From Struggle to Strength: 9 Remarkable Women Who Turned Hardship into Happiness & Entrepreneurial Success

by Alyssa Longo
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The saying “it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you handle it” should be the mantra of each of these women’s lives. The reality is that at some point in life, we all go through struggle. But we get to choose how we respond to it. Your past experiences can help you find your inner strength and resilience. We had the privilege of speaking to 7 influential and inspiring women writers, entrepreneurs and SHE-E-O’s, whose stories transcend making light out of a horrible situation.


Nicole Kelly

Nicole Kelly, M.D. is the nom de plume of an established Nashville physician who had first-hand experience dealing with the manipulation of a sociopath who stole over $700,000 from her medical practice.

What began as a nightmare turned into the perfect character study to educate the public about the sociopath—but to do so in an entertaining novel format with drawings so people can learn and enjoy themselves at the same time,says Kelly.  


In order to further understand the predators hidden among us, Dr. Kelly wrote another book to aid in the Empathetic Majority’s awakening. Delving deeper into the nature of the sociopathic mind, she wrote the non-fiction work on this fascinating subject: Charming Cheaters: Protect Yourself from the Sociopaths, Psychopaths, and Sexopaths in Your Life.

Spotting a Sociopath.

Hack #1:

The most important thing is to recognize the signs. Most of us have empathy and we can’t turn this off. But a sociopath and psychopath do not have this ability. I believe the current culture today is not helping and supporting people well. I want to warn people against hating a whole gender for the acts of a very small part. For example, women can be a sociopath just like men. In fact, I had one woman embezzle 700,000 from me. I believe the core of the #metoo movement is good but no one is really talking about the fact that the really bad cases of sexual harassment usually come from the bad apples in this world. Simply put, it is a small but very dangerous part of the population that is making everyone look bad. How to spot a sociopath: they are Pathological Liars. They lie for the fun of it, about everything. They feel they are superior to others. Every sociopath is a narcissist but not every narcissist is a sociopath. Side note: the highest per capita number of sociopaths or psychopaths in the country is in Washington.

Relationship Hack: If you have a sociopath in your life, stop trying to change them, but accept them.


Peggy, Jennifer, and Trish 

Trish Comer, Peggy Langenwalter, and Jennifer Cox Horak are the Co-authors of Wonder Widows: Three Grieving Widows Coming Together to Empower Women to Break the Silence of Widowhood.  Trish is a holistic practitioner and instructor for over 35 years in the arts of Reiki, mindfulness meditation, and hypnosis – all designed to promote harmony and balance. After having planned a very rich and fulfilling second-half of life together with her husband, Robert, of 36 years, he passed away after a quick and painful illness in August of 2014 that caused a shift in Trish’s plans. During the next two years, Trish joined with Peggy Langenwalter, and Jennifer Cox Horak. The three not only began a new journey of writing the Wonder Widows book, but one of shared tears, laughter, healing and friendship while rediscovering joy in life, once again.

Peggy, drawn to natural healing modalities since childhood, incorporated a thriving massage practice for over 20 years into her busy life as a dedicated wife and mother. Since 1996, Peggy has taught the benefits of using essential oils and is a certified application instructor. She was married for 42 years and widowed since February 2012.

Jennifer was pregnant with their second child when her soul mate, Chuck, passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2010, her journey, not only of began as a young widow, but raising two children as a single mother. Having been drawn to understand the connection between the mind, body, and spirit, Jennifer studied under Doctor Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute, and is a certified lifestyle consultant and certified in Ayuryoga.

Trish, Peggy, and Jennifer share their intimate thoughts and feelings about their challenges and triumphs, tears and fears on their journey of widowhood. They wrote Wonder Widows to explore how they are learning to thrive as they process their grief, and to offer comfort, compassion, camaraderie, and friendship to others on the same journey.

Hack #1

When a person dies there is a period of a week when everyone sends gifts and flowers etc. After the shock wears off and the flowers die that is when people feel really alone and that’s when they need help.

