When an Entrepreneur’s Worst Nightmare Turns into Life’s Greatest Blessing

Joeel & Natalie Rivera, with daughter Miabella

by Joeel A. Rivera, M.Ed.

I woke up at 2 o’clock in the morning covered in sweat, shaking, with my blood pressure through the roof…. An hour later it happened again, and again. Months later, after several hospitalizations and NO ANSWERS, my symptoms continued. In fact, they worsened.

I found myself no longer able to work, to coach my clients, to teach my classes, to give my presentations, to run my business. I could barely walk… or eat… and all I could do is get in a meditative state to keep my body calm. It took everything I had just to stay alive.


Many months of not being able to run our multiple businesses had finally depleted our funds. My wife became my full-time caretaker and could no longer work either.

Even though our business was crumbling around us, I barely noticed because I was focused on only one thing—survival.

We stopped doing everything except for publishing our monthly magazine (the one you are reading right now!). The subscription income was residual and took very little time to upkeep every month. That residual income is what prevented us from ending up bankrupt or even homeless. Six months into my illness, we had to start paying our staff using credit cards.

What would happen to YOUR business, family, life if YOU were on bedrest for a year?


We would lay on the bed, holding hands, and stare at the ceiling, where we had taped photos of the things we dreamed to do one day when we could go back to living life and exploring the world. We would close our eyes and visualize ourselves experiencing each image—snorkeling with sea turtles, traveling the world, and going on the world’s largest cruise ship.

Two of the photos we had on our ceiling, of the world’s largest cruise ship.

Throughout the whole ordeal we had a LOT of time to sit and think. It was like a sabbatical. We listened to audiobooks… we consumed anything inspirational that we could find… we even started taking online courses.


I became intrigued about online courses because we had created several courses a couple years earlier and it was the only source of income we had coming in that we didn’t have to do ANY work to earn.

I had reached a place where I accepted the possibility of my own demise, and I had to face that even after everything I had learned and accomplished and built in my life I was not going to leave a legacy.

I was not able to leave anything for my wife or daughter, financially. And, everything I was so passionate about teaching—all of my knowledge about human potential and building a business, was going to die with me. But, I saw online courses as a way to leave behind something… to share my wisdom with the world in a way that would outlive me. The idea of turning what I knew and loved into online courses gave me hope.


8 months after getting sick, I was hospitalized for the final time. From my room I had a view across the water where we could see some condos on the beach. I said to my wife, “one day we will be over there.” Although it was only a few mile drive, it felt worlds away.

I was finally given antibiotics and I began to improve and spent the next year recovering. After losing nearly 30 pounds, losing my muscle mass and strength, and destroying my digestive system, I had to re-learn how to walk and eat.

We never found out what I had, but we didn’t care. All that mattered is that we could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

While I began to regain my strength, I started to record videos for 10 minutes at a time, and then return to fetal position. As I continued to improve, we finished our first course, and as it began to produce an income, I was motivated to keep going. We created another course and then another. We started getting feedback from our students, who were coming from all over the world, about how much our courses were impacting their lives.

Hospital room with a view of the beach, across the water.

One year after that last hospitalization, we were looking across the water at the hospital where I had stayed FROM our new home in the condos we had seen from the other side. (See the cover image for this article to see a photo of our family standing on the beach in our back yard, looking at the hospital from across the water.)

The road to recovery was long and hard, but being able to reach those we were meant to serve, from the comfort of our own home, and be able to create something that would outlive us, was the fuel that kept us going.

We continued to convert our workshops and coach training programs into online programs. And now, four years later:

We’ve created over 60 online courses and have more than 60,000 students from 188 countries.


We’ve built our business back to being bigger and better than it was before. However, this time, it’s almost entirely PASSIVE INCOME.

The pain and uncertainty of illness and the challenge of figuring out how to keep our heads above water ended up being a tremendous BLESSING.

  • It helped us remember what we really wanted, which was FREEDOM.
  • It helped us realize that we had created a lot of responsibility and work for ourselves with our various businesses.
  • We learned how to find peace and happiness even within the most challenging situations.
  • We learned the lesson that our longevity and livelihood cannot be 100% dependent on our labor.
  • We learned the power and importance of passive income.

And today, we are passionate about empowering others to do three things:

1)      Give their pain a purpose

2)      Leave a legacy

3)      Secure their future

And all three of these things can be accomplished by doing what we did, which is to CREATE ONLINE COURSES based on what you ALREADY do, know, and love.

An entrepreneur’s worst nightmare ended up being life’s biggest blessing for us.

Us holding the photos from our ceiling.


We are now sharing our story because we want it to inspire other entrepreneurs, like you, to learn the lesson that you can DIVERSIFY YOUR INCOME by creating more leveraged and passive income strategies that will ensure your business and family can survive without you.


Whether you want to be able to take a month off, you may be caring for an aging parent, or you want to have a safety net in case something happens to you, in the information age there is more opportunity than ever before to get paid to teach what you know and love online.

If this story resonates with you because you want more freedom, need a safety net, or you have thought about sharing your expertise, experience, or passion with others online, we invite you to join the online course revolution. You can create passion, purpose and passive income!

Email me to find out more about creating online courses: joeel@transformationservices.org

Joeel Rivera is a visionary creator, coach, speaker and serial entrepreneur. He is a former psychology professor with Master’s Degree in Counseling and Education and is currently completing his dissertation for his Ph.D. in Psychology, with an emphasis on happiness. Joeel infuses a deep understanding of the science of psychology and human potential into all of his programs. He has worked with thousands of organizations, INDIEpreneurs and life coaches who are committed to mastering the power of their mind and creating their destiny. He has almost 50,000 students from more than 170 countries around the world. Visit http://www.IgniteLife.me and http://www.Transformation-Academy.com.

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