/the joy of going bankrupt at 30
I just wanted to sprinkle this gold dust out to my LinkedIn community because I know there's someone out there that is going through a tricky, sticky or shitty situation. I’m an eternal optimist and I know there is a silver lining in every cloud. While you read this just keep this phrase on repeat… “I am Valuable”.
….. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, when I was staring down the barrel of bankruptcy nearly four years ago, let me tell you; it did not feel great. In fact, I felt like a failure, a fraud, I was completely consumed with debilitating anxiety, regret (for working so hard on an ultimately failure of a business), and soul shaking grief (for a promised future of marriage, prosperity and what I craved the most; a stable life and home for my children).
At this time, I desperately searched for answers to this (let's call it what it is) shitty situation/ status/label called ‘Bankrupt’. Would I ever be able to buy a house? Can I start a business? Will I be able to get a job? What about personally… I didn’t know one person that had filed for bankruptcy, well at least no one had ever told me, I even googled it - nothing! Literally no answers, no one to talk to, the loneliness and shame in this situation was beyond words.
The circumstances are not so important now; but for context’s sake, and to let you in on my feelings at the time... 2012 I had baby number two, experienced post-natal depression for the second time, was in an emotionally bankrupt marriage I didn’t have the tools to fix, I wanted to escape my situation, marriage, life, motherhood., SO I THOUGHT… I’ll start a business. Seriously Amy? Why did you think this was a good idea? In quick succession, (with no previous business experience, no equity and no support in the business or at home), I opened two cafes, launched a food truck, brought on investors and sold 26 product SKUs into over one hundred outlets including all major supermarket chains in NZ.
Shakey mental health, a now failed marriage and a self medicating health regime (aka Alcoholism), saw the collapse of the business and me scrambling to pick up the pieces, sole parent two beautiful boys (4 & 8 years) and keep food on the table (Thank you Work & Income NZ). Liquidating the business, I sold all of the assets and anything of value I owned personally to pay off suppliers, yet there was still a hefty amount outstanding, not to mention the immense shame of losing family money and that of investors that believed in my vision. The amount outstanding tipped me over the threshold and into bankruptcy as I was unable to see any way I could pay it off without losing my mind. I had to remember my sole responsibility was for my children.
So enough of the shitty sob story - let us get into the GOLD! The lessons I take into my future.
Lesson #1. There is no place in life for ego. When I was in the thick of my business, I thought the business and myself were so damn important, turns out that was a lie. The day I closed my doors…. Crickets, nothing. A few customers that said it was sad we were closing, but in reality everyone just gets on with their own lives. Businesses, brands, people come and go. People move onto the next shiny thing, new businesses are opened and life goes on. The great lesson here is that when you are no longer ‘titled’ or in a position to help anyone, most people disappear and you realise who your true friends are and who were just fans.
Lesson #2. My student loan was wiped off. I had five years of full time business study at University (about $70K), DELETED! Gone, never to be thought of again. Holy smokes was this a SURPRISE CELEBRATION in the midst of a gloomy time. Although bankrupt; my qualifications, experience, relationships, personality and optimism could not be taken from me. I will be passing this little gem of wisdom onto my children when they get to an age where they are deciding on their careers. I will never guide them to do the ‘right’ thing, or the ‘safe’ thing and SHOULD will forever be a swear word in my family's vocabulary.
Lesson #3. Time is dictated by ME and not a CLOCK! I used to always be in a rush. Everything had a deadline and I was always overwhelmed and disengaged from the present, instead fiercely focused on the future. So when I was looking into bankruptcy, 3 years (the term of bankruptcy in New Zealand) seemed like a life sentence. In this time, I have learned to value the present, slow down, and I look around and I see 99.9% of people i’ve come in contact with in my life are in basically the same situation they were three years ago. There have been a few births, deaths and marriages but in the business realm… I haven’t missed much. As a health coach I've had the privileged position of seeing inside hundreds of peoples lives. I’ve come to understand that most people find their ‘lot in life’ in their thirties and, unless they have a serious life event (normally negative) they are content on this path. The few that break away are usually (trailblazers, the .00001%) or those that experience a failed marriage, business failure, redundancy, death of a loved one, or a major health scare.
Lesson #4. There is no filter on ‘Amy’ anymore. Post divorce and bankruptcy I now feel that I can be authentically and unapologetically ME! Wow what a relief. There are no longer any expectations, (real or imagined) on me. Trust me, there has been a lot of self development, coaching, healing and counselling to get here. But obviously, it has been worth it. FREEDOM. I have no one to answer to, no one to impress, and like a jail sentence serves as a ‘payback’, I now no longer owe anybody anything. My term is up. Again, FREEDOM!
Lesson #5. I’ve unlocked the secret to money,. It is simply an ‘energy exchange’. I’ve done a lot of work on my money mindset, how to spend, save, tithe and seed appropriately to reach my goals and align with my values. I have gone back to the basics to really understand my spending priorities and where I am going to use this ‘energy exchange’. As part of my bankruptcy status I have had to work closely with an Insolvency Officer and a Chartered Accountant which has given me so much clarity and Freedom in my finances i’ve never experienced before.
Lesson #6. I learned my VALUE is not MEASURED by the amount of money in my bank account. No matter my financial status, I have always held the same values. I have remained loving, kind, generous and optimistic. Even when I was stripped of the titles of ‘wife’ and ‘business owner’ and relabelled ‘bankrupt’ I remained in my most important roles; Mother, friend, sister, daughter and Jesus follower.
Lesson #7. I’ve learnt we can all redesign our lives, anytime we like. I’ve redesigned mine from the ground up. Alongside shedding the titles of Wife and Business Owner, I shed others that were no longer serving me or my children. The titles of ‘busy’, ‘stressed’, ‘overwhelmed’ are also a thing of the past. How I spend my time, how I prioritise my spending, who I share my precious family with, how I show up as a mum has all been reevaluated and completely changed. Designing my life in my thirties has proven to be a much better time than my teenage years to plan my life - it’s been magical!
I still have MASSIVE DREAMS (it took a bit of work to dredge them up) - but now I have PLANS on how to get there!, I am financially independent, I work four days a week and focus more time than I ever have on my children (now three biological boys and two step daughters) and our families dreams, I have an epic - fast growing professional practise, I work with an aligned team of trailblazer humans, spreading Hope and Health to the world alongside an ethical people focused company and am working everyday on my own health and happiness. Told you - there was Gold Dust to be found.
If you are in a tricky, sticky or shitty situation, please remember - YOU ARE VALUABLE - and no dream (big or small) is unattainable; if you can hold onto hope, ride out the dark days, take action and make your dreams a priority.
From one… (no longer Bankrupt) Trailblazer to another.
Much Love. Amy Boyd