About a month ago, I had the opportunity to speak to the Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce’s Professional Women’s Network luncheon. When I was asked to speak, I was invited to share a topic that I felt would help professional women. They didn’t necessarily want me to speak about being a writer, they wanted me to speak about something that could help their members in their lives. So, I choose to speak on what to do when a door closes in your life.
I think I’ve had a lot of doors closed throughout my life. Some closed because of choices I made and some closed because of circumstances often beyond my control. I remember, at time, looking back and thinking something like, “Wow, good thing I didn’t do that.” Or “I had no idea this would happen because of the choice I made a year ago.” But I never really correlated those offhand feelings with the idea that when a door closes I’m actually guided to another place. However, my life took a dramatic detour seven years ago, and I really saw the ramifications of a closed door and what it meant to my life.
I’d like to share that story with you.
It all started in a hotel room in Las Vegas in January of 2010.
See, I bet you didn’t think this was going to be one of those kinds of stories.
Sorry, it’s not.
I was in Vegas for a convention. At the time, I ran a small marketing and public relations company and my largest client, who started out being someone I was writing newsletters for, had contracted with me to attend conventions and help with sales. And because it was a good paying contract, I agreed. But as I attended more and more conventions and then, followed up on leads, I found myself pulled further and further away from what I wanted to do and, something more disturbing to me, I found myself compromising some of my core beliefs.
So, that evening, in that hotel room with my family 1600 miles away from me, I sat down to decide what I really wanted to do. I pulled out a piece of paper, divided it in half. On one half, I wrote down the reasons why I should continue working for this client and, on the other side, I wrote the reasons I shouldn’t work for this client. The main reason on the Pro side was money. This client had turned into my main income stream. Because I had been so busy with them, I neglected the part of a small business you should never neglect, I hadn’t been out marketing myself and picking up new clients. Saying goodbye to this client was a pretty big risk. But, the other things, the reasons I should leave were compelling too, and they were more about personal satisfaction and quality of life.
I studied the list and then prayed for guidance. (Now, I realize that some of you might not be prayerful people, so perhaps in your mind you can switch that word with meditate or ponder.) And after I prayed, I felt good about pursuing other things and leaving that client. It wasn’t a huge, thunder-booming, kind of moment, it was just a quiet peace.
So, I called my husband and told him about my decision. He was very supportive. After that conversation, I prayed again. This time I prayed, not for direction, but with a firm decision in mind. I wasn’t asking what I should do, I was going to the Lord with a decision and I wanted His feedback. I wanted to get an assurance that the decision I made was okay with God too. And this time when I prayed, I felt this wonderful feeling. Once again, it wasn’t thunder, but more like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders. It was so real and so immediate, that I knew that God was on board with my decision too.
I didn’t tell my client right away. Instead, I continued to work hard for them, but when I got back to my office, I started meeting with my other, smaller, clients and letting them know that I was going to have more time in the future and asked them if they wanted to explore more marketing options. In a few months, I had enough new work to not only replace the income I was going to lose with this client, but I had more work. I KNEW that God was blessing me and guiding me. I contacted the convention client, and let them know that I wasn’t going to be able to continue to do sales for them. I gave them a thirty-day notice, because I was doing sales and it might take them a while to get someone else to go to the conventions. And I continued to be diligent in my work for them, but really looking forward to day when I would be free.
Finally, that day came. I was thrilled! We parted on great terms and I was on the path that God had helped me choose. Nothing could go wrong – right?
Um, wrong. A week to the day I stopped working, the stock market made news –
They had the 2010 Flash Crash.
Unfortunately, most of my clients were in a similar industry and they all lost a great deal of money when the market made that correction. A few days later I started receiving the calls. “Terri, we really like working with you, but…” “Terri, I know we put together a brand new marketing plan, but…”
Not only was all the new work gone, but work I’d done for years, bread and butter jobs, were gone too.
I was in trouble.
I admit, I felt a little betrayed when I had my next conversation with Heavenly Father. I reminded Him that I had prayed, sought His counsel, and had felt a positive assurance about the answer.
He reminded me that I had felt a positive assurance about the answer.
My favorite example of faith is from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Here we have a cavern that for all intents and purposes is bottomless. Or at the very least, the bottom is really far down. Falling down to that bottom – would hurt – a lot. And we have Indiana Jones standing on the edge of the precipice.
Back story – for those who don’t know – Indiana’s dad is back in the cave with a gunshot wound to his stomach. With his father groaning in the background, Indiana walks ahead, following an ancient book that gives clues to guide him through a maze of obstacles to the place where the Grail is hidden. All the clues are based on scriptural references. He comes to the brink of this cavern. There is no visible way for him to cross.
Indiana is faced with the impossible. From his perspective, all he can see is the sheer cliff edge and the vast gulf beneath him. Then, as he studies his guidebook, which says, “Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.”
His face relaxes when he realizes, “It’s a leap of faith.”
