October is the month in which we work to end domestic violence. It is also time to reflect– especially for victims of domestic violence. This is what entrepreneur, Linda F. Williams, did in a recent interview with MadameNoire. She spoke about her long journey from domestic violence victim to survivor. This successful businesswoman is owner of Whose Apple Dynamic Coaching, and the author of “Whose Apple is it Anyway!” Williams is a survivor of molestation as a child; and rape, domestic violence, and homelessness as an adult. For 17 years she was married to a man later convicted as a rapist.
It was actually the process of writing about her trauma that led Williams to start her own company in order to help others find their purpose. “I launched sometime around the end of 2010 with the website. It initially touted the book. It has grown as my vision and direction developed,” she shared. “I still work full-time at my federal job. I’ve been there 37 years now. That’s what I do to earn a living. I am positioning myself to eventually retire and move into my passion for the business full-time.” Williams is a Certified Christian Life Coach and trained psychotherapist. She also holds a Masters in Social Work, Certification in Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling, and is currently a doctoral candidate at Capella University.
Williams has been busy doing other writing as well. She co-wrote songs with Grammy winning songwriter and arranger Eugene B. Record and wrote for years with the famed singing group Chi-lites and recorded three of their songs.
Check out what Williams had to say about her life, career, and journey to move past abuse.
MadameNoire (MN): How did you work past your childhood to succeed in school and then in your career?
Linda F. Williams (LW): Those achievements belied a lot of trauma, disappointment and, destiny-diverting heartbreak. The repercussions of rape, domestic violence, homelessness, and a 17-year marriage to a man later convicted as a rapist took a toll. I plugged along thinking I was over it. I am thankful that those accomplishments weren’t predicated upon my recovering. I once said, in an interview, “Can I accomplish something…please; without it being in the midst of some type of drama?” I believe focusing on those goals kept me sane.
MN: Facing all that you did, your life could have taken a different turn, what made you have the stuff to become an entrepreneur?
LW: The operative word here is “stuff.” Once I brought along that little girl I left behind, all the pieces fell together. Rather than run from my past, I decided to leverage it. As I stood back and examined the puzzle, I was amazed to see that my purpose was no mystery. It was like a golden thread that ran through my life.
My entrepreneurial journey began with shedding multiple layers of pain and trauma. That healing journey occurred during the seven years I was writing, “Whose Apple is it, Anyway.” The whole experience is a testament to the fact that destiny never looks the way you think it will. I had no aspirations of becoming an author, nor did I aspire to do psychotherapy or life coach coaching. Had someone told me that it would take seven blood, sweat, and tear-soaked years of inside-out healing, I would have said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” However, those seven years corrected my direction and put me right on my path of purpose.
Just before finishing the book, I decided to help others find purpose in the pain and turn it all into what aligns with their purpose. I especially have a heart for individuals with traumatic pasts. Over time, the company name evolved and every bit of it resulted from that book.
MN: What advice would you give other women who have dealt with similar issues?
LW: I would tell my sisters about the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the first brick on the yellow brick road to healing. I’ll tell you about my journey. I learned that forgiveness doesn’t mean that we are auto-magically relieved of the repercussions of victimization. I thought I had to keep forgiving every time the pain or anger popped up. No. You should not measure whether you have forgiven by that. Forgiveness is a decision that opens the door to the process of healing.
My journey was a three-step process: 1) I asked God to help me see the offenders as He sees them. I saw that what I endured was fallout from the perpetrator’s own painful past. It takes determined effort to see past that through your own pain. That is why I needed help. The result of it was that I then moved into compassion; 2) Once I saw who they really are, it moved me to compassion that allowed me to pray for them. From a position of compassion, you cannot help but to forgive; 3) I asked God to heal my heart. It’s a process. It never happens overnight. For me it took the seven years during which I wrote the book. I’d shed a layer of trauma, then I’d write. Every time I encountered writer’s block, there was another level of healing I had to experience in order to break through it.
I will never forget the time I finally admitted to a rape that happened 30 years prior. Until that moment, I had no idea of the self-loathing and shame I carried. It took telling the entire story exactly as it happened before I could return to the manuscript. Thirty years of thinking I deserved it, brought it on myself, and internalizing self-hate evidenced that I had summarily become the wrong that I endured. Somebody had to tell me, “Linda, that man has to own what he did to you. You didn’t know he was a rapist when you invited him in.” Until that moment, I had borne that wrong as if I caused it. They said, “Linda, your responsibility in that began and ended with your decision to allow him into the room. That man has to own that rape.” That day I finally broke free of that man’s unrelenting grip.
MN: Many women suffer from self-doubt and lack of confidence in the workplace, how did you overcome this?
