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Perspective by Elisa Spain

Last week I attended Tribute to the Stars, a Cara event celebrating students of achievement. The name Cara might be familiar to you, as each year on Giving Tuesday you hear from me asking you to join my match for this wonderful organization that supports people through the process of “getting their lives back.”

Every time I attend a Cara event or visit their morning Motivations, I am reminded of the importance of perspective. Last week was no exception.

At this event, I was fortunate to be seated with several students, one of whom I had the opportunity to speak with for some time. His name is Kyle. Kyle started in the program a couple of months ago and I asked him what led him to Cara. He then told me that, in order to continue receiving food stamps, he was required to enroll in a job-training program. Kyle was fortunate to find Cara, because what Kyle realized he needed more than anything was recovery and confidence building. You see, Kyle is a Princeton and NYU graduate. When he was in his late 20s and early 30s, he was riding high in the investment world, too high it turns out, and now he is in recovery and starting over at 40.

I was moved by Kyle’s story, because I too come from the investment world. Had I not already become a leadership coach when he graduated NYU with his MBA, Kyle and I might have been colleagues or we might have met at an industry conference. In fact, I knew several “Kyles” when I worked in financial services.

We also heard from a woman named Nichelle, one of the two alumni receiving tribute that morning. Like Kyle, Nichelle was riding high, and then she wasn’t. She had a good job and had lived in a beautiful home with her partner and her children. Nichelle shared with us how, when things fell apart, she ended up living in a studio, a “box” as she called it, with her children, her partner, and her partner’s kids; a total of two adults and six children in a studio. And then she asked us, “Did you know that having a bedroom door is a privilege?” Today, Nichelle has her bedroom door and is well on her way to a stellar career once again, this time stronger and wiser.

Kyle and Nichelle’s stories have stayed with me. They remind me that life challenges are the great leveler. They can happen to all of us, no matter our background or education.

And that whatever we face, the good stuff and the challenges, it’s all a matter of perspective.

Elisa Spain is a leadership coach, writer, and the architect of a highly successful career as an executive peer group facilitator. She is the leader of two Chicago-based Vistage groups, whose members include INC 5000 and Crain’s Fast Fifty winners, Chicago Tribune’s Top 100 Workplaces, and Crain’s Largest Privately Held. Read more about Elisa at www.elisaspain.com/