Enjoy this selection from Chelsea Berler’s new book, The Curious One: From Food Stamps to CEO – One Woman’s Journey through Struggle, Tragedy, Success and Love. I’m really looking forward to talking with Chelsea on the Power Up Living radio show, and hearing more about her inspirational journey. Click here to get the show details & join us to discover how to turn your greatest tragedies into your greatest successes. We’ll “see” you there! ~KG
~By Chelsea Berler ~
“I’m not telling you it is going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” ~ART WILLIAMS
The Big Moment came when I was doing my taxes. I know, figuring out what number you have to write on that check to Uncle Sam is not usually the most exciting time in a person’s life. But for me, it was a huge Moment— one that had major significance.
It was about two years ago. I was 27 years old, and I’d been running my own business, Solamar Agency, for about five years.
One of my very dear friends was our financial guy (and still is). He’d been with us the whole time. Since the beginning. But when we started out, we were really, really small. So while he was taking care of all the financial stuff for me, I never really thought much about it.
In fact, because I was so focused on serving my clients and my team and putting one foot in front of the other and just doing my work, I never really paid all that much attention to the reports he sent me at the end of every month, year after year. You know, those Profit and Loss statements with the numbers on it that explained just how much money we were making every month?
But then I got that one, life-changing year-endreport. And it said my company made about $500,000 that year.
Me. At 27. Just made half a million dollars.
Wait a second—how did this happen?
I sat there and kind of stared at the number on the report, like it would suddenly make perfect sense to me if I looked at it long and hard enough.
Or maybe the “5” would suddenly turn into a “2”… or some other, more reasonable, number that made more sense to me.
But that didn’t happen. It wasn’t going to happen. Because as I sat there staring at the paper, it started to sink in.
Maybe it did make sense. Maybe it really was possible.
I thought back over the years I’d been running my business. Basically, what I’d been doing was working my tail off. I was going through a lot—I’d gotten my second divorce (Yes, at 24—more on that later…) and the way I dealt with it was just by working, working, working.
That was pretty much my coping mechanism for any sort of problem that might come up in my life. I worked my way through it. It gave me something positive to do that distracted me from whatever was making me feel crappy at the time.
Not like I was super-ambitious or some major planner. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about my goals, or where the business was going, or even if the business was going. For me, the simple fact that I was getting some money at the end of the month after making payroll and paying all the other bills was like, “This is great.”
Eventually, I got over the divorce and met an incredible man. But I kept on working. It was the way I defined myself.
And looking at that report, and at the giant, massive, very grown-up number on it, I realized what had been sneaking up on me for years.
All that work had paid off. I really did have a real business.
This was a real thing.
Maybe the fact that, right around the same time, we had opened up our first physical office could have provided a clue. Some sort of, “Hey, progress is being made here” kind of message. But I never really equated opening the office with “success.” It was more about my lifestyle. I had been a hermit for such a long time, sitting at my computer in my house working, that basically, I just wanted to get out of the house. I wanted to have a place to go to work, and people to talk to when I got there. I’d been hiring people virtually for years, but I had started hiring people locally. And I needed a place to put those people…
I never expected it all to add up to half a million dollars. But suddenly, I realized that I did it. It happened.
And it was a pretty amazing moment.
I was flooded with all these feelings.
I finally felt like I had made something of myself. Like I was part of something bigger than me.
Like I wanted to tell everyone to screw off.
I felt real.
It was the last place people (especially those people I wanted to tell to screw off) expected to find me. And that’s maybe the biggest reason the whole 500k thing freaked me out. I grew up knowing, or thinking I knew, a pretty depressing fact. That NOT everything is possible. Pretty much the opposite of what you’re supposed to grow up knowing, right?
I grew up in a very small town in North Dakota, with very little money and even fewer possibilities. Not that there was (or is) anything wrong with the town or the people in it. They made me who I am today. I love North Dakota and I’ll be forever grateful for my roots.
But it’s just the kind of town where everybody knows everybody, and you get married and you stay there and you have kids and your kids stay there and everybody stays there forever and ever and ever.
I never, ever thought I would see another state, or even get out of my little town.
