14.8 min read

Entrepreneur. Grind. Hustle. Boss. These used to all just be called “self-employed” without fanfare.

I remember in high school, begging my parents to let me have a part-time job.

They wanted my “job” to be, being a good student. At the time, I was reading about marketing agencies in NYC and soaking in stories from my parents about their lives, particularly my fathers life, working at Radio City Music Hall.

I always knew I’d be self-employed, as it came with the territory in my family. My brother was a self-employed artist and my uncles owned restaurants and bakeries. My mother was a sought-after seamstress doing “little”jobs as she called it, for people she met who needed a hem or dress taken in, or a gown created from scratch. She had clients like Strawbridge and Clothier and Macy’s.

These days, the constant buzz on having a side-hustle, grinding and being free from the corporate life seem a bit elementary to me. It isn’t easy being self-employed and many who are, work a full-time job just to float their dream. I did that as well.

I”m going to give the

I opened my first business when I was 20 and while businesses might have overlapped, there hasn’t been a single day of unemployment since May 1987! –Here is a list of 37 lessons, each tied to a significant moment in my history.

1987: Resilience Pays Off
Lesson:”Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey reminded me to keep faith during tough times. As I launched my dance studio, I learned that persistence is key.

I was 20 and so many people, ALL who were NOT self-employed, told me that I was too young, too inexperienced and it would never work out.

Get rid of downers in your life. If they put your career or dream down, they will put anything down.

1988: Adaptability
Lesson: From Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” I saw that change starts with myself. This helped me adapt my dance techniques to the evolving trends in the industry and my students were winning dance competitions. (some were older than me!).. I was approached to work as a television choreographer.

Don’t be ridged.

1989: Embrace Technology
Lesson: The debut of the World Wide Web foreshadowed the need to embrace technology, which later helped me transition into journalism and marketing, including coding and building websites. I was assaulted and left for dead. I had to have emergency surgery and a long recovery. I also had a scar that haunted me for years.

Don’t hire everything out. Learn so you can assess if they are good or not.

1990: Creativity in Business
Lesson: “Pretty Woman” showed the value of creativity and resourcefulness, qualities I applied as a choreographer for Dance Party USA and The Bozo Show.

In the words of my daughter, “Let your weird fly.”

1991: Networking
Lesson: “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus exploded through networking in the country music scene, highlighting the importance of building strong connections in my career. That song was a hit everywhere; and I realized you create stronger impact by having a niche that can be translatable throughout demographics.

I was living in Philadelphia, in a tiny apartment in Society Hill, where almost everyone at the time, was very wealthy. I remember being immersed in their world and the importance of lifting limiting beliefs was important. My father passed away this year as well.

I also was pregnant soon after he passed away and also, had a car accident that put me on bed rest. I knew I had to do something drastic.

There’s lots of ways to network; you don’t have to be a social butterfly.

1992: Diversify Your Skills

Lesson: Whitney Houston’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You” from “The Bodyguard” taught me to leverage my diverse skills. This lesson helped me in transitioning between dance, journalism, and marketing. This is the year my daughter was born. My time on bedrest was spent learning, networking and working to be a better person for her.

When she was born, the doctor who delivered her (by C-section) didn’t even tell me until after; he took away that horrific scar that was hip-to-hip on me. It was an act of compassion and taught me to always give back as you never know how it could alter someone’s life.

Don’t be a one-trick pony. You can niche or know your stuff without being pigeon-holed.

1993: Public Speaking
Lesson: My experience as a public affairs anchor and journalist emphasized the power of effective communication, inspired by “The Sandlot” which was huge for me. It was the year that I was the late Trudy Haynes intern and she sent me, via limo, to a screening and interview session with the actors of that movie.

Trudy was an incredible mentor. I used to apologize all of the time, like a timid mouse, until her. She looked at me one day in the office and yelled at me, “STOP APOLOGIZING” and then went on to tell me that while young and pretty, people will try to step on me so I needed to be tough, thicken my skin and step into my power. She said a day will come when I am not young and pretty and I’d need to step into my value, even when looks and youth fade.

I didn’t cry then, but I did cry all the way home on that train. However, I never was a doormat again and her words were harsh but from love.

Stand tall and stand your ground. Stand for something.

1994: Embrace Multimedia Lesson:”Friends” TV show taught the importance of multimedia in building a brand, influencing my talk show in Philadelphia within the next few years.

This is the year my son was born.

I was so happy; a boy and a girl and I began feeling like I needed more balance in my life.

Don’t knock new things; some fly, some don’t, some you’ll dislike, some you’ll savor.

1995: Innovation
Lesson: “Toy Story,” the first feature-length film made entirely with CGI, taught me the importance of innovation. I applied this in my marketing strategies.

I knew I needed to focus on working smarter not harder because motherhood was quickly becoming my priority.

