The life of an entrepreneur is filled with ups and downs. When I was an employee of a large organization, I dreamed of being an entrepreneur. If I was my own boss, I could determine my working hours; I would be in charge! I hadn’t a clue how much effort it would take to build my business from the ground up. Nor did I know how many dream crushers were there to “put me back in my safety zone” of being an employee. Soon I realized they were speaking their fears, not mine. Furthermore, their perspectives did not have to be mine. So, I held on, secure in my belief of my mission, and took the journey to success step by step.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life, “we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Legh.
Angela Legh is an empathic person who experienced much adversity. She learned to turn the challenges she experienced into a springboard that launched her toward her life mission. Angela now teaches emotional resilience to children through her fairytales, The Bella Santini Chronicles. Angela’s work is available through her website: Https://angelalegh.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco in the mid-’60s. As you can imagine, it was a colorful neighborhood in which to grow up! Golden Gate Park was across the street. The Park was filled with music; it was the summer of Love era — I may have even heard Jimmy Hendrix or Santana playing! I lived there until 1970 when our house was destroyed by fire. My parents sent us kids to foster care for a few months while they searched for housing.
My parents weren’t hippies; they were part of the working class. My mom had to work to support the family. Often, we kids were left home alone, or, worse, home with Dad. All my good memories involve my mom; she was very loving and compassionate. All my bad memories involve my dad; he was a raging alcoholic who spewed anger and hatred. You don’t need to be burdened with details; it is sufficient for you to know he was a monster when he was drunk, and the words and actions he took created a framework through which I lived most of my life.
As a child, I learned to repress anger. My dad was an angry man; I was determined not to be like him. Instead, I became toxically positive, always in denial of my dark shadows. I carried this emotional deficit into my adulthood. In my marriage, I was in denial of my anger. One of the side effects of my denial was to judge anyone who became angry. I married a man who was the progeny of angry parents; he grew up with anger and discord. Anger became his automatic response to the frustrations of life. It was a toxic relationship; I was in judgment and denial of anger, and he used anger for everyday expression. In response to his overwhelming anger, I gave up my voice, repressed my emotions, and allowed his anger to influence my life choices.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is something I recently said, “Feeling our painful feelings won’t kill us, but the mechanisms we choose to escape our painful feelings can.”
This quote is relevant when I think of my father. This sensitive man escaped his painful feelings by drowning them in alcohol. His father and mother had filled him with bitter feelings — he was told he was a loser, that he would never be enough. He could never let go of those feelings; he inadvertently carried the emotions with him through his resistance to them. This burden of pain he clung to by trying to escape was overwhelming. My father became an alcoholic. His behavior while drunk brought tremendous pain to himself and those around him. He eventually died from his choice of escape mechanisms. I often think that as painful as it can be to face our shadows, the pain is infinitely less than the pain of the escape mechanism we self-impose.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
My top three qualities include resilience, determination, and love. Through the challenges in my life, I learned to be resilient and tenacious. From my mom, I learned how to be loving.
When I think about resilience, I reflect on the time I almost drowned in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Portugal. I was on a six-week European vacation. This happened at the beginning of the vacation. It was a scorchingly hot day in Portugal; when two new friends suggested swimming out to a cave, I agreed. Always up for an adventure! We intrepidly walked around the caution signs and slipped into the water. I was not an experienced ocean swimmer; I was tiring quickly. We eventually made it to the cave. It was on my return journey I ran into serious trouble. For every stroke forward, I was pushed back by the waves the same distance I had just covered. I was tiring quickly. Just as I rounded a bend, a wave washed over me; I floundered. I thought, “This is how people drown!” I didn’t know what to do; I thought I was going to die.
Just then, my friend called out to me, “Angie, when the waves pull you back, float; swim like hell when they push you in!” Following her instructions, I quickly swam to the shallow part, rested, then set back out and around to where the ladder was. Initially, I associated this event with the power of surrender. I understood it made no sense to expend energy in resistance to the direction of the waves. However, this is also a good story for resilience, because I didn’t collapse after reaching the shallows. Instead, I bravely went back out to swim to the ladder. I had to be resilient enough to perk myself up and move forward while struggling to stay afloat. Resilience means moving forward, despite the adversity you face.
