Episode 026: Turning Adversity Into Opportunity – with Jen Rozenbaum

Jen Rozenbaum is an expert at turning adversity into opportunity. After facing real difficulties, including a battle with breast cancer, she has learned the secrets to living an empowered life that is true, fulfilled and successful. In this week's episode, she reveals how.



The Show Notes

Okay, Jen. Welcome to the success Kickstart podcast. How are you?

  • Thank you so much for having me.

Q: Welcome aboard I'm glad that you are here to share your story with the success Kickstart listeners. Now for people who haven't come across you or your work yet start by taking a few minutes take us behind the scenes and give us your story because I really love people to know kind of where you've come from what you're doing in your life right now and how you got to where you are.

  • About 10 years ago. I was a stay-at-home mom and I had a three-year-old daughter and I loved being a stay-at-home mom. It was amazing, but I come from an entrepreneurial family and I always had that entrepreneurial spirit. But I chose at that time to really just focus on my family. So, we had a three-year-old and we decided we were going to have another baby my husband but it didn't really go as planned. I had a lot of complications. I had a miscarriage. I had a complication that ended up as an ectopic pregnancy and that ruptured and I needed emergency surgery. I almost died from that one.
  • It's just a lot of stuff going on and I'm a pretty upbeat person but during that time it was really depressing and it was really hard for me. I would be going to the mommy groups and everybody was pregnant and having babies and I couldn't and it was really difficult for me.
  • I decided I wasn't going to just sit around and feel sorry for myself and that I was going to do something to distract my mind and that something was to teach myself photography.
  • I had an art background and I figured how hard could photography be? It's just another form of art, but it turned out it was really hard. So, I bought a camera and I kind of put it down.
  • Then when I decided I was going to teach myself photography, I bought this camera and I hadn't been using it so I thought I might as well do something with it. I just sat down one day and I taught myself how the different knobs affect the photo and it definitely took some time but shortly after that a friend of mine who is a photographer asked me to join her and assist her on something called a Boudoir shoot and for anybody that doesn't know what Boudoir is, it's a form of empowerment photography for women who are typically wearing lingerie. Boudoir is who you are so you can really wear whatever you want, but it's really a form of empowerment and I went to the shoot with her. She asked me to assist her and I ran home and I said to my husband I know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a Boudoir photographer.
  • The reason I mentioned the entrepreneurial spirit is because I can't do anything as a hobby, how do I make money doing this? So, I legitimately started a business within 48 hours after that.
  • I turn my master bedroom into a studio and I became a professional photographer and now 10 years later, I am not only a professional photographer still but I am an educator. I educate a lot of other photographers how to do what I do.
  • I am a writer and I'm currently writing two books and I also write a lot of articles about business and life and Boudoir. I also have a podcast and I do a lot of different things that are all really lead back to women's empowerment.

Q: That way sounds like quite a roller coaster like everybody's life is if you had to identify or describe one of the worst or lowest moment in your life. What would that be? And what did you do to overcome it? And because we don't want to dwell on the negative. What was the big lesson that you took away from that?

  • At this time in my life where I was struggling with infertility, I created a business out of it. Essentially it really prepared me.
  • I thought that that was a pretty bad time in my life but it really prepared me for what was really the worst time in my life, which was in July of 2017. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and it was it was a bomb. I mean, I'm a healthy person. I was young. I always went to yoga and drank the green juice and did all the right things. I have no family history of breast cancer. So, for me to be diagnosed with cancer was a huge bomb and really difficult and to be honest with you Rob sometimes it still is. I'm really only in a year and a half out of the process right now.
  • So it's still difficult at times but the thing is about it is that when I was diagnosed, I knew that in my heart this was happening for me and not to me and that part of my calling in this world was to educate women on breast cancer because I have spent ten years building a large female following building a voice in the world becoming an influencer in certain ways and now I was given this cancer and I thought to myself, OK well either I can curl up and die or I can fight this and go out and educate other women and save other women and empower them just in the way I do with my photography but in this realm and that's what I've been doing.

Q: Now on the flip side of that. What would you say is the biggest and most exciting epiphany that you've ever had in your life? And what impact did that have for you? How did it inspire your philosophy for what personal development and personal growth really looks like?

  • I think that after I had cancer my perspective on everything changed and I realized that there were moments where I was holding myself back and playing small and that I didn't have time for that anymore so to go after the things I really wanted and on the flip-side to get rid of the things I really didn't want to do in my life and it's almost like your body changes.
  • There's no patience any longer for things that you just don't want to do anymore. It's like no, I'm just going to cut that right out.
  • I think that's really cool because too many people kind of just accept what life gives them an end. You know, the good things, the bad things, they take the good with the bad and just kind of crack on, they just kind of live the life that the Universe seems to hand them that you know,
  • I always have this thing that so many people are off getting what they want in life that if you don't do the same, you just get what's left over and things will just happen around you rather than making things happen, but we do know that, you know difficult times come and you've had your fair share of them.

