This is a guest article by Kylie Travers, the CEO of Occasio Enterprises, an award winning blogger, author, speaker, and writer. She is based in Canberra, Australia, with her two daughters. She has a real passion for helping others, raising awareness and funds for issues surrounding homelessness and domestic violence, as well as helping others with their finances.
I’m not going to sugar coat this. I have been through hell and come out the other side.
This post may have triggers; if you’ve ever been raped, abused, assaulted, a victim of domestic violence, homelessness, suffered mental health issues, been or still are a parent of disabled children or anything similar, be prepared.
I’ve overcome all that (although still parenting my daughters!) and it was during this time that I won the Plutus Award for Best International Personal Finance Blog, expanded my business and drastically changed my life so much so that I don’t even recognize my past.
At the risk of sounding obnoxious, in the past five years I have gone from being a stay-at-home mum of two under two to a CEO, international speaker, author, youngest director on a board for a charity here in Canberra, an ambassador for homelessness and domestic violence, a winner of various awards and most recently a finalist for Young Australian Of The Year in the ACT, one of Australia’s highest awards.
It has certainly not been easy. I am pretty open about my life. I compartmentalize so when I discuss it, I don’t tend to choke up. I’m going to be very honest and share not only some of what happened to me, but mostly, how I overcame it all and built the business and life I have now.
How do you keep going when life is hard?
I started a blog because I was unhappy with my life and wanted to share ways to make and save money, as well as keep track of my goal to be a millionaire by 30. I did not expect it to explode into a business and for me to be where I am within five years of starting.
Here’s where it gets real.
In 2010 I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I have had mental health issues as long as I could remember, which got worse after my mother passed away in 2000 when I was 15. I am clear of BPD now, after significant therapy. In 2012, I separated from my now ex-husband but we remained living under one roof as we could not afford anything else.
Later in the year, after winning Best International Personal Finance Blog at FinCon, I came home, only to be accused of having affairs. He threatened to take my children away.
The following months were some of the scariest of my life. He tried to stab me, was removed by the police, stalked me, assaulted me, and I had to leave the family home with my two daughters, aged 3 and 5. Both of them had been diagnosed that year with learning disabilities and required extensive speech therapy and other assistance.
I found a new home and within a week was robbed of everything I personally owned right down to my underwear, literally. I had nothing except half a lounge, two outfits I had on me at the time and a couple of other things that hadn’t been moved into the house at that point. Nothing my kids owned was touched, thankfully, so they were unaware anything had happened.
A few weeks after this, I was sexually assaulted in that home by someone I trusted.
At this point I felt I had lost everything, I struggled a lot, but kept going for my daughters.
Amazingly, it was right at this point I got more public speaking, more books sales, and business was increasing. It was a struggle, but I kept going with my blogs and related work.
My ex-husband caused more issues, we moved house again, he breached court orders, and we ended up hiding from him at a friends house. He was not paying child support and lost his job, so I was paying the mortgage, paying private rent, paying for private speech therapy for my daughters and sleeping on a friend’s lounge. Her home was infested with German cockroaches. If you turned on the microwave at the same time as anything else you would short circuit the house and possibly electrocute yourself. I woke up one time with a cockroach eating my face. But it was the only safety we had. Three adults and six kids in a tiny three-bedroom home.
I was scared for our lives, terrified something would happen to us. I had no option but to keep working on my blogs and business otherwise my daughters couldn’t get the help they needed. It was right at this time I had to present ways to make and save money to a boardroom full of lawyers, yet I was homeless — and not because of financial mistakes.
I had never felt like such a fraud in all my life as I did right then.
So how did I get through and continue to grow my blog and business?
- Practice an attitude of gratitude. This is crucial. An attitude of gratitude can make the most awful situation have a positive outcome. The night I was robbed, after calling the police and my dad, I sat down and wrote a list of why I could be grateful I was robbed. I was surprised that once I started and had a few things, it got easier and honestly, as much as it sucked and it still pains me that some priceless family heirlooms were stolen it was good for me. It helped give me fresh start, made me stronger and I was insured, so it was OK.
Look for the positive. How you feel is your choice. I chose to look for the positive in each situation. I wasn’t happy all the time, but my basic belief was that I was OK, my girls were ok and I was making the right decisions. Our life would get better.
Have a purpose. Without a purpose, we are lost. At this time I had two purposes: my daughters who were my everything and what kept me going in my darkest hours, and honestly, my blog and business. Blogging, sharing advice, sometimes sharing a little about myself, and having that community to connect with helped me keep going and gave me another purpose.
Vision boards. I am astounded by the amount of things I have put on my vision boards over the years and ended up achieving them or having them come into my life. I go a step further than just vision boards though. I dedicate a wall to motivational quotes, my goals listed out, the vision board and plans to help me achieve my goals. Often, my blog calendar or ideas are there too.
