Life Hacks: When Life Kicks You Down…You Rise!

Marzena Kmiecik
14 min readOct 7, 2015

Because that’s what ambitious people do.

RebelsPatch is about shifting mindsets and inspiring others to live their lives to the fullest despite of their circumstances, fears and setbacks to be the best version of themselves and shine the brightest, most encouraging light for others…so it’s only fair I share my own personal story to show you what has motivated me in life and why I set out to help others get the tools they need to create the life they want.

Knowing yourself and what inspires you will help you figure out your passions, direction and goals to know what you must do to succeed and find joy in life.

Let’s get personal

My mom wakes me up one day, holds my hand and says, ” I need you to be strong, your dad passed away this morning.”

It’s hard to describe the sense of shock I felt considering I wasn’t aware of his illness. Aside from a suspicious lump appearing on the side of his neck one day, of which my family assured me it was nothing to worry about, everything else seemed fine and all else was hidden from me…they believed they were protecting me.

What do you mean he passed away? I don’t understand…more like, I couldn’t even process this…

Parents divorced when I was 10 and about a year after that he moved in with my grandmother who was a nurse, I visited on weekends. 7 months from his diagnosis he was gone, just like that... My father's life ended when he was only 35 years old…my mom always said: “she’s just like her father” — this came to mean many different things and took on various interpretations over the years.

We never talked about his illness with my family, I think everyone, including my father, believed I was too young to properly cope, and the best way to deal with it was to not deal with it, shove it under the rug or perhaps they themselves were in denial. It all ended so fast.

I actually wish I knew, now in retrospect, perhaps I would’ve tried to spent more time with him…I resented that as a teenager, for years seeing the reality through a tiny skewed lense of an 11 year old. I felt robbed of the opportunity to make peace with it as a child. I try to remember that I didn’t have much control over my life back then, that everyone did the best they could.

As a child I’ve internalized the pain of loss, felt angry, as if my life spun out of control around me. As an adult I was able to turn those emotions into something positive (took years), something more action oriented that fueled and propelled me in my life. As you read below, these painful events taught me to be even more resilient, recover quickly from setbacks in life, to rise above adversity. Or relentlessly try. We must remind ourselves regularly that we are in control of our own reality and any change requires action, practice, repeat. Most of the time that change must happen on the inside before we can see it on the outside and some moments in life will be easier than others. Perseverance is the key.

Reality is just a perception. Change perception and your reality will change.

Going back to my father…

My father rarely compromised for the sake of fitting other people’s expectations which taught me early on (or perhaps I was wired that way) to stand by myself, to stay as true and authentic as possible, to take responsibility for myself, to question status quo, to say no if something didn’t feel right, to follow my gut, and to fight for what I believed in. I’ve learned to live in the gray area of life more than have a black and white perspective on most things, without losing my stubborn European nature that lets me stay determined and persevere with my goals.

Not even a year went by after he passed and my mom was diagnosed with cancer…what’s the chance of that, right? How could this be?

I remember discovering her medical records one night, she was seemingly uncomfortable as if a huge secret was exposed too soon for her to collect her thoughts, to prepare and know what to say to me…I wasn’t ready for her answer either, in fact, not sure I would’ve ever been ready. I could feel her shame as if she blamed herself for getting sick…I wish I was older to hold space for her in a way that was more compassionate and understanding but I was 14 years old facing my world crashing in front of me and me helplessly watching.

We sat in silence for a while, paralyzed with confusion, my mind drew blank unable to grasp what was going on…again…I felt the fear and anxiety rise within me, the anger, and all I could say was: are you going to be ok? (in Polish) I remember her words: ” I don’t know”…still hear her shaky voice in my head years later. My heart sank, I knew this was serious, I also somehow knew she would not be ok…I thought: “here we go again”. I felt completely victimized by my reality slowly disassociating myself from what’s going on to survive it.

The thought of my mom dying while I was still grieving my father’s death was simply unfathomable and surreal. It made no logical sense that this was happening again to our family only 2 years later. This isn’t something anyone can prepare for, at any age, not to mention as a child. To say I didn’t have a joyful childhood is an understatement.

I remember feeling let down, abandoned, betrayed and very angry. Yet looking at this experience from the distance now, such loss so early on has equipped me with tools for life nothing else probably would’ve, at the same time any of us could do without such lessons or experiences so early on.

I’ve learned to practice letting go of what I can’t control in life, guess one can say I’ll be a lifelong student ;) and actively focus my energy on things that I can control. Over the years I’ve realized that life just is, it doesn’t come with a personal agenda against any of us, there isn’t this grand plan for some to suffer more than others, pain is merely circumstantial most times, and it’s up to each individual to find the silver lining in all that we experience, the good and the bad…

This type of resilience necessary to face hardship in life and power through the uncertainties is exactly what I needed when I left the corporate world and focused on my studio, it’s also exactly the kind of insight I needed to help others push through their limitations to help them create the lives they wanted.

