11 Things My Son Taught Me about Life & Business

Yesterday I came across the Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck by Julien. I found myself nodding in agreement with each point he made. These were lessons I learned long ago thanks to the most courageous person I've ever known – my son CJ.

CJ Hoffman

He's been gone for four months now. But the impact he had – and has – on my life is visible every day in who I am as a person and who I am as an entrepreneur. I learned more from him than I've ever learned from anyone, and I thought I'd share some of the lessons he taught me below.

#11 Not everything in life will go according to plan

When I had my son, I wondered whether he'd he be athletic like his Dad. I planned how I'd teach him his ABC's and envisioned his first day of preschool. I just knew he'd excel in street smarts like me. And then he had a massive bilateral stroke. Everything changed. The plans were gone. Following the old plan wasn't an option. His stroke forced me to create a new one and set new goals, for both him and myself. The ability to be flexible was crucial in being able to find happiness in my new alternate reality.

You can have the best idea. The best plan. The best intentions. The greatest strategy laid out. And everything can still be turned upside down at a moment's notice as a result of any unforeseeable event. Your ability to be successful in life hinges not on being able to create and execute “the plan.” It hinges on you being able to adapt and change to make the best of the hand you're dealt.

#10 Complaining changes nothing – action changes everything

In the weeks after being told my son would be severely multiply handicapped his entire life – that he'd never even know who I was – I did a lot of crying and a lot of complaining. A lot of why HIM – why ME? But it didn't matter why. This was our new reality. What mattered was finding ways to help him. When I realized how much the “system” for kids like him sucked, I volunteered on local committees dedicated to improving that system. When I felt alone at dealing with his condition, I created a support group to find other parents and allow us to help each other move forward.

When things go wrong, you have two choices – complain or act. The former gets you nowhere; the latter will get you everywhere. All the complaining in the world won't change a bad situation. Complaining makes you a victim of your circumstance. Acting is what puts you back in control of your situation.

#9 Your situation does not determine your result – your attitude does

If I had sat on the couch eating bonbons and collecting money from the system for the rest of my life – no one would have blamed me. I'd been in foster care since I was 13, I was on my own at 17. I was married at 19 with a severely handicapped child by the age of 21, and we struggled to pay our electric bill every single month. I had a GED, no college and was a waitress the day my son suffered his stroke. But soon after he was born, I knew that if I wanted him to have the best opportunities possible in his situation, then I needed to change mine to be able to make those available to him. I still remember the day I sat on my front porch, looked at the sky and thought “the only person who is going to get us out of this situation and change our lives is me.”

Much to the chagrin of everyone who likes to find excuses on why they aren't successful or look for the advantages someone else must have had because they are, your situation does not determine your outcome. I don't care if you have no money, no education, if you had a bad upbringing… whatever your excuse might be, no past or current situation defines your future. Your attitude about whether to “take” the situation as an excuse or grab it by the balls and succeed in spite of it is what determines where you'll be in ten years.

#8 It is possible to say nothing and influence everything

In the 15 years my son was on this earth, he never said a word. Yet, he influenced thousands of people in the ripple effect his life created. He changed hundreds of lives. He changed so many mindsets. I learned that influence has as much to do with what you say and do in life as does with who you simply “are” as a person. Never underestimate what effect “leading by example” has on everyone around you.

#7 You'll never know what you're capable of until you try

If you had told me 15 years ago that today I'd be a CEO of a very successful company and be able to give my kids the life they have, I probably would have laughed at you. Me? I'm just a waitress. But my son's stroke forced me to aim high. A bath chair alone was $300 – which might have well been $30,000 to us at the time. Starting a business was never my “plan” – and I certainly didn't know if I was even capable of doing it – but I had nothing to lose by trying and everything to gain. To quote Eminem – “Success is my only motherfucking option. Failure's not.”

No entrepreneur has ever taken “the leap” with a guarantee of how it will all turn out. What most successful entrepreneurs have in common is not the secret to success, but rather the willingness to fail – and miserably.

#6 Other people's opinions don't matter

Having a severely handicapped child showed me how many good people there are in this world. But it also showed me there's a lot of assholes too. One day I'd taken my son to the grocery store. He was in his wheelchair with a feeding pump attached to it because he couldn't eat by mouth. As I stood at the deli counter waiting my turn, a woman looked at him – not bothering even to attempt to hide her disgust – and leaned over to her husband and said: “I can't believe she brought him in here.” I wish I could say that was an isolated experience, but it wasn't. But you know what? Fuck them and fuck what they think of my son.

When I did my post on 48 things I've learned as an entrepreneur, one of them was “If they don’t sit around your Thanksgiving table, then their opinion of you, your latest post or your latest presentation doesn’t mean JACK SHIT in the grand scheme of things.” And it's the truth. Never be afraid to go after what you want in life because of what “other people might think.” Because the truth is, what “they” think? Doesn't matter. It didn't matter to me then, and it doesn't matter to me now. And it shouldn't matter to you either.

#5 You can't change the past, but you can help shape the future

The cause of my son's stroke is and now always will be “unknown.” There is nothing I could have done to prevent it, and there is nothing I can ever do to change that it happened. However, what I can help change is whether or not more parents and children go through it – which is why I'm so dedicated to fundraising for childhood stroke education and research.

