Overcoming Obstacles with Lisa Olona

Take us back… where did this all start for you? 

 I was a very active child.  I loved taking on anything that would challenge me, physically.  I yearned to play sports from a very young age, but my father didn’t allow me to join any sports teams, because in his words, “girls don’t play sports.”  Being denied that opportunity to do the one thing that I felt an incredible passion for was deflating for me.  However, I was also a very determined child, and when I wanted something, nothing could stop me from pushing for it.  I would continue to create games in my backyard with a soccer ball.  I’d work on my basketball dribbling skills in the garage.  I’d hop on a pogo stick and challenge myself to always beat my highest number of consecutive jumps from the day before.  Finally, at the age of 10, when my parents divorced, my mom put me on a soccer team immediately.   

I always knew I loved being physically active.  I think the first time I realized how much passion I had for fitness was when I was placed on my first soccer team.  We had games on Saturday mornings.  I would wake up early, run a lap around my apartment complex, then do 100 jumping jacks to make sure I was ready for the big weekly game.  I thrived off of physical activity, and I was always highly competitive by nature. 

You told us you became homeless, how did that affect you? 

Every decision we make has consequences.  I found myself on a job search and struggling with what I would be doing with my life.  Poor decision after poor decision led me to a place where everything was slowly being stripped away from me.  We all hit hard times in our lives when we are challenged with some hard knocks. We have a choice of how to respond to those challenges.  I struggled for two years to find my footing again and to really figure out what my big life goal was.  It was the most humbling and trying time of my life, but through that time I became stronger.  An already determined person became even more determined to right her wrongs and turn hard times into opportunities for growth, and more importantly to help others overcome their challenges. 

I struggled with depression and loneliness.  I wasn’t sure where to turn or how to pull my life back together.  I would wake up (typically on a friend’s couch or in their spare bedroom) feeling so lost and defeated.  I had no idea how I was going to get back on track.  I wondered if this was just going to be my life and how it was always going to look.  It was by far the most painful time of my life, because when you go through times like that you really learn who your true friends are.  I realized I had more critics in my life than friends.  Although, I’m grateful for the select friends that stood by me, believed in me, and helped me get through this time.  


How did you cope during that time? 

I felt sad, alone, rejected, and very judged.  It was a lonely a painful time and I truly had no idea where to turn. I started hiking because it was always a great outlet for me.  There was something powerful about being out in nature, listening to encouraging music, and conquering a mountain.  It became a strong metaphor for me.  I would pull up to the mountain, which is one of the most challenging hikes in the Phoenix, Arizona area.  I’d look at the top of the mountain, and from the parking lot it looked impossible to get to the top.  I would tell myself, just focus on one step at a time, and before you know it you’ll be at the top.  This became my therapy and how I started to rebuild my life.  I would look at each day as my opportunity to move one step closer to getting a job, finding my own home, and ultimately pursuing my dreams. 

I knew toward the end of this trying period in my life that I would one day write a book.  I knew I had to, because I knew that what I was experiencing was not going to go in vain.  I was going to use that time, and my determination to overcome it, to help someone else that may be forced into change or simply may be seeking change.  Change is always scary and challenging, so I knew that one day I’d overcome my challenges and be able to inspire and encourage others to do the same. 

What was the turning point in taking control of your life?   

The big turning point was at the end of this two-year trial.  Things seemed to be getting worse every time I thought that they would start getting better.  I was tired, defeated, and completely broken-hearted.  It seemed I was losing something new every day, from possessions to family relationships and friendships.  You see, when we go through hard times it can affect the people around us, as well.  Soon they become discouraged and frustrated because they are tired of seeing your struggle and hurt.  Eventually, that can lead to a breakdown in the relationship.  From an outsider’s perspective, they thought they had the answers and solutions to my struggles.  When, from their perspective, I wasn’t doing my best to fix it, they started judging me and it caused conflict.  I remember I was crying on the phone to my dad and he asked, “why are you crying?”  You see, my dad is extremely tough and can come across as insensitive and uncaring.  It has been a pain point for me at times, but his tough talk this day is what I needed.  He continued to say, “you are crying over things that can’t touch you or control your destiny.  You need to stop crying and make a plan to get your life back on track.”  He was right.  It hit me hard, and from that day forward I started taking that one step at a time (just like on the mountain) to rebuild my life. 

Luana Ribeira

Luana Ribeira is a best selling author, international speaker and host of business Innovators Radio.