I’m intrigued that my determination is a strength as well as a weakness. My determination to succeed in a dysfunctional marriage kept me in a toxic relationship far longer than was good for my former husband or me. My determination to succeed as an author had me on the couch crying last December because book sales were not increasing. I felt I wasn’t reaching enough kids. I worked, and I worked to grow my audience; I was determined to help as many children find emotional resilience. The exciting thing is that I am learning to get out of my own way, to quit pushing for recognition. I learned to trust in the process, knowing doors will open because I have pure motives and a sincere desire to bless humanity. I learned that intent and determination are essential in building a business . . . but don’t let your determination overshadow your intent.
The last word to describe me, love, speaks to my mission in this world. I believe everyone has magic within them — the magic of love. When we look at each other through the eyes of love, we can look past the inadequacies we formerly saw in each other. We must let go of labels; we must be able to see the heart of humanity in each other.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
I had a responsible job in local government; I was an administrator in charge of employee safety for the Department of Human Services. I threw myself into the job with the goal of our department being an example of a strong employee safety program for the whole county. I was a certified ergonomic assessment specialist; I made it a point to give the employees the equipment they needed to be comfortable in their work. I believe in egalitarianism, which means every person is of equal value. Unfortunately, this model is not a great fit for a governmental hierarchy. My belief in everyone being equal was a bit of a blow to leadership, where hierarchy is the reigning model. Nevertheless, I was determined to do a great job guiding our employees to do their work safely.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
About four years ago, I lost everything in a Northern California wildfire that destroyed our home and everything we owned. The Tubbs wildfire was the start of it all, the night that changed the trajectory of my life. We went from homeowners with a lovely house to homeless with nothing in a blink of an eye. My former husband and I had our world turned upside down; it would take years to dig out of the hole the fire created in our lives.
The fire was a wake-up call for me. If things could be taken away that quickly, what was I doing to make a difference in my life? After much soul searching, I left my 32-year toxic marriage and moved out on my own. First time in my life, I lived by myself. Six months later, I quit my job and moved to England.
As a newly minted retiree, I had a vague idea about writing. Maybe I would write a book on workplace ergonomics? I had a lot of experience fixing peoples’ pain by rearranging their workspace. I had a strong urge to help people somehow, but ergonomics did not strike me as making enough impact on the world.
Before deciding what to write, I was invited to contribute to an anthology of inspirational authors about overcoming adversity. This first foray into writing awoke a significant surge of creativity. I began writing fairytales for kids and wrote four books before the first one was released. I poured myself into the process; I made some mistakes. There were several times I felt like quitting; it was too hard. However, I kept going. If I don’t try to make the books a success, they will never be successful! William Johnsen said, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
The first trigger was the Tubbs wildfire; that crisis created a physical, spiritual, and emotional void in my life, and caused me to question my purpose and reality. When all the material things that kept me busy were gone, and the only thing left was my relationship with my now former husband, I was forced to reflect on what mattered in life. Material things had no importance; the only thing I regret losing in the fire are the marks in the doorway documenting our children’s growth. I realized that relationships are the only thing in life that truly matter. So why was I in a marriage where I was miserable, repressed, and walking on eggshells?
Trigger point two was the comment from my former husband, when, after a day with friends, where he treated me with great kindness, I asked him, “Why can’t you treat me like that every day?” He replied that he could only be that way for a few hours while in front of friends; he couldn’t be that way for me. His confession was the final straw — I was out of that dysfunctional, emotionally abusive, black hole of a relationship.
