on depression, life and career transition, and bravery and resilience that have reached hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.
My writing has appeared in front of popular publications and major news outlets, such as Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Huffington Post, The Edge Magazine, The Good Men Project, The Business Journal, Business Unplugged on Carol Roth’s Blog.
My expertise has been featured alongside notable authorities including Seth Godin, Tom Peters, Guy Kawasaki, Pamela Slim, Sally Hogshead, and Michael Port. I’ve appeared multiple times on TV in a healthy living pilot episode on Milwaukee Public Television, as a guest on HuffPost Live, and as a returning expert on NBC Affiliate The Morning Blend.
My experience in managing six and seven-figure budgets working with Fortune 100 and 500 companies taught me the importance of the consultative sales approach: be a trusted expert and resource putting the customer’s needs first.
Berni Xiong is the president of Brave Bear Creative, a business and marketing coaching consultancy that helps emerging intuitives speak up, stand out, and change the world. Berni holds a Master of Arts in Business Administration (MBA) from Cardinal Stritch University where she graduated with distinction and was inducted into Delta mu Delta, a national honor society in business administration. She specializes in intuitive branding and marketing, and is an authority on “selling in the connection economy.”
In addition to her formal education, Berni also received professional training and certifications in several coaching and healing modalities:
- Usui Reiki Level I, II, and Master/Teacher
- Certified Coach Training (Coach University)
- Color Therapy (Palana & Ramel)
- Certified Realm Reader (Doreen Virtue)
- Weight Management Specialist (American Council on Exercise)
Berni is the author of The Year of the Brave Bear: Speak Up. Stand Out. Change Your World.; author and publisher of its paperback companion The Way of the Brave Bear: An Intuitive Guide for Speaking Up, Standing Out and Changing Your World; and a contributing author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive.
In her spare time, she gives away some of her best stuff for free in The Brave Bear Insider.