Focusing on things you can't change is a complete waste of your time, your energy and your sanity. Instead, focus on what you can do to help shape and change the future. It might be the future of your company, the future of yourself or the future of a cause that is close to your heart – but whatever it is, the past is set in stone, and only the future can still be molded.

#4 Self-education is one of the best ways to empower yourself

When my son was six weeks old, the doctors told me they wanted to do surgery to put a permanent feeding tube in him. I agreed. When I went back to the local Ronald McDonald House (RMH), I talked with a few parents I'd become friendly with about the surgery. One mom looked at me and said, “but he still eats by mouth, why do they want to put a feeding tube in?”. I responded, “because they said he will stop eating eventually.” And she said, “then put it in when he does.” I answered, “I can do that? I can decide to wait?”

She went to the RMH parent library and brought me back a book called “Children With Cerebral Palsy: A Parents' Guide.” I read it cover to cover and realized I'd been depending on the knowledge and decisions of others vs. arming myself with my knowledge to allow me to make my decisions. From that point forward, I read everything I could get my hands on regarding his condition. Knowing what I was doing and understanding the decisions I was making – and what decisions I had the ability to make – was the best thing I ever did for myself – and my son.

When I set out in starting my business, I had no formal education. If I needed to learn HTML, I taught myself how to do it by taking an online course. When I needed to learn SEO, I read everything I could find and then tested everything I read to find out what information was good and what information was useless. When I needed to learn “business” I followed the same path. Educating yourself – and continuing to do so every day – is one of the best things you can do for yourself – and your company – as an entrepreneur.

#3 Your biggest setback can either break you or fuel you – it's up to you

I had two options upon hearing my son's prognosis. I could let it break me or I could let it fuel me into improving our lives. It wasn't a conscious decision that I even realized I was faced with making at the time, but it was one I made nonetheless.

No matter what setback you're handed in life – or in business – you have a CHOICE as to how you let it affect you. You either let it knock you down for the count or push you to keep moving. Never kid yourself into thinking you don't have the ability to choose which one occurs.

#2 Tomorrow may not always come

When my son turned 11, he had become too big for me to lift. I was a single mom at the time and after blowing my knee out three times, I realized I could no longer lift him on my own. Letting him go live with his Dad (who could easily lift him) was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. When I had my youngest son in 2011, there was a ton going on. I went to see CJ often, and my older children saw him during the summer when they went to visit their Dad, but my youngest had yet to make the 1100 mile trip to meet his brother. We'd finally planned the trip for December of 2012 during winter break. On November 29, 2012, CJ passed away. Regret is not a dish swallowed easily.

For some reason, we always believe “we have time.” You haven't started your dream today, but you will soon. You didn't take that risk for your business today, but there's always next week, right? But, tomorrow is not guaranteed. Don't wait to go after your goals and your dreams. The only things we are guaranteed in life is death, taxes and RIGHT NOW. Right now – THAT'S when you have to start.

#1 You can survive anything

There were so many things in my son's lifetime that I thought I'd never be able to survive. His stroke on October 18, 1997. His diagnosis on November 11, 1997. His numerous hospitalizations and near death experiences. And finally, his passing in 2012. But if my son could get through each of those experiences, I sure as shit could too.

No matter how bad things may seem. No matter what challenges you face in your life or your business. No matter how dire a circumstance you may encounter. When life knocks you down, get back up and ask it if that's all it's got. Keep moving. You WILL survive.

Edited to add

After writing this post, I was asked by Affiliate Summit to turn it into a keynote speech for Affiliate Summit East. Below are the slides from that keynote.

And the below is the video of that keynote.



Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is a veteran digital marketer and SEO consultant. She is also a serial entrepreneur. You can find out more about her entrepreneurial efforts here. Rae is most active on Twitter.


  1. Wendy Piersall on April 4, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Thank you for writing this today, Rae. I really, really needed to hear it. My online business has totally tanked in 2013, to the point where I’ve considered giving up. And then you come along and remind me that ass kicking isn’t just an option – it’s mandatory. :)

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 6:39 am

      There’s been plenty of times I’ve considered giving up on varying things for varying reasons – you just gotta keep on moving. :) I’m not saying to try past the point of it being sane – but definitely try past the point where it gets really hard. Good luck Wendy!

  2. Aaron Friedman on April 4, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Rae – this was inspiring, amazing, and I truly don’t have any other words to share other than that… Thank you

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 6:40 am

      Thanks Aaron… he taught me so much and sharing what impact he’s had on me makes me feel like his ripple effect in life can continue, even though he’s onto the next chapter. :)

  3. Garret Stembridge on April 4, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    This is truly inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing. I love your outlook on life and will apply your life’s lessons to my own life.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 6:41 am

      Garret – I didn’t always have this outlook – it was something learned over time. At times, I still slip. But I definitely am a changed person as a result of being lucky enough to be his mom. If others can also take something away from his struggles and use it to make positive change, all the better… all the better. :)

  4. Mike on April 4, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks for this, very true, very moving. Not giving a fuck what other people think is an important life skill – I’m not quite there yet ..but I’m working on it.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 6:46 am

      Mike, it definitely takes time to get over something most of us were taught from childhood up – giving a crap what other people think. The first time my son ever had a seizure in public, I was pretty embarrassed. I’m sure some parents might not admit that but I was. It definitely takes being embarrassed to learn the reasons why you *shouldn’t* feel embarrassed. I was nodding at Julien’s post when he said to go do something embarrassing… it really does empower you to not care. By the time my son had his 20th seizure in public, it was like “what? he has seizures. deal or fuck off”.

