Finding Purpose.. Behind the Eight Ball

Behind the eight ball

By Amber Hurdle

Shell shocked at fourteen-years-old, this Southern California girl got plopped into what I considered Podunk, Tennessee with every intention of taking the first ticket out as soon as I could. Yet here I am, twenty years later, perfectly content to call this place home. Why? Because it is where I can live with BIG purpose…and to me a purposeful life IS “the good life.”

Eight BallWait. What? Doesn’t it take a big city to live with big purpose?

Absolutely not! But it does take the right environment with the right people and the right support.

These days I have the absolute privilege of coaching individuals all over the country, from leaders at Fortune-500 companies to entrepreneurs. These people want to be highly successful both in their careers and in their personal lives, not sacrificing one for the other. I get to use my life experiences to encourage others to find their own purpose and pursue it, no matter what life throws at them. I will even get to empower readers of this very magazine to do the same through my upcoming regular columns. And while I can do all of this just about anywhere, I am thrilled to be based right on the Lebanon Square, as my own “becoming” has been firmly grounded in this special community.

Anyone who knows me knows I started the motherhood gig rather young. At sixteen-years-old I was in the midst of an emergency C-section at University Medical Center while the entire waiting room was full of friends, family and people who had never met me before, praying for me and my child, and supporting my family through the scariest moment in my life.

When I was a bit older, a single mom, and barely making ends meet, parents of high school friends were sure to invite us over for dinner, knowing it would mean there were fewer meals for me to figure out and pay for. My friends acted as “aunts” and “uncles” to my child, and some even helped me raise her, teaching her at daycare while I was at work. Again, small town victories. I sure didn’t have much in the bank, but I did have what mattered most-my own solid family as my emotional rock, and many other people who showed us love through their actions. 

Much more stable and a little more experienced, I moved back to Lebanon at 21 after a few years in Nashville to join the Sports Village family.  Those were indeed the five most impactful years of my personal growth. The late Johnny Keel was my mentor, teaching me lessons about business and how to treat people that remain a part of my values to this day. Peggy Keel introduced me to personal development, creating opportunities for me to grow professionally and as an individual.

It was there, in fact, that I waddled around the gym until I finally gave birth to my son, again blessed with a small village that helped me raise my children. It was the members and the staff who supported me as I juggled my job, a toddler, a little girl, returning to college to complete my degree, and figuring out what life was going to look like after a divorce. At that time I might not have had everything I wanted, but I had everything I needed because I had community.

I could go on about the support I’ve received through personal tragedy or illness. Or talk about when I needed a job, a car or a place to live, but maybe didn’t have all the qualifications to make it happen, how the more fortunate, yet humble leaders in this town pulled strings to give me a hand up knowing I would never take a handout.

I could speak to how my kids got VIP treatment at the doctor’s because their caretakers were my one-time classmates. Or how their teachers keep me in the loop because they aren’t just their teachers, they’ve been my friends since I was a teenager. Or best of all–how they can’t get away with anything because I know everyone (or at least enough people) and it’s just not worth it to even try!

I could list all of the area women who have mothered me; many of whom helped me create the Cumberland University Women’s Council for Leadership to empower young female students, then ended up becoming some of the most encouraging, influential women in my own life.

Now in my season of plenty I can share that the support of this community has enabled me to do unimaginable things for a young mother starting out behindEight BallAmber and Derek at the Murfreesboro Jazz Festival, 2006 (he was four and this was one of our “dates”) the eight ball. A “teen mom” led the employee engagement strategies for the largest Marriott Hotel in the world and its four Nashville attractions, planned events for international celebrities and rallied the 60,000 plus alumni base of one of the country’s top public business schools at the University of Georgia. And the common thread through all of these accomplishments is the community that whispered, “keep on going” when it was tough, who answered my endless questions as I entered uncharted territory, and who opened doors for me again and again as I took on new and bigger challenges.

Eight Ball

The point is my purpose has continuously expanded thanks to the unrelenting support of my family, my incredibly amazing husband later in my journey; my friends, and importantly, my community. It began as raising a child to have all that she deserved in spite of being born to a teenage mother. It evolved into being the best mother and provider to my children, using my career as a tool to create opportunities for their success and a vision for their future. Now I get to serve many people who want more out of their own existence, who are divinely discontented to settle for “good enough,” and who can use my story to realize they don’t have to. Today I can look forward to continuing to become a better version of myself, exploring the next phase of my ever-growing purpose, and doing it all here in Wilson County, right where I’ve claimed… my piece of the good life.

Have a work-life success topic you’d like me to address? Submit your question at contact. Look for more of Amber’s columns in upcoming issues as we are excited to introduce Amber Hurdle as our newest WLM contributor.


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