09/15/2010 02:59 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Paula Deen Was Unemployed and Frustrated. What Saved Her Could Save You Too

If you're one of the 15 million unemployed, you may be wondering if you'll be able to find a job anytime soon. It's easy in this market to feel like the odds are stacked against you. The airwaves are constantly filled with stories of doom and gloom on the job front which can feed your anxiety. The anxiety can turn into paralysis and a downward spiral.

American cook, author and Emmy Award-winning television personality,Paula Deen, was in a similar situation many years ago. Shortly after she and her husband and two sons moved to Savannah, Georgia where she didn't know anyone, her husband's business tanked leaving them financially strapped. This precipitated a divorce, leaving Paula to raise two teenage sons on her own. For the previous 20 years she had battled with agoraphobia (struggled to leave the house) and with the divorce she was debilitated, "I went to bed for two months. I went to bed and I did nothing but cry. I would get up to eat and go to the bathroom and go back to bed."

Paula felt like she had no one (parents were deceased) and nothing to turn to. She didn't have any marketable skills and didn't know how she was going to support her family. Her self esteem was low and her agoraphobia had kicked into high gear. She was 42 years old. "So I said, Paula, what can you do? You were not listening in school. You have no talent. You can't sing or dance. What are you going to do, girl?" The answer was to do what she had a passion for -- cooking. She went back to bed, but this time focused on how she could make a living by cooking.

Still unable to leave the house, she started a business called "The Bag Lady" and had her sons deliver sandwiches to offices during lunchtime. Paula sold all 50 tuna sandwiches on white bread her first day of business and slowly grew from there. She opened a restaurant called The Lady and Sons and a few years later her career skyrocketed. Today, Paula Deen has her own television show, Paula's Home Cooking, on the Food Network. She has published 5 cookbooks, appeared on Oprah and launched a lifestyle magazine called Cooking with Paula Deen in November 2005.

A tremendous amount of success from a woman who couldn't get out of bed.

In this job market, many people are in a panic and believe they should just take any job. The last thing on their mind is pursuing a passion. People think about their passion when they're "fat and happy" not when they're stressed. However, focusing on your passion now is a great way to alleviate your stress and energize you. Just like Paula Deen, you can start small and build from there. She focused on her strengths and her passion and developed a niche -- preparing and delivering lunches to businesses.

Stories like Paula Deen's can inspire all of us to continue on when we feel like giving up. No matter how bleak the situation looks, doing the right things at the right time will ensure your success. If you've had a passion or desire to create something, this might be the perfect time to do it.

Paula Deen: "If you have a dream, Follow It!"

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success