Behaviorist Linda F. Williams suffered decades of abuse that blinded her from being able to see the very patterns that were trapping her in a toxic relationship and resulting in her own low self esteem. She spent seven years writing her book, Whose Apple is it, Anyway!, and came out on the other side a changed woman. Today the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based coach is helping women transform their personal lives with, Whose Apple Dynamic Coaching and Consulting Services, so they can take charge of their professional ones.

Williams’ story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:

As a survivor of rape, domestic violence, homelessness, and a 17-year marriage to a man later convicted as a rapist, I was a walking hot-mess. The effect of this on my life, relationships, and career eluded me as I fell victim to an unrelenting vortex of abuse, victimization, and career frustration. As a behaviorist, I even failed to see myself in the pages of the psychological textbooks I studied. During seven years of writing Whose Apple is it, Anyway! I leaned into and owned the pain and decided to take revenge on my past by empowering others to do the same. I went from pain to POWER by taking others from inspiration to motivation to transformation in their lives, relationships, and careers. I show others how to conquer the destiny-diverting mindsets that keep them stuck on the wrong side of destiny’s door. I know, from experience, the courage it takes to face down the past; and I am living proof that a lifetime of change is empowered by a single act of courage.

I measure success by changed lives. I have learned that many lives can be affected by a single life changed. That potential for exponential change is immeasurable. The flip side of that philosophy is that I must hold myself to the standards to which I hold my clients. It is a challenge that holds me accountable. It is a process. It is not easy – but it is worth it.

Our life experiences inform the perspectives that inform our decisions. That’s the covert phenomenon that sidetracks our lives. All the pain and trauma that I endured changed me. It took decades to find the truth of who I am. Every life, career, and relationship decision was driven by feelings of misunderstanding, rejection, and negative self-perceptions. Moreover, I had taken on a false tough-girl persona and turned my back on the little girl I left behind. I thought she was the problem. She was not. I was the problem.

Until I accepted that I had a problem I could not acknowledge that I was the problem. I fought my way back to embrace that little girl and bring her along. I kind of like her. I call her Little Linda. A powerful epiphany resulted from that journey. I often share that truth with audiences and clients. Here it is: Your greatest power is realized in the truth of who you are. Know that truth.

While I measure success by changed lives, I find it difficult to take credit for the work it takes for a client to achieve that transformation. This has been a marketing challenge because the degree of client success is wholly dependent up their degree of determination and focus. I have had many clients who enjoy massive success in their lives. There is the woman who endured neglect and rejection in childhood. They said she would never amount to anything. She obtained her Bachelors degree and wondered if she should apply to her university of choice for graduate school. It was an honor to mentor her through this process. Not only was she accepted, but she graduated with honors and was chosen by her cohort to deliver the graduation speech. I have goosebumps talking about it. She is currently a Masters-level social worker at a prominent hospital and preparing to take her state boards.

The minute I published that book, I was hit with emails offering “marketing” opportunities. Being a neophyte independent author, I fell for it. Unfortuantely the result was no return on investment and wasted resources that I did not have to spare in the first place. Commensurate with the book release, I was starting the business while working a full time job with the federal government. Oh, I was also working on my doctorate.

Because I was cautious about marketing, I turned down marketing offers before even investing. This has been challenging because, in start-up mode, I was funding business expenses with my personal salary. Without a marketing background, it has been a process of trial and error as I honed my marketing message and process that coincides with my values. I am still on this journey. But, to upscale my services I need to focus on partnerships and outsourcing. Now that I have retired and will soon have my doctorate, I can focus on this aspect of the business.

I am developing an online workshop to bring our services to the masses at a lower price-point. I am researching developers to create an app that brings encouragement, progress tracking, and accountability to clients. The challenge is resources and ensuring that the end result is user-friendly and engaging enough that clients find it fun to use. There are also privacy issues to consider. Additionally, I have met a woman with the same calling as mine and we share the same vision and values. She and I will be talking about partnering in our endeavors.

One of my role models is, Maya Angelou. Her strength and the manner in which she faced circumstances that could have destroyed her is an ongoing source of inspiration when I am in the emotional trenches. The regalness of Angelou’s presence, the cadence of her speech, and the way her written and spoken words emerged from the depths of pain are inimitable. I aspire to the dignity that epitomized her life. On a professional level, there are many who I consider as role models. But, they are all built on a foundation of the Think and Grow Rich principles espoused by Napoleon Hill.