You need a solid five years of full-time, self-employment to know if you are innovative enough to turn it into a life. Dig in.

1996: Mentorship
Lesson: Dolly the Sheep cloning breakthrough highlighted the importance of mentorship and guidance, which I provided in my roles working with children.

I had so many mentors that I can’t even name them all, but I felt extreme gratitude that there were people willing to teach me, help me and encourage me.

My mother was a source of constant love and support as well, and my best friend.

You don’t know it all. You know less than you think. Ignorance is the only thing that keeps us fooled into thinking we know it all.

1997: Consistency
Lesson: “Titanic” reminded me that consistency and dedication are crucial for monumental success, similar to my long-term career growth.

I remember that this was when I really needed to get out of my comfort zone and learn journalism from local masters; and I did; they are now friends of mine!

You can be flexible but you can’t be flighting. You can’t learn entrepreneurship in a book or from someone else. You have to dive in and commit.

1998: Embrace Change
Lesson: “Google” was founded, reminding me that embracing change and new tools is essential for staying relevant in my industry.

Don’t be a stick in the mud or you will get stuck.

1999: Collaboration
Lesson: “I Dream of Jeannie” showcased the power of magical moments, collaboration and teamwork, which I experienced firsthand in my journalism and public affairs roles.

Learn to find your magic.

2000: Balance
Lesson:The success of “Survivor” highlighted the importance of balancing strategy and social dynamics, akin to balancing my various career roles.

Being self-employed does not mean workaholic or beating yourself up. Balance is key.

2001: Crisis Management and Unity
Lesson: The 9/11 attacks underscored the importance of crisis management, a skill I refined during my years in journalism.

Know how to pivot when stressed. Really.

2002: Authenticity
Lesson: Kelly Clarkson’s win in “American Idol” taught me the value of authenticity, which I applied in my work and public engagements. I entered on a dare and win Mrs. PA International by clinching the last question, in which they ask, what do I plan to do after the pageant? Everyone else was noble with their answers- curing poverty etc. I said “I’m going to eat a pizza”… authenticity is important.

Be real to others, be real to yourself.

2003: Innovation in Wellness
Lesson: The Human Genome Project completion inspired me to innovate in wellness and psychotherapy, integrating new research into my practice.

Science was always important to me and a hobby since I was a child, but this was now a driving passion.

Stay curious.

2004: Social Media Engagement
Lesson: Facebook’s rise showed the power of social media, prompting me to engage with a wider audience in my marketing and wellness endeavors.

As someone who has autism, it is easier to communicate and connect on social media than anywhere else unless I am with others who are autistic. This opened up a world to me that also allowed me to be quite the observer.

Keep observing and participating.

2005: Emotional Intelligence
Lesson:The popularity of “YouTube” highlighted the importance of emotional intelligence and connecting with my audience on a personal level.

I already had media experience in broadcast and print, but Youtube showcased a different level of connection that was more intimate.

I also was hosting and producing radio segments again (which I did years ago in my early twenties).

You are a special snowflake but you are also a part of the storm, so ride that energy.

2006: Perseverance
Lesson: Pluto’s reclassification reminded me that even established ideas can change, teaching me the importance of perseverance and adaptability.

If a plant can be reinvented and persevere, so could I 🙂

If you want to truly be self-employed you need to give up the safety net of your day job, but it is also ok to have  “this” as a side-job.

2007: User Experience
Lesson: The launch of the iPhone showed the importance of user experience, which I applied in my website development and online content.

A lot of times people complicate things to sound more professional; I really think that comes from insecurity. User experience be it a yoga class, broadcast or financial therapy – is key.

Don’t be insecure – no one else is you. No matter what they say, no matter how many people try to knock you, hate you, create rumors. Keep life simple for others and yourself.

2008: Financial Awareness
Lesson: The financial crisis emphasized the need for financial literacy, influencing my journey into financial therapy.

While I was self-employed and successful before this, I did have financial struggles from time to time. I jumped into buying real estate without having enough money for day to day living expenses and I also noticed many people struggled with finances in ways that seemed jarring to me. This was a pivotal year for me in terms of financial awareness.

Don’t spend on dumb things and most things are dumb things.

2009: Personal Branding
Lesson:The rise of influencers on social media taught me the importance of personal branding in all my career facets.

In transparency, it wasn’t until the rise of social media that this was as important. You were often your own brand in many ways; suddenly there’s millions of people just like you, talking to the same people you are. You had to learn to differentiate.

In 2006, The Devil Wears Prada, came out. Miranda the editor says sarcastically, something like “Oh, florals for spring, how groundbreaking”… well, that sums up personal branding.

Be groundbreaking.

2010: Community Building
Lesson: The success of “Instagram” highlighted the power of community, which I fostered through work. I enjoy the people I meet* there and the visuals it provides. I like the sense of community on my and, other pages.

