On the highway of life, Carmen Braxton switches lanes with ease. As a senior sales director for Lightspan Inc., an educational software company based in San Diego, she hits the road three days a week–bouncing among Miami, Cleveland, Camden, New Jersey, and Rochester, New York–to sell to education leaders, including superintendents and school principals. Her job requires that she quickly adapt to change and get over the setbacks of rejection.
The ability to “change management styles, products, locations, clients, and company focuses is my most rewarding asset,” says Braxton, 41. “The ability to accept unforeseen changes has become the key to my success.” While this skill has firmly planted her on the road to prosperity, she experienced a few fender benders before she learned it.
In 1986, Braxton moved from Madison, Wisconsin, to East Orange, New Jersey, with her fianc├ę. She accepted a sales position with a textbook company, and searched for prospective clients in New York City’s high-risk, inner-city school districts. Fearful of the drug dealers and gang members prevalent in the area, and fed up with apathetic parents of the students, Braxton left the company in 1989 and accepted a sales position at another textbook firm.
By the end of 1995, she changed companies two more times, because of several acquisitions in the publishing industry. “Many of the textbook companies I worked for were bought by conglomerates,” she notes.
Less than a year later, she was faced with yet another life change: a divorce. Granted no alimony, Braxton was left with no money and bad credit. She struggled to raise her then 7-year-old son on her $22,000 annual salary and child support from her ex-husband.
It was then that she decided she had to embrace change, not be a victim of it. “I was on my own for the first time, with a child. I had to do what I had to do,” she says. She counts her spiritual faith as the basis of her ability to cope with change. Through continuous prayer and meditation, she gained the strength to take charge of her situation–and change her life for the better.
We’ve all stumbled from setbacks. Some of us have even experienced events that could have completely knocked us to the ground. Maybe you have. Perhaps you told yourself that success was just too difficult to work for–an unscalable mountain. Or hopefully, on the other hand, you simply rededicated yourself, learned from your mistakes, and forged ahead.
What is it about some men and women that they seem to succeed no matter what the circumstances? How do they do it when others either can’t or won’t?
“Feelings of disappointment, anger, frustration, depression, and anxiety can result when a person perceives they have failed or been defeated,” asserts Monique N. Coleman, Ph.D., a clinical and forensic psychologist, principal of Forensic Psychological Services, and president of Central Ohio Association of Black Psychologists in Columbus, Ohio. “Successful individuals, however, typically use their emotions in a positive manner. They tend to look for new opportunities, rather than withdrawing into