Sandra Stilwell is a self-made business owner living in Florida. She owns ten businesses, seven of which are restaurants. (The restaurant business is primarily male dominated.) Sandra not only runs the businesses herself, she also manages, designs, and markets for the businesses as well. She knows better than anyone what being grateful can do for you.
“The most defining time in my life was August 13, 2004. Until that day, my life on Captiva Island was blissful. I had just purchased another home on the water, on Sanibel Island, and had finished building a shopping center. My restaurants were all doing well. Back then, I only had four restaurants and my small bed-and-breakfast. Category 4 Hurricane Charley was en route to hit Tampa, three hours north of us, when it suddenly made an extreme right turn directly for us. I didn’t have time to evacuate, and the storm hit us head-on. We didn’t have power for four weeks and no water for a week. We had no phone service of any kind. There was not one leaf on any tree; they were stripped down to the stems or were flattened.
“Everything that I owned was broken or ruined. I had generators running to keep what food could be salvaged, and I cooked for the National Guard stationed on the island, as well as other people on the island. The Salvation Army and Red Cross came out to help, and we were finally able to get ice and bottled water.
“My biggest customer base came from the large South Seas Island Resort nearby. They said they would be open by December. I rushed to get the restaurants open by then. The resort announced four different dates and eventually opened two years later. I had a lot of staff who depended on me for their livelihood, including entertainers. We opened up restaurants one by one. We had music playing and offered refuge for those wanting to observe the destruction that had taken place on Captiva, including homeowners with their insurance agents to assess the damage. Sometimes the entertainers were playing to the birds because there were very few customers actually staying on the island, but together we formed a team and a strategy and stuck with it. I never gave up, and my staff never gave up on me.
“Once the resort opened again, my charge cards were almost maxed out. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I’ll never forget the lessons that I learned from Charley. In hindsight, if I had the ability to turn that storm away, I wouldn’t do it. It taught me the importance of being grateful and working through circumstances despite all odds.”
Having an attitude of gratitude can change your life. Whatever your circumstances, be grateful, because there’s always someone who will trade their circumstances for yours. Even if you’re kicked to the curb, have gratitude for the things you do have. Instead of being angry at the world, say, “Great, curb, now what am I supposed to learn from this?”
Marja Norris is the CEO and Founder of MarjaNorris.com, a company dedicated to helping women achieve their career goals with style and confidence. With a distinguished career in finance, Marja has successfully navigated the male-dominated business world. Working her way up from an entry-level assistant to a Senior Vice President, she draws on her three decades of experience in the corporate world to empower women to pursue their highest goals and blossom into everything they can be.
Marja is passionate about coaching women on projecting their best professional selves. With the publication of her latest book, The Unspoken Code: A Businesswoman’s No-Nonsense Guide to Making It in the Corporate World, Marja’s mission is to provide women with the tools to successfully navigate the workplace through heightened confidence, excellent communication skills, and dressing the part to achieve career success.