Chapter 10 of my First book: Hitting the wall (a.k.a. getting stuck). Time to fall on my sword, AGAIN (a.k.a. getting UN-stuck)
CHAPTER 10: Hitting the wall (a.k.a. getting stuck). Time to fall on my sword, AGAIN (a.k.a. getting UN-stuck)
The Road Warrior – A pretty chunky one.
“Hello Room Service. A large order of COMFORT FOOD please.
Would you like a dessert with that Sir? Yes! Definitely! Maybe even two”
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase” – Martin Luther King
Getting stuck on the CAREER front. Or so, I originally thought. It was much broader than that.In hindsight, things had gotten pretty bad during what I am now referring to as MY “Nasty Time” in MY “Nasty Zone”. I thought that the nastiness was only career related at the time, but I now realize that my troubles were much broader than that, much nastier than that. I was about to find that out a couple of years later but fortunately, for ME, for now, I had finally gotten to the point where I was ready to start moving forward again. On the CAREER front, if nowhere else. The approach I used, the story that I am about to share here, in hindsight, was not the best approach to start moving forward but at least it got me moving. It got me moving again. Boy, was I ready to start moving forward again. Moving could not be any worse than where I had ended up in those days, and that was stuck. Stuck and miserable, absolutely miserable. I was discouraged. I had almost no energy. I no longer dreamed. I could no longer imagine what the future had in store for me, nor did I want to. I just wanted to be alone. I just wanted to hide. Hide and hope that all the nastiness surrounding me would just go away.
2009-2010. Stuck in what turned out to be MY Depression Zone. MY CLINICAL DEPRESSION Zone.
Regarding my recent Developmental Performance (DP) job performance rating from my employer of the time. It turns out, that was not the only D word that I was wrestling with in those days. During that dark period of my life. It turns out, in hindsight, that I was also wrestling with a bout of Depression, of the Clinical Depression variety. As I outlined in one of my blogs, aptly named “Let’s talk about my bout with clinical depression” it was diagnosed several years later when I finally decided to reach out and connect with some folks, including a mental health expert. I had no idea that I was suffering from a mental illness it at the time. Since then, I have come across estimates that 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness throughout their lifetime. That is 20% of people! Yet, the thought had not even crossed my mind, that I might be one of them.
Then again, there were not a whole lot of thoughts that were crossing my mind in those days, by design. I had pretty much isolated myself from everyone back then, including myself. The only exception to my isolationist strategy was spending time with my children. Now, if my kids noticed anything along those lines (i.e. the tell-tale signs of clinical depression), they did not share any of those observations with me. Then again, how could they, we were hiding out and watching so many movies together in those days that there was not much time for discussions. Besides, they were only 5 and 3 years old at the time, and had yet to take any courses on diagnosing clinical depression in one’s parents.
Perhaps my wife had noticed something, but in my efforts to not think about anything nasty, I had pretty much stopped thinking and talking about almost everything. I had stopped thinking and talking about almost everything with almost everyone, including, MY WIFE. With the exception of an occasional 90-minute date night, here and there, we had pretty much stopped talking altogether.
And things were getting worse. I was back on the road and traveling again. As is turned out, I was not able find a local project so I had to become a road warrior again. When the alarm would go off on Monday mornings, off I went, once again, to the airport with my bags and my reservation for a “comfort room” at one of my favourite comfort hotels. I would just have to see the kids on the weekends now. I could not hold out any longer. I had not been working on chargeable projects for much too long.
But this time, the project was not one that was in my comfort zone. I had run out of my comfort zone type project options so it was time to bite the bullet on this one. Bite the bullet and inhale a couple of cigarettes. I was so stressed out on that project that I came up with a new daily ritual. Every morning, just before arriving at the client site, I would inhale, not one, but two cigarettes. And I mean inhale. No sooner had I lit it up, then I had finished inhaling it.
Yes! Cigarettes. I was smoking about a pack and a half a week, and I had been for quite some time. It was my dirty little secret. A pretty nasty secret for someone who had a history of heart disease in the family and, as I had just recently found out, someone who also had a history of lung cancer in the family. As luck, or bad luck in this case, would have it, someone in my family had just been diagnosed with lung cancer, although ironically enough, she did not smoke. She was my best friend. She was one of my closest confidants. She had been there for me in the past. She was, MY MOM. And she had about 3-6 months to live.
So much for seeing the kids on the weekends, at least not every weekend. Because, for now on, in between client projects and hotel comfort rooms and cigarettes and lots of comfort food and comfort booze, I would also be stopping by to visit my mom. To stop by, and visit, and to watch her slowly die. Watch her die, because watching, was about all I could do in those days. I had stopped communicating. I had stopped feeling.
October 2009. If misery likes company then maybe Depression does as well
Although I did not know that I was depressed at the time, my Mom knew that she was. Something about knowing that you are going to die in short order can do that to you. She had medication to help her cope. She had her medication at the time and I had mine (a.k.a. my booze). My medicine was self-prescribed, hers was not. The medication and the depression itself did not make her much of a conversationalist in those days. Nor was I. I was aware of it but I was not sure why. I do now. I was also depressed at the time, but I was not aware of it. I remember just sitting there and staring at her. Not saying anything. Not thinking anything. Just staring at her. Staring at her, as her life slipped slowly by. Staring at her, as my life slipped slowly by. It would have been nice to have spent some quality time with her in those last days of her life but that was not to be. Although my body was physically there in the room with her, nothing else was. My head, my heart and my soul were all offline, and had been for quite some time.
