I was born and raised in a small town in southwest Iowa to a fourteen year old mother who worked hard to raise me on her own. We struggled financially and socially, but I don’t think our financial or social status had much of an effect on me growing up. I was never aware of the fact that my mom was too young, or that my life was that different from my friends. To be honest, I was lucky. I had friends who had the same financial/social status that my family had, and I had friends that lived the good life, as some would call it, by living in big houses with nice cars, the best clothes and a membership to the country club. I grew up normal and do not feel that I had a traumatic childhood due to my family’s financial struggle, or as one would expect from being raised by a mom-child. I grew up reasonably happy and somewhat socially successful. My family loved me, I had great friends, I went to cool parties, I was pretty good at sports, and I am the only person in my family to graduate from college.
I was a terrible student in high school.
Nobody expected me to go to college. It wasn’t that I was a bad kid; I was just different than my friends and family. I struggled in school and none of us knew why. I understand why now, but back then it was tough. I did not fit in to the system, and it hurt me. I needed a different approach to my education, but was never given the opportunity. My failure in school was chalked up to me being lazy, disruptive, lacking attention, etc., etc., etc… They could label me all they wanted, but it really boiled down to the fact that I did not have the opportunity to be educated in the way that worked for me. I lacked focus and curiosity. I had trouble sitting at a desk paying attention to one subject for an entire hour, and always struggled to finish test on time. I would get bored with projects and homework, and got in trouble every day for talking too much. In my mom’s eyes, and in the opinion of my teachers, I was a misfit, a trouble maker, a rebel, and definitely a round peg in a square hole… I struggled to get anything over a C in high school. I struggled every day in school and started to believe that I wasn’t smart. I began to believe what others said to me, and I began to play the part. The only requirement my mom set for me was to not go below a C grade, so I worked hard to be average. By the time I graduated hight school, I had a GPA too low to apply to a four-year university. My only hope of going to college was to apply to my local community college.
This is where my journey to the Dawnelle I am today begins…
My college years started at Iowa Western Community College with my two best friends from high school. I don’t remember studying or going to classes very much during my first semester, but I do remember one particular weekend that changed the trajectory of my life. It was the weekend we got in the car and drove three hours to Ames, Iowa to see the band U2 at the Iowa State University campus. It was 1992, and it was the weekend that changed my future. During the drive to the concert, my friends and I discussed my plans to drop out of community college and move back to my home town. College really wasn’t that great – I was still the same student, barely getting by, plus I had a weekend bartending job that I had gotten when I turned 18 and was still driving the 40 minutes home every weekend to stand behind a bar, make drinks, party with my home town friends and make money. I was loving life and having a blast, and I was missing out every time I returned to the city to take my classes. I was feeling the nostalgic pull to be in my comfort zone with my family and friends from my youth, and was 100% not ready to let ‘home’ go. My plan was to finish out my first semester and move home during the holidays. Then everything changed.
The weekend I spent at Iowa State was a weekend that introduced to me the power of meeting new people and trying new things. It was the first time I had ever really felt what it would be like to go to college, and that first taste of college-life was too decadent to ignore. I was hooked on Iowa State by the end of the U2 weekend. I can remember standing in the middle of a pumped up crowd at an outdoor concert – something I had never been to before – listening to the music that I loved back then with the feeling of motivation and hope coursing through my veins. I can’t forget how excited I was when life finally showed up for me that weekend and knocked the breath out of my lungs. I knew in that moment that I was coming to Iowa State as a college student, and I intuitively knew that I was about to embark on a life experience like never before. I wasn’t scared or hesitant, I just knew that I would make it happen no matter how many brick walls I was going to have to knock over to get there.
I went back to community college and started to learn. I had motivation, I had hope, I had a goal. I raised my grade point average just enough to be eligible to apply to ISU and was overjoyed when I received my acceptance letter for the 1993/94 school year – I was pumped! Soon after my acceptance letter arrived, I ran into a brick wall. How was I going to pay for college? I went to my mom. She wanted to help, but couldn’t. She was also afraid. She didn’t believe this was the right path for me to take. I begged and begged. I cried and started to give up, and then I found out about student loans. I needed a co-signer. I didn’t have one. But then, somehow, and I don’t remember how, I received a loan letter with APPROVED stamped at the bottom. I couldn’t believe it, I got a student loan on my own accord! Even better, it was enough to cover tuition and books for one semester. Nothing else: no living expenses or gas allowance, but I didn’t care. I was going to Iowa State University!!!
