Being successful in marketing depends on stakeholders, customers, employees, suppliers and the community as a whole.
...and being successful professionally always depends on having a happy and a powerful personal foundation to build on!
My name is Mari-Liis and I’m a dreamer. I’ve always dreamed big, and wanted to make something of my life. However, as a kid I suffered emotionally and physically in a major way.
Before I take you to the journey of my story, let me tell you a little bit about Estonia where I come from. As you may know, Estonia is a country next to Finland up there in Europe somewhere Estonians are known to be very good with IT and digital solutions. Did you know that the founders of Skype are Estonians?
We really are extremely great, hard-working people. But we might look angry most of the time. Probably it’s because we have no sun for 6 months of the year and it’s hard to live in darkness… On top of that we are traditionally extremely shy and in Estonian culture it is considered very inappropriate to speak about your emotions and feelings. I am sharing a story that is deeply personal and most of my countrymen will be shocked about this!
When I was only 12 year old, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. That put me in a life-changing situation both mentally and physically… just for those of you who are not familiar with the term, scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine and about 3% of teenagers have scoliosis. Severe scoliosis is extremely painful and it can put you in a wheelchair for a lifetime.
My condition was so serious that I needed extensive surgery and a metal support frame attached to the full-length of my backbone. I still have it, I will always have it with me and I am still exactly as tall as I was at that day after the surgery as you cannot grow with it… The life-threatening surgery lasted for 8h (!). Just one micromillimeter of a wrong movement could have meant I would not be able to walk ever again. In fact, I was one of the first to experience extensive backbone surgeries in the post-Soviet era in Estonia, in early 1990’s…
I could speak hours about the time I spent in the hospital during that era in Estonia. Imagine that hospitals were nothing like today – post Soviet hospitals were horrible places! For example no one could stay with me for as long as they wanted and I was just a kid.
I was not able to move after the surgery for a very long time. I remember I felt so alone… I was scared to death of the darkness as they switched off the lights every night… I still am afraid of darkness and my loved ones know that very well.
I was scared to death that I could never walk again, to live a normal life again.
I was cut away from everything, from being a child and from my friends… Remember there were no cell phones, social media, internet, nothing… I felt alone and I was alone. I also felt like I was in a prison inside my own body, stuck in bed for a very long time… As far as I remember, I cried almost all nights for many months – I just felt so much pain inside of my body and outside of my body.
On top of everything I was going through, doctors told me that having a normal life would be impossible for me. If I do a lot of work, I could be able to walk, but it is impossible to run and jump, to have fun. And I especially remember one doctor saying it’s impossible to have my own children in the future as my back cannot support pregnancy and the pelvis can’t open for a delivery. I was a kid, but I was a big dreamer. I had always dreamed of having my own family one day. I was being denied that dream and I suddenly felt powerless.
I was stuck in a hospital bed for a long time. And when I got out, I was at home treatment. I was just learning to walk and to sit again and I had this supportive corset with me all the time… Because of that I could not go back to school for a long time and I missed a whole school year. But on top of that I was bored with nothing to do. So I got into some friends from the streets who didn’t go to school either. And then I got the information that I could go back next school year to school but I couldn’t continue with my class, I had to go to a class with kids younger than me. This was the most humiliating and embarrassing thing for me! I hated it all, I was bullied by the classmates I used to hang out before…never picked in sport games as I was disabled… I experienced constant tension everywhere.
So I started to become a rebel with the new “friends” from the streets – I learned to smoke, tried alcohol many times, got into many troubles. I saw lives and people I never want to become. There were those who ended up in jail, those who were raped … but I didn´t know the way out, it seemed impossible. I was a kid and the word impossible became my biggest enemy.
