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Short and Sweet Summary:  There’s no mystery to maximizing your potential. If you’ve been hiding from your life, now’s the time to step out. You’ll be amazed at the opportunities that present themselves when you engage with the world. Half the battle is just showing up. 

It’s a familiar story and it usually goes like this…

You’ve endured the worst possible thing that can happen to you. Your better half died and now you’re a lonely, broken, grief-stricken widow.

Life sucks. Who gives a shit about maximizing your potential when you cry all day?

You’ll never be happy again.

You can’t do this alone.

And so you fall deeper into despair until all you can see is a lifetime of misery.

I’ve been there. I have suffered. I would’ve throat punched anyone who said they knew the secret to maximize your potential.

Until a friend said something that changed my perspective on everything.

I’m a Writer Not a Chemist

After my husband died I had to decide what to do with his chemical business. I was still running it, customers were still ordering from me and I still had enough revenue to meet operating expenses. Luckily, I didn’t run it into the ground. But, I wasn’t convinced I was capable of continuing the endeavor long term.

I’m a writer, not a chemist. I only agreed to take over running my husband’s business because he was dying and you say yes to whatever a dying man asks you to do.

But after my husband’s death, I questioned what, exactly, I was going to do with this inherited business. Surely, I could call up my old employers and inquire about getting a part-time technical writing job somewhere. There had to be an online learning company somewhere who needed a writer/editor for their training modules.

I could chuck the whole chemical business nonsense and get back to doing what I know how to do.

I started planning my escape and how I would neatly wrap up the business end of things to say adios amigos to the metal finishing industry in Detroit.

What do they say about the best-laid plans?

Yeah.

They go awry.

Half the Battle is Just Showing Up

Well, I didn’t close down the business. It’s a flexible schedule that allows me to be home with my kids when I need to be. It pays the bills. My customers are wonderful. I couldn’t really envision a better, more adjustable schedule. When my kids have school activities, I need to be there too.

I lamented at lunch with a friend one day how much I hated the sales part of my job. She’d been in sales positions of one sort or another over the years and loved sales.

I, however, loathed sales.

Obviously, I didn’t feel confident selling chemicals I knew nothing about, and the whole schmoozy, make-the-customer-the-hero, close-the-sale techniques were not my forte. Not even close.

So, I complained to my sales friend. Who was good at her job. And succeeded in sales. I complained that I’m not good at sales.

At all.

She shrugged her shoulders and said, “You know what? There’s really no big secret to sales. Half the battle is just showing up.”

Well, la-de-da.

The veil has been lifted.

The secret is out.

Who knew that maximizing your potential is something you do every day anyway.

All you need to do my widow friends is just show up.

The Secret to Maximizing Your Potential Isn’t a Secret At All

I’m still running the business. Several years after my husband died. You wanna know why?

Because I just keep showing up.

I keep visiting customers. They keep ordering.

I keep pursuing different paths and new opportunities present themselves.

My friend was right. Half the battle is just showing up.

I didn’t need to take thousand-dollar sales courses or read how-to books. I’m still not a chemist. I’m still a better writer than I am a salesperson. But I keep showing up at my job anyway.

Because I keep showing up, I became a certified women’s business enterprise. WBENC Certification validates that my business is 51 percent owned, controlled, operated, and managed by a woman. I have access to government contracts. Other people in the industry take me seriously now because I keep showing up. I’m not the poor widow who inherited her husband’s business and failed in the first year. I’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations. Especially my own.

So, peeps, the secret to maximizing your potential isn’t really a secret. It’s pretty much staring you right in the face.

You need to show up to your life and you’d be amazed at what opportunities present themselves.

What Are You Hiding From?

I get that grief is a bitch. It sucks you down into a black hole that makes you question whether you’ll ever surface again.

I’m not suggesting you get rid of grief or try to fix it. That’s impossible. Grief must be felt, not fixed.

But if you’re completely honest with yourself, would you say you’ve been hiding from your life? Minimizing your place on this planet because of your sadness? Not showing up?

