Hello, I’m back! How are you?
It’s hard to believe it’s been 18 months since you last heard from me – where did all that time go?
I’m alive and well…very well in fact.
But I recently came through one of the toughest parts of my entrepreneurial journey. Very few people know that while I’ve been building my business I spent four years fighting a legal battle.
I’m sharing my story because I believe we learn more from our mistakes than our successes.
Many entrepreneurs tell you about their triumphs, the great lifestyle, the beautiful home, the designer clothes, the exotic holidays and so on that it brings. They rarely talk about the struggle they had to go through to get there.
While it’s important to celebrate good times, there isn’t much other people can learn from them, especially if they’re just starting out.
That’s why I like to discuss my challenges because if you can avoid making the mistakes I did, it was all worth it. I want to inspire you to make a change, get passionate, quit that draining job and ultimately start an online business that serves you and your clients.
Before I get into what happened and what it taught me, here’s some background…
Back in 2011 the UK was gripped by the worst recession in history.
I was recovering from a failed business that had left me with a stack of debts. To keep the wolves from the door I took on a day job as a business consultant while I developed my online plans. Things were going well but as the recession took hold, many companies started laying off staff.
Then the unthinkable happened.
My work, which had always been in plentiful supply, suddenly dried up. Within months my savings had dwindled and I was struggling to pay my mortgage and other bills. My online business was growing but not enough to support me.
Months went by, the money got tighter and the vultures started circling. When I weighed everything up, it seemed that the best thing to do was sell my home.
That’s when I was thrown a lifeline…or so I thought.
The conman called Tom
In the summer of 2011 I met someone whom I’ll call “Tom”.
Tom was a property developer specialising in lease options, a little known way of buying and selling property in the UK. Tom told me that he could help me sell my home for a great price, despite the economy. He’d cover the repairs, find me a buyer and get me a deposit upfront. In return, all he wanted was a share of the sale price.
It sounded too good to be true. And with hindsight, it was.
I realise now that I should have done some due diligence on Tom and his scheme. But things were tough and I was looking for a quick fix.
This was my first lesson; never act out of fear or desperation.
Although I had a lawyer look over our agreement, I was in a very emotional place. This clouded my judgment. I didn’t ask the right questions like, ‘what are the risks,’ ‘what if you don’t find a buyer?’ or ‘what if things go wrong?’
Instead, I thought Tom was the answer to my prayers.
The nightmare begins
I won’t bore you with all the details but as soon as I signed on the dotted line I felt as though I’d walked onto the set of the film, Pacific Heights.
Nothing went to plan; Tom disappeared for long periods, the repairs took months, the costs escalated, no buyer ever materialised and when I tried to pull out of the deal Tom burgled my home.
It was a surreal time involving blackmail, delays and endless mediation meetings as my lawyer tried to thrash out a compromise with Tom. I didn’t realise when I signed up to Tom’s scheme that our agreement was not a standard contract. It was a Declaration of Trust, which pretty much tied me in for life – even if Tom never delivered his side of the bargain!
Months went by and Tom blew hot and cold. One minute we had a deal and our lawyers got ready to sign. The next minute he’d call it off.
It was clear that our dispute wasn’t going to be settled quickly. In fact, the whole process dragged on for YEARS, during which time I had to deal with the police, lawyers, witnesses, lettings agents, tenants and eventually the courts.
Because Tom knew my financial position and that I was paying for my lawyer’s time, he wanted to make the process as painful as possible. He thought the delays would force me to sell my home so he could get the lion’s share of the sale price.
He was wrong…
Even though my circumstances weren’t ideal, I saw through his tactics. And while all the madness was going on, I quietly built my business.
I learned everything I could about online marketing and tested and tweaked my campaigns. Soon, I attracted my first clients. As I got them results, the referrals started rolling in.
Before I knew it, I was in business and thriving!
The beginning of the end
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
~ Winston Churchill
When Tom revealed his true colours, I realised I’d just met my first sociopath. This taught me that it’s ok to trust people but you mustn’t be naive. Keep your wits about you because there are unscrupulous people who can and will take advantage.
I had to find a new way of dealing with his mind games because the situation was stressing me out. On top of that I was also working long hours on my business.
The answer came in the form of meditation.
If you want just one takeaway from my experience it’s learn to meditate. I honestly believe meditating saved me and I’ve kept it up ever since. Although I now regularly do 20-30 minute sessions every day, in the beginning all I could manage was 5 minutes.
So don’t worry if you find it difficult to sit quietly.
Even a few minutes first thing in the morning will help.
I’ve written about the benefits of meditation before. On a personal level, meditating helped calm my mind, strengthen my resilience and improve my creativity. More importantly, it enabled me to make better decisions.
We all possess an inner wisdom that gently guides us towards our highest good. However, the stresses and strains of modern living tend to drown out this quiet voice within. Meditation helps you slow down, create mental space and reconnect to this innate intelligence.
Dealing with the legal system
Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
~ A.A. Milne
By now it was 2014 and Tom continued to press for a settlement. He constantly emailed, texted and left voicemails threatening legal action.
Although it’s usually cheaper to settle out of court, it had become a matter of ethics. I ignored Tom’s emails and blocked him on my phone. The lesson here is not to let toxic people occupy space in your mind.
If you’re going through a tough time at home or work, protect yourself from negative people and stay focused. You don’t have to respond or explain yourself to anyone.
