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Lesson #3: Do Not Accept a Crisis, Act on It
Walker was 37 years old when she found herself slowly losing her hair. She would wake up each morning with new clumps of hair on her pillow that had fallen out the night before. She did not know what was causing it, but suspected a combination of poor diet and stress. It is now known to have been a common problem among black women in that time. But while others might have just disguised their problem with a wig, or hidden themselves away from the rest of the world, Walker decided to turn the crisis into an opportunity.
At first glance, life did not seem to have much to offer to the young Walker. Sharing a one-room cabin on a cotton plantation with her family of seven was less than accommodating. Living with an abusive brother in law and being widowed at the age of 19 did not help the situation. Losing her hair in her 30’s was icing on the cake. In each of these cases, however, Walked demonstrated her ability to not only live through the crisis, but to change her fate and act on them.
As a young girl, Walker recognized that her family was living on the brink. They were poor, and sleeping on the mud floor of their cabin made that point all too clear. But instead of spending her childhood playing with friends and doing normal kid things, Walker put herself to work and accompanied her parents onto the cotton fields every day almost as soon as she could walk. She was determined to make her own little contribution.
After the death of her parents, Walker decided it would be best to move in with her older sister. An abusive relationship with her sister’s husband quickly changed her mind. Instead of accepting the treatment as did her sister, Walker looked for a way out. She found her answer in a marriage of her own.
Being single again and losing her hair proved to be the ultimate crisis combination. Together, they would give her the motivation she needed to start up her own business. She needed to support herself since no one else would, and she wanted to find a solution to her hair problems. She chose to act on the crisis instead of accept it.
Walker began to “tinker” with a few different existing solutions until she found something she liked. And, instead of just keeping it for herself, she decided to go one step further and market it. And, instead of just selling it within the U.S., Walker decided to take her product international. She embarked on a selling campaign throughout Jamaica, Cuba, Costa Rica, Panama and Haiti.
Walker was always on the lookout for an opportunity, and by and large, she took those opportunities when she was in the midst of a difficult time in her life. It was by acting on crises instead of accepting them that Walker was able to turn a scanty living into a success.
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