Few days before my mom passed away she said: ” Always stay true to who you are and honest with yourself, and only do in life what makes you feel passionate and happy…as long as it doesn’t harm anyone. If you can look at yourself in the mirror every morning and be ok with the person looking back at you, you are doing it right and know I will always be proud of you. ”

The day my mom passed away we were watching a movie in the evening. She requested to cook her favorite childhood meal for supper- cast noodles in hot milk of all things…she seemed a bit more anxious than usual, the morphine stopped managing her pain and couple hrs later she was drifting in and out of consciousness. She died with me holding her hand with my head on her chest…even at that moment it wasn’t sinking in what was happening, until I heard her take her last breath and her heart stopped beating. Nothing can be more final than that moment for any of us. The final silence. Nothing. That one moment shaped how I look at life, death, reasons for our existence, forgiveness, and our individual purpose in this Universe. Time is the most valuable commodity we don’t have enough of.

My mom was 37 when she died, I was only 14. The following year was a total blur, looking back I really can’t remember much. Her passing didn’t just start a new chapter of my life, her death meant writing a completely new book which contents were still unknown to me.

Where do I start…

About 12 months later I left the only country, family, friends, school and language I knew for the first 15 years of my life, moved across the world adopted by my aunt to live a new life as a U.S Citizen…an experience which has inspired me in my 30s to launch a project called OrphaWorld and focus my efforts on helping bring light to the issues orphaned children face so they can get the resources they need to thrive and find loving families.

It is the most surreal feeling to come to terms with knowing that the two people who gave me life were gone before I became an adult who could make decisions about my own life. The first year after my mom passed away I felt abandoned, dazed and disoriented, perpetually suspended in the air with no ground underneath me and as any teenager would, for me perhaps that was amplified back then — I felt totally misunderstood, angry and alone.

Moving to U.S to focus on my new life and family distracted me just enough to start to recover from all of the loss and heartache I left behind. Losing my parents conditioned me to make peace with death and rather than fear it, embrace it as my motivator to make life as meaningful as possible.

On my 37th b-day there was no longer a blueprint I could fall back on, to guide me through life, that part left an emotional void yet at the same time I felt oddly liberated, free, knowing it’s my time, my turn to create my own path, figure out what I want my life to really be about, unchained by the past.

I remember thinking: ” why am I still here when they are not around anymore? How can I make a difference? How can my life matter?” and the voice inside me never quiet down until I figured it out through paying attention to what would light my soul, what would make me happy, what kind of things would make me feel the most “centered” and then do more of whatever that is.

In retrospect moving to U.S was truly the best decision my family could’ve made on my behalf, and I am forever thankful to them as the transition and experience was challenging at times for all of us. I can say with 100% certainty that the loss and the constant change in my life have prepared me for a life of an entrepreneur before I became one, and I hope that this story and RebelsPatch will help you redefine your purpose so you too can be your best version and can change the world one idea and action at a time. This is a lifelong process, I believe we are never done until we die.

Find your passion.
Find your purpose.

When I went to college I knew that I loved to be creative but computers were the future so I decided to focus on creating engaging user experiences, sharing brand stories and designing. When I took my first HTML class in the mid 90s, while the Internet was barely taking off with the first user interfaces, the thought of reaching China in a split second was fascinating to me, still is, only now many take the Internet for granted. I still remember that feeling of awe. I found my calling back then by helping others reach their “china”, connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Yes… that truly was an exciting time, still is and what hasn’t changed over these years regardless of progress is the human factor, so no matter how technology changes the way we communicate, it can’t change our need to connect to one another. In fact that is the “Internet”.

The market was untapped back then, most of us were still learning and inventing interactive technologies right on the spot, and everyone looked to the Internet for all of their business growth answers, confused as to how to use it to spread their ideas. The Fortune 500 companies back then had unlimited budgets, and creatives had a free reign to experiment as far as our imagination could reach. And we did.

Fast forward few years and I found myself with money in the bank, buying a property, traveling, but at the same time drained, burnt out, and my life felt completely empty even though I was in a relationship at the time. I knew then something just wasn’t right, that I had to create a greater purpose than just working on projects that didn’t have much meaning but took everything out of me, and mostly existed only for the length of a particular marketing campaign. I wanted my life to have purpose by doing what mattered.

I was trading time for money and an illusion of stability.

Are you alive in your life? or do you live your life on an autopilot, stuck in the would’ve could’ve and should’ves watching time just pass you by? Don’t wait too long to enjoy the only life you have. Action creates a momentum that drives change.

