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How I traveled The Path from working on Wall Street as a “Balls-Out Woman” to spiraling down into despair and victimhood, to becoming the Heroine of my Own Life…from Best-Selling Author and Wall Street Wiz to the devastation of the plummeting loss of my self-worth, financial collapse, confusion, fear of total ruin…to the Step by Step recovery that led me to Sovereignty, fulfilling my “Meant To Do In This Lifetime” Purpose, and to the joy of True Wealth.

I grew up in an assertive Type-A family. I had a Mother who defied cultural standards with a successful business and actively managed her own money in the stock market. My Father was nationally known in the health industry and took a company public on the New York Stock Exchange. As a child growing up, I was primed for success. I was raised in a culture that told me my worth as a human is measured mainly by outward accomplishment.

When I graduated from Vanderbilt Business School (with very few women in my B-School class) — my question was where do I go to prove my worth? That’s when I decided to take on Wall Street. Was I up for this harsh and difficult place that was just brutal to women at the time? I’d already had five collapsed lungs as a kid, and kept going regardless. Was I afraid of pain? It hadn’t stopped me. What went on inside of me was not important when it came to what I could accomplish on the outside. I’d already learned this well.

I worked on Wall Street at a time when my co-workers could say to me, “Sit up on the desk and spread your legs,” — and they could get away with it. This was back in the ’80s when there were no rules, no sexual harassment policies, and definitely no #MeToo. To get to be there at all in that working world, I dressed like a man in ugly dark suits, oxford shirts, and carried a man-briefcase.

I accepted suppressing my femininity. Then one day, a colleague told me that I wore really sexy underwear. How did he know? My femininity was screaming to get out, but I had adopted the “Balls-Out Woman” posture — because I wanted to achieve greatness. I also thought that money was life and would give me the safety and security I needed.

It cost me a lot to be “this-something-that-I-created-of-a-man-role” to survive in the Wall Street world. My first marriage went terribly. I had no friends because women on Wall Street didn’t trust each other in those times. When I put beautiful yellow tulips on my desk for pretty color — the men that I sat with on the trading floor — complained that it disrupted their environment. I wasn’t wanted there — but I desperately wanted to be there.

I had an idea. I wanted to be the pioneer that I’d seen my Mother be. I wanted to start the first female-owned investment banking firm in the Country that underwrote municipal bonds. This was at a time when all the “Boys of Wall Street” said that a woman couldn’t handle the pressure of taking risk. That meant that they assumed that only men could trade large blocks of bonds in the market place and have the temperament to stay in the game. But I could, and I did.

I started my own firm — the first of it’s kind — and made quite a statement. The first bond deal that a woman-owned firm transacted was for the City of Philadelphia, my firm. I was getting bonds and contracts that other big firms wanted with big clients like the State of California and the City of Chicago. And, big bond deals bring big money.

I’ve personally traded billions of dollars of securities in the bond and stock markets. I’ve taken huge risk, with large amounts of money involved. I developed an in-depth knowledge of the markets, investing, running businesses, asset growth and more.

During this time, I also studied how women perceive and handle money. This launched me as a national speaker on Women and Money, becoming a Best Selling Author, including my book “A Girl Needs Cash,” and speaking on big stages and in national news media. I collaborated on a next book called “Living Proof: Celebrating the Gifts That Came Wrapped in Sandpaper,” which was very fortuitous!

In one opportunity, I was speaking to a large group of alumni women at a major university. I took the stage and pretended to be the expert. As I began to talk, I felt my knees crumble. I had a deep secret lodged in my belly that belied my attempts at perfection, safety, and security. While I was promoting being the “Balls-Out Woman,” I was also being physically, verbally, and emotionally abused by my alcoholic husband at home. I suffered and endured the pain because I knew how to do that well.

I’d held it all on track until I couldn’t. It was ripping me apart.

I went to my therapist and begged, “what’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? How can I make the inside of me feel as good as the outside looks — because I’m frantically miserable.” The culture that I’d pursued that got me this far was failing me. I felt like I had no internal scaffolding inside of me, and I was desperate.

