I have a few mantras that I live by – guiding principles if you will – for when I feel like the going is getting tough or if I need a dose of optimism. “Go big or go home” is one of them. I don’t remember the first time I heard it, probably during my childhood if I had to guess, but it’s been a phrase that comes in handy in a lot of situations.

For me it means to rise up, focus and put in all I have to whatever I’m doing. It means there’s nothing I can’t accomplish. You see, I wasn’t always like this – optimistic, driven and unafraid of what was ahead in my journey. I was thinking about it the other day, when did I become this person? HOW did I become this person? The answer didn’t magically appear for me either, I had to do some digging until I could remember back far enough.

I can remember being in my 20’s and having ideas about what I wanted to accomplish in my life. Things like travel the world, be a successful businessperson, and help others in need. I can also remember people telling me things that made me doubt those ideas. Things like “you don’t really think you’re gonna do that, do you?” or “that sounds impossible.” Until I realized I was responsible for making the choice to rise up to live my own life, I was going to be limited by what others said or thought of my abilities.

The day that all changed was the day I decided to throw caution to the wind and change the course of my life. The day I decided to pack my bags, get in my car and drive over a thousand miles to a new place because I knew it was where I was supposed to be. It was October 1997, I was living in Florida and six months earlier I had met the man I was going to marry. He lived in New York City (I’m originally from NY and always knew in my heart I would move back), was the exact opposite of every other man I had ever had a relationship with, and I knew in my bones from the day I met him that we belonged together. Against all of the naysayers, I did it. I got in that car and I drove to be with him, I left my entire life behind, except to me, my entire life lied ahead.

I realized then, at the age of 24, that I was the one calling the shots – ME. I was the one responsible for my happiness, my well being and my future. It was a valuable lesson and one that I use every day in my work and with my family. I wasn’t going to fall into a life I didn’t want because it suited others and made them happy. I was going to create the life I wanted with the people I chose.

My story to rise isn’t about overcoming a major challenge or a sickness or a difficult parenting situation. My story to rise is a daily reminder that I have a choice. That’s something I preach to my children every day. We always have a choice, no matter what the situation. My story to rise is one of strength in believing in myself that I could make it in a new place with a new person. That even though it wasn’t always easy, that the bumps in the road would be more difficult than I ever anticipated, I would be able to navigate them and create a life that I WANTED to live.

Have there been days of doubt? You betcha.

Have there been times of trial and tribulation? Absolutely.

But there has never been one day where I thought I was making the wrong decision.

It’s 20 years later, I married that guy, we have 2 beautiful boys and a life that hasn’t always been easy to manage. I started a new business not that long ago. It’s tested our limits in more ways than one, but it has strengthened our resolve to one another and to my belief in my choices.

I tell my kids four things every day:

  1. Be happy
  2. Be kind
  3. Make good choices
  4. I love you

I see them observing how we choose to live our lives to the fullest through example and experiences. I notice them watching us make decisions for our future. I listen to their concerns and answer their questions. Every time my answer is directed toward one of the four things I tell them every day.

Go big or go home – do your best and consider your situation and you will surely rise up to the occasion.

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