  5. Matt McGee on April 4, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Where’s the +1,000,000 button?

    One of my favorite phrases: “This is not a rehearsal.” Same idea. Every minute matters. This is real. This is it. Wish I hadn’t wasted so much time letting life happen to me when I was younger, and instead had started making it happen back then — just like you decided to do. Amen.

    Thanks for sharing this, Rae.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 6:48 am

      Thanks Matt. Hey, like I said, the wasted time is already past – and, honestly, it likely wasn’t a waste. I have no doubt you learned some lessons in there that have helped you end up where you are today. I’m one of those people that believe that even a missed elevator has some weird purpose in your personal timeline. :)

  6. Charles Ngo on April 4, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Amazing post, it’s my first time stopping by and it’s quite a hard hitting entry. So sorry for your loss.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 6:53 am

      Charles – thanks for taking the time to read the post and I appreciate the positive vibes. :)

  7. Maria Ross on April 4, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    You’re amazing and reading this, I both teared up and yelled, You Go Girl. I’m so sorry about the loss of your son but thankful for the time you had with him and the lessons he taught you, that you’re now sharing with us.

    I’m a brain aneurysm survivor (4 1/2 years) and it was all about getting over the Old Me and learning to adapt to the New Me. Until I got to that point, I was treading water. I wrote about this journey of recovery and the lessons learned in my book Rebooting My Brain (I’ll send you a copy if you send your address – that’s how thankful I am for this post!). I now speak about brain injury and patient advocacy and feel that is why I was given a second chance to use my voice again and why I had such an amazing recovery that even shocks my doctors.

    You are a brave, ballsy, admirable woman. And I wish I’d known your son. He could teach all of us a thing or two.


    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 6:56 am

      Congrats on getting through that – and with a (obviously) good attitude and paying it forward to others that will unfortunately share your experience. Even your use of the word survivor says volumes. In the first year or so after my son had his stroke, I would often refer to him as a “pediatric stroke victim” – one day, someone from the AHA said to me “You know, he’s a stroke survivor, not a victim” – those words always stuck with me.

  8. Michelle Robbins on April 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    It’s posts like this that underscore why I both admire and adore you, Rae.

    Keep ’em coming!

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 6:56 am

      LOL – thanks Michelle – we need to grab a beer in June. :)

  9. Dan on April 4, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Amazing and inspiring story.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 6:57 am

      Thank you Dan – I only hope everyone who reads it can take something – no matter how small – away from it with them.

  10. toni on April 4, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Thank you writing this. I lost my daughter Jori at 8 months of age to PMG. Like you when we learned of Jori’s brain malformation and that she suffered not 1 but 2 types of siezures…well I found my new normal. I wasnt going to let that put me under. I was going to fight for my baby and do everything I could for her. Sadly her little body couldnt take it and she passsed on Feb 1 2012. I miss her every day but she taught me so much. I have even writen a children’s story about her passing to explain her death to her two older sisters. Its titled Princesses and Butterflies. I hoping to self publish on Amazon soon. My goal is to start a foundation in her name and all royalties will go to help other families with PMG kids and help them the way we where helped.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 6:58 am

      Toni – I’m very sorry to hear of your loss. However much we may learn from an experience, I know there’s not a single one of us that wouldn’t give up those lessons in a heartbeat to have our child not have to be the one who had to teach them to us. Giving back does SO MUCH for the soul. It’s a big help in the healing process.

  11. Clarke Henning on April 4, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    One of the most inspiring posts that I’ve read in a long time, thanks for sharing. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 7:00 am

      Clarke – thank you for the thoughts and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I sat down at the keyboard to write it after reading Julien’s post and it sorta just “fell out”.

  12. Melanie Nathan on April 4, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I officially love you.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 7:01 am

      Ha! Thanks. :)

  13. Lynn / Power Chicks on April 4, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Rae, first off, I’ll say I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son – what an incredibly difficult experience. But I’m grateful that you learned such lessons from him and share your guts, strength and fortitude with us here. I’m new to your blog and can’t wait to explore more. Thanks!