The third trigger caused me to choose a life as a writer over a secure government job. While working for the local government, I submitted a vacation request that would allow me to travel to Europe for six weeks. I wanted to attend a couple of events that would build my business skills. My request was denied. I weighed the value of the trip and the job and decided to retire; I needed to spread my wings and trust myself to find my success. I thought I could always go back to work if the writing thing didn’t work out. That was three years ago; I am still writing.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
My first break was when the inimitable JB Owens accepted my story of losing everything in a wildfire, followed by leaving a toxic marriage, into a compilation self-help book entitled Ignite Your Life for Women. I found this first foray into writing to be emotionally healing . . . my chapter focused on the power of forgiveness. Writing for Ignite Your Life for Women awoke in me a love of writing. I quickly became involved in several other anthologies. Other anthologies in which I am published include Choices, a book about alternative healing; Ignite Your Adventurous Spirit, also published through JB Owens; and Raising the Bar, about women bringing humanity into leadership. The Ignite series books, as well as Raising the Bar, were all international bestsellers on Amazon.
Writing these books opened me up to the power of the written word. Soon my creative side spoke to me, and I began writing a children’s novella, The Bella Santini Chronicles. The story grew and grew, and at some point, I knew I had to publish it. Unfortunately, it was at this point where I ran into barriers. I was rejected time and again by literary agents and publishers. I spent many thousands of dollars on illustrations, editing, typesetting, and publishing for each book. Then I was told I would have to pay 10,000 dollars per book for marketing if I wanted to sell the books. I looked at my bank account, which had significantly fewer zeros in it; I didn’t know how I was going to make it. However, I kept going. Every day I reached out to podcasters, media outlets, anyone who saw value in my messages. Every day, book sales grow stronger. I know my stories are making a positive impact on the world.
If I got paid a dollar for every time someone said, “No one makes money on selling books,” boy, would I be rich! My standard answer was, “Tell that to JK Rowlings.” Is it audacious for me to believe my stories could have that kind of popularity? Yes, it is. But I believe in my stories; I believe in the messages they deliver.
Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, believes so strongly in my messages, he was kind enough to offer an endorsement; “When readers follow Bella Santini on her adventures, they learn that love is the answer, no matter what the question!”
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
My first children’s book was initially published in October 2020. In the beginning, I felt like a voice crying in the wind; no one was hearing me. Nevertheless, I believed in my message; I believed in the ability of my books to create positive change in the lives of the readers. I was determined. I had four books written, which meant I had to pay for illustrations, editing, proofreading, and typesetting, all before paying the publisher.
For the first six months, I only sold books to friends and family. In the second half of the year, I see sales growing. Sales will continue to grow with the endorsements I received from thought leaders such as Jack Canfield and Dan Clark. Dan Clark is a member of the National Advisory Board for Operation Kids and the author of The Art of Significance.
I am expanding what I offer; I now have Bella’s Wisdom cards, which help people choose love in every action. In addition, I have opened a discussion with a game creator. Best of all, the second book in the series will be published soon.
I am in an exciting space . . . on the cusp of success, not yet there. I would love to sit down with JK Rowling to talk about how she felt in the first year of publishing Harry Potter before she was a big success. What were her hopes and dreams? What were her fears? Neil Gaiman felt when he wrote his first book, a biography of the band Duran Duran. Did he see himself as a success, or did he worry about his ability to attract readers?
Equally, I would love to encourage a new author who has a message for their readers but doubts their ability to gain traction for their message.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The person I am most grateful for is my fiancé, Dr. Richard Kaye. Over the eight months of our relationship, he steered my business from being an unknown to being interviewed by outstanding journalists! In addition, he is a chapter president of CEO Space, an organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurs thrive. The oversight, connections, and introductions he made have catapulted my business acumen to levels I didn’t know I could achieve. We are a great team; I create content while he provides the business structure.
A few months ago, Richard came up with the idea of reaching out to his network of entrepreneurs to seek endorsements for my children’s books. He sent out packages with a cover letter and a chapter from my book. To date, we have received eight endorsements from high-level entrepreneurs and thought leaders. Without Richard, I could have tried for years before I received endorsements like those.
I used to envision finding a life partner who could help me with my business and help me improve the quality of my life. I now have a life partner, a business partner, an editor, a typesetter, a video editor, and more with Richard! He is a man capable of many things; I feel so blessed to partner with him.
