Successful Survivors: Translating the Effects of Trauma into Life Skills

Millions of people fail to reach their full potential. They feel “stuck” in unhappy relationships or struggle on the job and financially. Some have experienced so much adversity that they’ve lost hope of improving their situations. Others want to improve their lives, but simply do not know how.

Whether they identify as victims of trauma or not, many of these people have experienced trauma, and are being held back by it. The National Center for PTSD states, “Going through trauma is not rare. About 6 of every 10 (or 60%) of men and 5 of every 10 (or 50%) of women experience at least one trauma in their lives.” I believe this is true because I was one of those people.

I would never have described myself as a “victim of trauma” (or as a victim of anything). But the truth was that for many years, I was held back by the experiences of being abandoned by my parents, abused by caregivers, growing up in poverty and homelessness, and by the profound “aloneness” of being an emancipated 16-year-old in a world with no support system.

I wrote my new book, Successful Survivors, The 8 Character Traits of Survivors and How You Can Attain Them, because I realized that the success I created in building businesses that protected the good people and organizations that help children and families, was directly attributable to the good characteristics and coping mechanisms I had acquired during the most painful times of my life.

I realized that the poverty I had experienced had taught me to be resourceful and to be a good manager of money. I realized that standing up to my primary abuser to protect others he intended to brutalize was courage. I learned that the abuse I had endured had created in me an empathy and burning desire for justice that cannot be acquired any other way. Ultimately, I realized that although I didn’t have the advantages that some of my peers enjoyed, I did have character traits that were precisely what I needed to create personal and professional success.

In my work with child welfare professionals and thought leaders all over the U.S., I’ve had the privilege of meeting other “successful survivors.” As I interviewed these people, I found common threads that ran through all our lives. These threads are what I call the “assets” we developed in order to survive what we’ve been through. One after the next, I began to see a picture emerge of the strong, tenacious, determined survivors we were. If we had all leveraged our positive character traits and coping mechanisms, others could, too!

My goal with Successful Survivors is to provide a guideline by which people who have survived traumatic experiences can go from survival to success, and ultimately to a life of significance in which they share what they’ve learned to help others. Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a specific character trait or group of related character traits that consistently show up in the lives of successful survivors of trauma. Each chapter is summarized and includes key points for the development of the characteristics emphasized in that chapter.

Armed with this new appreciation for who they are and for the amazing group of successful survivors to which they belong, readers are encouraged to shift their focus from pain and self pity to hope and to the determination to leverage the good characteristics and coping mechanisms that are already in them. When we recognize and celebrate our value, we tend to make better choices. When we make better choices, we get better results. And when we get better results, we are empowered to keep reaching and growing.

Rhonda Sciortino


Rhonda Sciortino, author of Successful Survivors, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success. Rhonda can be reached at

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