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 7:03 am

      Lynn – well then thanks for visiting. :) Honestly, he’s the one with all the aforementioned attributes. I just try my best to follow his lead. :)

  14. Muddaser Altaf on April 5, 2013 at 3:58 am

    The most important thing is to accept what is not in your hands, your son’s situation was not in your hand and you accepted that, you still remain satisfied with the Creator, then you start to find out ways.
    So one more thing learnt is accepting the situation and acting accordingly.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 6, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      True Muddaser – acceptance also plays a large part. Thanks for reading. :)

  15. Tara Jacobsen on April 5, 2013 at 6:53 am

    my husband and I were looking at adopting one child out of the foster care system, turns out we have a chance at a group of three. was REALLY stressing…are we capable of that, do we have enough money, can I still have some of my business…well damn girl…you posted this at just the right time…you will never know the impact you have had…thank you

    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 7:05 am

      Tara – like I said in #7 – we don’t truly know what we’re capable of until we’re presented with the situation. If you had asked me a week before my son’s stroke if I’d have been able to care for a child with his needs, I’d have told you it would break me. Turns out, it didn’t. But you only find out how strong you are with “doing” most of the time. I wish you he best of luck with your new family. :)

  16. Barry Doyle on April 5, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Rae –

    This should be required reading for anyone, especially small biz owners, who are having a pity party for themselves feeling like they can’t fix the circumstances they are in. For me, a timely kick in the pants. Thanks!

    We met a few years back at the Injury Board conference in Tampa and sat together at dinner and you shared with me the story of how you got into the Internet business, something that I never would have guessed in a million years when we sat down. I know how devoted you were to your son and have wondered how you are doing since his passing. Hope you are doing well ….


    • Rae Hoffman on April 5, 2013 at 7:51 am

      Barry – I do remember you – as well as that place in Tampa that was serving LeBatt Blue as their only Canadian beer choice haha. :) Life is what it is and we’re making do and getting used to the outcomes it sometimes has – I try to remember the good moments, and remind myself wherever he is now, he’s undoubtedly having more of them. :)

  17. Tim Ash on April 5, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Hey Rae,

    I was really sorry to hear about your son. At the time I did not know many of the details you wrote about above. Thanks for your open sharing. It is clearly the result of some very hard and honest self-work on your part. Also a good reminder for many of us to be a lot more grateful for what we have, and what part mindset plays in life.


    • Rae Hoffman on April 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      Tim – I’ve had a few folks tell me after his passing that they never even realized the ins and outs of his condition. I never wanted to “platform” it so to speak or seem as if what I was saying was “poor me” or “poor him”. In his passing, that’s something I’ve been able to let go of because now it feels like sharing his impact on both myself and the surrounding world is more about honoring his memory. :)

  18. Bryson Meunier on April 5, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Rae, thanks for sharing. I know your blog in an SEO context, but your story transcends that. I’m sorry for what you and your family have had to go through in life, but it’s clear that you’re a better person because of it. Glad to see others in the comments are taking these lessons to heart.


    • Rae Hoffman on April 6, 2013 at 3:21 pm

      Bryson – thank you. I’m also glad to see his existence can continue to have an impact even though his body is now at peace. I’d obviously trade it all for his health, but, I’ve tried hard to take whatever I can from the experience since we had no choice in going through it. :)

  19. Martypants on April 5, 2013 at 11:32 am

    Thanks for this Rae, and the link to Julien’s awesome post…I needed the reminder today. Cheers again to CJ – appreciate you allowing him to keep inspiring us thru you celebrating him.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 6, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      Glad you found both to be valuable Marty. I really loved Julien’s post. :)

  20. Pat Grady on April 5, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    The best article you’ve ever written Rae, and that’s saying a ton.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 6, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      LOL… thanks Pat. You know, it always seems like the posts that just “fall out” are those people like the most. This post flew out of me in about 90 minutes time.

  21. Stella Wilson on April 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    My life has been too easy! Why?

    • Rae Hoffman on April 6, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      I don’t know that I’d be upset if life has been too easy. ;-) We all have our own challenges and luckily, when the net is used how it was envisioned to be use, many of us can find insight in experiences we didn’t even have to go through on our own – myself included when it comes to other types of challenges I’ve read about. :)

  22. Jaime on April 5, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Dear Rae,

    Jenni Field at Pastry Chef Online shared your link, and I was immediately moved by the photo of your son. I did not think at all that he had a disability until I started reading your post. There was such strength, courage and fight in his beautiful eyes. I am so very sorry for your loss, but may he be at rest and in peace in heaven.

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story and powerful message.

    God bless,

    • Rae Hoffman on April 6, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      Thank you Jamie. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t purposely pick pictures to use where his multiple handicaps were not the focus. I’m pretty protective of him and that likely comes out even in the pictures I choose to share. Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on the post. :)

  23. Joe Hall on April 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Big fan of #9! :)

    • Rae Hoffman on April 6, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me Joe – Lord knows you’ve told the world to “bring it” in your life and have been the victor many times. :)

  24. John Cole on April 5, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Hi Rae,

    I met you once at my first SMX conference a few years ago. You’d thought I was someone else and gave me an excited HELLO! Then we realized we didn’t know each other. We talked for a minute and then I went on to talk with others. A friend & long-time SEO whispered in my ear, “John, that’s Sugar Rae you were talking to!”. He apparently thought you were a big deal, I thought. I’d recently met a handful of big names SEOs who had treated me like I was invisible, and so I bucketed you into the same category.

    Then I saw this post come up in my Facebook news feed today. A page into reading it, my heart was opened. I felt love and inspiration and got all misty eyed here at the office.