I worked as a waitress and event server during my first semester at ISU to make enough money to live and eat. I worked a lot and partied even more. I lived on a co-ed dorm floor and was having the time of my life until my midterm grades arrived. I was failing. I had the dreaded letter ‘F’ in every class but one. My nightmare came true. My mom was right, this was not my path, I was going home a failure. I stood at my job that night ready to serve a twelve person table, all of them patiently waiting for the basket of bread and butter that I was holding in my hands, when suddenly, mid-stride, I froze. I stood there unable to move forward, tears rolling down my face, thinking about the opportunity I had reached for and missed, and realizing for the first time that I truly wanted to be a college student. I wanted my chance at a good education. I wanted my chance to explore the world and find out what else was out there waiting for me. I wanted a good job and I wanted a good life, and I knew, in that moment, that I was going to stay in school. I didn’t know at the time how I would figure it out, but I knew that I would. I knew that it was my turn to do something big if I wanted to stay in school, and I knew that If I wanted a second chance then I had to do something big and bold! It had to be big enough to keep me in school, bold enough to propel me toward my future and powerful enough to change to my life. I was not going home…at least, not without a fight.
The next day I knocked on the door of a fellow co-ed. Her name was Dana and she was the ‘older’ and most responsible student on our floor. She loved college, and she proved her love by studying in her room while the rest of us misfits drank and partied.
I knocked, and when she opened the door, my fight began…
I asked for her help. She agreed to my plead, and every night following that first knock, I would join Dana in her room for two to three hour study sessions until the end of the semester. She helped me. My final grades were in and the result were good – I finished with a 2.0 GPA – the GPA I needed to stay in school for another semester and to be eligible for financial assistance! I can’t believe to this day that I pulled off that semester. This was my first experience feeling the belief that “anything is possible” and I was hooked. I wanted to see what else I could conquer. I had motivation, I had hope, I had goals…
My life was never the same after that first semester scare. I felt with all of my heart that I needed to stay in school and graduate. I was confident that college was my only chance, and I finally knew just what it was going to take to make graduation possible. I chose a major that I was interested in: physical education. I started my journey toward PE teacher which lead me to Athletic Trainer then to Sport Psychology to eventually graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science with an emphasis in Exercise Physiology. I graduated with a 2.9 GPA, happy and proud of my accomplishments but with no direction or idea of what to do next.
My college years led me to Denver, and my desire to see more of the world led me to travel through Greece for a month, live for three years in Alaska, one year on a beach in San Diego, and back to Denver over a four year period. My adventures in life as a college graduate opened doors for me along my journey to entrepreneurship. My need for movement and my thirst for community led me to my teaching career. My constant desire for more led me directly into the life of an entrepreneur, and my thirst for entrepreneurship has led me back to education and has made me realize that the power of self-improvement and expansion happens when you take education into your own hands and you learn from the internet.
Today, I am a self-proclaimed, self-taught intellect. I am a human sponge soaking in knowledge from the people I meet on the internet. I love GOOGLE, YouTube, Khan Academy, Ted Talks, Elephant Journal, audio books, online financial Presentations, Information and Educational Blogs, London Real, MobilityWOD, entrepreneur podcasts, Success Magazine, Psychology Today and Inc.com. My financial, social and cognitive IQ is higher today than it ever was in high school and college. I am smart, well-versed and can have an educated conversation with anyone that I meet. If I would have believed my GPA in high school and college, or if I would have allowed my grade point average to determine my worth, then I would not have become the person I am today. Today I am a woman who has owned a business for almost ten years, something that I would not have be able to accomplish if I had stopped learning after college. I am a woman who kept going, even through failure. If I would have given up every time that I failed then I would not be the movement teacher and community leader I was born to be. My story is one of possibility, and as I always say in my classes,”If it’s possible for one person, then it’s possible for everyone.”
“Knowledge is not power. That’s a myth. It is the potential for power, but it is not power itself. It’s not what you learn or what you know; it’s what you do with what you know and learn.” – The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster by Darren Hardy
This is my Day 6 Entrepreneur Inspiration: Knowledge is not power without your willingness to learn more and more each day, and on top of learning, knowledge is not powerful unless you have the desire and courage to put the knowledge into action. It doesn’t matter where you come from, or how much you struggle. Life is filled with chances and do-overs. The only thing that matters is that you open your eyes and believe in possibility. Start a business or community group that changes the lives of others, one that promotes greater good and compassion. Choose to be a person that spreads opportunity to people with a good life story instead of a juiced up resume. Seek the misfits and the freaks, for they make the best partners in friendship and in business. Be excited to contribute to the new meaning of the word education and be courageous enough to start a learning community filled with people that seek experience, information, education, innovation and adventure. Do something big! It’s never too late or too early to get educated and motivated, it begins when you open yourself to the ideas of new and interesting people. Choose the internet as your avenue to further your education and awaken creativity. Meet new people and change your life. Start with this Ted Talk: