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  • Brette Powell

Stop Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

If you are a skeptical millennial like me, or a traditionalist, Xer, or boomer, I know you are rolling your eyes reading the title. I wish I had a good Beyoncé quip to go along with “lemonade” but I’m an older, uncool millennial so give me a break. But yes, us millennials have to put our own spin on or “complain” about everything. But let me challenge you to finish this article, and then we can duel.

Several years ago, I read an article about how men and women define success differently which really spoke to me. The article asserted that successful women defined the turning point in their personal and professional lives by failure or “negative” events like the loss of a family member or being fired; while most men defined their turning point by successes or “positive” events like a promotion or winning an award.

I grew up in a household where I was repeatedly told, “keep your mouth shut, hands to yourself, and only speak up when spoken to” and that “young women are to be seen and not to be heard”. My dad would never admit it, but I was the “bad” daughter who never conformed. I was polite and kept my hands to myself, but struggled to keep quite in conversations. I am going to challenge you and repeatedly tell you like my dad told me- stop turning lemons into lemonade. As a little girl when a mean boy picked on you on the playground, you were told that he had a crush on you, turning a lemon of a mean boy into sweet lemonade that made little girls think that all the little boys had a crush on them.

I’m from the south and we make our lemonade much like our tea- FULL of sugar. We dilute the powerful sour lemon juice with 4 parts water and 2 parts sugar to make something sour, sweet. It’s dangerous to dilute the powerful sour lemons in life to make everything seem positive and sweet. If you know me, then you know I am all about the rainbows, butterflies, sunshine, and unicorns but I truly value the negative events in life. The article I referred to earlier spoke to me because I relate to defining my life by negative events and setbacks rather than by positive successes.

Defining success by negative life events came to life for me when preparing for internships for grad school. One of the applications asked for the top three life events that have shaped you. I struggled but settled on three events- 1- when I switched from private to public school in the 4th grade, 2- when I didn’t make the swim team- two consecutive years in high school, and 3- when my father passed away suddenly last year. My mom proofed my essays and her feedback was that it seemed to center around negative events. She suggested I talk about when I got the opportunity to have my own “cooking show” on elementary school news show (at the time my dream job was to be Hoda Kotb from the Today Show), when I was elected student body president in high school, and when I got the job of a lifetime traveling the country for 2 years as an Educational Leadership Consultant for my sorority. Against her better judgement, I didn’t change my three life moments.

I am a happy and positive person. I wasn’t sure why I didn’t feel compelled to write on the positive topics instead. Two years ago, to count down to my 25th birthday I went on a happiness journey inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project. So, I love the rainbows and sunshine but rainbow and butterflies don’t define the major point in the life that lead me to success. The sour lemon and negative, ugly, messy, and bitter events in my life have been the major turning points because they have challenged and pushed me to overcome the adversity. While winning awards or receiving a promotion is great- the ability to face a hardship and grow from it is a much greater accomplishment. I don’t turn the lemons in my life into lemonade. I embrace the sour and ugly.

I challenge you not to turn your negative events into lemonade but instead embrace the sour lemons and find the joy and success even in the negative.

About the Author

Brette Carolyn Powell is a second year MBA student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Brette lives by the motto, "you will never have enough time, energy or money so do 'it' anyways"- always looking for a new adventure! She hopes to start in Management Consulting upon graduation in May and to some day be giving inspiring TedTalks.

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