The Moral Of The Story

 

 

 

Inside a cardboard box concept for moving house, creativity or t

Let me tell you a story.

It’s a story about bravely facing fear – a big, lifetime kind of fear – and emerging stronger than you ever thought you could be.

Let me tell you a story about quitting a job.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who we’ll call Diane. For a long time, Diane had a dream – she wanted to have her own consulting and coaching business. She studied and learned and grew, but the reality of being a single mom and getting her kids launched weighed heavily on her mind. Money and security worries haunted her every moment.

So, like a lot of people, Diane put aside her dream in service to her family and their needs.

She commited to a corporate job with a big, international powerhouse.

Now, Diane was good at her corporate work and became a Vice President who consistently found herself at the ear of the CEO talking about strategy, vision and big picture issues. In response to one of the Big Vision Items, she developed a ground-breaking program that became widely implemented throughout the organization.

Diane routinely traveled the world from Asia to Europe. She was on so many conference calls that she almost forgot what it was like to meet with people face-to-face. Don’t even think about the quantity of email she managed.

Her pace was frenetic and challenging, but she was contributing, and excelling, and that felt very good.

And her children were becoming purposeful young adults and moving into their own lives, and that also felt very good.

She had a little nest egg, and that felt very good, too.

But then, suddenly, some things began to feel less good.

The CEO left and was replaced by someone who didn’t see Diane in the same light. She found herself shuffled around, and excluded, and reporting to someone she wasn’t so sure about.

It was confusing and unsettling.

Then one day her boss said that Diane would be let go at the end of the next quarter.

So Diane did what many of us in that situation would do – she worked like the devil to make sure no one would ever say that she left the place worse off than she found it.

A little voice began in her head – the little voice so many single moms hear, “What am I going to do about money? How can I ever replace my corporate salary in my own business?” – and Diane began to panic a little.

At the end of that quarter, Diane fully expected to be let go. She was prepared for it. Instead, her supervisor said, “Will you stay through the next quarter just so we can get everything really buttoned up?” And Diane, feeling the worry of pending financial doom, said “Sure!” and again worked like the devil to produce.

One quarter led to another with yet another extension, a flurry of production from Diane, more money into her savings, and a stressful future.

And then one day Diane took a deep breath. She stepped back. She got very still and reflected. She called a friend who asked:

What did she really want?

What was holding her back?

Was it true she didn’t have enough money to start her own business?

Was she going to wait any longer to do what she really wanted to do? Or was she going to allow the company to continue to string her along?

How long was she going to continue to jump to meet the demands of others?

How long was she willing to postpone her dream?

She sat down, right there, and composed her resignation letter. Because she’s who she is, she sent it to an employment lawyer friend who tweaked it and sent it back.

Diane submitted it.

She waited.

Until the HR head called to say, “We’re not accepting your resignation.”

What?

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” the HR woman said. “The conversations around this were so interesting.”

Diane felt herself getting mad.

Until the HR head said, “You see, you are so well-regarded and so appreciated around her that we’re not going to accept your resignation – we’re going to fire you and give you a severance package of six months of full pay plus your full bonus plus pay you for all of your unused vacation days.”

(That’s a big bonus and 270 unused vacation days, by the way.)

Diane laughed out loud. 

Her future now looked very different. Now, she could take the leap into self-employment without fear.

Now, she could finally live her dream.

It had only taken saying, “No. Enough. No more. Here is where I stop” to get exactly what she needed. 

And that, friends, is the moral of the story.

 

Working Hard Is Pointless

Construction Worker Silhouette At Work

 

I know you. You throw yourself into everything you do, all the time.

There is no halfway for you –  it’s all the way, and once you’re there, maybe you do just a little bit more.

There is no “all-or-nothing”, there’s just full tilt, up-past-your-eyeballs “all-in”.

You, my friend, are a machine.

You’re the first one there and the last one to leave.

You work hard and give 110% to everything you do.

You certainly don’t believe in shortcuts.

(Is this starting to resonate yet?)

There are people around you who love that you work so hard and so much, especially those who do a whole lot less because you’re doing it all.

Those folks, in fact, rather adore you.

You work, and work, and work, and accomplish, and accomplish, and accomplish, and – tell the truth – you sort of look down on people who aren’t as fully committed as you are. And you pretty much define yourself by how much time you put in.

It’s resonating now, huh?

And I’m not going to tell you to stop working so hard, or so much. I’m not going to tell you to change one thing about yourself.

I’m just going to raise one little idea – something I’ve learned from the many people I’ve coached over the years who’ve come to the point where a light bulb goes off over their heads.