Our love for one another is a gift to both of us.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Life can bring unexpected changes; sometimes, synchronicities blow your mind and change your life! Last winter, I was moving from England back to the United States. I flew from London to Denver to visit with friends before moving to sunny Phoenix, Arizona. My friends and I decided to have a lovely breakfast on the day I was to fly to Phoenix. The restaurant was packed and service a bit slow, and, to tell the truth, we talked a lot. Noticing the time, we raced to the airport. I had that sinking feeling — I missed my flight. There was no one in line when I walked up to the check-in desk. That was odd. When I asked about the next flight to Phoenix, the agent advised me the computers were down; I would not be flying out of Denver that day.
I stepped back from the desk as my phone rang. It was Dr. Richard Kaye, who was a friend. I told him of my dilemma; I would have to stay at the airport hotel and hope I could fly out the next day. I was on a deadline; my son was flying to Phoenix for Thanksgiving. So I had to leave Denver as soon as possible. Richard, a brilliant man with a full calendar, cheerfully replied, “I’ll come to get you; you can fly out of Albuquerque.” Synchronicity, indeed.
I was surprised a friend I had only spoken with on the phone volunteered to help me out, even though it meant a considerable sacrifice of time and effort for him. I double-checked that he was OK with it; he affirmed. Five-and-a-half hours later — it’s a five-hour drive from Taos, New Mexico to Denver, Colorado — he arrived to pick me up. This was the first time we met in person; we kissed within a minute of meeting! The next day he drove me to the Albuquerque airport, a five-hour round trip! That was the start of a beautiful but unexpected relationship. We’re now engaged!
For those who wonder, I did get to Phoenix in time to meet my son and had a lovely Thanksgiving!
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Of course, I struggle with self-belief — I am human! It is said that mentors teach what they need to learn; the thing I needed most to learn was self-love. I stayed in a 32-year toxic marriage because I did not value myself enough to leave; I put his needs before mine. I stayed for eleven years in a job that didn’t fit me, but it paid the bills. I didn’t leave the marriage nor the job until a situation changed in each, which forced me to choose. If the fire didn’t turn my life upside down, I might not have left my marriage. If my boss had not denied my vacation request, I might not have quit that job to pursue my dream of becoming an author. It seems life can turn in a heartbeat; the things we see as limitations can become opportunities.
To this day, I am still working to build my self-love and self-trust. These two qualities are frequently the target of an abuser. Between the years of emotional abuse handed out by my dad and the decades of emotional abuse meted out by my former husband, I learned not to trust my instincts. I learned I wasn’t worthy of love. It has taken an enormous amount of introspection and work for me to be able to say, “I love me!”
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
About four years ago, when I left my marriage, I had a minimal support system comprised of my immediate family and friends. I did not build a comprehensive support system until a few months later, after leaving my government job. That was when I was accepted into my first compilation book. I joined the Ignite group of authors, a worldwide group of elite women coaches and mentors. I now had a fantastic group of friends and mentors who helped me get through the next two years of my life.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
Comfort zones are interesting; because we establish a comfort zone around what we know, frequently around what we experienced as a kid. We have certainty in our comfort zone. My former husband’s comfort zone was his anger; mine was in my sadness. As I sit here writing, I wonder why we chose to live in a painful comfort zone. Yes, it is what we knew; but we always had the option to choose a different way of being.
I would have stayed stuck in my comfort zone if I wasn’t forced to examine my life after the Tubbs wildfire in Northern California. My world was turned upside down; it never would be restored to what used to be “normal.” I was forced to accept this change in my life; I didn’t then know that I stepped right out of my comfort zone by accepting this change. The quality of your life is determined by the amount of uncertainty you can handle.
Once you take that first step into the unknown, the following steps become progressively easier. I left the marriage at the age of 54. I lived alone for the first time. I had to come to terms with being alone. It was tough, but I was determined. I had to be comfortable with being by myself, not having anyone to speak with, not having anyone with whom to share experiences.
