Michelle Barnes’ mom, Beverly, was 18 years old when Michelle was born. She divorced Michelle’s father when “Shelly,” as her mom called her, was nine months old. When Michelle was a toddler Bev started working the 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. shift at the post office. She did so for 17 straight years, in order to keep food on the table and shoes on her daughter’s feet, and to be home for breakfast and dinner with her girl. Michelle recognized early on that hard work is a foundation to survival and success—and so is attitude.

“We had nothing, but we had everything,” recalled Michelle. “My mom was so positive. She shaped my world with her approach to life, not with the stuff she gave me. Here was a woman who worked nine hours a night, and then came home and loved me with all her heart. She taught me that I can do, have, or be anything I want. And, more than anything, she taught me that how I think impacts how I feel, about the huge impact that a story running on in my head can have on my life.”

When Michelle was four her home had virtually no furniture. They could not afford much. There was a mattress on the floor and a big stereo. They had a stove, refrigerator, the stereo, and that mattress. A friend of Michelle’s who lived just down the street had everything—two televisions, Barbie dolls, Nike shoes—and every room was filled with furniture. Michelle longed for such stuff when she visited her friend’s house.

“Mom, how come we don’t have all the things that my friend Kimmy has? Why don’t we have furniture?” asked Michelle one day. Her mom, with three years of night shifts under her belt, with just enough food in the refrigerator to provide dinner that evening, with only a mattress on the floor and a stereo that filled the air, replied “Shelly, where would we dance?”

“Shelly, where would we dance?” Beverly answered. Not “Because we can’t afford it.” Not “Because your father doesn’t pay child support.” Not “Your neighbors are very lucky and we aren’t.” And not even, “Because furniture is not really all that important.” It was “Where would we dance?”

Michelle Barnes is one of the most energizing and successful saleswomen on earth. As a top 20 Money Earner in Vemma, a personal nutrition and products company that, among other things, makes and distributes their top selling healthy energy drink, Verve, Michelle leads a team of high powered network marketers who embrace their business. She has built a million dollar multi-level marketing network through hard work and attitude. “I sold books door to door, eighty hours a week my summer after college to raise money to go to law school,” recalled Michelle. “Seventeen years ago, I made $102,000 my first year selling water filtration systems, nutrition and natural cleaning products in my first company. I have always worked hard and have a very strong work ethic.”

“But most important, I was blessed with a Mom who taught me the power of positive thinking—without even knowing that’s what she was really doing. She always found a way to spin the negative into a positive. And not just with a shallow comment to try to deflect reality, but to embrace what we had in a sincerely positive way. The idea that everything happens for a reason is very powerful to me, and I apply it every day. I believe even challenging things happen for a good reason. This is not to say that I don’t get down, or that my mom was always rosy. I remember her crying. I cry, too. But I find silver in the lining of sadness or frustration or anger, and I quickly turn my thinking around. Once my thinking gets shifted, my actions are productive.”

Michelle Barnes credits a significant part of her success to a life of exploration and self-discovery via personal development programs. Michelle reads books about how to be a better person, listens to self-improvement CDs from leading personal development experts, and attends seminars that help her understand how and why people do what they do. With these lessons she emulates truly powerful and successful people.

“I read books or listen to personal development CDs every day. I have been doing this for my entire adult life. I started believing in the power of growth when I worked selling books door to door for the Southwestern Company. They gave us a list of ways to deal with fears or rejection by someone who stood behind their front door, not wanting to buy. The essence of that list is this: action gets rid of all fear.”

“I also remember going to a seminar when I was 23 years old. I saw strong, beautiful, amazing women speaking and said, ‘I want to be like them, to change people’s lives.’ At that event and then time and again over the years, I have watched and listened to powerful people give others a vehicle to realize their own individual full potential. What it all boils down to is, ‘There is no ‘mystery’ to being great.’ ”

Success is the progressive realization of a meaningful result. Success is waking up each day and acting on a plan that originated with a dream. Success is connecting to your passion and then regularly touching it with actions large and small that support it. “I mastered the mundane,” said Michelle. “Every day I do several little positive things for my business. This then builds on itself. I have learned the secret: the little things make a big difference.”

“I believe that personal success can be quantum and not incremental, but the quantum shift comes after putting in the time. And this shift does not apply just to work, but also to relationships, health, and spiritual growth. The foundation requires four things that get built up over time but can lead to a huge shift. These are self-discipline, good communication skills, being persistent and consistent, and believing in yourself. What is interesting about these four is that they are interconnected and feed on themselves. If you are consistent with what you are trying to say, you get better at communicating that message. If you have self-discipline, you can become persistent. And if you accept and salute what disciplined, consistent behaviors bring, you believe in yourself.”

Michelle and others like her who do the work to build their business are healthy, and have meaningful relationships, but they do not lead perfect lives, filled with bliss and troubles only a distant memory. “I have been a single parent for the last year and half. Last year my business was just not moving. I felt like I was not growing. Really, last year sucked. But today I see the positive in last year. I am the mother of two precious boys. I have renewed my efforts to grow my business. I am implementing routines to grow spiritually. I looked at the challenges I faced, found the positive in them, and I am taking small steps to make my life even better. This includes finding more time for myself, in order to understand and reflect on what really matters. Taking time for myself has always been a problem for me. Now I recognize the value of chilling out. In essence, I embrace my weakness—working too much, too hard— and make myself take time off in order to make my life better.”

“I want to leave something behind. I want to teach women how to rock and roll in life—always with balance, but without compromise. I try to do this by example, but don’t always succeed. And when I don’t succeed, I check out my thinking and go back to being like my mom, who always found the silver lining by facing and not hiding from troubles. I found success by following my own advice: Make your own path. There is no standing in line. Build yourself. Realize that doing the small things make the big things. Don’t wait for the mystery solution to solve your problems. Shift your thinking by acting on concern and fear. Recognize and be grateful for all the positive things in your life. And, remember to dance.”
– Ken Streater