I’ve even had this same light bulb go off over my own noggin.

It’s this: Today, you can work somewhere for ten, fifteen, twenty years and work hard, give it your all, miss your kids’ birthdays, your spouse’s birthdays, your friends’ funerals,  your anniversaries, the soccer game, the Broadway show, that trip to Europe – all of it – and still lose your job in a reorganization.

It’s a hollow feeling to realize that you’ve put so much on hold in service of your work, and it ultimately matters not a whit when the big change comes down. Like when the company is acquired. Or donations fall off. Or there’s new leadership. Hell, there are a hundred crazy reasons why things change and almost none of them can be changed by you working harder.

It’s entirely possible to work so intently that you raise your head one day and realize you forgot to see the Great Wall of China. Or visit the dentist. Or get married.

People over-focus on work for a lot of reasons. Might be because you work in a place where folks define themselves by their office hours and you want to fit in. Could be because you’re terrified of being seen as wrong, and standing out in a bad way. Maybe you have a deep, internal conviction that you are deeply flawed and it’s only a matter of time before everyone figures that out. Maybe your daddy always told you that winners never quit and quitters never win.

And what’s the common denominator? 

It’s all about other people’s reaction to you. It’s all about external validation.

So many folks scurry and perform for others so they can get the gold star, the pat on the back, the approval. They strive for hearing ”well done”, “that’s a good girl”, “that’s my boy” because that’s the kind of external affirmation they’ve come to rely upon.

Which sometimes, despite our Herculean effort, remains tantalizingly out of reach.

(And if they ever do get it, they sort of don’t believe it, anyway.)

Friends, it’s the work of a lifetime to shift from a place of seeking external validation to being driven by internal acceptance.

You see, the most happy and well-adjusted people – whether they are adult executives, teenaged soccer players, young at-home parents or retirees – have this in common: They do what they do because it feels good and satisfies their values.

These people are not whipsawed by the vagaries of the crowd. If they put in a lot of hours, it’s not because they hope to fit in, or to be accepted, or to create a barrage of flak so no one can see the impostor lurking within.

No, if they work hard, they work hard because their integrity calls them to it.

And if they find a shortcut that’s in line with their values, they take it.

And if they want to leave on Friday at 3pm, they do.

And they take their vacation days.

And their sick days.

They live in balance with themselves and their choices. So in the event they get laid off, it doesn’t crush their sense of self and leave them paralyzed with anguish and worry. The most successful know who they are, they know what they bring, and they are comfortable in their own skin.

Rather than living for the approval of others, they affirm themselves.

So, I’m not going to tell you to change how you are. I’m just going to raise the possibility with you that there may be a better way to do what you do.

It boils down to this: Do what you can. Love what you do. And make space for the idea that maybe, just maybe, you don’t have to do it all.

 

The Thing About Passion

 

 

Pair Of Shoes

There are so many people who will talk to you about Finding Your Passion.

These people, in my experience, tend to dot their i’s with eensy little hearts or smiley faces. In their worlds, Finding Your Passion appears to involve exotic trips, fabulous shoes, wine and botox. Oh, and buff, windswept, sultry people strolling on a beach. And inspiring motivational quotes.

Plenty of inspiring motivational quotes.

I, however, live in a different world and I’ll bet you live pretty close to me, too.

It’s a world where we work for a living and deal with plenty of competing pressures. It’s a world where things change, sometimes at the last possible minute, and what matters is less about the shoes you have on your feet and more about the resilience you have in your heart and mind.

How do you Find Your Passion in our demanding, fast-paced world?

It’s not a rhetorical question, believe me. In just two short weeks last September, I went from being a super-engaged, schedule-driven-by-my-children’s-interests mom to time-on-her hands, working from home middle-aged woman. I even have small dogs.

Yes, it’s true. In two weeks I became a cliché.

Lest you think I’m truly pathetic, let me say that I am thrilled for my kids. My son is engaged in a fabulous one-year entrepreneurial incubator program outside of Boston, and my daughter is in her first year at a really wonderful college.

They are doing what they are supposed to be doing – what I raised them to be able to do – and I could not be happier.

Yet, after years and years of going wherever their sports events were, and spending time on their enthusiasms – hairstyles and the films of Quentin Tarantino, for instance – I have found myself with plenty of time to spend on what I want to do.

Which is, precisely… what?

The first couple of months that they were gone was still a hubbub of activity. I shipped things they forgot or realized they needed, and managed long phone calls processing their new environments. I traveled to visit each of them and devoted time and attention to the logistics around coming home for Thanksgiving, and then Christmas.