    I’m so proud of the decisions you made for yourself and your family, and I am glad you decided to share what you learned with us. There is great wisdom in each of your learnings Rae. I’m honored to have you as a colleague in the industry and I hope to call you a friend at some point.

    I think now, that perhaps my friend wasn’t saying “You just talked to Sugar Rae” because he was impressed with your success…but perhaps because he had some inkling of the quality of who you really are…and from what I’ve learned from this post…I consider you a wise sage with a heart of love.

    Thanks again for opening up for us all to see. What I see is beautiful.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      Dang it – I know I’m horrible with names, but I always try to be good with faces haha. Guess you must have a doppleganger somewhere. :)

      I am however sorry if you ever felt like I was someone who would ever intentionally make someone feel invisible. I actually hate the “rockstar” bullshit. :) But, I definitely get what you’re saying. I met my husband at a conference and he’d shared being made to feel the same at his first ever national conference when he tried to introduce himself to some of the industry’s “known”. Honestly, someone treating me as “Sugarrae” always makes me feel uncomfortable – which causes me to retract – which in turn, I guess, may come across as me being disinterested. In actuality, it’s that those kind of situations make me feel very, very awkward. :)

      Glad to know you’ve now put me in a different “bucket” at any rate. ;-)

      When CJ passed away, one of the biggest commitments I made – to myself and to him – was not to let his memory, impact on the world or his ripple effect fade – thus, the fuel behind these kinds of posts.

  25. Lee on April 5, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Simply amazing and inspiring Rae.

    Reminds me of a favorite quote:

    “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
    ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

    • Rae Hoffman on April 6, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      Awesome quote Lee – that’s going on my favorites list. :)

  26. Jeff Sliger on April 6, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Rae, I have to say first that you and your son CJ are both inspiration and courage. The fact that you have shared this so freely is to your great credit. No one could have done it better than you did. Through tragedy you have made triumph. Your attitude is heroic. Thank you for sharing.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 6, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      Thanks Jeff – posting this was actually a living, breathing example of #6. Will people see it as me trying to get “pity” so to speak? Will people get sick of the more personal themed posts as of late? Will people see it as… it doesn’t matter. I know what it was and why I wanted to say it. :) And I’m glad you – and so many others – took away something positive from it.

  27. Gregg on April 6, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    I’ve avoided reading this for days. Largely because I knew I’d need either a stronger constitution or a box of kleenex. It was a wonderful tribute to a wonderful person. Thank you.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 7, 2013 at 8:36 am

      Thank you for taking the time to read it Gregg. :)

  28. Joel on April 6, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    I’m on the verge of giving up online. Thanks for this inspiring post. It’s given me what I needed to remain focused on my goals!

    • Rae Hoffman on April 7, 2013 at 8:37 am

      You’re very welcome Joel. Also, if you’re having a hard time vs. defining quitting vs. knowing it’s time to move on, try reading “The Dip” by Seth Godin – great book for making practical vs. emotional decisions.

  29. Dragan Palla on April 7, 2013 at 1:48 am

    I admire you courage, firstly to share your tragedy with others and secondly to make the best out of your life no matter how hopeless it was.
    There is a lot to get out of this post and thank you for that.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 7, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Dragan, I appreciate the kind words. It definitely did seem hopeless at first, but you soon learn that attitude is half the battle. :)

  30. Debbie on April 7, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Where do I begin?? Thanks for sharing your story! I wept with a smile as I read your blog. I have a son with developmental issues and a “wasband” who is absent from his life.

    I am profoundly appreciative for your words of wisdom – and I have seen the proof of the truth in your lessons. I gladly get up everyday with gratitude for the gift of his presence in my life. I am determined to prosper in spite of the lack of financial support of his father. I too have gone on and started a Yoga business that provides a stable community of healthy “family members” and a bit more financial stability.

    It is about attitude, perspective and perseverance! I would love to have a further conversation with you – please email me when you have time!!

    • Rae Hoffman on April 7, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      Congrats Debbie! So good to hear about other determined parents who have made “it” happen. :)

  31. Tony Davis on April 7, 2013 at 10:55 am

    I could write a 3,000 word essay on how your story touched my soul. All I can say is THANK YOU! Your story has helped me reevaluate a few areas of my own life.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 7, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      Tony – glad to know it made a difference for you. :)

  32. Arnie Kuenn on April 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Rae – I never knew the whole story. I have read every word of this twice now. IMHO this is an epic blog post. Thank you.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 7, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Arnie – well, I’m glad you got to know us a bit better via this post then. Thanks for the compliments, they’re much appreciated.

  33. Sarah on April 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    THANK YOU for writing such an amazingly poignant and honest article! You spoke to my heart and I fully relate with every point you made. My son Jacob passed away in November (age 2) from a rare genetic disease and those who have not suffered such a tremendous loss will never understand what we parents go through, yet you articulated it so well — sort of a survival roadmap. Very inspiring! Such a lucky boy to have you as his momma!

    • Rae Hoffman on April 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      Sarah – I’m sorry for your loss, but happy to see you are keeping his memory active through your blog. It’s definitely a challenge some days, but I wouldn’t give up a single moment we were able to share with him.