LW: The cure is in the cause. Chasing symptoms is a vicious cycle. If these issues are affecting you in the workplace, they are also permeating your personal life. I am big on cutting to the cause because we can fake it all day long without any sustainable results. These things get ingrained through negative messaging from childhood to adulthood. Think back to who might have lied to you about yourself. What events may have occurred that caused you to question your capability? How have those lies penetrated how you think about yourself? Sometimes this takes the help of a mental health professional. But those roots have to be dug up or that tree will keep sprouting leaves.
As you are in situations where you feel inferior, consider that your frame of reference might be off (dirty lenses). Consider this truth: We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are. That confusion often parades around in our heads as truth. By remembering this you can take a step back and reevaluate your self-perception to determine if you might be projecting a negative self-image as being the opinion of unsuspecting others.
The takeaway is this: What matters in your life is what you see in the mirror. If that is a distorted image, hire a mentor or a coach to help you clean up the lenses. They will push you past the fear, beyond which is accomplishment and surprising yourself as to what you truly have to offer.
MN: How and why did you start your company?
LW: The book. The company was born out of the healing I experienced through the writing process. As I grew emotionally and spiritually, my purpose and passions became clear enough that I knew that the only revenge I was allowed to take on my past was to make it count. For me, that means facilitating the destiny of others. I tell my clients that my purpose is helping them to find their purpose; and my destiny is facilitating theirs.
MN: What were some major startup challenges?
LW: Funding and marketing are huge challenges for startups. The Catch-22 of needing to market the business in order to make it financially viable is a delicate balance in the beginning. Without the business bringing in resources, you can’t afford the type of marketing you need; and without marketing, you can’t bring in the resources.
I also found that I wasted a lot of money on marketing opportunities that resulted in no return of the investment. It took time to learn that anybody can make an exciting pitch, but I had to dig deeper to determine what might result from the service. I saw a lot of this once I published the book.
The other challenge is branding. This was a tough nut to crack. Who you are, including your personal values, should guide your branding decisions. Some have said that your brand exists in the mind of the public. To be sustained, it has to be consistent and aligned with your purpose and mission.
MN: What are some of your services?
LW: Whose Apple Dynamic Coaching is for anybody who is struggling with the frustration of not knowing their true purpose and fed up with agonizing over the disappointment of wondering why their current reality doesn’t align with the life, relationships or career of their dreams. We provide individual or group life coaching, keynote speeches, training, presentations and seminars that expose a secret command center that empowers breakthroughs. We accomplish this through our Guided Power Strategy (GPS), which is what I call your Road Map to Destiny. It’s a lot of fun changing lives, my friend. It’s hard to consider this “work”!
MN: How did you bring your life lessons to your business?
LW: The power of this business is a been-there-done-that perspective that, in tandem with my psychotherapy training, behavioral science background, and strong faith, gives me insight into what lays between the lines of people’s stories. The things they don’t say. Those stories that they think are too true to tell. These untold stories become the scripts by which they live their lives. It took me decades to figure it out and it breaks my heart to watch others going through it.
MN: What has been the best business lesson you have learned?
LW: My entrepreneurial life lesson is this: know who you are, stay in your lane, and maintain pitbull focus on mission, values, and purpose. Hold every opportunity to the light of that purpose; and, in the trenches, always play to a purpose higher than the game.
MN: Looking back to when you were younger, could you picture yourself where you are today?
LW: Wow. What an insightful question. You know, yes and no. Something in me, as a child, felt that I would be famous one day. How, I didn’t know. But, it was as plain to me as this gap in my teeth. I didn’t express that to anybody, it was a knowing in my soul. After enduring so much and being twisted out of character, I lost that knowing.
Oh, wait! I was really into music back then. I played guitar, wrote poetry and songs. I was even in a little gospel group. I did some acting and I remember loving the theatre scene. Wow. The memories! I went to state in the high school speech contest, won talent shows. I don’t remember thinking it would go any further than that, though.
So, when I wandered into Studio A at Universal Recording Studios decades later, nobody could have told me I’d be co-writing songs with Grammy winning songwriter and arranger, Eugene B. Record. We wrote for years and the Chi-lites recorded three of our songs. It was 24 years before it dawned on me that I was under the tutelage of people who were to Chicago music what Berry Gordy was to Motown. I could drop some names, boy!
Wait a minute. OK. I get it now. That golden thread I mentioned earlier, must have been destiny’s lifeline. No matter how life has led me down winding roads, some dark, some barely lit. No matter how life’s rotten apples have littered up my harvest along the way. Regardless of bad decisions and experiences that tried to lead me to deny my destiny. Destiny did not deny me.