How I Rediscovered Myself By Starting a Business

Just a few years before, though, I was at the bottom. At 40, I was a divorced single mom, consulting for auto manufacturers and burned-out by a career I wasn’t passionate about. I was doing OK, but I felt like a failure inside. I remember standing numb in front of the mirror and realizing I didn’t know what my favorite food was, what kind of movies I liked to watch, or even what clothes I liked to wear. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I know now that I needed to own my own company to feel happy and successful. But first, I needed to become the owner of my own life. That started with my name.

I have several.

My birth name is Sora; my family calls me that, or Columba, which is the Catholic name they gave me at birth (my mom wanted to be a nun). When I was 10, an immigration lawyer asked me to choose a different name–Sora, he said, wouldn’t cut it in the U.S., and I was an American now. On the spot, I reached for the woman I aspired to be at that moment: Wonder Woman. And so, Diana was born.

But the void I felt for much of my younger life, that lack of a recognizable personality, was because I had spent my whole life stuck between two worlds. It didn’t matter whether I was trying to be “Korean” or trying to be “American.” Either way, I kept coming up short.

It wasn’t any better with my peers. Though my legal name had changed to Diana, at my elementary school I still went by Sora–it was easier than explaining why my name was now different. The kids at my school would call me “Sorta” or “Soda,” mocking me because they couldn’t pronounce my Korean name. I went off to college as Diana.

I was determined to show everyone just how capable and normal I was. I was selling cars to pay my way through school. I wanted to marry a doctor or a lawyer, a respectable professional, to soothe my family’s nerves. I ate only hot dogs, pizza, and hamburgers, to blend in with my American friends.

It wasn’t enough. My marriage–to a doctor!–ended in divorce. No matter how many burgers I ate, it didn’t change the fact that my name and features stuck out like a sore thumb. Spending my entire adult life people-pleasing, giving up every shred of my energy and identity, had led me to a dead end.

Though painful, the divorce helped me. I spent the next decade focusing on myself. I learned how to give to people without expecting anything in return. I took what I had learned in my career in the auto sales industry and leveraged my experience to work more independently as a consultant.

I got married again (to a lawyer!). My second husband helped me understand my career problem: I approached every job like an owner, rather than an employee. I was always stressed, often about things I couldn’t control, decisions that were made above me. The solution: Take the leap and start my own thing.

I realized my years spent becoming a subject-matter expert in car dealerships gave me a special insight that Constellation could solve problems in a way that other firms could not.

In some ways, building this company has been the hardest four years of my life. But because I first worked to take ownership of my life, I was able to take ownership of my business.

Though I still use Diana for my work name, building Constellation my way has given Sora back to me.

source: BY DIANA LEE

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