Meet one woman who transformed her destiny

“Every time there’s a huge market shift, everyone tries to realign themselves,” says Cherie Federau, 42, who has the recession to blame (or thank!) for a new career in vintage clothing. Before getting into fashion, Federau founded a geophysical airborne company with her partner, Stephen Balch. The couple was hugely successful, landing $2.6 million in business a year. “Then in October of 2008, the market fell to its knees and we went from being fully booked to having almost no work,” says Federau. Instead of falling to her knees along with the Dow, the self-proclaimed type A decided to revamp what had long been a hobby (collecting vintage clothing) into a business venture, and launched her website, shrimptoncouture.com. Her philosophy: “The day you decide to take responsibility for yourself is the day you have a chance at being a success,” she says. Indeed, success is what followed. Six months after launching her site, The Huffington Post wrote, “Shrimptoncouture.com is to vintage clothing what Net-a-Porter is to designer duds.” Meanwhile, celeb stylist Rachel Zoe confessed, “I think I’m addicted to Shrimpton Couture.” Federau says happily, “My life today is exactly the life I want—if I won $1 million I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe I’d work more from the beach.”

Federau offers a look-both-ways disclaimer to facing the crossroads. “Before you take a leap, you have to know what you’ll be good at. I’m good at buying. Why do people think that you can only do one thing in this life?” Proving those tongue cluckers wrong, Federau has decided not to confine herself to one thing. She is both helming her clothing company and continues to serve as VP of CMG Airborne Ltd., now recovering from its economic spill. “Why should I have to choose between the two? No one ever asks Warren Buffett why he doesn’t just have one company,” she says. “The more you diversify, the more fun you have.”

But Federau, in her jubilance and satisfaction, is evidently part of a minority. Most of us, at one time or another, have found ourselves in a rut, sleepwalking through the wrong life as if starring in a role meant for someone else.  “Only a fraction of us are actually vitally engaged in life,” says Elaine Dembe, a Toronto-based chiropractor, life coach and author of Use the Good Dishes. Dembe speaks with such energy and sunshiny enthusiasm, it’s clear she happily belongs to that festive minority. (Dembe celebrated her 60th birthday by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and this summer, plans to circumnavigate Mont Blanc.) To everybody else she warns, “The problem is that living in a rut can begin to feel normal.” The good news? If you’re able to identify the rut, you’re already ahead of the game. Dembe’s main advice (one she faithfully heeds) to confronting the rut is: “the biggest mistake people make is letting the number of candles on their birthday cake decide their choices. Listen to your heart! Forget your age! Look at what it is that you want.”

“Get a (New) Life” has been edited for FLARE.com; the complete story appears in the July issue of FLARE magazine.