By the time she was 17, Tana Greene had dropped out of high school and become a mom. She was married, abused, and divorced. The future probably didn’t look very bright.

Recently in Charlotte, North Carolina, Tana Greene told her life story to ten of us who are deliberately making huge life transitions.  That day, 6000 people worked at her temporary employment firm. She has won nearly a dozen awards as a woman entrepreneur including the American Express Top 50 Fastest Growing Companies.

She told us about her parents. When Tana got pregnant at 15, she was sure her mother wouldn’t love her anymore. But her mother said she was glad that she is going to be alive when her first grandchild was born. Her parents gave her unconditional love.

She was 17 when a counselor told her she must choose between being a victim and being a survivor. Being a victim would be easy at the beginning but would lead to a horrible life. Alternately, being a survivor would entail an extremely difficult path but might lead to a life worth imitating

The counselor said victims are satisfied with excuses while survivors have goals. Tana chose goals. She would graduate from high school. She would own a home by the time she was 23. She would find and marry a worthy man by 26 and own a business by 30.

She had the guts to fail. If you don’t try, you have no opportunity to learn or succeed. At 14 she fit in with the other nice girls in the community. At 17, as a divorced dropout with an infant son, many people saw her as a bad example. She achieved her first goal when she completed high school in two years.

Her first job paid $4 an hour. Even in back-in-the-day dollars it wasn’t much. Plus, people in entry level jobs like hers are the first ones laid off when adversity hits.  Her employment situation looked shaky.

An older woman recognized Tana’s leadership potential. She offered Tana a straight commission opportunity recruiting for the very trade school she attended to gain a secretarial certificate.  Straight commission was a monstrous risk.

Tana knows there is no achievement without risk. She understands adversity causes some people to break down, and other people to break records. Tana believes fire tests and proves gold and adversity tests people. In this case, the risk paid off.

Within a year Tana was making more than three times what her first job paid. The trade school’s enrollment doubled because of her efforts. Even before 20 she aspired to make a difference, not merely a living. Tana knows that the chances you take define your life.

When she was 22, she had the opportunity to buy a townhome. Her dad taught her to “mean it, say it, do it!” She trusted her gut and checked the second big goal off her list. Shortly thereafter she met and then married her “Knight in Shining Armor.” Mike Greene treated her with the courtesy and respect she deserved. So, she was married according to her timeframe. Third goal complete.

Tana and Mike started a business and ran it together. Tana was 29. Fourth goal done.

Tana is determined to achieve great results. She still sets goals and refuses to settle for a good excuse.

We all get sidetracked, make mistakes and or blunder. The book of Proverbs says the righteous person gets up seven times. That means the righteous person fell seven times. Tana Greene understands that without purpose life can be spent but life can’t be invested without purpose.

Many of us discover our life passion by reflecting on our pain. Most of us learn our deepest lessons from our worst mistakes. Nietzsche believed that what didn’t kill us, makes us stronger. How have you become a better person because of past pain?


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.

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