Q: So, when life throws a curveball at you in the form of some kind of adversity, what are the keys to remaining positive and empowered to battle through that time?

  • I think that it's doing something that I call flipping the script. It's something I'm talking about in my book as a matter of fact. We need to be able to control our minds.
  • So, for me cancer for example was not as much of a disease of the body as it was of the mind and I realized that I could very quickly go down these dark rabbit holes of negative thoughts and feel bad for myself.
  • So, for me at the moment, I would have say five minutes or ten minutes of feeling bad for myself or wallowing in what was going on and then I had to get real and I had to say to myself, is this really how you want your life to be? Do you know you can't control cancer but do you really want to be a victim? Do you really want to lay here and feel sorry for yourself?
  • And that's how you want to spend the life that you do have and if you really listen to yourself like for me it was like it was a hard no, so like no, I don't want to be a victim. Okay, then get your butt up and do something that makes you happy.
  • So, it's a lot of internal conversation and it's a lot of action. I think that we are really defined by our actions and if you take the appropriate action to feel good and to surround yourself with positivity and to bring joy in your life, then your thoughts will follow.

Q: For people who are kind of struggling maybe battling a difficult time right now and they're finding that they're being locked down by those negative thoughts – shackled down rather than being able to just jump up and go and say well I'll just go and do something else and I'll take my mind off it. How do we start to reprogram those unhelpful thoughts because there's people who are struggling through a difficult time and they hear those voices in their head that just say no. Do you know what I haven't got the energy today? I'm just going to sit down and watch the telly or I'm just going to bury my head in the sand. So how do we start to reprogram those unhelpful thoughts and replace them with positive ones that inspire us to go out and actually do something?

  • I think that it's not an easy process and everybody makes it seem so easy. Well just think something different or just do something else, but I think that if you can program your mind with an opposite thought so for example, you know, I hate my body, you know, I had a mastectomy. So, for me, it was like a big change in my body, or I feel less feminine because I had a mastectomy then my opposite thought would be
  • I am so strong and I'm so lucky that I have these scars because anytime I think I can't do something hard, all I have to do is look down and see my scars and know that I am super badass and I can do anything that I want and I am strong.
  • So it's like any time those reoccurring thoughts come into your mind you immediately have another thought that you could switch to even if you don't believe it in the moment, even if you're like, well, I'm not sure I really believe this but this will be the thought that I go to and it's just reconnecting different triggers in your mind.
  • So instead of your mind going to the same place it always want to you're retraining it. It's just the mind is like a muscle, just like the bicep is right? You're not going to go to the gym and do bicep curls and walk out with muscles. You're going to have to do it a little bit every day for a period of six months and then maybe you'll have some muscle and then you can grow the muscle.
  • So, I think the other side of it is patience and feeling like this is not going to be an overnight process.
  • So, if you think it is then you're just going to make yourself feel worse – just have patience with yourself.

Q: I love the idea of reframing the negative thoughts and looking for the flip side view of it. How do I take this thing that in my mind is a negative thing? That's a difficult thing. That's a bad thing. And how do I make that something that I'm proud of? How do I make that something that I can kind of use as a springboard to the next step?

  • I think one thing that really separates people who live a fulfilled and happy and empowered life as opposed to people who find themselves always wallowing and finding life difficult, is that we are prepared and resilient and we are kind of ready for the challenges almost before they come.
  • You know that the challenge itself is going to be unexpected. But we kind of spend every day training our brain to be happier, to be more fulfilled, to look for the positive.
  • So, what can we do to prepare ourselves mentally for these challenges before they come? It's like trying to deal with it before it actually happens, be ready for that curve. How do we do it? I think that if you look back on your life at the challenges, you've already been through it, whether they're big or small. They don't all have to be cancer. They could be smaller challenges.
  • Maybe make a list of the things that you got out of all of these hard times because the truth is people only grow out of hard times. They only get bigger and better and stronger and prouder and in touch with themselves through these difficult times.
  • So, we need these times do we have to learn to embrace them and to love them and to run towards the pain so I would just say look back on your life and see where you got through these challenges and what gifts you've received from them.
  • I look back at my infertility and I'm grateful for it at times because I have this amazing business and career now and I'm changing people's lives all because I went through that time. If I didn't go through that I wouldn't have that, you know, I wouldn't have this life.
  • So, we have to remember that sometimes as we're going through it, as difficult as it is, there is an end to it at some point and when we get through that end, we will have a lot of gifts.

Presumably all of this comes with the caveat that you need to have a kind of positive support network around you, people around you who have your back and are pushing you and driving you and helping you propel forward. What does that need to look like? How do we find those people who are going to be our champions through the difficult times and push us forward?