I had no idea how that would even be possible.
They have this one, very specific life path they teach you in school to help you succeed.
- You go to high school
- You go to college—usually an in-state school.
- You become a teacher, or a doctor, or a lawyer.
- You come home and work and raise your family there.
It’s a perfectly great plan for people who want to be doctors or lawyers or teachers.
But that just didn’t feel like me.
Of course, like in every town big and small, there are also the dropouts that don’t go to college; they don’t even stay in high school. So they don’t do anything with themselves except maybe sit at the local bar.
I didn’t see myself as one of those people either.
And then there are the people who don’t go to college, but just have a bunch of cute babies and stay home and live on a family farm.
That’s where I figured I fit in. I always assumed I was going to end up married with kids in my hometown. That’s what most people like me did. Or pretty much what all people like me did. How could I think I was going to be any different?
The problem was, deep down inside, I felt different.
There was a part of me that was always rebelling against “the way things were.” I had these vague dreams of “arriving,” although where I was going to arrive, I wasn’t quite sure. Or wishing and hoping that I could create something lasting, not that I had any idea what that would be.
I just knew that I wasn’t like everybody else.
And in my town, in my world, that wasn’t exactly a comforting feeling. I was scared as Hell that I would fail, that I wouldn’t have anything to show for myself and wouldn’t be able to create anything at all.
But that didn’t stop me from having visions of something different. Something bigger.
I just didn’t know what it would be.
Now, twenty years or so later, I do. Which, I guess, is why I’m writing this book.
As I write this, two years after that moment with my tax forms, my business is hovering right under the million-dollar mark.
And because I have reached this level of success, before turning 30, suddenly, I’m getting noticed. Suddenly, people look at me and think things like,“Oh,she is smart.” Or, “Oh, she does have something going on.”
Which makes me laugh—because they didn’t always feel that way!
I was the girl that didn’t fit the mold. That didn’t follow the path. How was I ever supposed to be successful if I didn’t conform and do what I was supposed to do?
But here’s the more important point—maybe you feel like that too.
Because a lot of people do.
Maybe no one ever told you that there’s a bigger world out there, and that you can not only get out in it and see it and be a part of it, but actually add something to it.
I know no one told me. I had to figure that part out on my own.
So I’m here to tell you that you do have options. I was a person who was born into a life where there didn’t seem to be a lot of options. But I had them—they just weren’t immediately visible.
And you have them too. You really do.
Living a life that fits you and makes you happy, leaving your mark on the world even if you don’t exactly know what that mark will be, is possible.
You don’t have to do it their way. You just have to find your way.
People might tell you you’re crazy. They might say what you want isn’t possible. They may—and this hurts— even tell you they don’t believe in you.
It doesn’t matter.
As long as you stay curious, and stay thirsty for more, and keep trying new things and reaching for new experiences, anything is possible. I know it is. Not only have I lived it, but I’m still living it today.
Sure, there are times when I think that I could lead an easier life—I could stop running all over the country, hang out with my husband and just have fun and relax. Maybe someday I will. But right now, I want more for myself.
And I also want more for people that haven’t had that opportunity to be curious.
Because if all this could happen for a girl from Scranton, North Dakota, it can happen to you too.
Are you curious? Then come with me…
About the Author
As the Founder and CEO of Solamar Agency – Chelsea Berler knows what it takes to build and maintain multiple successful and profitable businesses—all while passionately cultivating long-lasting relationships in business and in life.
Chelsea started Solamar in 2006 and over the years she’s been able to turn this small marketing agency into a passionate team of marketing consultants, event professionals, account managers and design specialists that service and support Solamar clients all over the world. Solamar currently has a client list the size of the Pacific Ocean, which keeps the team constantly creating and innovating each and every day.
Chelsea has added author to her list of things she’s accomplished too (before 30!)… she is the author of The Curious One – a woman’s journey through struggle, tragedy, success and love.
So when she’s not lovingly hard at work—or jet setting from one coast to the other – she toggles between her home in Alabama and a beach house in Florida. She adores spending time with her family and dedicates time to flying back home to North Dakota where she was born and raised.