Hey, let’s connect!

https://www.instagram.com/thefinancetherapistllc/

2011: Mindfulness
Lesson: The mindfulness movement inspired by neuroplasticity. Excerpt from Science Daily, “demonstrating the impact life experiences can have on genes and behavior. The studies examine how such environmental information can be transmitted from one generation to the next — a phenomenon known as epigenetics. This new knowledge could ultimately improve understanding of brain plasticity, the cognitive benefits of motherhood, and how a parent’s exposure to drugs, alcohol, and stress can alter brain development and behavior in their offspring.”

Healing yourself now, helps heal generations in the future.

2012: Leverage New Platforms
Lesson:”Gangnam Style” going viral reminded me of the potential of leveraging new platforms for my business. Things that are viral and fun are also ways to bring new ideas. Not everything has to be a drag. Healing doesn’t have to be a drag.

Learn something new EVERY WEEK.

2013: Continuous Learning
Lesson: The advent of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) emphasized the importance of continuous learning, which I embraced through my studies in psychotherapy – and everything I can get my hands on.

This was the year I began to rear Monarch Butterflies for release, which became a symbol for layers of my life, throughout the following decade.

Never stop learning.

2014: Integrate Wellness
Lesson:The Ice Bucket Challenge highlighted the importance of integrating wellness and charitable causes into my business model.

I observed that people want to heal, people want to help heal others and that integrating small gestures can create a big impact.

Focus on how you can help not how you can sell.

2015: Customer-Centric Approach
Lesson: Amazon’s rise underscored the importance of a customer-centric approach, which I implemented in my financial therapy practice.

Many times guru-therapists are all about themselves in a celebrity focus. I’ve worked with a couple of therapists as a publicist and some have egos that are unhealthy and toxic. They’ve lost sight of what matters. I’ve worked with other therapists, authors and professionals that are all about other people. I refuse to work with ego-centric people now because my work on my own and, with others has to be for the greater good – that begins with clients and customers.

Listen more than you speak.

2016: Resilience in Adversity
Lesson:The resilience shown by people during the contentious presidential election taught me the importance of resilience in the face of adversity.

This doesn’t mean to be a punching bag that keeps being pushed over and popping up to be hit again; this means to know your boundaries and goals and to get resilient.

Get strong. Then get stronger.

2017: Digital Transformation
Lesson: The impact of cryptocurrencies highlighted the importance of digital transformation, which I explored in my financial therapy and all phases of my work.

Be open.

2018: Mental Health Awareness Lesson:The growing conversation around mental health inspired me to further integrate mental health strategies into my business practices. Making my own story more transparent (like this list)

Be sane.

2019: Sustainability
Lesson: Greta Thunberg’s climate activism underscored the importance of sustainability, which I considered in my business operations.

Care.

2020: Adaptability
Lesson:The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the importance of adaptability, which I demonstrated by pivoting to online offerings 100% vs 30%.

Adaptability is important, but know how to be adaptable with structure and a focus on ROI.

2021: Virtual Connectivity
Lesson: The rise of remote work highlighted the importance of virtual connectivity, which I integrated into my business strategies.

Not everyone is your customer, client or network; some people are just ships passing or peripheral  and that’s OK. Don’t sell to family and friends; they are family and friends and if you do- you make the relationships transactional. No one wants to feel that way.

2022: Inclusivity
Lesson: The emphasis on diversity and inclusion in business practices inspired me to create more inclusive programs and services. I will be adding more staff that are autistic. This is a goal for 2024 (the year I’m writing this) and 2025.

You get to decide what is inclusive to you.

2023: Data-Driven Decisions
Lesson: The focus on big data taught me the value of data-driven decisions in optimizing my business strategies. While I am always reading up on financial news and globalization happenings, data is a biggie for me on a daily basis as well, M-F.

Get nerdy.

2024: Embrace Emotional Well-being
Lesson: The psychological impacts of self-employement life emphasize the importance of emotional well-being, which I continue to integrate into my financial therapy practice and wellness practices. Not just for myself but for others.

Prioritize yourself and your lifestyle- not your career. That’s only a small fraction of who you are and if it defines you, you are imbalanced.

***

These lessons, drawn from various years and milestones, only show a snapshot into my career twists and turns and lessons. They reflect a dynamic and evolving career that I am proud of, which I know seems like a taboo to say these days; but I am proud. As a 20 year old who had a lot going against her, in an age where “high functioning autism” (outdated term but you get the point) wasn’t even a phrase for a walking, talking and “managing life” person- I learned to adapt to changing times while remaining true to core values of resilience, innovation, and personal growth.

As I reflect on the past 37 years, I am aware that I may or may not have another 37 years of work ahead of me to make changes in the world; that would put me at 94 (which in my family is very possible! LOL) … but if I can squeak out another twenty or thirty years to make a positive impact on the world, then I’m here for it.

xoxoxo Thank you for taking the time to read this.

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