We all face personal and professional challenges as we maneuver our way through life’s twists and turns. It’s how we handle those challenges that’s important.

I guess you could say that I’m a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” kind of gal. Life doesn’t always work out exactly like you had planned, and when that happens, you have choices to make. After working for years as a successful elementary school teacher, an unexpected, but pivotal change in my personal life led me to a career-changing choice to enter the business world. It was risky, but now I realize that a leap of faith, coupled with determination, hard work, and a willingness to learn and grow, is what success is all about.

While observing other people you respect—both in and out of the business world—you’ll see they have similar attributes with which to meet life’s challenges: honesty and integrity, understanding the value of teamwork, ability to attract and promote talent, a willingness to teach and help others, and recognition of their own strengths and weaknesses.

When my brother, sister, and I get together, we often talk about how lucky we are to have had such great parents. We realize that they taught us these basic values through their own actions. Not everyone is so fortunate to have had such wonderful role models, but if you are willing to learn and grow, you’ll find that other great teachers surround you. And you don’t always need to have a formal or personal relationship with these leaders. You can learn just from watching how they handle certain situations and reflecting on their good and bad attributes.

My mother once wrote this about life: “the shell was worn by the ebb and flow of many tides—the shape imperfect, but its colors burnished by sand and sea until it glowed in my hand.” Think of your life and career as that shell. Neither will always be perfect. You may need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps periodically, but with effort, perseverance, and a little bit of luck, both can glow in your hand. And when you see the shells of others you have worked with over the years begin to glow in their hands, smile as you reflect on the true meaning of success.