On top of that I was short, fat – staying in bed, the only joy I had was eating- , goofy looking, with a very bad attitude. Felt insecure, anxious, helpless. There were many moments I didn’t understand why I had to have this life, I felt I have no reason to be alive. I remember many times saying to my parents that I wish I were dead. I tried to commit suicide also once…
I don´t know how my mother felt at that time because Estonians really never talk about feelings. And sadly I will never have the chance to ask, since she is no longer alive. But I know in my bones she grew much older in those years, as the grey hair gave her away… But still she saved me. She offered me to move and live in another city where disabled children were studying together. It was a boarding school. I was more than happy to do that because I just wanted to run away from my life, from the city I lived in, from everything.
As I went to this school, I was quite a closed person and arrogant, as I had so much hurt inside-out. Suddenly I found a new world, a new perspective, new friends, a new life.
This school was helping disabled children to learn and helped them to adapt to normal lives and I had only struggled with myself, never seen others struggling. But in this school were kids like me but way worse – there were literally children with no or disabled hands and legs, also other very serious physical and mental disabilities. When I saw those kids smiling, being happy with what they have, not always stressing about what they didn’t have in their lives, it was a complete shock to the system.
I felt bad because I was whining - I was able to move, to use my hands, legs and brain! I suddenly understood that I had no right to complain! I spent 3 years in Haapsalu sanatory boarding school, only weekends and school breaks at home and those were the happiest years of my childhood. I had a chance to be a normal teenager again.
And I realize now how big of an effect other people around us actually can have. It has an effect on everything you do: the way we act and talk, the way we work, the way you feel and love yourself and others.
When I was 15 one of my very good friends did actually commit suicide. Next year, when I was 16 one of our schoolmates died as a result of unsuccessful surgery… it was so terrifying and shocking to be at those funerals…
Suddenly my desire to be alive came to me. I wanted to be as alive as possible, do everything I could, never regret “not trying ” enough. But I literally didn’t know where to start so I started to use my brain. I thought I’d start with learning so I could find a way to make my dreams come true, to become someone, to achieve success. I went from one school to another, until I ended up in one of the best ranked Universities in the world with a master’s degree in social science… And I felt good, I felt I was in a good flow with my life. Also started to work in sales and marketing which was a very good fit for me as I felt I really was able to help people achieve their purpose with my work.
So I kept on growing, I was in my 20s, when suddenly my mother got sick with cancer and died a year later. And a very good friend of mine, suddenly buried her 3-year-old son. It was too shocking, it was too much to handle for everybody. I was desperate with grief. I remember even searching on Google “how to handle grief”.
I did not know what to do but to turn back to what had saved me earlier: studying. Fighting with my brain to become more and better. And I started to study more in depth about universal laws and psychology. I wanted to know how to handle human life as I was not able to get it. It can be so hard at times, it can be unbearable sometimes.
So, after all those years I have wondered how I have managed to live my dream life now, something that seemed so impossible for me over those years. Why I have been able to conquer all the impossible thoughts and goals in my life… and I think it’s the understanding that you have to embrace change & take action:
Because conquering the impossible never comes overnight & without a fight -> yes, it might seem easy to others who don´t know what you are going through, but only the ones who have conquered the impossible know that it’s a long way to go.
I don't know where I would be without my older sister today who has become my mother now. Where I would be without my husband, who I met when I was 21 and who has always been there for me…
I’m so thankful to so many people throughout the years: teachers, colleagues, friends and especially my 2 children. Thank you to those doctors who told me as a 12 year old it’s impossible for me to have children. I proved you wrong!
Now I understand that you should never accept the impossible. Does my story inspire you to reject any ideas about you not being enough? I really hope so.
Yes – conquering the impossible either personally or professionally is never painless, is never quick and it’s never easy.
So whatever you do in your life or in your business, keep this in mind - there is always a way out. Nothing is impossible. If you don’t know the way, or you don’t find the way, ask for help, be willing to learn and study. Seek the answers, find out what steps to take next. And as you take this first step, you will see the next one, and the next one and the one after…
Have some faith, compassion and trust yourself!
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