  34. Stacy Williams on April 7, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Wow. Just wow. You are truly amazing.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks Stacy – what’s really been amazing to me is all the feedback on this post. Thank you again. :)

  35. Neena on April 7, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Every step of the way, you found the silver lining. That takes a strong person. Thank you for sharing your personal trials and tribulations with us, and showing us that – yes, we can. And if it’s not easy – well, that isn’t failure, it’s just an obstacle.
    YOU are an inspiration.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 9, 2013 at 7:51 am

      Neena – some days, finding that silver lining is admittedly hard. And, I’ll also say that some days, you need a day to throw a pity party sometimes – but it needs to be a blip on the overall radar. Thanks much for the compliments on the post. :)

  36. Prashanth on April 8, 2013 at 12:47 am

    Hi Rae,
    Really amazing and very inspiring. I believe it will surely help many of them. My son has been diagnosed with NPD- type B he is just 3 years and i am also fighting it out with the faith.

    Once again thank you for a wonderful post.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 9, 2013 at 7:55 am

      Prashanth – I didn’t know what NPD – type B was, but I just looked it up. I’m sorry that you – and your son – are going through that experience. I was glad to at least see that Type B will hopefully give you many more years with your son. My thoughts are with you guys.

  37. Tony Dimmock on April 8, 2013 at 2:56 am


    I’ve read and re-read this post countless times and there’s a level of honesty and candidness in this that isn’t and won’t be found elsewhere. Why? Because you’ve lived through the many challenges you’ve faced and fought for everything you’ve achieved, especially when the outside world “attempted” to pull you of your rails.

    It’s now printed and will re-read every day, especially if I think I’m having a “hard” time…

    A quote I heard a long time ago, that epitomizes you and your spirit perfectly : “What doesn’t break you, makes you”…

    Thanks again for sharing Rae

    • Rae Hoffman on April 9, 2013 at 7:56 am

      Tony – glad you enjoyed the post and found it inspiring. In my head, if he can continue to help people reassess and learn, then his memory continues to not only live on, but his ripple effect continues to grow. :)

  38. Melanie Egerton on April 8, 2013 at 6:29 am

    Hi Rae,

    What an amazing, inspirational post,I’ve printed it off so I’ve always got it to hand when I need a massive kick up my ass cos I’m feeling sorry for poor little me.

    The strength and courage that both you and CJ showed during his life time serve as a lesson to us all.
    You were blessed to have known him, even for such a short time.


    p.s…what beautiful eyes the little dude had.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 9, 2013 at 7:57 am

      Melanie – thank you. And yeah, he was a happy kid – he’d often make sweet eyes at waitresses in restaurants and make noises at them that we referred to as the sound of blowing kisses. ;-)

  39. Nivetha on April 8, 2013 at 7:54 am


    I have known little about you until I read this. I shall also add it didn’t instill a paradigm shift in my perspective. But I assure you, even if its one simple thing that I learnt from this, I shall strive to live by it, to my best knowledge.

    You are awesome lady! salute!

    • Rae Hoffman on April 9, 2013 at 7:58 am

      Nivetha – if anyone takes one thing from this post, no matter how small, then it set out to do what I meant for it to do, which is awesome. :)

  40. Karen on April 8, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Thank you for sharing such a personal struggle… it’s an article that I’ll mark to read again whenever I am struggling with my own business goals.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 9, 2013 at 7:59 am

      Karen, you’re very welcome. Heck, I think half the reason I wrote it was to have a reminder for myself on tough days as well. ;-)

  41. Kathleen on April 8, 2013 at 11:39 am

    You are my hero… thank you for sharing your story and your struggles. You are an inspiration to so many people. This article truly brought tears to my eyes. There’s so much BS on the Internet but this is one site I’ll never stop visiting – this just gave me the kick in the ass I need and reminds me that THERE IS NO EXCUSE.

    • Pamela Mukherjee on April 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      Thanks Rae for writing this. I was so upset when my boy friend died. I then started seeing at the incident as a lesson. I tried to point out at the things which I learned from the incident and would like to carry on in my life till I die. This article made me stronger. Thanks again.

      • Rae Hoffman on April 9, 2013 at 8:01 am

        Pamela – you’re very welcome. Just keep your head held high and your eyes on the future. The best thing you can do, in my opinion, to honor someone’s memory is to make the most of every opportunity in your life that is presented to you. :)

    • Rae Hoffman on April 9, 2013 at 7:59 am

      Kathleen – thank you – and get it girl! :D

  42. Stephen Hopson on April 8, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Wow, that was so incredibly powerful. Thanks for sharing.

    You’re right – it doesn’t matter what the fuck other people think. I felt like slapping that woman who loudly said to another person that you shouldn’t have brought your son in. OMG.

    But then again, the woman probably needed more love than your son because she was ignorant. There are a lot of them in this world.

    Love, as your son taught you, is fucking powerful. Thanks for letting me share and curse (which I know will live on in infamy once I click “post comment.”)

    • Rae Hoffman on April 9, 2013 at 8:03 am

      Stephen – ha, I felt like slapping her too. ;-) You’re welcome for the post and yep, cursing obviously doesn’t bother me, haha.

