Look around at the most successful people you know. Do you know their life story? Do you automatically assume their life was easy? Chances are it wasn’t. The world’s most influential and successful people all have one thing in common: they never accepted defeat.
I grew up in poverty and survived child abuse. I am the mother of a young man with Down syndrome. I challenged—and won—all the odds placed in front of me.
These experiences may have broken many people. Repeated victimization, rejection and devastation can indeed wear on the heart and the soul. People respond differently to adversity, but my circumstances have always provoked a will to fight and grow. I became a model, an actress, a dancer, a humanitarian, and a very successful fundraiser, all by sheer will. I learned to swap self-pity with gratitude and to define who I was going to be in life, by not giving away my soul and my power. Feeling sorry for yourself is self-destructive. It wastes time, creates negative emotions, and hurts others.
What truly transformed my life was the gift of love, inclusion and creative abundance that my son Christopher brought to his broader community and me. I had to fight for him to become a citizen of our country because of the labels placed on him due to his disabilities. I learned to be an advocate for myself and my son, but most importantly, I became an advocate for change and transformation, for the rights and full inclusion of people with disabilities in our society.
My journey took me to Opportunity Village, where I raised over $500 million for people with disabilities and launched fundraising events that have become centerpieces of social and community life in Las Vegas. I have become a teacher of best practices in philanthropic giving, a motivational speaker, a published writer and a change maker who works with others to transform their lives and the lives of the families who love them.
They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you strong. Giving birth to a child with profound disabilities made me strong, and I know that the same can be true for you. Here are some of the things that have resonated deeply in my life and helped me to build an environment of creative abundance. Join in our journey to rise above adversity.
You Can Find Your Passion
My son Christopher and his right to a good, inclusive life in the community became a passion for me that drove me to build a world-class organization in Las Vegas called Opportunity Village and help hundreds of other non-profits along the way. In doing so, I raised hundreds of millions of dollars and transformed the paradigm of what disability services can look like. Like me, find what makes your heart soar, and fight for it with every piece of you.
I’m diving head-first into the author world! In honor of my upcoming book “Unwanted,” set for release March 19th, 2019. I’ve decided to write a monthly blog showcasing book festivals around the world. It’s a great way to combine my love of travel, writing, and storytelling. Perhaps in the future, you’ll find me at one of these fantastic events!
You Can Make Your Dreams a Reality
Many people push down their inclination to have big dreams and aspire to accomplish transformative goals. For me, I decided to dream big, keep my eye across the finish line and charge onward to the next adventure.
Pain Can’t Keep You Down
The obstacles that you face may seem impossible to bear. They are real and deeply painful. My life experiences showed me that we all have that deep capacity for resilience and overcoming adversity. Self-pity can be disastrous because it can stop us in our tracks. No matter the path: a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, a fundraiser, a writer or a public change maker, certain journeys will be filled with rejections – but when you bounce back and try, try again, that resilience will give you a clearer path to real success.
Where you are now does not define who you are and who you can be. It’s where you’re starting on your journey in life. It’s the first page of your life book. It’s the story that will one day inspire others to achieve greatness in the world. Take it from me; the end is worth the fight.
Linda Smith is a fearless and tenacious non-profit fundraiser, author and motivational speaker. She is a survivor of child abuse, a philanthropist who has raised over one billion dollars for charity, and a disability advocate inspired by her son, Christopher, who was born with Down syndrome. Her incredible journey and brave heart will be detailed in her upcoming book, Unwanted.
Contact [email protected] to connect with Linda for information regarding speaking opportunities, disability resources and Las Vegas fundraising efforts.