One night, while I was working late on a project for a big national cat food brand, I thought to myself: “It’s 4am on a saturday night and I’m working on a cat food project… I don’t even own a cat… what am I doing with my life?!

Just like that I thought: “That’s it, I’m moving!”

Put life into focus.

The only time you should ever look back, is to see how far you’ve come!

And so I did. To California!

By then most of my family has already moved to Arizona, staying on the east coast started to make little sense all together. I packed everything, rented my house and moved to find my happiness on the other side of the country where people seemed to be perpetually altruistic, environmentally conscious and self aware. I think after 8 years of living in San Diego now, I am officially considered to be a local.

Today I am much more conscious of how I spend my professional and personal time, I strive to seek out and work with companies which are environmentally progressive, doing positive, meaningful things for our society, partner with people who have a higher purpose and follow their passions in life. Of course I help those who look at work as the means to have a lifestyle they want but have noticed that the most exciting/excited and inspiring/inspired individuals are those who do what they absolutely love which they feel gives meaning and purpose to their existance. My desire is to invest my energy and time into people, companies and things that matter to me, helping entrepreneurs and CEOs reach their full potential and build solutions to problems that move our society in the right direction for a collective, higher sense of purpose. Do you think you live a life of meaning that you love? If not, why not?

Pixelfanatix, my digital studio continues to help companies and business owners not only grow in wealth but purpose. If you or anyone you know needs to thrive because you or them have a kick-ass idea that can make our communities better, or give you (or your customers) more meaning, and you need someone to assist you in your entrepreneurial journey from concept idea, development all the way to growing relationships with your loyal supporters, let’s talk. I’ll show you how to launch in 30 days and grow online so you too can live the life you love.

And if you aren’t sure what your purpose or passion is but you want to change your life and do what you love, then I have created a Pathfinder Worksheet especially for you to help navigate through your personal motives and desires so you too can discover your strengths and create a lifestyle that will not only make you happy but will fill your life with meaning.

Pathfinder comes with a consultation you can redeem within 30 days (if you one of those DIY types, you can purchase Pathfinder as a stand alone without any consultation) so whether you want to go through the discovery process on your own, or with my assistance, the guide will help you move closer to understanding yourself and what will make you truly happy. Next step will be to plan actionable steps to achieve your goals all the way to creating an idea, and transforming it into a kick-ass business or a lifestyle…or perhaps if you love your full time job, you simply want to turn your idea into an exciting product that will bring you additional joy.

Speaking about purpose… I have decided to go on a 3 months solo journey across the states and collect the best advice, tips, tools, and inspirational success stories from other rebellious startup founders and entrepreneurs, who have followed their dreams and consciously created the lives they truly wanted. I brought them back to share and launched RebelsPatch to inspire and motivate you to do the same. We just soft launched this website so make sure you sign up to our email to get more stories and tips to your inbox as they get added to the site.

RebelsPatch is the place to be for rebellious entrepreneurs, mentors and investors to find the resources they need to succeed and to create the kind of fearless life they want, NOW! Not someday. I hope you like the channel and will contribute to its collective library of stories and tools every rebel needs, to take action. This site will grow over time so stop by often and reach out if you think you have something valuable to share!

Life Hacks

Never half-ass anything…

What has life taught me so far:

  1. I have learned that life is to be lived and experienced to the fullest. Don’t wait for that perfect moment, in reality all moments are as perfect as you make them to be!
  2. I have learned that nothing in life is certain, constant or forever lasting and the only way to appreciate being alive is to experience loss, challenges or disappointments. I’ve embraced uncertainty and use it to ignite a fire under my ass to propel me.
  3. I have learned to create special moments with people I care about and not wait to tell them I love them, to not miss a chance.
  4. I have learned to appreciate simple things rather than material things, like being alive and healthy….rest is truly a bonus.
  5. And last but not least: I have learned to try to live because of this loss.

It’s not always easy but I try to never forget that life for all of us is nothing but a cluster of experiences, moments in time, some weaved into the lives and realities of others and some meant to b experienced alone. We will win and lose in life, we will love and hurt, cry and laugh….learning to be in the “now” is the hardest thing for some but it’s life’s sweetest secret to happiness leaving us with the least amount of regrets when it’s time for us to go. What you do with your life before it is over and the impact you make on others is fully up to you.

Do you have a childhood story you’d like to share that has changed who you are today? Share it here or on Rebelspatch

How do you find out what you want to do in life?

It’s about aligning the “what”, with “why” and hacking the “how” of life!

Did my life’s story inspire you? Would love for you to like and share this story with others who are thinking of following their passions and creating the lives they want. If you have any questions, or want to share your own story, share it below in comments.

See how others did it at Rebelspatch and get inspired!

~ Marzena



Marzena Kmiecik

Pixelfanatix, RowPhysio | Fiziologix, FreePurity, Rebelspatch