I also have a copy of my goals in my wallet, motivational quotes written on my mirrors in permanent marker and even my screensavers have them.
Goals. Have goals and something to work towards. Set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound. Even if I don’t achieve my goals or I change direction, they are something to work towards and give me purpose.
It was around 2011, when I had been blogging a bit and had already attended my first blogging conference that I realized I loved this stuff. I loved blogging, social media, the community and helping others. I wanted more of this and finally set some blog goals.
Support. I have support in the form of family, friends, the amazing blogging community (especially through FinCon and the Plutus Awards!) and have had the people I needed to come into my life come at the right moments.
To be honest, in March 2013 I was done. I had had enough and felt I could not go on. I set up my blogs so that someone else could take them over. I arranged for my daughters to be looked after by my parents and planned my suicide. I drove my daughters to my parents (three hours away from where I lived) on the Friday night. On the Saturday I had my friend’s wedding and some pubic speaking, then on the Sunday I planned to end my life.
After dropping my kids off on Friday I met someone and they asked me for coffee on the Sunday. I don’t know why, but I agreed. This was enough to stop me from doing something I now can’t believe I was so close to doing. This person has been and still is a huge support in my life.
You need support in everything you do and no matter how alone, frustrated or upset you may feel there is way more support in your life than you realize.
Look for opportunities. They are everywhere. The only reason you are not finding opportunities is because you haven’t opened your eyes wide enough, thought outside the box or asked others for help.
Put yourself out there, network, connect, be real and be active. If you stay in your little corner of the internet or neighborhood, no one is going to know all the amazing things you have to offer. Get out there, create opportunities for yourself if you must, but don’t just sit on the sideline and watch everyone else do what you want to do.
Have mantras. Back at FinCon12, I was sitting chatting with J.D. Roth when he asked about the silver cuffs I was wearing. I had my favorite quotes stamped on them. Little did I know that within months I would be repeating these quotes over and over to get myself through.
- The first and my favorite is, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become” (Carl Jung).
- “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.”
- And lastly, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
I focused on the fact that while my life might not have been ideal at the time, I could be or do anything I wanted. It was my choice to be successful or to stay homeless. I chose success, happiness and gratitude.
Be real and share yourself. I know many blog anonymously, and there are many good reasons to do that if you need to. For me, in order to overcome all I have, I had to get real. I had to share snippets and I had to be myself. Doing this saw my life explode. I never expected it. I set out to help others, especially those who had been or were in a similar situation as the one I had been through. I knew I was in a position to share my story, raise awareness and funds and I had a platform through my blog and social media presence to really help others.
After going through what I had, finances felt irrelevant. My passion became homelessness and domestic violence, helping others and using my experience to create that awareness and discussions around these issues. Lucky for me, there is a direct link between homelessness and finances!
As I got more real and shared more, my business expanded rapidly, as did media exposure, I was nominated for awards and my life catapulted towards something I never imagined I would have. I still don’t believe I am where I am, but I am so grateful.
Outsource. This goes for both your personal and business life. Know what your strengths are and outsource the rest. It can be hard at first, but once you start making money from blogging, reinvest that money into your business to help it grow. You cannot do it all alone. I have a virtual assistant (V.A.), staff writers, and more staff. I have a nanny for my kids, although I do try to work mostly in school hours or after they are in bed. I am hiring a cleaner and gardener now too. My hourly rate is more than I pay them so it makes sense to save my valuable time for things I love such as spending quality time with my daughters instead of cleaning or to focus on my business and make more money there rather than mowing my lawn.
When I was really struggling and financially strapped, I looked at bartering and what I could swap to get what I needed like childcare. I would look after kids one day and their mum would look after my kids the next day so we both had a child-free day. If you can’t afford to outsource financially, look at how you can barter to get what you need without spreading yourself too thin.
Help others. It doesn’t matter how busy you are, you have time to help others. Helping others is about making connections, creating positive energy and learning. I really started to grow and overcome my past when I started helping others. There were weeks when one of the only things that got me through, aside from my family and a few friends, was volunteering. I used to do haircuts at a homeless drop in center and they were so happy, friendly and really made my day. It didn’t matter how bad a week I was having, going in there always cheered me up and I know they were happy to see me too.
Placing the focus on others for a bit can often help you solve your own problems. This goes for blogging as well as your personal life. With blogging, when you are part of mastermind groups or participate in a community, offer advice and help others, there are always people willing to help and support you when you need it too. No mane is an island.
Blogging can be a hard business, even harder when you are battling issues in your personal life. For me, it has been extremely worthwhile. I feel a real sense of community with my blogging friends, even before I met most of them in real life. I am grateful to have gone down the path I have, experienced what I have and to have come out the other side.
How have you managed to grow your business or turn your life around after difficulties in your life?
Thank you for sharing this deeply personal story, Kylie. If any reader would like to share your story with advice for others, contact Luke.