One day neighbors came by to mow my lawn and it was the greatest thing ever. Little things like that long after a loss mean so much,says Comer.

Hack #2

People dealing with grief have a type of brain fog similar to those getting cancer treatment. They often forget directions or even become disoriented when alone. Many people think they are coming down with dementia when in fact it is brain fog from grief.

Hack #3

Embrace the healing arts from meditation, mindfulness, to therapy. A person with grief needs to be open to these and seek their healing. Balance the good and bad in life. Many people don’t realize that we are set up to experience great sadness and happiness equally. They are all part of the human condition. These widows hold the pain of their loss right beside the joy of having children and see both as legitimate parts of the human experience. In a way, the dysfunctional view of the world would be to see only the good or think the bad does not happen.



Brett Francis


Brett was diagnosed with Tourettes, ADHD, anxiety, OCD, and panic disorder at a very young age. Throughout the years, she has turned these problems into an example of how someone can overcome the challenges in life and turn weakness into strength. Brett is now a professional speaker, mental health advocate and the host of NotBroken Radio.

Brett encourages people to embrace their challenges and is on a mission to help fight the stigma of mental health.

Hack #1

A key part of Brett’s corporate training for employees is emotional wellbeing, and it’s often overlooked by companies.

Companies can reach higher profits and productivity by thinking of well being. The best brain-hack for turning weaknesses into strengths,says Francis.


The first step is to change what you can and accept what you can’t. Embrace the challenges you have but always be open to seeing their good side. For example, I had a friend with chronic depression. And although that is not a good or fun thing by any means, when she asked her what depression has given her, after some prodding, she realized she is more empathic with people, patients and her marriage. After looking for the good it helps to battle the self-anger and hatred that comes from a mental health issue. Be honest. When she could not make a conference call because of depression, she was honest with people. She decided to always tell people that she is depressed that day or anxious and can’t do the call. This can help others be more empathic and fight the stigma of mental illness.


Tamara Lashchyk

Tamara spent 25 years working on Wall Street when she accidentally landed a position in HR. There she mentored a lot of professional and helped mint the next generation of financiers. She is a big believer in the law of attraction and self-help thinking which are two concepts unfamiliar with the personality types on Wall Street. She uses these concepts in business and encourages people to feel the energy around them as an advantage to conducting business. She also teaches them to redirect themselves away from negative thoughts which exude negative energy. Her book, “Lose the Gum: A Survival Guide for Women on Wall Street, Main Street and Every Street in Between” reveals how to maintain feminine confidence and nurturing qualities, while still thinking and communicating in a way that men respond to.

Tamara shared with us hacks to manifest everything in your life.

Hack #1

First, find clarity in your life. Get clear on what you really want and not what other people want you to want. So often we are living the lives others want us to live instead of pursuing our own passions which only leads to dissatisfaction. So ask yourself often, what you want to do and keep searching, don’t become complacent. Separate your vision from what others want from you.

Do men and women have differently wired brains?

“Generally speaking, we are wired differently, I tend to be wired more like a man though. I respond to challenges the way my male colleagues do. I grew up around boys and learned to be aggressive through sports. This helped me on Wall Street,” says Lashchyk.

Later, I embraced my feminine side and found that the combination was much more powerful. I realized that being too tough and unemotional was holding me back while showing compassion and empathy provided me qualities that both men and women responded to positively. This became key to success. You can be strong and tough and still be nurturing.

Christine Perakis

Incredibly, Christine is a 2x Category 5 hurricane survivor who has learned amazing things from the resilience that people need to learn to survive and prosper! She is a business growth architect, bestselling author, speaker, attorney, trainer, building solid foundations and infrastructure for startup, growth, profitability and long-term viability for enterprises from $0 to $20m in annual revenue. Conversant in multiple business leadership roles, Christine navigates visionary entrepreneurs and senior leaders from initial idea to scaleup, creating millionaires along the way. Christine consistently achieves long-term sustainability and profitable exits with her small business entrepreneur clients.