With his father whispering, “You must believe, boy, you must believe,” Indiana looks straight ahead, gathers his courage, and slowly raises one foot into the seemingly empty air in front of him. The he steps forward…
With a thud, his foot lands on solid ground. The camera pans to show Indiana standing on a narrow rock bridge, deceptively carved to match the exact outline of the ravine beneath it. His faith has shown him the way.
Why is this my favorite example?
Because having faith is scary, having faith is sometimes hard, having faith requires risk, and having faith is sometimes the only way you can get to where you need to be.
So, back to me.
I was a little frantic, to say the least.
As a consultant and a small business owner, there is no safety net underneath. No unemployment insurance. If you’re not earning money – you’re not receiving money. And we still had five children at home.
I started applying for jobs.
I started taking on freelance writing opportunities.
And…because I now had the time…I decided to finish the novel I had been working on for years.
I’d been writing my novel for months, staying late at my office once a week and working on the book. I had this nebulous dream of someday becoming an author. I describe it as nebulous because I had no plan, no idea of what “becoming an author” meant, no idea of how I wanted it to happen. At this point, all I had was my nearly completed novel. And now, thanks to the stock market, I had some extra time on my hands to finish it.
When it was nearly completed, a friend of mine sent me a Wall Street Journal article about an author, Karen McQuestion, who had just sold 36,000 e-copies of her story through Amazon’s Kindle. I had heard of Kindle, but I really hadn’t investigated it. So, I sent Karen an email – she was a former journalist from Wisconsin – and I asked her if she felt that Amazon Kindle was a viable way to make money. (You can see where my interest was…I was looking for ways to increase my income.) Karen replied and said that it was extremely viable and encouraged me.
I did a little more research and found out that I could upload my book – without any help from anyone else. I could sell through Amazon and not relinquish my rights. And, at the end of every month, Amazon would tally my sales and I would receive a royalty payment within 60 days. This was exactly what I needed to supplement my income.
So, I uploaded my first book in August of 2010. Then I started doing more research, I joined forums – both writers’ forums and readers’ forums to learn about what was needed to become successful. The biggest influence on success were the number of books an author could produce to meet the needs of her readers. So, I pushed out a book I’d written years ago, “The Ghosts of New Orleans” that had just sat in a file doing nothing. Then I wrote the second Mary O’Reilly book – and released in on Black Friday 2010.
By the end of the year, I was selling 1,000 copies of each of the Mary O’Reilly stories every month. By the beginning of 2012, I had sold over 60,000 copies of Loose Ends.
You know the saying when a door closes, a window opens?
I found my window.
Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
When I look back now – I realize that, had it not been for everything pretty much going to hell in a handbasket – I would still be doing the same old thing. I would never have had a chance to live my dream. The door closing wasn’t an ending, it was a beginning.
There’s an inspirational saying, “When God gives you a new beginning, it starts with an ending. Be thankful for closed doors. They often guide us to the right one.”
Looking back – I’ve discovered a pattern to doors closing and windows opening, I’d like to share that with you.
1. Determine what you want to do or your options
- a. Study
- b. Make lists
- c. Talk to people you trust – who support you. Make a decision.
- d. Pray about it.
- e. If it’s right – go forward. If it’s not right – go back and start all over again.
2. Now listen for the promptings – your instinct – what feels right – whatever you want to call it.
- a. My initial promptings were to quit the contracting job and go speak with the other clients.
- b. Set things up, so we would be secure
- c. Be fair in my dealings – finish the job
3. Act upon those promptings – take the risk
- a. Quit my job with the client
- b. Started working for my new clients
4. Now – OPPOSITION – yes, it always happens!
- a. Go through the five stages of grief – as quickly as you can
- i. Denial – this can’t be happening to me
- ii. Anger (and fear) – whose fault is this?!?!?
- iii. Bargaining – Okay, God, what do you need me to do?
- iv. Depression – I’m just going to go take a nap and cry
- v. Acceptance – Okay, God, what do you want me to do
Why do we need to understand that there’s opposition? I remember, back in Chicago, I got my real estate license and I was asked, by my broker, to make cold calls. So, you basically have a Chicago phone book in front of you that’s divided into neighborhoods. You painstakingly moved down the list, calling people and asking them if they would like a free market analysis of their home. It was a foot-in-the-door kind of thing. My broker told me that it would take 99 “no’s” before I would get a yes. So, each “no” was exciting because it brought me closer to the yes. We have to understand that when the “no” comes, the “yes” is just waiting around the corner. We just have to keep working, keep stepping forward, and continuing with faith. Things are going to get better.
Faith – step off the ledge
a. Finish the book
b. Find out more about Kindle
c. Publish the book
Great things happen
So, in my journey, I use writing and publishing as my analogy – but you can apply it to so many other ones.
Exercise comes immediately to mind.
Determine what you’re going to do
Go to the gym, buy equipment, make an appointment with a trainer
PAIN! Do you remember those first days after leg day at the gym when you couldn’t sit down without wincing?
