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My name is Ashley Smith. It’s one of the most common names in the United States (especially if you were born in the 80s), except my first name is missed on account of my dad, who just couldn’t spell so good.
I’m a middle child of five siblings. Pale-skinned, freckle-faced and ordinary. I was born in Milton, Florida, 15 minutes from the Alabama state line. Its original name was “Hell Town” because the mosquitoes, snakes, briar patches, alligators and hot, humid weather left it undesirable to anyone with a lick of common sense.
Now I sit in my plant-filled sunroom in St. Petersburg, Florida, watching the remnants of another fantastic sunrise turn into a bright white sky. My Mercedes SUV sits in the driveway — a societal testament that I’ve graduated from roads made of clay and whip antennas.
Milton is all but a distant memory. Yet, when I think back to everything that had to happen to get me here, gratitude wells up in my chest for what I didn’t know at the time was the experience that I needed to get me to the next level of my life.
I needed to grow up poor. I needed my dad to leave us at 8 years old. I needed to learn the hard way that I was fueled by a deep rejection from father figures — that’s why I always got my heart broken by the many “bad boys” that roamed around town. I needed there to be an old skating rink where I would spend hours rolling around on the slick rink floor, and I needed to love it deeply.
Ten years ago, I was really trying to get it together, especially for my newborn daughter. I enrolled in college and started working hard to become a dental hygienist — a $70,000 annual salary and a 35-hour work week sounded pretty sweet to me.
To gain some experience in the field, I got a job as a dental assistant and laboratory technician. And to escape the tumultuous arguing with bad boy #37, I played roller derby in the evenings.
One night, I showed up to derby practice wearing a mouth guard I made at the dental office — with my derby name “Slim Skaty” written across the front — and my future began to take shape. The derby girls loved my mouthguard, so much so that they asked to buy some from me.
I bought a thermoforming machine, a die-cutting printer for the vinyl, ordered the material online and set up shop in my laundry closet. I’ve come a long way since using the top of the washer and dryer as my workspace.
I read somewhere that when you go to work on your business, you’re really going to work on yourself. Your business is a direct reflection of you. It will never exceed who you are. So, if you want more, you have to become more.
With that said, here are seven tips for anyone that has ever had an inkling that they deserve more out of life.
1. Get away from negative people
This is the greatest gift I ever gave myself.
I got away from bad boy #37 once and for all, and I didn’t stop there. I picked up a second job waiting tables. I saved my money and moved out of “Hell Town.” Determination is a powerful force. Don’t wait for it to happen — create it for yourself.
2. Know your worth and embrace your authentic self
Having enough self-worth and confidence to be able to say, “No, you will not treat me that way” is worth its weight in gold — but this requires inner work, and for a person that came from a negative environment, the journey to realizing your own self-worth can mean a long road of reprogramming your brain.
Stop comparing yourself to other people. Even Beyonce is just a person, too. Just like me, and just like you.
Focus on yourself. What are your strengths? Develop and nourish those — and drop any habits that are holding you back. You know in your heart what they are.
3. Learn patience
My mom is a hair-brained, somewhat chaotic woman. When I was a kid, we had tons of junk drawers in our house. She always burned my grilled cheese. She moves too fast and has the scars to prove it. I love her and I’m a lot like her.
Taking long, deep breaths helped me with patience. Making a to-do list first thing in the morning and sticking to that list (no more, no less) also helps — a lot. Implementing a morning routine of centering yourself, a workout and getting clear on what you’re trying to accomplish that day is a gamechanger.
4. Love and be kind
Remember Newton’s third law of motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
I work in my business with the best of intentions. For me, it’s to give our customers a great experience all around. When we don’t feel 100% comfortable with the quality of a product, we’re honest about it and we start again.
The customer experience is what matters. We are providing a service, and because our intention is to deliver a great all around experience, we see the return in so many powerful ways.
One of our longtime customers told us last week that we need to “bottle our customer service up and sell it to other companies.” That was by far the best compliment to receive. Act with pure intention, love and kindness, and you will succeed.
5. Work hard and cut out distractions
Early on, I was willing to cut out some distractions that I knew were unhealthy for me and didn’t serve me in the long run.
I used to love to go out on the weekends and sometimes the weekdays. I’d get all dressed up with my friends and hit the town. We were looking for drinks and attention. It didn’t serve me and my goals, so I gave it up.
Be willing to give up the immediate gratification for long-lasting success.
6. Start putting money back early
I wish I would have done these years ago. I didn’t.
It wasn’t until I read Tony Robbins’ book, “Money: Master the Game,” that I learned its importance. In the book, he said, “Start putting back 10% of your earnings and do it in a way that is automated so you don’t even have to think about it.”
I pretend the money isn’t even there. Do it, and do it yesterday. Your future self will thank you, and your current self will barely notice the difference.
7. Raise your standards
Don’t like where you’re at in life? Want to take your business to the next level? Raise your standards. Everything needs to get better.
For me, I had to take a good hard look at what I was presenting. How is the website? How are the product images? How is our customer service? Do we do everything that we say we’re going to do? How quick is the process? How do our customers feel about us?
I made a list, addressed issues and within a few months, we had scaled up yet again. This is a process I use both personally and in my business. I’m still working on getting to the highest level for myself.
Whatever you’re doing, keep going, and don’t ever give up. If I can make it out of “Hell Town,” so can you.