For many, the American dream of success lies in being “celebrity” famous, “Facebook and Instagram popular”, and “lotto jackpot” wealthy. Add in “photo shopped” perfect looks and body, and “Zoom” whitened teeth. BINGO, you’ve got it all.
But do you? What about character, that enduring trait, the place where true and everlasting beauty resides?
Character is the essence of who we really are. It is our spirit, identity, personality, nature, temperament, mentality, reputation, and stature. It is the quality that is often most tested when we encounter various trials. And it is one we often see toppled when those we admire for their wealth and celebrity tank their “brand” in greed and lies. Think one time successful entrepreneurs Bernie Madoff and Lance Armstrong.
Recently I was named a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Michigan and Northwest Ohio. The EY entrepreneur of the year is recognized as one of the most prestigious business award programs in the country, celebrating the most innovative business leaders. Believe me when I say that just being in the company of these visionaries, trumps the trifecta of success as defined by fame, popularity and riches.
However, for years I bought into that definition. In fact married into it, giving up my career to lead a life of luxury.
For 15 years, I had it all; the big beautiful home, luxury vehicles, private schools for the kids, first class vacations, jewelry, a designer wardrobe; and a small staff which helped to maintain it all.
And then I lost it all, when one afternoon I drove up the driveway to our home, my five children, ages 4-13 safely strapped into the back of my gas guzzling Suburban, to see a small note tacked onto the front door. Where we lived, notes were NOT tacked onto the front doors, but instead to the service entrance around the side.
Ripping it off, I read the small print, indicating that our home was to be auctioned off in 30 days. You can only imagine the unpleasant conversation I had with my husband, during which I learned the deal he was pursuing, among other things in which he was in hot pursuit, had not yet come to fruition, and we were broke. My name forged on thousands of dollars of financial instruments.
Within weeks, I moved out, selling what I could for cash, renting a home in a lovely Leave It To Beaver Looking neighborhood, hiring lawyers to help me navigate the mess, and seeking work.
Over the next eight years, I took every job I could, cobbling together a small income. When my husband abruptly stopped making child support payments, he also stopped paying for my car. Without notice, the repo man showed up in my driveway early one February morning. What I thought was a wind and ice storm, causing my trees to bend and creek, was in fact my Ford Windstar being hoisted up on a hook.
The woman who once had her groceries delivered, was stretching the gallon of milk with Carnation Instant Nonfat Dry Milk and picking up $5 Little Caesars’ Pizza Pizza’s for dinner.
My children were, for a time were on Medicaid and had subsidized school lunches.
Then, finally in the spring of 2005, things were looking up. I was transitioning between jobs with the promise of the potential for a six figure salary, a company paid car and health insurance.
But my annual Mammogram showed suspicions of cancer. A positive biopsy, derailed my job opportunity.
Without my income, no savings and the addition of a COBRA premium of $1200 to ensure my access to life-saving care, our family once again went into financial free fall. The home I rented for cash and later purchased with the help of my mother, faced foreclosure. My mailbox was stuffed with overdue notices for my Ford Freestar, Edison and Consumers Power. I stood in line at the local food bank to help feed our family.
We might very possibly face joining the homeless. I was terrified, despondent and hopeless. Life did not seem worth living.
In this dark hole my character was truly tested. Without a scheme to lie or cheat myself out of this mess, I began to think what I could do to help others facing similar circumstances.
Hope and Help were born in the form of the organization I founded and now serve as CEO, The Pink Fund. You can read about The Pink Fund here: www.thepinkfund.org
It is for this role, I have been nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year.
As part of my nomination, I was asked, “What three words describe you as an entrepreneur?” I had some thoughts of my own, but went to Facebook to ask others for theirs.
Here is what they wrote: resilient, inspiring, visionary, giving, driven, passionate, dedicated, devoted, determined, caring, selfless, intelligent, fierce, courageous, admirable, generous, talented, confident, funny, gracious, compassionate, powerful, committed, responsible, unstoppable, enthusiastic, devoted, innovative, resourceful, fearless, brave, engaging, benevolent, energetic, true, friend.
These words do not speak to any kind of fame, popularity or riches. They have nothing to do with my appearance. Instead they speak purely to my character. The character developed from losing all I thought had value, to finding what really does.
I am not famous, but I am known, for the work that I do. I am not popular, but I am respected, for the work that I do. I am not rich, but I enjoy a richness of life that comes from the work that I do. And as for character, I trust mine will endure, because of the work that I do.
Molly MacDonald is a graduate of The University of Michigan with a degree in journalism, mother, grandmother, founder and CEO of The Pink Fund. She is married to “Tom Terrific,” without whom she would have accomplished very little. She believes that A Beautiful Me, begins with finding the beauty that lies within each and every one of us.