When I quit my job and went to Europe, I traveled alone. I saw amazing sites, visited beautiful locations, and walked my way through cities all over Europe. I was becoming comfortable with what used to be uncomfortable.
If I had not been willing to accept the uncertainty in my life, I could have been stuck in my old life. The Tubbs wildfire forced me to accept uncertainty, a gift that continues to serve me today. I firmly believe the secret to success is to be comfortable with uncertainty and discomfort.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
5 Things I wish someone had told me before I reached for my dreams:
- The life of an entrepreneur is filled with ups and downs. When I was an employee of a large organization, I dreamed of being an entrepreneur. If I was my own boss, I could determine my working hours; I would be in charge! I hadn’t a clue how much effort it would take to build my business from the ground up. Nor did I know how many dream crushers were there to “put me back in my safety zone” of being an employee. Soon I realized they were speaking their fears, not mine. Furthermore, their perspectives did not have to be mine. So, I held on, secure in my belief of my mission, and took the journey to success step by step.
- To become a successful business leader, you must build a tribe of followers who know, like, and trust you. During the first few months of selling my books, I felt invisible; no one could see or hear me. It takes time to organically build a group of followers who are so enamored with what you offer, they love to tell others about you and what you do. I learned to give value and provide information in my social posts rather than promote my products. This is a powerful way to build trust. Show up to serve, to provide value. Trust will evolve.
- You don’t have to believe all the hype from people trying to sell you their idea of success. When I started, I believed those emails from people who discovered their “secret” of success and were willing to share. I invested in a few of their schemes to build a business around my books. Unfortunately, I spent money which created neither an audience nor awareness of my works. I’ve since learned to be discerning; I now look for tangible evidence before signing up for a business program. However, the biggest lesson in my journey toward success was to learn self-trust. I need to grow my audience authentically, not through some cookie-cutter template that someone else claims will bring success.
- When building your business, you may feel defeated and wonder if you will ever make it. But, have hope, be determined, keep going! There have been many great books about building a business, but one of the best ones for me was Napoleon Hill’s, Think and Grow Rich. The chapter titles say a lot — Desire, Faith, Imagination, Persistence — the list goes on. You conceive a plan to make the world a better place; you desire your plan to be successful. When you have faith in your plan and stay persistent, failure is just a source of information that allows you to learn what didn’t work and move forward. He wrote about the definiteness of purpose. Know your passion, mission, and desired outcome, and keep going, no matter what.
- Nobody ever impacted the world by staying in their comfort zone, playing small. When we tap into our greatness, we create ripples in this world. Was it risky for me to quit my well-paying job to pursue my dreams? Yes, but I believed in my mission. Is creating a significant change in the world worth me being uncomfortable? Yes, it is. The difference between those who achieve greatness and those who are unknown is equal to the amount of discomfort the individual can tolerate.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would inspire a movement in which all children learn they are magical; to value themselves and their unique gifts. Children would learn to feel all of their feelings, even the painful ones. They would learn to allow the energy of their emotions to flow. Children would know they are made of magic, and magic is love. I would inspire children to hold onto their childlike qualities because that is where magic lives.
I would encourage every adult to find that spark of magic in their heart. I would teach them to tap into their childlike magic; the art of playfulness; the wonder, the curiosity. Through these portals, we experience magic in our lives; we open ourselves to joy. We should strive to be childlike, not childish. To be childish is to be self-centered. To be childlike is to be open to playing at any time, seeing the world through the eyes of wonder, and bringing curiosity into situations where we might feel frustrated.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
There are several authors I would love to sit down with — of course, JK Rowling is high on my list because of the magic she poured into her books. Neil Gaiman is another; his books are both engaging and magical. My favorite author who writes for adults is Paulo Coelho; I would love to have an intense philosophical conversation with him over lunch!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can access my work at https://angelalegh.com. In addition, the books are all available on Amazon.com; readers only have to search my name, Angela Legh, to find them.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thank you so very much! I wish for you, your team, and the readers to live in wellness and prosperity.