May 2010. Time to fall on my sword. The day the pain ended. On the career front that is
Remember earlier on, when I told you about how I had been stuck in a nasty place on the job front once before? How I had ended that period of misery by falling on my sword. Well guess what? Here I was, AGAIN! In a place that I had found myself close to 20 years previously. Stuck in a job that was not a fit. Feeling stressed, and miserable. Apparently, looking stressed and miserable.
In this case, I was also clinically depressed. I was a Functioning Alcoholic. I was socially isolated. I was obese. I was in a terrible place but I could not get out. I was stuck. A similar situation to being stuck in my previous sales job, except that, I now had a family to support that included 2 beautiful young children who I loved so much that I would do anything for them.
Well you know what? It was time to do something that had worked in the past and, that I was now hoping, would work again. It was time once again, fall on my sword. Today. Today was the day. I could not think of any other option. And I could not go on living this way anymore. The pain had to stop. I am just going to do it. I was not going to tell my wife. I was just going to do it. At this stage, I would rather beg for her forgiveness later that night, than ask for her advice, or permission, now.
I could not come up with anything better as an approach at that time. I can’t remember the exact date. Wouldn’t it be ironic if it were a Monday? Falling on my sword was the only option I could see before me. We all have a choice you say? Well, at the time, I saw my choice as stay and remain miserable (a.k.a. stuck) or just quit. Fall on my sword. That will force me to do something. I could think of nothing else. That was the realm of possibilities open to David Arthur Walker on that day. At least in David Arthur Walker’s mind. As seen through David Arthur Walker’s lens. When you isolate yourself from other people, your lens, by definition becomes the only lens. Just one lens. Not ideal for conjuring up a whole lot of possibilities, but I digress.
So, off went David Arthur Walker, off to see the woman who had hired him into the firm in the first place, over 14 years previously, to let her know that he was done. He had given a lot to the firm over the years. He hoped that he had added value. He hoped that the time and value that he had given to the firm would be taken into consideration when the HR folks decided what would be done with him. If not, then at least, he was hoping that she and the firm would at least take pity on him. Pitty was Plan B. Either way, it was time to go. I had spent enough time in that nasty, F**king, sh**ty, zone. It was time to F**king move on. Opps! Pardon my French.
Well as it turns out, as the words were coming out of my mouth, the woman who had hired me, interrupted me. I forget exactly what she said, but it went something like this. “Dave. I have noticed you recently. You are not the same person I used to know. I have been thinking of you. I think I have identified a possible solution for you. A new role for you. A new program for you. A new start for you. It is a temporary role that I think you might like. Feel free to give it a try if you want to. I have arranged a 1- hour meeting with the program leader in Toronto tomorrow. Plane tickets are waiting to be purchased. If you don’t like it, at least it will give you a chance to look for something else”. Wow. How cool is that! How caring is that!
Well a long story short. I will expand on that story in the next chapter, but let’s keep that longer story shorter for now. I did get on that plane the next day. I took on the role. It took me a while to figure out what the role was all about (ironically enough, successfully transitioning into new roles was one of the program offerings). It took me awhile to figure out what it was all bout. But figure it out, I did.
Within 2 years, for the first time, in what would then be close to a 17-year career with the firm, I would receive an EP (Exceptional Performance) rating, the highest performance rating within the firm. I would receive an award from the global firm for my accomplishment’s in my new global role, a global role for one of the largest professional services companies in Canada and the world. Talk about making a change, at least on the job front. It was more of a transformation, from night to day. A transformation from feeling completely lost and discourage to feeling engaged and energized. How cool is that!
Oh, and guess what. The dreaded SALEs word. Within 4 years of that date, that day when I finally decided to once gain fall on my sword, I had become the only non-partner in Canada to be asked to design and deliver a webinar as part of a national webinar series on, you guessed it! SELLING. And when it came time to reach out to some facilitators to help deliver a new sales training to the partners and senior managers in Canada, guess who was the only person without a business development role who was asked to become part of the facilitation team? You guessed it. ME. Yes. little old, crawl under a table at the mere mention of the word sales, ME. How cool is that! Talk about a change. Wow.
So, What did I learn?
How did I make change EASYer on myself 😊 (or not ☹)
In this case, my focus was on my Career Quadrant. My one next step in this Quadrant was to change roles, even if that meant quitting my job. Try and tackle too much change at once and you are asking for trouble. As a former colleague of mine recently shared with me, there are so many variables that can come into play when making a change. Things can become overly complex and quite scary and discouraging pretty quickly. Paralysis from analysis is lurking just around the corner. Luckily for me I was able to stay focused during this period. Good thing, because I was soon going to become aware of some other changes that I would have to deal with. Whether I wanted to or not.
Oh, and when it comes to making change, surrounding yourself with some people who believe and trust in you. Priceless 😊
Here is a question that you might want to explore if you are considering options of ways to make a change in your life. And that question is. How wide is your lens?
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