When life gets you down, how do you not only recover, but come out better than before?

Five inspirational people turned tragedy into a springboard to greater business success and personal happiness, thanks to these character traits:

1. Unstoppable Drive

Raised in poverty by a single mother, Jane Miller was driven from a young age. She graduated second in her class, attended college, and went on to earn her MBA at SMU.

Corporate life was successful and lucrative. At 24, she started out in an entry-level position with Frito-Lay. Jane was surrounded by ivy-league graduate co-workers with pedigree and far more work experience. Even so, Jane was promoted her first year.

Over the next 20 years, she would hold positions of great power, managing $1 billion business divisions and leading her peers.

When her husband left her, citing her commitment to her work more than her marriage, Jane struggled. When he became ill with cancer, she faltered. Her priorities changed forever when he tragically lost his fight in 2002.

She created JaneKnows.com to help other women navigate the tricky world of big business. Jane was ready for a career move of her own, too--she became CEO of Rudi's Organic Bakery.

"I run a company with products that I believe in, I live in a location that nourishes my soul and I have time for a personal life," she says. "I have worked for many companies where I did not care about the products; I have lived in many locations that I hated; I know what it is like to not have time for a personal life."

Jane's drive led her to great professional success, but today it's helping her find personal happiness, as well.

2. Empathy

Irina Jordan's 22-year old brother was killed in a home invasion and burglary. Years later, she lost a close friend unexpectedly, resurfacing the devastation of the death of her brother.

Once afraid to let go of the stable corporate environment, Irina was inspired to take a giant leap of faith.

"My brother lived his life to the fullest, and to honor it, I've been on a quest to face my fears and pursue my passions," she says. An artisan at heart, Irina left her job and launched Artisurn.

Now, she spends her days crafting items people can display in their home or wear close to their heart to honor their lost friends, relatives and pets.

"I was able to start talking to people outside of my immediate family and finding joy in my everyday life. That was when I knew I am healing and I said to myself that my life is a gift that I should not take for granted," she said.

Irina found happiness and success in business through her empathetic nature and a desire to help others.

3. Resourcefulness

William Dockery escaped the poverty of his upbringing, only to return home a widower and single father years later. This time, though, he built a successful business that brings in over $9 million in annual revenue.

Raised in poverty in rural Appalachia just after World War II, he spent eight years in the Air Force and eventually earned his electrical engineering degree on the GI bill. Eager to make something of himself, William became a businessman and engineer in both Boulder, Colorado and in Silicon Valley.

These were happy times for William, his wife and two young children. Work was good. Home was good. Life was good.

The death of his wife in 1992 to a staph infection that started as a simple cut on her finger was a stunning loss.

William needed his family's support in raising his two small, now motherless children--but they were back in North Carolina.

In order to survive and thrive back home, William knew he needed to be resourceful.

"When I finished my small business presentation to the Vicor Board of Directors in 1995 and received the first start-up funding check, I knew things were going to change for the better," he says.

Did it ever. Aegis Power Systems Inc. is certainly atypical for the region.

"As part of the agreement with Vicor, I was able to access their marketing group and have access to existing accounts. Having a good financial partner allowed me to concentrate on organizing and growing the business," he explains.

William's resourcefulness drove his success in a situation where it was highly unlikely.

4. Tenacity

Joan Frances Moran lost the love of her life and her screenwriting partner in her later years, but it wasn't her curtain call. At 60 years old, Joan began teaching yoga.

"Losing my significant other was deep and profound," Joan tells me. "He had given me so many tools for living, mental and emotional survival skills."

Her decision to take the yoga training her partner had pushed her to do changed Joan's life. After all, how many people switch careers and decide to push their body even harder well into their sixties?

She had no idea what her journey would look like, she says, but was determined to complete her training. And she did.

In fact, Joan went on to teach, create a corporate wellness program, become a motivational keynote speaker and author her book 60, Sex & Tango: Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer.

5. Ingenuity

The global fitness trend Sarina Jain started stemmed from the sudden loss of her father to cardiac arrest when she was just a teen.

Masala Bhangrar is the dance workout Sarina created to honor her father and promote a healthy lifestyle. Her unique blend of Indian folkdance Bhangra with exotic Bollywood moves and modern dance became an international sensation.

Teaching classes and creating videos of her dance workout set to the beat of Indian music helped Sarina keep her father's cultural influence alive.

She landed a spot hosting the first Indian dance program on Discovery Channel's FIT TV. Eventually, she would sign a sponsorship deal with Nestle that saw her creation featured on millions of breakfast products.

"Staying focused on creating Masala Bhangra helped me to keep my Dad's spirit alive and allowed me to create something productive out of my grief," she says.

Where Does Your Happiness and Success Come From?

These 5 people inspire us to find our own silver lining and build something awesome from the ashes of personal tragedy.

What has inspired you to focus on finding happiness or led you to greater success? Share your story in the comments!