My Life's Purpose Revealed

August 2008

Judy Zerafa

Judy Zerafa lives in Colorado where she continues her work with corporations and professional, civic, and private groups. In 2004 Judy started the Go For It! Foundation, which provides The Seven Keys to Success training program.More information about Judy can be found by visiting http://goforitinstitute.org/judy-zerafa

Six weeks after my second child was born, I developed a serious infection. My doctor told my family I needed immediate surgery, but even with surgery, there was little chance I would survive. My family asked for a priest, and I was given last rites.

As the priest prayed over me, I suddenly found myself looking down at my own body. I was able to see into the waiting room where my husband and father were crying. I could see my mother at home, taking care of my infant son and my thirteen-month-old daughter.

I felt myself detach from everyone I loved as I moved forward into a corridor of light. Enveloped by an indescribable and powerful love, I was given the understanding that it was my choice whether I continued to move forward or go back. I wanted to keep moving toward that light more than I’d ever wanted anything but, somehow, I understood my purpose on earth was not complete. I chose to return to my family.

In the years that followed, I questioned my choice many times. My life was filled with health, financial, and marital issues. Eight years after my near-death experience, my husband and I divorced. By this time, we had three children.

For four years I struggled as a single parent. I married again hoping our lives would be better. That hope was short-lived, and my dreams for a good life vanished. One April evening, when I was at the depth of despair, I went for a walk with our dogs. I sat on a hill, still patchy with spring snow, and cried until I doubled over in defeat. Not believing I deserved a life of problems and unhappiness, I was angry with God. In desperation, I said, “God, take my life and do whatever you want with it. I’m done.” It was dark when I walked home. As I looked up at the star-filled sky, I felt lighter somehow.

During the previous two years, I had been doing volunteer work with children in our little town of Traverse City, Michigan, teaching them how to set goals and use their imagination to realize their dreams. The day before I turned my life over to God, I had created a guide for these children for setting and achieving goals. At the end of the next class, I gave copies of the guide to my students. The following day, I received a call from a parent of one of my students who had seen the handout and encouraged me to expand it into a booklet for kids.

Going For It!

Writing the booklet came so easily! I felt energized as the words poured through the tips of my fingers. I asked a couple of friends to tell me what they thought of what I’d written. Their enthusiastic comments encouraged me to borrow $600 from my father to advertise my booklet, How to Become Popular, in Teen magazine. Soon after the ad appeared, 120,000 copies of that booklet had been sold! What happened after was an amazing series of miracles. The success of that booklet paved the way for me to write Go For It! In 1982 it was the first self-help book for young people published by Workman Publishing. Go For It! was considered a best seller by Publishers Weekly for several years.

I was invited to be a guest on hundreds of television and radio news and talk shows during that time, including the morning news television program Today. Following that particular appearance, a president of a division of General Motors called to ask if I would speak to his senior management team about what it takes to succeed. “You have me confused with someone else,” I said. “I know exactly who you are,” he responded. “Your book is here on my desk. What you’ve written for kids is something none of my executives seem to know.”

Calls from corporations, governmental agencies, and professional groups came in weekly. Everyone wanted to know how to be successful. I knew I didn’t have all the answers, but I prayed God would show me a way to provide what everyone seemed to be trying to find.

What It Takes to Be Successful

I got this idea to call the producer of the segment I had done on Today that had started all the fuss. I told Ronee Hoade I needed her help in finding out what it takes to be successful. She laughed and then said, “I know exactly how I can help!” With that, Ronee put me in touch with the Horatio Alger Association. She and the executive director of the association arranged for me to interview thirty-five former recipients of the Horatio Alger Award. This annual award is given to people who have succeeded magnificently in life, despite adversity, through their honesty, hard work, self-reliance, and perseverance.

Ronee warned me these men and women were very busy and that my interviews must be kept to twenty minutes or less. “God,” I prayed, “how can I find out everything there is to know about achieving success in just twenty minutes?”

In a moment of absolute clarity, I knew I would ask only one question of each of the people I was to interview. “What do you think you know—that you think no one else knows—that has allowed you to succeed to the degree for which you’ve been honored?”

God was with me every step of the way. Interviews scheduled for only twenty minutes frequently took three to six hours. The men and women I interviewed opened their hearts, their minds, and their souls to me.

Seven Keys to Success

Once the interviews concluded, I had the daunting task of distilling all I’d been given. By the second day of reviewing my research, I saw a pattern emerge. These thirty-five men and women told me seven things over and over again. I called these The Seven Keys to Success©. The most startling revelation, however, came at the very end of my research: Thirty of those men and women knew only three of the keys to success. Two of the thirty-five knew four keys; two more knew five. Only one knew all seven: Oprah Winfrey.

As I sat in my living room staring down at what I’d just discovered, I felt a current of electricity start at the top of my head and travel down the length of my body and back up again. I felt chills all over, and then tears spilled from my eyes and splashed on the papers in my lap. I knew in that moment God had revealed my purpose and given me tools to help people live better, easier lives! From The Seven Keys to Success I developed a program for training teachers, students, and corporate audiences how to succeed.

God and I have always been a team. I just didn’t know it until that day. God opens the doors, and I walk through—explaining the keys to anyone who wants to learn.

Years ago when I moved toward the light, I believed I was moving toward heaven. What I know now is that heaven doesn’t just exist only on the other side. It’s here too! Heaven is here on earth when we stay connected to God in daily prayer; when we turn our lives over and ask God to guide us to our purpose and then follow where this guidance leads. Indeed, this is heaven.

The Seven Keys to Success

  1. Develop and Maintain a Positive Attitude
  2. Believe in Yourself
  3. Make Wise Choices
  4. Develop Positive Habits
  5. Set and Achieve Goals
  6. Use Creative Imagination
  7. Be Persistent