Perakis compares the weather problems of a storm to the challenges that people encounter in business.

Hack #1

The ultimate brain hack is the biggest mistake when weathering the first storm alone. I was a professional rescuer, but there I was alone when the storm pulled off the roof and buried me for 24 hours. That night, they knew the storm was coming but the biggest mistake is to be alone when you hit a storm in life.

“According to a study by Cigna, approx 40{44c8773cfc5435cd81ad20e0c4d9124b8149e87e023df21bb722cbe5a8d7cc51} of the population say they have no one to talk to if they encounter a crisis. This is an extreme mistake. Weathering that storm requires the talent of a talented captain and an experienced navigator,” says Perakis.

Christine pushes the concept of being a storm warrior. This idea goes back to 1875. John Gilmore encouraged people to go out in rescue boats on the English channel to help others who are in need of rescue in a storm. This is something that is common for entrepreneurs. They feel alone and often don’t reach out for help when they should. In business, this can be mentors, networks, coaches or friends. Also, people need to ask themselves how they were changed about the storm. What do they have to be and do differently after the storm has passed? This is how you thrive; you learn from the challenges and storms in life!


Romola Hodas


Romola’s life has been a wild story! She grew up in the center of the sex industry and survived abuse and even two kidnappings by the mob. Yet through it all, she knew she needed to get therapy and to work on her mind or she would grow up very negative. She is the author of “The Princess of 42nd Street surviving my childhood as the Daughter of Times Square’s King of Porn.”

Romola was on a quest to read every self-help book on everything from creative visualization to the road less traveled, Depack Chopra, Ekkart Tolle, and spiritual things to try and unpack her life to repair the damage that had been done. She saw her siblings who were spiraling down into self-esteem issues etc. and wanted to change that very quickly.

Mindset Principle #1

Learn to talk kindly to yourself instead of being negative. Give yourself a break instead of being negative. One day, I walked down the street and noticed my shoes were untied. In my head, I heard my father yelling at me about how imbecilic and dumb I am, but I stopped myself and realized that it was his words and I decided to not talk to myself like that ever again!

Mindset Principle #2

Find a mentor and implement what they are saying. Read from another author and actually take action.

“I saw my inner thoughts like records that had to be changed and took action to do that,” said Hodas.

Mindset Principle #3

Forgiveness. I forgave my mother and father, understanding that much of it came from mental illness. I had to forgive them not to permit their abuse, but to let go of the hurt they gave me.


Jennifer Cochern


Jennifer Cochern has worked as a counselor for abused women and children helping them heal from cruel and dangerous relationships. Through her work, she has seen the incredible power of female determination as these brave women courageously rose from tragedy and desperation to make better lives for themselves and their children.

“I saw the courage it took for them to come for help and work towards healing and wholeness through self-awareness,” says Cochern.

This inspired her own path of personal success to help people nationwide develop personal growth and healthier relationship skills. She wrote the book, Alignment: Move from Internal Chaos to Clarity. In Alignment, Jennifer shares stories from her own life and those of her clients using her alignment model. The model makes use of the everyday human system and pairs it with the foundational concepts of accountability, boundary setting, and communication for a life of clarity.

We asked Jennifer to share some of her brain hacks for personal growth and here’s what she said:

Hack #1:

“Favorite one is very simple. The object meditation. I teach it to everyone. Basically, you pick an object, something small. You choose one sense to focus on, either touch it or visualizing it for one minute. During this, I ask questions. IS it smooth, rough, light heavy, cold warm, etc. Then they tell me the answers they came up with. At the end of the exercise, I ask them how they feel and they all say they are more relaxed and happy. It is a very simple way to meditate, especially for people who do not like to meditate.”

Hack #2

I love EFT (Emotional freedom technique) also known as tapping. Basically, you tap different parts of the body from the hand to the sides of the temples. At the same time you are taking your thoughts and disassociating them from your uncomfortable emotions or discomfort. You are moving that blocked energy through your body. This is good for people who are going through a trauma and helps people move that trauma away.


Alyssa Longo

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