There are many types of bankruptcy:

  • There is moral bankruptcy when a person trades their values for a price
  • There is emotional bankruptcy where there is a deficit of feelings in a relationship with others or self
  • There is spiritual bankruptcy where someone craves meaning, fulfilment and purpose in their life ,or their business, and
  • Then there is financial bankruptcy which is when someone is financially unable to repay a debt, and therefore pays the price, of having no money.

If you had to experience one of the above points, which would you choose?

I would much rather have no money than no soul.

I would rather have no money than no feelings.

And I would rather have no money than no purpose in my life.

And then sometimes you had better be careful what you wish for as you might just get it!

It is ten years to the day since my husband and my life changed dramatically!

And we refused to let the stigma of bankruptcy define who we were and what we could achieve.

We were not broken. We were simply broke.

Was it hard? You bet.

Having to walk away from your family’s dream home, your sheep, your chickens, your gum tree’d acreage, your investment property and prestigious cars to find yourself in rental accomodation in a country town with the only cash you could squirrel from a failing business was in a black evening bag under your mattress. Talk about words by association, our savings account today is even called ‘the black bag’.

But I digress, why would I even consider that bankruptcy was a blessing?

Because it opened up so many possibilities. And geez, we were sitting ducks for opportunities to come knocking and knock they did, but in ways we would never have dreamed possible, pre-bankruptcy.

‘When change comes knocking, sometimes we’ve gotta open the door and invite it in, sit it down and listen to what it has to say’

The Australian Financial Review wrote a piece on us and as a result of that over the past few years we have had people reach out to us – not just for information, but for hope.

Their shame. Their guilt. Their fear. It is all there.

So, I say to anyone who is struggling with these emotions. Please don’t.

YOU are not a failure.

  • Your finances may have been stuffed up!
  • Your business may not have been making enough sales!
  • Your staff may not have done the right thing!
  • Your family may have abandoned you!

The list goes on….

But YOU are not a failure.

You have the ability to find somewhere to live and something to do to bring the money in and the internal resources to look to the future, create your new world and make a difference to the lives of those around you.

If you are fortunate enough to do something you love at half the pay, then do it.

And I say that, not so that you live on the poverty line forever, but to know whatever you do and wherever you start from, will lead to something else, that leads to something else, that leads to something else – if you allow it.

If you are not afraid to iterate.

If you are not scared to zig when others zag.

If you are OK with living life in your lane.

It’s the way life is. It’s your storyline. You could say it is ‘Maktub’ (or Arabic for ‘it is written’) and my most favourite mantra that still steers my ship today!

  • Yes, we may only have been allowed to legally own a car under $6,700 in value – my prestigious pride and joy was replaced with a little $2000 second hand number that still got me from A to B. Besides, fuel still cost the same for both!
  • Yes, we may only have been able to legally earn $41,823.60 (let’s not forget the 60 cents!) before having to lose 50% in tax, but we could still earn!
  • Yes, our super may have been affected, but we do live in the lucky country!
  • Yes, we may have needed written permission to leave the country, but we have never travelled so much, nor had so many off the beaten track experiences, since that first permission slip was granted!
  • And yes, we may have had to wait five to seven years to build our dream home and apply for any form of credit, but living a ‘cash is king’ lifestyle definitely frees you from the 3am sweats and lets you have more fun!

Best of all, we were debt free and what a great position to begin again – at 50 years of age!

With stress levels in our world today being at unprecedented highs, with suicides going through the roof, with businesses failing and with us all having to do more with less, we sometimes need a reminder to be present to what, and who, is important.

This decade long milestone for us this week, coincides with RUOK Day here in Australia. A time to check in with those around us and be reminded that everyday should be RUOK Day.

  • So what? Your life changes direction. That is not such a bad thing is it?
  • So what? You reprioritise friends and family. That’s not a bad thing, either, is it?
  • So what? You maintain your identity as you, even though you might lose the status to the position you once held. That’s also really not a bad thing at the end of the day, is it?

Sometimes we get so caught up in what we think is important, that life knows better. It will tap us, interrupt us and disrupt us and remind us of what it is really all about. What people are about. What simplicity can offer us. What we are capable of doing when the chips are down and how resourceful we, as a human species, really are.

I’ve written this article for those people who are going through a similar experience. Who perhaps have a black bag under their mattress.

Who perhaps still see their identity as their role, their status and as their material possessions and could never imagine a life without those things.

Who perhaps have to make a big decision moving forward that frightens the bejesus out of them.

Let me leave you with this thought our son would constantly remind us of:

Everything will work out in the end, and if it doesn’t, then it’s not the end.

Maktub! and RUOK?

Be Bold, Brave and Brilliant

Bernadette McClelland is CEO of 3 Red Folders – a modern day saleswoman and keynote speaker on business growth, personal leadership and sales performance.

BIO: Business environments wanting to increase their revenue and profits, and differentiate themselves in a competitive market, ask for Bernadette McClelland because of her thought leadership on sales performance, her ideas on thinking beyond resilience and her fresh perspectives surrounding personal leadership skills — all designed to master the outcomes that matter.

Bernadette has proudly coached Harvard MBA students on their sales enablement curriculum, been the Master Asia Pacific coach for Anthony Robbins across twelve countries, authored five books on leadership and sales transformation, won a coveted Telstra award for Business Excellence, and continually shares her ideas around behaviour, the brain and business growth on stages in the UK, Europe, Thailand, India, NZ, Australia and North America.

Believing that sales performance is a leadership issue, you will also find her heading Melbourne’s human potential based sales performance consultancy, 3 Red Folders, as she navigates lead generation, message to market and digs deep into sales process activities with her clients in the mid-tier sector as well as founding ‘Women Who Sell’, an initiative designed to bring more women up to speed in their sales success.

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