I had the pretty house, a closet-to-die-for, travel extravagance, important connections — I actually met several United States Presidents, Reagan and Ford and Carter and Clinton. I’d gotten to hear the Vienna Boys Choir sing in an intimate group, and had dinner at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

I felt that I’d climbed to the “top of the ladder, but discovered that the ladder was in the wrong building” — I was scared.

My world was coming apart. In an instant, all hell broke loose, and it was total chaos and mayhem. The dike broke, and I was drowning. What I could count on, I no longer could count on, and I wondered, “Was I going to die, just all off the planet or blow up in ruin?”

One day, I found myself sitting on the floor of my living room, looking at old photos. I desperately wanted my earlier life back. A friend pulled me up from the floor, landed reality on me, and insisted that I get packing. I’d lived in my home for 25 years, I thought I would always live there because I loved it — and now I had to move, and fast.

In one week, I’d lost: my home, my marriage, my business, my office building, my income, my family, my inheritance, friends, my reputation, future income, future plans, self-worth. It all got ripped away. I wondered where I was going to live, and if I could even afford to buy milk. I was having suicidal thoughts.

It started with a divorce (that I didn’t anticipate), rolled into a huge family estate problem, that then sent my business into shambles. I had no control, the unexpected pounded me, my resources drained, I tortured myself with recrimination, and I was depressed and couldn’t get out of bed.

I got to my knees and asked God, “if it all goes away, God, what’s left?”

The answer I got back was: “YOU!”

But I had no idea what to do next.

Fortunately, the person who got me off the floor also gave me a list of things to do — he said to me, “don’t worry about tomorrow, just do this for today.” The challenges in front of me seemed enormous. No, they were enormous, but I began with his plan.

The hardest part was that my life was forever changed. It all had to go away, house, people, money, you name it — all of it. I got this vision that I was sitting on a big big big white painters canvas — all blank — and that I had open space to paint.

If I’d done it once, could I do it again? But this time, this time, could I do it so that the inside of me was good, that I actually enjoyed it, that I felt like I was doing good for me and others, that I could have a joy that I hadn’t had before, and love — yes, I wanted love in my life.

Someone said something really significant to me at that point. I only encountered this person for a few minutes. Somehow I disclosed my lack of self-worth to him, and what he said to me was profound. He said, “Joan, not to worry, you are just stepping off one stage and onto another. You have a purpose for being here — and now you are ready to fulfill it.”

I felt stripped bare, rid of old thinking that I thought would save me, humbled, humiliated, stripped of the ego that ran me in the past. I was searching for new answers to questions I hadn’t asked before, free of prior constraints, and knowing that the only way was up because I had hit bottom.

And I had a choice. I sounded like the victim. Yes, the victim was me. I could wallow in my pain. The misery was all over my face. I didn’t think that this should have happened to me. I could fall off the cliff and land on the rocks below and be demolished.

Or, I could rise.

I heard the Heroine inside of me declare, “I am not going to be measured by my fall, I am going to be measured by my rise.” It was a “fuck-you” moment proclaiming my soul’s conviction, and my courage and strength raged. I dearly wanted a life worth living — and that meant bringing joy to my life.

I was in divorce proceedings for 7 years, no kids, and no retirement accounts, and it cost $500,000 — I was trapped in hell. I fought for 5 years to keep my Mother from going to a State-run nursing home, and surely dying there. I went through fighting the bank not to take my house. I filed for Chapter 13. I was hit with lawsuits. I couldn’t go back to my old business, and others stole money from me. There were people in my life that were happy to see me fail, and encouraged it — they had to go. My conviction got strong. I had so many fires around me that I didn’t know which one to put out first.

I took one step and then the next. I stumbled my way forward.

There was a “me” there now, I began to witness. A core inside of me that refused to give up and got ignited. I reached out where it was safe and got help. I also received unexpected support that was very generously given.

Mostly, I realized that I was loved, and I wasn’t alone.

There were those who believed in me at a time that I was looking my worst. I put copies of my books all around my house to remind me that I had once done something really good.

When I fell flat — that’s when my Heroine’s Journey® began. It all had to go this way. The creation process starts after disarray.