  43. Artis on April 8, 2013 at 10:45 pm


    I’ve been holding on to a sense of grief for 8+ years since my daughter passed suddenly, from a rare disease, at age 34. She has 4 children, mostly grown now.
    I want you to know 2 things from me about your essay.
    I am so freakin grateful it didn’t end, or refer to an ethereal entity at any time.
    And, you know what(?), You just might have been a catalyst for a leaf turning in my thought processes in my 64th year.

    Thanx Sister

    You Tube/Google Artis the Spoonman, please. I’d love to entertain you.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 9, 2013 at 8:06 am

      Artis – I’m sorry for the loss of your sister and I’m sure her kids are amazing tributes to who she was while she was on this earth. As far as an entity – I love that people find different ways to take strength out of a situation. For some, that is faith in whatever entity they believe and I say more power to them. For me, I’m not big on religion – though I was raised Catholic – and faith doesn’t play a large role in my life – thus why it wasn’t mentioned in the post.

  44. Balaji on April 9, 2013 at 3:28 am

    Absolutely inspiring. My sister is going through a rough patch in her life right now. Will ask her to read this. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 9, 2013 at 8:07 am

      Balaji – you’re very welcome. I hope she finds it in her to push through the tough times and look towards the future. :)

  45. Dan on April 13, 2013 at 12:14 am

    You always share so much and so candidly Rae. Thank you.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 16, 2013 at 6:59 am

      Dan, thank you for the compliment and thanks for reading. :)

  46. Brian Dean on April 14, 2013 at 6:43 am

    This may be the only blog post I’ve ever read that really stirred my emotions. Thanks for sharing your insights as I’m sure this wasn’t an easy post for you to write. I’m very sorry to hear about your loss.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 16, 2013 at 7:00 am

      Brian – you’re very welcome. I think it’s slightly becoming a kind of therapy to me in addition to honoring his memory. Cheers.

  47. Kris K. on April 26, 2013 at 4:33 am

    Can’t help to shed a tear while reading your post about the loss of your son but that’s the way of life and we must continue on living. You inspired me with this lessons. Thank you for sharing this with us!

    • Rae Hoffman on April 29, 2013 at 8:18 am

      Kris – you’re welcome – thanks for taking the time to read and digest it. :)

  48. Mike on April 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Rae…words can’t describe how I feel about your situation. Just as you mentioned in the article, I truly believe that it is these very life experiences that push us to be the best for those that we love.

    “#4 Self education is one of the best ways to empower yourself”

    In this day and age, “schooling” does not teach us anything worth learning. Sure it might get us a nice corporate job, a nice car, nice house….but we sacrifice our freedom. I strongly believe in that line right there and I am glad there are thousands of others who are right there with me in this affiliate community who believe the same.

    Thanks for your inspirational post Rae.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 29, 2013 at 8:19 am

      Mike – thank you. And I agree – most of the affiliates I know are self made – even if they did get a formal education, it’s in something completely unrelated to their affiliate career.

  49. Ja Nae Duane on April 29, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    This was an amazing post. I am sorry for your loss and I am grateful to know that your son was such a remarkable young man. Glad I found this. Everyone should read this.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 29, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      Thank you Ja Nae – I appreciate all the positive feedback on this post. :)

  50. Xenia on April 29, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Hi Rae – so glad I saw this post via Erika @ red head writing. I’m making some much needed changes in my life and planning a new business and I really needed to read what you wrote today to remind me that life can be ridiculously difficult at times, but its what I do with it that makes the difference and that I just need to keep going – so thank you!

    • Rae Hoffman on April 29, 2013 at 3:59 pm

      You’re very welcome Xenia – so glad you are able to be inspired by him. :)

  51. Kate Luella on April 29, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    wow – I read this and I think – this is me, I need to write and think like this – you are an inspiration for sure, so many challenges, and you always took the lead (eventually), and your beautiful son had a wonderful life, albeit unfairly short, because of you and your family…

    thank you for taking the time to write this to inspire others like me, because it has.

    :) Kate

    • Rae Hoffman on April 30, 2013 at 8:18 am

      Kate – thanks for reading – and digesting. ;-) But he was the inspiration – he just allowed me to be a part of it and now share it. :)

  52. Natasha on April 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Thank you for writing this, it is touching and inspiring. I’m so sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing the lessons you’ve learned.

    • Rae Hoffman on April 30, 2013 at 8:19 am

      Thanks Natasha – it definitely is a loss, but his life will always trump that loss by being such a “win”. :)

  53. Janina Lear on April 30, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Wow!!! What a brilliant inspiring post from what I see to be a brilliant and inspiring woman. I LOVE these type of stories. My life has not been nearly as hard as yours but I sure have been thrown some challenges and I turned everything around in my 40’s from finally learning these lessons. Go You!!!!

    • Rae Hoffman on May 16, 2013 at 7:43 am

      Thanks Janina – I’m glad you liked it – now take any inspiration it gave you and rock it! :D

  54. Judy Waldron on May 5, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Wow. This story is so powerful! You are an inspiration to me… love your attitude, and love your honesty! I am so sorry for your loss and appreciate you sharing so openly all of what you have learned from your experiences with your son. He looks like such a sweetie!

