The Power of Micro Change

One small step in a new direction can have a huge ripple effect in your life. Meet six women who weren’t trying to reinvent themselves, but still found a wonderful new path.

By Carin Rubinstein
Photograph: Photo: Glen Wexler/Gallery Stock

Rebecca Hendrix
New York, New York

Small Step: Served meals to the homeless

Big Result: Now a psychotherapist
Five years ago, Hendrix was earning $130,000 a year working as a luxury goods marketing director for a high-end design and retail chain. But “I began to feel more and more empty,” she says. Eager to try something different, she volunteered at New York’s Coalition for the Homeless, and each week she’d give out cups of chicken soup, bagels, oranges and cartons of milk. For the first time, she felt a sense of purpose. As she set out to deliver the meals, her route took her past a line of limos waiting to pick up Goldman Sachs employees—right next to a line of homeless people waiting to get their nightly meal. That juxtaposition of extreme luxury with extreme poverty “gave me a reality check,” she says. “It made me realize that I wanted to do more to help people.”

A year later, through a friend, she met a woman who had trained in spiritual psychology at the University of Santa Monica, in California. Struck by the woman’s serenity, Hendrix thought, whatever she has, I want it. She promptly enrolled in that same program and began flying to Los Angeles once a month for classes. For four years, she commuted cross-country because she couldn’t afford to quit work. But it paid off: In 2007, Hendrix became a licensed therapist. At first, she says, “I was afraid that I didn’t know what I was doing. But I got over my perfectionism and allowed myself to make mistakes.”

THE REWARDS Hendrix earns $160,000 to $175,000 a year and also leads life-change workshops and seminars
( She is so successful, she has a waiting list. “I realized there’s more to life than what I was doing, that I have more power to change my life than I thought. The key was in saying yes to something so different.”
 Alexanne Albert
Houston, Texas

Small Step: Took a community college jewelry and metal arts class

Big Result: Now owns a jewelry business
As a struggling single mother and emergency room nurse, Albert could never afford to buy heirloom quality china, but “the beauty of it really touched my heart,” she says. One day, she saw some cheap jewelry made with china, and she thought she could do better. She imagined how beautiful the delicate patterns would look if they were set into silver: “I could turn people’s broken china cups and plates into accessories they’d want to wear.” The problem was, at age 47, she’d never designed anything and had no idea if anyone would buy this unusual jewelry. So she took a one-semester metal arts class and learned the fundamentals. “Many women get stuck by having too many obligations, but if you want to have a dream,” she says, “you have to take time to discover what that is.” Her first solo attempt during the course—a silver ring set with blue willow china—showed she had an eye for design and the skill to execute her ideas. It also kindled her entrepreneurial spirit.

Unfortunately, the banks did not share her enthusiasm. When she went shopping for a loan, they all told her a version of the same thing: “We don’t see how you can make money selling this stuff.” So while still working in the hospital, she made the risky decision to cash in a $17,000 retirement plan and racked up about $50,000 on credit cards, buying used jewelry-making equipment and random pieces of china from flea markets and estate sales. Next, she invited her daughter and daughter-in-law to join the business, which she named China Baroque.

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