The pieces of my life were not far-flung into never-never land…they were reorganizing. Very painful.

But, the key was “faith.”

While on my journey, I could get derailed — that was a real risk. And, hope sprung up, a Path emerged, and recognizing it generated momentum to move forward. Unbeknownst to me in the early stages, I was traveling on The Heroine’s Journey®, heading down a predictable path. A path of self-discovery.

I am a stronger woman than I thought, and this has shown me what I am.

Instead of letting others or the circumstances judge me — I developed a way to look at what was happening from a view that was more neutral and forgiving. I embraced an internal voice that bellowed, “you don’t know me and what I am capable of,” — which inspired me to move forward. I owned my self-worth, and while I had to dust it off — I began to claim the person I am, and am meant to become.

I learned that I have unique gifts and talents to express. I began to realize that I came to this earth because I have a Purpose, one I wasn’t living in my old life. And while I was evolving towards living my Purpose, I still had more work to do. I had known for many years what it was, but I hadn’t been able to take meaningful action without first claiming my self-worth.

I was on an archetypal, universal journey, and I was gaining momentum. I could see that it was all purposeful. It has all led me to where I am today — and the best part, “Heavens ‘NO!’” — I would not go back even with the opportunity to return. I was good with this new life, and I was looking forward to my future.

I now had hope.

Options started to appear.

I gained new traction.

Then, I went to Oprah’s World Tour Conference in San Jose in 2016. It rocked my world. I thought I would roll off my chair and down the aisle when I heard this — because my whole experience in life had been informing me differently.

Liz Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) took the stage to describe how she had asked Joseph Campbell (author of “The Hero’s Journey”), “Do Women have the equivalent of a Hero’s Journey in their lives?” She reported that Joseph Campbell said, “No, they don’t, they stay home and cry!”

Yikes, I stayed home and cried for a time — but then I picked it up, got my Courage and Strength out, claimed my Self-Worth, and am on to new adventures! I wasn’t in a box — I was not contained, there were directions forward!

What do Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart and Oprah have in common — they thought BIG — for sure! They are Heroine women.

In fully exploring our Journey, I’ve learned that Joseph Campbell was right in one way and wrong in another. Women do not have a Hero’s Journey. This is where the man goes out and fights the lions, tigers, and bears of the external world, and he uses a weapon that includes violence.

A Woman has an inner journey. This is where she claims her Self-Worth and her Voice. In her Journey, a woman seeks her Sovereignty. She does what she is meant to do in her life, using non-violent solutions. She doesn’t carry a weapon, and her strength is developed in her core.

The second thing that rocked my world was hearing that the Dali Lama said, “Western women will save the world.” We are needed to enter the human conversation and bring our worth there.

My Journey taught me, and I’ve talked with thousands of women — we go through a process, while our stories are all different — that follow the structure of the Journey. From this work emerged the 13 Steps of The Heroine’s Journey®, the Road Map that Women follow to live into joy and fulfillment.

I’ve gone from survival (and near annihilation) to thrival — and I’m eager to offer what I’ve learned from this Journey. Hear my Podcast — The Heroine’s Journey®. Check out our offerings at Join my community on Facebook. Most importantly, see your Journey being formed using the framework of the 13 Steps of The Heroine’s Journey® in our Coursework.

My Mission is to help each woman discover her unique Heroine’s Journey® and to take this Path to the life she loves living — and support her process of becoming the Heroine of her own life.

I regularly realize more about the significant insights and growth that The Heroine’s Journey® teaches, and then write about them. I honestly don’t feel that I created this work. I actually believe that it was downloaded to me from much wiser and more insightful angels. And, I am just blessed to deliver it.

I’m no longer the “expert” as I was in my money career days — now I’m traveling this Path with you, and maybe I’m just a few steps ahead in thriving to show the way. I only see myself as a messenger.

Someone once picked me up off the floor of my despair. Now, my goal is for you to describe your unique Journey on the Path, claim your Self-Worth, find your Voice, encourage your Sovereignty, and tell your Story.

Because you, you’re a Heroine!

Thank you so much for reading my Story! I hope that this was helpful to you.

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