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Three Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned From Loss

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“You want to max out your humanity by using your energy to lift yourself up, your family and the people around you.” – Oprah Winfrey

In the fall of 2013, a close friend of mine passed away at a young age. She was like a sister to me and we would always share our hopes and dreams for the future with each other. She did not get an opportunity to achieve many of her personal, professional and entrepreneurial goals. She would always tell me that she was waiting for the perfect time to start her business, but the perfect time never came.

Life’s tragedies have a way of teaching us the most profound lessons. When my friend died, I struggled for months to make sense of it. What I learned is that sometimes it takes losing someone to make us go after our dreams in life and step into our destiny.

The experience also reaffirmed for me there is power in using your life to inspire and lift up others. I do not frequently talk about my entrepreneurial journey. But for this blog post, I wanted to share my story in the hopes that it will inspire and motivate others.

I started my law practice in 2009, during the height of the economic recession. At the time, there were limited job opportunities for attorneys. I felt that if no one would give me an opportunity, then I would create one for myself. I had zero capital to start my business. What I did have was a vision, drive and determination.

It was a struggle starting my business and I had to make a lot of sacrifices. Many of my earlier cases required me to work long hours. During this time, quite a few of my friends got married. I was unable to attend their weddings because I needed to work on client matters. I did not have any money and frequently had to trade legal services to get things like website design and coding. My challenges and successes as an entrepreneur taught me three important lessons:


“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

Failure is a necessary step to achieving our dreams. Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before he invented the light bulb. Oprah Winfrey struggled and experienced low ratings when she initially launched OWN. Failure forces you to re-evaluate your business strategy and to make adjustments so that you can succeed.


“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” – Napoleon Hill

The entrepreneurial life is not for the faint of heart. There will be numerous obstacles you will need to overcome as you build and establish your business. Being an entrepreneur pushes you beyond your limits and there will be times when you want to quit. It’s in the difficult times that you have to continue to fight. As P. Diddy…I mean, Puff Daddy, says, “I won’t stop now, cause I can’t stop now.” Tenacity is what is going to enable you to keep striving when it seems like your breakthrough is not going to come and the walls are closing in on you.


“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” – Joel A. Barker

Not everyone is going to understand or support your vision. As you embark upon your entrepreneurial journey a lot of people will advise you to give up. When I first started my business, my parents implored me to get a “stable” job. They could not understand why I would opt for a life filled with uncertainty. What helped me stay the course was my unwavering belief in my vision. Vision is going to be what motivates you to work countless hours and to push through during challenging times. There is something extremely gratifying about seeing your vision become a reality.

About Johnetta Paye

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Before opening J. Paye & Associates, Johnetta Paye worked in the Senate office of former Illinois Senator Barack Obama. She also worked in the corporate legal department at Tribune Company. Through her work experience at CNN, she deepened her knowledge of the news and entertainment industries. Johnetta is committed to giving back to the community. She gives motivational speeches to urban youth and has been actively involved in community outreach efforts to raise awareness about foster care. Follow Johnetta and view her member profile at The BOSS Network.

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