So, I continued building my business and serving my clients. This kept my head clear for what lay ahead.
The legal system in the UK moves really slowly and lawyers are expensive, often charging upwards of £300 ($400) per hour. Although my lawyer was confident we had a strong case, it was new territory for me. I was also nervous about racking up thousands in fees.
That’s why when the letter arrived informing me of the court date in December, I made a bold proposal to my lawyer. I offered to do the preparation for my case in return for a fixed fee.
If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!
~ Richard Branson
Now, I have no legal experience whatsoever. Evidence gathering is normally the job of a highly skilled paralegal. Even though the lawyer oversees everything and represents you in court, it’s a huge undertaking for the likes of you and me.
But I wasn’t the same person anymore. Through my dealings with Tom, I’d grown in stature.
I understood that he wasn’t going away unless I took control. Yes, I’d made a huge mistake letting him into my life but it was all my own doing. And instead of making excuses I took responsibility.
Taking total responsibility for your life is a very empowering act. You gain courage, your self-belief soars and your determination to find a solution is unshakeable.
This is a key lesson if you are facing a challenge.
Take back your power.
Don’t beat yourself up or blame others, shoulder the responsibility. Believe that you have what it takes to overcome any difficulty and create the life you desire – because in reality you do.
Going back to my story, I must have been convincing because my lawyer said yes! In fact, our new arrangement turned out to be a fantastic win-win.
Not only did it save time and slash my legal bill by tens of thousands but I also learned a whole new skillset – negotiating, researching, scanning, evaluating and recording information quickly and accurately.
What’s more, studying the case in such depth sharpened my mind and put me in a very strong position when I eventually got to court.
Get good legal advice
It was in court that I appreciated how important it is to get good legal counsel.
My lawyer was old school; an affable, elderly gentleman who had an unassuming manner, rather like Lieutenant Columbo. And like the TV detective, underneath the bumbling demeanour there was a razor sharp mind and a keen knowledge of human nature.
Tom, on the other hand, chose to represent himself. He was cocky and believed that the case was won before we even started.
This turned out to be a big mistake.
Through clever questioning my lawyer was able to highlight the facts. He exposed Tom’s dishonest character, that we’d reached a compromise years earlier and that he’d got all his money back. Together with the strong body of evidence and our witness statements, Tom didn’t really stand a chance.
Still, he fought back and the case rumbled on into 2015 with a second court date.
It was at this point that I decided to take a break from blogging. I reduced my workload to just a handful of private coaching clients so I could get this case over the line. It actually took another two court dates, followed by several months of appeals by Tom before the judge came to his final decision.
I couldn’t believe it – I’d won!
In the end, Tom’s undoing was the compromise agreement – the one we’d worked on for months and which he wouldn’t sign. He thought that by not signing it, he still had rights under the first agreement but the judge disagreed.
And as suddenly as it began, the nightmare was over.
I was free.
Tom disappeared from my life and I was finally able to move on. It had been a long hard battle but I had come through it.
More important than what happened, why it did, or even the positive outcome are the lessons that came out of it.
This is the real reason I’m sharing my story.
Because when it was over, it was time to take stock. I reconnected with friends and family, took a well-earned break and began reflecting on who I’d become and how I wanted to go forward in my life.
I’ve mentioned some of the learnings already but here are a few more.
Everything happens for a reason
The path to success is littered with challenges so don’t try to avoid them because they’re a part of life. Your struggles are not meant to break you; they’re designed to make you.
You are exactly at the right place at the right time to learn what you need to learn. So always look for the lesson in the mess.
This too shall end
Everything has a deadline and nothing lasts forever – good things as well as bad. Despite his best efforts Tom couldn’t prolong the situation once it got to court. The judge had to make a decision and it was simply a question of when, not if.
This is a reminder, not only during difficulties but for life in general. Everything will end one day, so make sure you don’t have any regrets. Don’t waste a single moment; find your passion and start doing what you truly love.
Whether you’re fighting a legal battle or not, make sure you have money coming in. Money gives you choices and stops you making poor decisions. If you want to quit your job, find another one first – even if it’s part-time – so you can pay your bills. Ask people you know about potential openings and network like crazy. Do whatever it takes to bring in income.
This not only keeps you in the game but it also gives you options when it comes to building an online business.
You are not a victim
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. No matter how bad your situation, don’t give up and never underestimate yourself. You are capable of far more than you know as I proved. Keep going, ignore the negatives and keep on improving yourself.
Push yourself beyond what’s comfortable and learn more than you have to.
Love yourself more
After months of neglect, it was time to pour some love back into myself and reconnect with the things I loved. I began Project Me, a plan of daily self-care that included eating healthy, delicious food, regular exercise, yoga and meditation, long walks in nature and quality time with family and friends. I also removed negative people from my life and trained in mindfulness.
Meanwhile, don’t view any obstacles that come your way (including legal matters) as a negative thing. Instead, see them as a learning experience. They’re just bumps in the road and an inevitable part of your journey. Deal with them the best you can and move on. You are stronger than anything life throws at you and destined for far better things.
What roadblocks have you run into? How did you overcome your biggest challenges? Please comment and share below.
P.S. Don’t know what you could be doing in your life? Want to have more passion and meaning? I’ve put together something very special for my readers so look out for my email about that in the next few days.