Continue through the pain
Wow – great things happen
Having Children – in this one steps four and five are repeated several times.
Decide you’re going to do it.
Read all the books, get prepared
You have a beautiful baby in your arms
TWO YEAR OLDS
You have an adorable child in your home
You have a fun adult child in your home
WEDDING – do you know why there are no mother of the bride movies or mother of the bride dances? Because by the time the wedding actually occurs the mother of the bride is either having a nervous breakdown or has found a quiet corner and is taking a nap.
You get GRANDCHILDREN
I’d like to stop and talk about step 6 or 11, whichever the case may be. Great things happen.
What are great things?
More time with your family?
As you can probably tell, the quantification of great things is all up to you.
I’d like to share with you some of my great things. These are just a few of the many letters, messages and emails I’ve received throughout the years since I published my first book.
Your books were one of the first books I ever started reading on kindle. I probably now haw have over 500 on kindle now but yours are still some of my favorite. I experienced a lot of loss in my life. And lately I had been thinking a lot about that and the people I’d lost, sometimes in very bad circumstances. Your books help me. I just read this book and your explanation of how it feels when you die and going home to God was so much comfort to me. I’m crying as I write this. I recently went back to the church a few years ago and I feel as if your books are a bit of Christian literature. They also help me understand sometimes how to word things to my daughter when she has hard questions for me. She is fourteen but the explanations you use in your book for Clarissa are simple but ring of such truth that they pay to any age. I don’t know how you got so wise, but I thank God for your writing. They reveal the realities of the evil in this world but with the help of a loving family and God you can persevere and have happiness. Thank you,
Thank you very much for the wonderful work you do, for sharing your gift and talent with those of us who have the opportunity and the pleasure to read your books.
We are three sisters and the three of us have formed our own informal book club. We recently finished the Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Series, The Irish Mist, The Three Wise Guides, and The Ghosts of New Orleans. We were so engaged, we read each book in rapid order, back to back, within no more than an average of 36 hours per book. We laughed, we cried, we critiqued, we chose the next book. And so it went. These books have been our delight, so much so, that we wanted to share our appreciation with you.
One sister lives approximately 700 miles from the other two. We phone-conferenced to share our reactions. Two of us are retired with disabilities and much discretionary time. With that time, among other things, we choose to read. The third sister, not yet retired and with less discretionary time, demonstrated her interest by reading the same books, just as many, and at the same pace as those of us that are retired. Your books have successfully filled our hours, days, and nights with enjoyment and entertainment through reading.
Also, thank you for letting your faith shine through your writings. It is apparent. It is appreciated.
Again, thank you for many fun hours and many beautiful bonding experiences.
The Itty Bitty Book Club,
I’m in the middle of you latest book and I just HAD to email you and thank you for what you wrote about God bringing people home instead of them dying. My brother passed away suddenly in January. He was also my boss of 14 years and I found him at the office. I’m doing ok, but I really miss him. All that being said, I just wanted you to know that those few simple words used to describe God bringing folks home have given me comfort and a new understanding of losing my brother, boss and friend. I feel like it was a message from God just for me. Thank you for that and thank you for your wonderful books!
Can you understand why I love what I get to do?
Through my books, I have been able to discuss things like spousal abuse, bullying, child abuse, death, and grief. And above all, faith, loyalty and love.
A couple of closing thoughts about doors closing and opening:
Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about a circle of concern and a circle of influence.
Circle of Concern — encompassing all the things we care about; ranges from our personal concerns (health, career, relationships, etc.) to our global concerns (global warming, war, recession, etc.)
Circle of Influence — includes the things we have the power to affect; this circle is smaller than the Circle of Concern
“The problems all of us face fall in one of three areas: direct control (problems involving our own behavior); indirect control (problems involving other people’s behavior); or no control (problems we can do nothing about, such as our past, or situational realities).” ~ Stephen R. Covey
First, I want you to notice that he places the problems in our past under no control. We can’t change the past, we really need to stop living there. Stop beating yourself up about a mistake you made, something you said or did, or, something someone else said or did. Forgiveness – self-forgiveness and forgiving – others will set you free.
I remember rehearsing in my mind something I said to someone twenty years earlier and still feeling mortified. Luckily, as I get older, I can’t remember things like that anymore and, really, I feel much better. Forgive and forget – it will be a blessing in your life.
Next – this is a quote from Stephan Covey –
We have the tendency to underestimate our capacity to influence life, effectively placing things in our Circle of Concern rather than in our Circle of Influence. For instance, because we can’t (most likely) solve global warming individually, we may abdicate the power we do have saying, “That’s too big of a problem. I’m just one person. I can’t change it.” The truth, however, is that we can take action that does affect global warming, even if it doesn’t eliminate it. Notice where you’re unconsciously giving up your power to affect change by lumping issues into that place “out there” where you think you have no control. Then choose to take whatever actions you can to use your power as effectively as possible.”