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A Woman Driven To Success - Articles Surfing
An interesting name, derived from Zenobia, Queen of the wealthy city of Palmyra in the Arabian Desert, and in Latin, a feminine form of "Zeus." Indeed a powerful name, but quite appropriate for an incredibly self-driven woman, rather adequately described by the words "motivation" and "prosperity." Zenaida was the #1 earner in her home business in 2005, though she didn't start off with a silver spoon, didn't have the best education, and generally had a rough time just living as she grew up.
Zenaida began life in an ethnic neighborhood, primarily Puerto Rican like Zenaida herself, in Dover, New Jersey. The family was so poor that there were a few times when she went hungry and had to wear the same clothes to school more than once. It didn't seem to matter then, as many of the families in her school had similar problems. Poverty was a way of life.
"Welfare was much better then," Zenaida remembers. But she can still recall coming home to a bare cupboard at times. School trips were out, because there was no money for them. There just wasn't money for anything, and many times, not enough for food.
But when she was about seven years old, she moved with her single mother and four siblings (another child would be added later) to another neighborhood, which bordered the Anglo part of town. The most difficult part of that was that she would have to attend an all-Anglo school, a place where it would be extremely difficult for her to fit in. She went from a school where the student body was 70-80% minority to a school where 95% of the kids were Caucasian. In the early 1970s, this was about as different as night and day.
The school administrators had no experience with Hispanic children, for one thing, and to make matters worse, Zenaida was severely dyslexic, though nobody seemed to realize it. Her teachers told her mother, "There's something wrong with Zenaida," implying that the child was mentally challenged. The fact that her mother didn't speak English and that there was no father in the house only compounded the issue.
Zenaida failed her first year in the new school, which was 2nd grade. She went on to repeat the pattern in third, fourth, and fifth grades, as well, without anyone understanding what Zenaida's problem really was. The girl was not only alienated from her classmates because of race, but because she just had no way of getting help with her problems. Her mother just kept pushing her ahead because her mother just didn't want her to fail. Zenaida's mother was uneducated, and didn't understand the consequences of her decision.
Yet, dyslexia wasn't Zenaida's only issue. She was also ADHD--she had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition that wasn't even recognized during the time Zenaida was growing up. ADHD sends thoughts through the brain at rapid speed, likened often to a ping-pong ball game going on inside the person's head. What ADHD meant for Zenaida was that she was easily distracted and easily bored. The hyperactivity only added to those issues, making it very difficult for her to remain still for any length of time.
At age 13, Zenaida was not just going to school; she was working and paying her mother rent. By the time she got to high school, she was working two jobs to help support the family.
But in high school, Zenaida began to flourish. Her artistic abilities came to light and she began to design her own clothing. She even won 2nd place in the school arts competition. Then, in her senior year, Zenaida wanted to work in the area where she had found her only success--fashion design, and she tried to get into college. Yet, her grades weren't good enough to go to the schools of her choosing. She was functionally illiterate.
About that time, Zenaida left home for New York City, and she found a video tape of a very old book, one that inspired millions and continues to do so today--Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich." Zenaida poured over the book, working very hard to comprehend its forceful tenets of focus and persistence in the face of resistance. And at 21, she went back to college.
Her first step was to run down to the local Barnes & Noble and pick up a 5th grade reader because she was intent upon getting a college degree. She started to realize how the words jumped around on the page before her, and it wasn't until she shared her trouble with her friends that she learned that all along, her problem had been dyslexia. Zenaida persisted in her learning, until she taught herself to read.
At 25, she got a job working for a bankcard system in sales, and was the top earner two months in a row. Her self-esteem rose. In fact, it rose enough to secure a job with a newspaper, also in sales. She lied on her application, and said that she had a degree in liberal arts from the University of Puerto Rico, where she had moved and lived for a short while.
And her boyfriend continued to help her. Unbeknownst to her employer, her boyfriend at the time, was writing all her sales correspondence, then her boss started doing it for her, too. By the time he had figured everything out, Zenaida was important in the company, and was making a great deal of money for them.
But that wasn't the end of Zenaida's career. She decided that she wanted to work for the world-renowned publisher Conde Nast, and asked her boyfriend to help her get a job with the company. Yet, he told her, "I can't keep writing to your clients." In fact, he told her she couldn't get another job, until she learned to read and write.
So, she set to work. She was determined to learn to read, no matter what. First she bought two books about getting higher scores on the SAT--"Princeton Review Word Smart, Volumes 1 and 2." Her friend and her boss taught her how to speak properly without the ghetto slang, and after work every night, Zenaida would take an index card and choose a word from each of the two Princeton books, beginning with the letter "A." On the front of the card, she would spell the word, write its phonetic pronunciation, and on the back, its meaning.
Zenaida played games with the cards. She read an article from the "New York Times" each day, which took her about forty minutes. If she didn't know a word that was included in the article, she would look it up in the dictionary and then, add an index card for it.
She got to the letter "P" before stopping her routine.
She was finally functionally literate by the time she was 29.
Zenaida bolstered her knowledge of history by going to the Museum of Modern Art every weekend. She bought audio-taped biographies of the artists, which as with all good biographies, drew in the history of that person's time, the culture, the politics, and so on. She hung on every word.
And she prospered. Her achievements led her to making a commercial for then Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani for the local disabilities center. She also received a proclamation from Mayor Newman of Dover, New Jersey for teaching herself to read and for speaking to local high school students about dyslexia, using the theme "Anything is Possible."
Zenaida also came to excel in business. She was making 6 figures a year, and at 34, decided to go back to college and to continue until she reached an MBA. When her company was sold in 2003, Zenaida was forced to take a 30% pay cut because there were no other jobs. Soon, she wasn't meeting her obligations, and decided that there had to be a better way. She started a home business. In 2005, after less than one year with her home business company, Zenaida was their top earner, making close to $1 million in sales.
Though Zenaida is an incredible inspiration, and someone worthy of the people that follow her, she says, "When I was in my twenties, I was very angry. I would look at successful people and I always thought that if I could only read and if I only had an education, I could have the opportunity to be as successful as they are. Today I realize that the reason I am so successful is because of all the disadvantages and disabilities I had to overcome. They made me strong, persistent, and gave me the courage to look to alternative businesses. There are so many people who today, have every advantage, but they still work for others and earn a fraction of what is truly available. Today, I have total time and financial freedom. My goal is to empower others to see what is available to them, and to help them overcome their self-imposed limits."
If you were to follow one person toward success in business or in life, Zenaida is certainly a woman to follow. She has helped many people to succeed at the same level she has succeeded herself. Today, she's eager to help more people live the life of financial freedom and to make herself the best person she can be.
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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