You don’t need to minimize your potential because you’ve suffered a tremendous loss. Just because you’ve endured trauma doesn’t mean you’re meant to be miserable forever.

You just need to show up.

Get up. Take a shower. Put on some lip gloss.

The Universe is waiting for you.

Five Ways to Begin Maximizing Your Potential

Just so you don’t think I’m suggesting these things are easy to do, I want to remind you that I’ve been where you are. I’ve lived in the black hole and it’s not a pleasant place to be. I’ve clawed my way out of the grief abyss.

And through it all, I decided to show up.

I’m not suggesting everything listed below is easy, I’m suggesting it’s doable. If I can do it, you can do it.

1.  Take Responsibility

Yes, you’re grieving. It sucks and it’s soul-crushing. But you can grieve and enjoy life at the same time. If you take responsibility for your grief you can acknowledge it, own it and feel the feelings without letting grief control you.

You are in charge of you. Grief is not in charge of you.

Take responsibility for your own wants and needs and put grief away every once in a while. It doesn’t need to be front and center of your existence every day.

2.  Take the Initiative

We become so consumed by our loss that we sometimes leave our fate in the hands of someone or something else.

Your in-laws don’t dictate what you do or how you do it. You don’t need to put your kids first every time. If your job is depleting what little is left of your soul, move on.

Whether showing up means talking to a therapist about your grief, taking a class to learn something new or inviting friends over for a soup-swap party (seriously, genius…I’m doing this), it’s up to you to decide how you’re going to reclaim your right to be happy.

Only you can take the initiative to make it happen. Start with small steps. Baby steps if you must.

Please keep moving forward.

3. Identify Resources to Help You

It’s hard work being the sole provider and solo parent. Even if you’re managing your grief, you’ll still have days when everything seems next to impossible. Whether you need emotional support, financial support or just help around the house, make a list to identify areas where outside resources can help you.

For example, I get my lawn cut every week from a professional lawn care company who cuts the grass, edges around fences, trees, and borders and disposes of grass clippings.  It’s easier for me to have the lawn taken care of professionally. I don’t mind paying for it because it’s a small price to pay for my sanity.

Make your own list of ways you could afford to offload some of your household chores. Or ask around for names of therapists in your area who specialize in grief.

If you’re financially strapped, review your Social Security or other benefits to make sure you’re taking advantage of everything you’re entitled to. It may take more than one meeting at the Social Security office to understand your options.

And, last but not least, when someone offers to help you with something, let them.

4. Visualize It

This may sound hokey, but it really works.

I’m not going to get all “manifest all of your wildest desires and your dreams will come true!” on you, but I will say from experience that visualizing what you want helps you move toward that goal. How can it not? Visualizing trains your brain to think in terms of “when” not “if.”  When you see it, you can be it.

When I submitted an essay about my dad to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad, I visualized my piece being published and flying to Florida for Father’s Day to give my dad a copy of the book in person. I could see it very clearly from the beginning of the process to the end.

Guess what? My piece was published, I flew to Florida and I gave my dad a copy of the book in person on Father’s Day. Just like I imagined it to be. It was an amazing experience.

I’ve visualized driving around in a Lincoln Navigator too and I’m sorry to say that dream has yet to come true. Damn. But I still visualize it. Not everything is going to happen overnight or even in a sensible timeline.

Whatever you want bad enough you’ll find a way to get it.

5.  Be of Service to Others

In order to begin maximizing your potential, you have to realize that not everything is about you.

Sometimes we need to do things for others. It’s OK…no, actually mandatory…to get out of your own head once in a while and help someone else.

Everyone is fighting battles we know nothing about and giving your time and attention to someone else gives you a bigger picture perspective on what really matters most in life.

We all have problems.

Sometimes it does a widow good to get away from her own once in a while.

Widow Wrap Up

So there you have it, friends.

The mystery of life summed up in seven little words, “half the battle is just showing up.”

I hope you take stock of how or where you’ve been hiding in your life. Make notes about how you can show up more than you have been. How you can take responsibility for maximizing your potential and your own happiness, even if you only start with baby steps.

Just start.

How have you been showing up in your own life lately? Please share in the comments!