Your worst life experience may be the key to what gifts you can bring to the world.

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This morning a client was asking for guidance on how she could turn one of her hobbies into a meaningful business. As I listened, I realized that she wasn’t speaking as passionately about her many interests as she was about what she had learned from dealing with a recent tragedy. As she talked, it became apparent that the most terrible experience in her life had prepared her for a meaningful new career. She’d recently helped her life partner through the long course of a terminal illness. The ways she compensated for the lack of compassion, resources and communication she experienced in dealing with the medical community had prepared her to do patient and family advocacy. Her need to raise money to pay for her partner’s medical bills had given her the experience of planning fund raising events, soliciting donors and raising public awareness. Like many people who’ve had to be innovative during difficult times, her creative solutions to a crises situation could meet the needs of a whole population facing similar challenges. My friend found it hard to believe that people would pay her to do for them what she had figured out how to do for herself, but as we reviewed all the time spent researching and implementing creative solutions, she realized this was a viable business that could help people solve an urgent dilemma.

Sometimes the best business ideas come from something we’ve found lacking . While no one wants to think of a tragedy as creating opportunity,  sometimes  the skills or wisdom we gain during a crises prepares us for a career helping others deal with a similar situation.

After our phone conversation, I thought of John Walsh, host of “America’s Most Wanted” and of the horrific experience of losing his six year old son to abduction and murder. Determined to not let Adam’s death be in vain,  Walsh began a lifelong career helping to apprehend over 1,050 dangerous fugitives and bring home more than 50 missing children in the past 22 years. He’s authored best-selling books and DVDs on stranger safety and internet safety, and has been instrumental in getting stricter laws passed to crack down on sex offenders,  all as a result of the most horrendous loss a parent could face.

What experiences have forced you to create solutions that  others might also benefit from?  Have there been times when you wished there’d been a product or service to help you deal with a situation that felt nearly overwhelming?  Did you ever wish someone had written a manual to guide you through a difficult time in your life? What did you learn from handling and getting through some of life’s toughest challenges?  How could that be turned into a service, manual or “roadmap” to help others? The answer to those questions just might be the key to your more meaningful career.

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