But now we’re in the long stretch where no one is coming home for some time. And I’ve even caught them referring to “home” as where they live now.

Which is heart-clenching the first time it happens, and then starts to make sense. Because, they are well and truly launched.

So, back to passion. Specifically, finding yours after a big change or just when you realize that your life is not as fulfilling as you’d like it to be.

The standard question in these moments is “When do you lose track of time?” and that’s a good one. I also add, “When do you feel most engaged and happy?”

Whatever your answer is gives insight into what your passion might be.

But your true passion may lie beneath your answer.

Let’s say you figure out that you are most engaged and happy when you are traveling. OK – let’s go a little deeper, shall we?

What is it about travel that lights you up? Is it new experiences? New cuisine? Observations of differences in cultures? Is it the people you travel with? Is it because you always travel on vacation – away from work and chores?

Don’t say, “All of it!” because that’s too easy. And I am not letting you off the hook that easily.

Nor am I going to start dotting with teeny hearts.

Passion is not about what you do, but how you feel about what you’re doing.

If you figure out that you are driven to travel because you love to observe the differences in culture, then maybe you can also satisfy that passion by making sure to attend cultural festivals in your own town. You could regularly try different cuisines. You could host an exchange student. You could read books about different worlds. You could discover artists from around the world and learn about them.

Because, you see, your passion deserves to be in your life every single day, not just during one big trip a year.

When you live your passion, the world opens up for you. Possibilities become obvious. Connection is easy.

Life feels full and happy. Success is more and more effortless.

It’s pretty great.

As for me, after some deep reflection, I remembered my passions pretty clearly. They’re centered around creativity, mentorship, connecting and learning.

And while I miss the job I was really very good at and completely fulfilled by, I know that the things I am passionate about also fill me up.

So, let’s make a promise, you and I.

Let’s be less about shoes. And more about passion.

 

 

Open The Door

 

I’ll bet there are times during your day, or week, or even year, when you feel like no one sees who you really are.

That there are moments, maybe, when you feel bullied. As if you have a toxic boss. A very difficult situation.

You don’t know how you’re going to make it through.

Or even if it’s worth it.

You feel like there’s so little you control, so little you can do to turn it all around and get back to… something good.

Tell me the truth – you’ve felt this way, haven’t you?

Maybe you even feel that way today.

So, watch this video and then come right back and we’ll talk.

Inspiring, huh?

One kid decided one day to do one thing.

One thing that he could do.

That he could take pride in. That he could be responsible for, totally in alignment with his values and his aspirations.

And it made all the difference.

I’m here to tell you – you can be that kid.

You can find that one thing. Just one thing you can do to make the quality of your life, and the lives of others, better.

To bring things back to the good, happy, meaningful place you seek.

You can. I know you can.

Go ahead – it’s time to open a door.

 

Plan On Crying In 2015

Salt Shaker

 

When you start down a path, it’s always useful to take a quick glance behind you, too, just to orient your journey.

So, let’s take a look back. I bet that 2014 held a lot of surprises.

I bet that – regardless of how much you tried to be positive and set good intentions – it wasn’t all blissful, was it?

And, I’ll further bet that you have a deep-seated thought that if only you could get everything going the right way at once then your life would be utterly and permanently effortless.

You’d be, as we say in the South, in high cotton.

But this is a fallacy, my friends. No one lives in high cotton all the time.

Not Richard Branson. Not Oprah Winfrey. Not the Dalai Lama. Not the Pope.

Everyone – every single one of us – faces unexpected illnesses, freak lightning storms, car accidents, setbacks, obstacles and upsets in the course of our lives.

You can’t hold those things off.

You might not even want to once you realize what they do for you.

Give me one minute, here.

Think about baking. Whenever you bake something sweet, the recipe always calls for a measure of salt.

Have you noticed that?

A pinch, a teaspoon, a tablespoon of salt – some bit of salt in the mix provides a kind of contrast which allows the sweetness to really shine through.

Now, back to you.

You’re going to cry in 2015. Maybe more than once.

Because you and I know that things will never be 100% perfect.

Never.

Ever.

Try as you might, things will be…what they are. Some will be hard, some will be easy.

There will be salty tears and sweet joys in your life.

But you need both to have a full, fulfilling experience.

So the first time 2015 presents you with a challenge, don’t panic.

Don’t waste a second beating yourself up for not living a perfectly Instagrammable-Facebookable-Pinteresty life.

It’s your life. And you get to have all of it.

And, every tear you shed simply makes the inevitable sweetness which follows that much more satisfying.