  • I think surrounding yourself with good people is really important.  I would think that probably most of us are surrounded by good people.
  • The ones that I would really look out for are the negative Nancy's the ones that try to bring you down the ones that your gut is telling you I should not be around this person to really make sure that those people are not affecting you and get them out of your life and not listen to what they say.
  • But the truth of the matter is that I think even if you're surrounded by good people and I am surrounded by good people, I don't at this point need them to be cheering me on or having my back I have developed it within so that I can get through anything.
  • I mean listen when I wanted to start my photography business everybody that I knew, even the people that supported me were like, are you crazy? Like this is never going to work – you can't shoot people out of your bedroom and make a business out of it.
  • But I didn't care what they had to say. I knew I could and in fact the more they said no the more I was like I'm going to prove you wrong. So, thank you for that.
  • But you know, if I followed what they told me, I would never have done this. So, I think you really need to find it from within even if you're surrounded by good people.
  • One of the things I'm really pulling out of this and your story is that one of the keys to driving through difficult times is to have something else to focus on, to have a passion, a hobby, a business and it won't be a business for everyone but a hobby or passion of business something that drives them.
  • So, for anyone who is kind of missing that drive in their life, they're missing that thing, that passion, that thing that drags them out of bed in the morning and just want to do today, that wants to do that thing.
  • How do you find your thing? How do you find your you? How do they find that thing that makes them feel alive if you like? For me, it’s not just photography. In fact, it's actually in some ways no longer photography, because now it's a business.
  • So, it's taken away that pleasure part of it at times but I have started a self-portrait project that really fuels me and that I love but I do other types of art as well.
  • I do things like Muay Thai and yoga and I have a dog so I love to walk my dog and I think that there are simple joys in so many things that we do in life that we just forget to find them.
  • So just close your eyes and remember what did you used to like when you were a kid? Or what is something you always wanted to try or do because I think we tell ourselves all the time, oh I'm too old for that, I don't have time for that, that's not for me or that's difficult, I don't think I can do it.
  • I used to love working out. So, after my cancer I was like, I'm going to try my weight. I'm going to try kickboxing now. Here I am post-surgery, I have a lot of physical limitations. I'm 43 years old, I'm going to go fight with these girls that are 30 and really strong but I was like, I'm just going to go and try it and if I don't like it, I don't have to go back.
  • So, taking a pressure off of ourselves of having to be good at something or, you know, having to like it all the time. Just try new things – just be open to trying new things and when you find something that sparks joy do more of that.

Q: Now as we start to wrap up this episode in this interview, what are the top three things that you would encourage our listeners to do, actionable things, right now, today to start making tremendous changes in their life based specifically on what you've shared.

  • I think that the most important thing is that you have to remember that you can't do the same things and expect different results.
  • So, if you're looking to change your life or be more successful or find joy, then you need to go out and try new things.
  • That's number one. Expose yourself to new things, new people.
  • I would say definitely level up the people that you are surrounding yourself with. Try to reach out to people that you think will be good for you and pick their brains. Join a mastermind, do something of that nature and find yourself around good people.  
  • I think that the third thing is to support others in your industry or your community. I always find that lifting – people up, lifts me up as well.

The Quickfire Round

Q: Jen – it's time to jump over into the quick-fire round. So, question number one, what's the best self-development advice you've ever received from somebody else and who was that?

  • My friend Steve Maraboli, if you guys don't know who he is, definitely look him up. He told me to cut the shit and write my book because I've been writing a book for a while and I've been struggling with it a little bit and he just called me one day and he was like, I don't know what you're doing, but just cut the shit and write the book! Life is always hard and if you're waiting for life to get easier to make time and space for writing, it's never going to happen. I was like, yeah and you know that advice applies to so many areas in my life. So, thank you Steve. I love that.

Q: Can you give us a personal habit or personality trait that you think contributes most to your success?

  • I like to prove people wrong. It's a thing and sometimes that person is myself. So, I think that I can't do something. I love to prove myself wrong. I always say don't dare me to do something because I'll do it twice.

Q: What does success mean to you?

  • You know for me success is really about changing other people's lives and making a dent, a positive dent in the world and empowering other people to find their true meaning and their ultimate life.
  • I know a lot of people say success is about money or freedom or doing what they want but for me the thing that fulfills me the most is really seeing somebody else change based off the work that I've done and then allowing them to change the world and it's just a domino effect. So that’s success for me.

Q: Finally, and most importantly Jen where can people go to find out more about you?

  • I'm on Facebook under JenRosenbaumAndShamelesslyFeminine. I'm on Instagram under JenRosenbaumAndShamelesslyFeminine. And actually, I also have another Instagram account called ShortLegsTallDreams and Instagram is really these days social media wise, where I live the most so they can find me there.

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