    Btw.. I found you today after doing a search for “how does merchant circle work” and came across your blog. I was so impressed with your attitude and honesty- I just had to check out your website and it led me here. I am so inspired by your story… thanks again for sharing!

    • Rae Hoffman on May 16, 2013 at 7:44 am

      Glad you were able to get some info on MC – I’m (obviously) not a fan, LOL. And glad you got something out of this post!

  55. Inge on May 19, 2013 at 3:28 am

    A lovely blog, I am so sorry for your loss. It is fascinating to think about who comes into your life to teach you lessons and how they arrive in your life at the perfect moments.

    • Rae Hoffman on June 4, 2013 at 9:19 am

      Thanks Inge – glad you liked it. :)

  56. Joseph Ratliff on July 5, 2013 at 10:39 am


    I had read this post before, and the story touched me for sure.

    But, somehow, while adding new RSS feeds to my new feed reader today, I came across it again… and I reflected on the times where I thought about giving up, where I thought I had “big problems” to deal with because of what was going on… and then I read this and go reminded:

    It’s all small shit.

  57. Tim Boyle on July 15, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Thank You From some one who has been kicked in the Balls more than once. Stick to the Fight when your hardest Hit.It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit. One of my Favorite Poems by Edgar Guest

    • Rae Hoffman on July 16, 2013 at 6:15 am

      Thanks Tim – in reality, I needed to be reminded of the sentiment of this post today and your comment brought me back to it. :)

  58. Andy on August 5, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Like son, like mother … your article will have a ripple effect. I just shared it with my loved ones as it is more meaningful and insightful than all the books and articles I’ve read on positive thinking, taking action, empowerment, etc.

    Rae, as a loving dad with a child on the autism spectrum, I realize that I’m letting the condition immobilize me, leading to such profound sadness and incessant worry about the future. While I try to be his strongest advocate, I’m also so hurt and disillusioned by the callousness, mean-spiritedness, and indifference of others.

    I now must admit that it’s not autism which has been my ‘Achilles heel’ but my defeatist attitude and predilection for self-pity.

    My son, too, is my biggest hero – smiling so much of the time in the face of adversity. He is so happy and it’s time for me to IMPLEMENT the lessons he is teaching me.

    I am SO SORRY for the loss of your beautiful son – but you’re blessed with the intelligence and perception to have gained so much wisdom and insight from CJ. Your post has touched and inspired me, and I only hope to follow in your footsteps — refusing to give in to my habitual feelings of hopelessness and despair, and take construction action and make a positive difference in my life and others.

    I hope you don’t mind the hug I’m giving you.

    • Rae Hoffman on August 5, 2013 at 10:46 am

      Andy, thanks so much for the kind words and I’m glad you enjoyed it. Also, I wanted to mention – I haven’t come out with this publicly yet (though I plan to here soon) – but my two year old son (my fourth child) was just diagnosed with ASD two weeks ago. Turns out not only did CJ teach me lessons that I’ve been able to apply in life and business – and have a ripple effect on the general world – but he gave his Mama a Master’s degree in having a special needs child so that his little brother could benefit from it in the future. Life has a funny way of working.

  59. Andy on August 5, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Hi Rae,

    I’m not sure if the expression, “We don’t pick our parents,” (or children) is really true. Both your 2-year-old and you have so many lessons to share with one another, and ultimately, with the outside world. I feel honored that you shared that information with me.

    Rae, I will say that the autism community is generally a very supportive and compassionate one. You have my email address (hence, phone number) if I can be of any assistance. You actually have a PhD in raising a special needs child. Our children are truly our best teachers and CJ was a master teacher!

  60. Ryan on August 14, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Rae, I am so very sorry for your loss. No parent should have to bury a child. You’ll be in my prayers.

    • Rae Hoffman on August 22, 2013 at 9:15 am

      Thank you Ryan – everyone’s thoughts are much appreciated.

  61. Brett Wallace on August 23, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Rae, I’m very sorry for your loss. Your post tugged at my heart and inspired me greatly. I’m grateful to what you and CJ have shared with us. The lesson that resonated the most with me was the ability to be flexible to find happiness in the new alternate reality. Thanks again Rae.

  62. Kugan on August 25, 2013 at 4:44 am

    Hi Rae,

    This was a great read. Thank you so much for posting it. Very inspirational and timely (for me at least!)

  63. Laura Chattington - RebalancedLiving.com on September 19, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Every single point you make is 1000% true, eye watering, heart breaking, touching and motivating… you have been through an amazing time and this is such a fantastic way you have articulated your experience… thank you soooo much.

    Complain or act… just the most truth and said from someone who has a big right to sit and complain like you say.

    Your post is an inspiration … just wanted to say thanks

    • Rae Hoffman on September 21, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it Laura :)

  64. Marcus Taylor on January 28, 2014 at 3:14 am

    Amazing story, Rae! Every point very true. As they say in China, “Character isn’t made out of sunshine and roses, like steel, it’s forged in fire and between the hammer and anvil” :)