Often we see success as a pie in the sky; something only the elite can achieve. We routinely discredit ourselves and believe that unfortunate circumstances limit our ascension. It can seem as though the superstars of the world rise to stardom unscathed- but nothing could be farther from the truth. After reading countless autobiographical works and watching endless keynote speeches from prominent business leaders I realized they all shared common traits and even more similar stories. The main commonality was that major event we all call ‘Rock Bottom!’ They all hit rock bottom – and hit it hard! See, real success takes guts. Many people are afraid to start their journey to success because they are embarrassed about where they are starting from. In today’s digital world, the ugliness of starting is often negated and instead only the fruits of wealth are showcased. But starting is ugly; brutal even – but the rewards are endless! Don’t be afraid to start exactly where you are ! Don’t be afraid to start small ! Grow right where you stand and watch amazing things begin to unfold. Here is the story of my personal ugly start and how I learned to push through.
Mardi Gras 2016, I moved from Philadelphia, Pa – my home of nearly a decade-back to my hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I packed my car and drove down the east coast back to my mother’s house feeling broken and defeated having just left my failed marriage. Embarrassed by the public nature of my breakup (many of my contemporaries in the Philly music scene had gotten wind of the salacious details of my marriage gone sour) I sought refuge in Louisiana. Leaving my 3 bedroom home and being juxtaposed in a single room with my two sons was a cold slice of humble pie. I was thankful to be surrounded by my parents’s love and support, but I dearly missed my independence .
Soon new hope was on the horizon as I’d landed what I thought was my dream job. My new-found job position was a much needed break from my bleak reality. I poured myself tirelessly into my job and constantly looked for new ways to invest in the company’s success. Soon my hard work paid off and I was promoted 3 times in less than a year. Six months after my move from Philly , Baton Rouge suffered the “Thousand Year Flood;” devastating many neighborhoods leaving thousands homeless and displaced. My home was one of them and in a flash my family lost everything- cars, clothes, and even family photos. My family was evacuated with just the clothes on our backs, but we were thankful to God for our safety and the kindness of family and friends during that trying time. I was determined to keep a positive mindset and support my family as we moved from one family member’s home to another – spending weeks here and there. Rebuilding my life on the road was a new normal and moving became second nature .
Just as I began finding my stride through the chaos of displacement, my boss called me into an impromptu meeting and fired me unexpectedly. I was stunned and dejected. I spent my newfound free time in the gym- literally running from my problems. Each day looked like the one before and I began to feel lost-again! One July afternoon, tragedy struck tearing my chaotic world in two. My best friend, my first love and my muse died suddenly. His untimely death sent me into a whirlwind. The deep unrelenting depression was unbearable! I prayed and prayed and then I prayed some more! I begged God for relief .
“Ashley, you are powerful. You can do this. I believe in you.”
One morning I woke up to the voice of my deceased friend ringing in my head. “Ashley, you are powerful. You can do this. I believe in you;” echoes of the words he said to me during his life. I got up from my bed and ran to my laptop. I started! I didn’t know how I was going to change my life, but I knew it was time. I started looking through the business plans I’d created a year before, but was too insecure and afraid to try. I started growing right where I stood – right there in my pain – I started . As I took one step forward the next step would appear. I was determined to remain positive, prepared, and professional.
I created The Sacred Space 225, a live music collaborative in downtown Baton Rouge as a platform for serious independent artists to network and showcase their talent. The show has been a huge success and we are gearing up for our fourth show!! I completed a poetry and art book to be published in the coming months in tribute of my muse Lamar Rashod Rayfield. I created an online apparel and goods store bearing the Sacred Space brand and I’m back in the studio working with some of the industry’s best producers and writers . I’m working hard to complete my first album!
I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way. Failure has created a fearlessness in me that an easy path would not have afforded me. Sacrifice is the currency of your dreams! It may cost you some stagnant relationships, some creature comforts, and maybe even some ego!! Oh, but the rewards are priceless!
So don’t be afraid to be broke so that you can become a billionaire! Don’t be afraid to start ugly and small, to start scared; to start scarred! Just start – you will grow your wings on the way down! I’ll see you at top!