“Never face the facts; if you do you’ll never get up in the morning.” That’s one of my favorite sayings, and I truly believe it. The facts—polls, statistics, conventional wisdoms—can keep anyone from ever starting anything. Better to create your own facts.
I meet so many women as I travel the country. And wherever I go, I listen to them talk about the dreams they left behind; or the ones they tried to achieve that went nowhere; or the ones they never even attempted. And more often than not, I hear the deep yearning in their voices as they talk about their search for a way to rekindle those dreams.
And their fear is always the same: It’s too late, isn’t it?
Well, now that I’ve lived a little, I know this to be true: It’s never too late. It ain’t over till it’s over.
These women inspired me to launch my own website on AOL and the Huffington Post in 2010. I wanted to create a destination where women could gather together, tell their stories, share their passions, and encourage one another to create a new dream—or to go back and pick up an old one.
After a few months online, I began to notice a common theme among the women who were sharing their stories: They were stuck. Some were stuck in dead-end jobs that made them feel lifeless inside. Others were new empty nesters—confronted, practically overnight, with a big, quiet house and a bigger, quieter future. Still others had experienced a life crisis—a divorce, a layoff, the death of a loved one—and had fallen into a stultifying funk.
Most were aware that they were at a crucial crossroads, but they had no idea which way to turn.
Some, however, had a positive response to this defining moment in their lives. To them, the giant wall that had sprung up in their path was not a barrier, but something to leap over.
I was eager to shine a spotlight on these courageous women, so I created a weekly Web series called “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over” in the hope that others who were similarly adrift would take inspiration from what these women had achieved.
And they did. “It Ain’t Over” became an instant hit with readers, garnering millions of clicks every week. We had touched a nerve. And that nerve feels like the beginning of a new generation—the Reinvention Generation—populated by those who are not daunted by what they haven’t done, but, instead, are empowered by the idea that they can go for it now. They’ve discovered that it’s never too late to step up to the plate. And if life throws you a curveball, try to knock it out of the park.
As much as I love the Web—its bustle, its ever-changing face—I wanted to chronicle this remarkable reinvention phenomenon as a book. That way, women could always have it handy—in their purses, on their night tables, propped up on the handlebars of their Lifecycles—and draw encouragement from it. And rather than revisit the women featured on my website, I wanted to comb the nation, interview women, speak with their families and friends, and bring back their stories.
And that’s what you hold in your hands now—60 inspiring stories. Some of them feature women who built entire empires out of a single idea—like Veronica Bosgraaf of Holland, Michigan, who wanted to create healthier school lunches for her children, so she whipped up a recipe in her kitchen and called it the Pure Bar. Not only did her kids love it, everybody loved it; and today it is sold in stores across the country, earning Veronica millions.
You’ll also meet women who found new ways to fulfill themselves after experiencing profound personal loss—like Jane Alderman of Washington, D.C., whose brother perished in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Devastated by his death, Jane chose to rechannel her grief into something meaningful, quitting her desk job, earning her MBA, and—with her parents—launching a global foundation to care for other victims of trauma.
And some women simply rejected their own complacency about their lives and rebuilt themselves—physically and mentally.
Like phone saleswoman Natasha Coleman, whose weight had reached a perilous 428 pounds; a humiliating incident aboard an airplane convinced her to address the problem at long last—and in the process save her own life.
Or Trish B., a 53-year-old English teacher from Maryland, who one day discovered—during a routine trip to the mailbox—that her husband of many years had been chronically cheating on her. Trish was devastated at first, but refused to be a victim. “I knew I was stronger than that,” she recalls. And the story she tells—of her emotional torment and her ultimate survival—is both harrowing and inspiring.
Or Diane Dennis, a twice-divorced mother of two, who, at age 50, felt “washed up, middle-aged, discarded. It was like I had an elephant sitting on my chest.” So she relocated her life to the banks of the placid Willamette River in Oregon, where she bought a home, took up the unlikely sport of wakeboarding, and learned to breathe again.
Or California music teacher Layla Fanucci, who, confronted with a big, blank wall in her living room, fantasized about filling it with something bursting with color. Having secretly harbored a lifelong dream of being an artist, Layla decided she’d do it herself. “I had all of this inside of me, and it just poured out,” she recalls. Fifteen years—and hundreds of canvases—later, Layla’s paintings now sell for as much as $100,000 apiece.
Although the women who appear in this book couldn’t be more different, what they have in common is that they all dared to dream again—and they all knew that no one had the power to make their dream come true but themselves.
It’s in that spirit that I give you It Ain’t Over . . . Till It’s Over, a handbook for a new and ageless generation, starring the remarkable women who have proven that “impossible” is just something that hasn’t happened yet.
As I read and reread these stories, it makes me think of something I was told a long time ago: If you want to predict the future, invent it.