A Chronic Health Condition Was No Barrier to Success for This Entrepreneur

We each have our own unique challenges to overcome but what is required to do it is much the same for everybody.
A Chronic Health Condition Was No Barrier to Success for This Entrepreneur

Tonya Walker

Image credit: Amy Osmond Cook
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When Tonya Walker was first diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease at age 34, she thought she would never walk in her favorite heels again. Tonya found that she was not alone; more than 10 million people live with Parkinson's disease (PD) worldwide and up to 20 percent are diagnosed under the age of 50.

Instead of focusing on the negative, Tonya created a blog, The Shoe Maven, as a platform to share her passion for fashion while also inspiring people living with PD to find their own passions. She is currently partnered with Parkinson’s More Than Motion on a series of real-life videos about her life with PD and how she’s using her blog as a platform for PD advocacy.

Related: How to Keep Your Business Running When You Have a Serious Illness

Entrepreneurs typically need uncommon stamina to weather the stress of starting, building, and scaling a new business -- so it’s no wonder that a chronic health problem can seem insurmountable. But Tonya and others have been able to not only survive but thrive in this fast-paced entrepreneurial environment. From depression to multiple sclerosis to Parkinson’s, many business owners like Tonya struggle with a chronic health condition. Collectively, people with disabilities make up about 20 percent of the work force in the U.S.

Below are four ways that have helped Tonya put her best foot forward to achieve business success.

1. Have a positive attitude.

They say you are the attitude that you put forth every day. Having a positive disposition despite your health condition may be difficult at first, but is absolutely crucial to business (or life) success. “You can’t wake up and feel sorry for yourself,” said Tonya. “You’re only setting yourself up for misery. I make the decision to wake up each day and choose joy.” There is real power in a mindset.

2. Pace yourself.

Staying optimistic through your condition is imperative, but equally important is staying grounded to reality. You only have so much gas in your tank each day, and you need to stay aware of your mental and physical limitations. For continued success, create a schedule, and don’t over-commit. “Women especially tend to over-commit themselves -- we feel bad saying no,” Tonya said. “It’s important to be able to say no but also not to get discouraged and write something off as undoable. Put a pin in it and come back to it at a later time.” Pace yourself, and you will continue to enjoy success on your own timetable.

Related: 6 Principles for Overcoming Entrepreneurial Adversity

3. Share your story.

Tonya didn’t tell anyone about her condition until she had surgery. It affected her every day -- mentally, physically and emotionally. After her surgery, however, she came to terms with her condition and began opening up to people about it. She started her blog, which brought her back to her passion (shoes!) and gave her a platform to share her story. Tonya realized that life became easier once she came forward about her disability. When you’re dealing with a traumatizing life event, you are never alone, and sharing your story might just shed some light on the situation. It might even positively impact someone who is going through the same thing.

4. Push your boundaries.

While it’s important to recognize your limitations for the day, don’t ever place limitations on your life goals. Stay true to your passions, and continue to find ways to improve yourself. As Huffington Post contributor Harmel S. Rayat identified, one of the most important traits of a successful entrepreneur is the ability to push boundaries. “You push the boundaries as far as they’ll go, and then some,” said Rayat. “Many companies -- like Facebook and Uber -- have not only pushed the boundaries countless times over the years to be successful, but they have defined and invented new boundaries for society to take notice.”

Related: 7 Essentials for Overcoming Mental Barriers to Exceptional Success

If you are an entrepreneur with a chronic health problem, you endure an additional level of difficulty beyond the immeasurable regular stress of running a business. With that kind of burden, it can seem impossible to achieve your dreams. But by staying positive, pacing yourself, sharing your story and being willing to evolve, you’ll soon realize just what you are capable of.