Chapter 11 of my First book: Reconnecting on the career front. Starting to find MY FIT and a bit of self-confidence
CHAPTER 11: Reconnecting on the career front. Starting to find MY FIT and a bit of self-confidence
Assuming the Position: a.k.a. MY Depression Position
This was my favourite spot to hang out in when I was feeling down (i.e. Depressed)
What I liked about it, is that it allowed me to LIE down.
In those times of despair, I did not have the energy to even SIT up.
“If you want to conquer fear, don’t just sit at home and think about it.
Go out and get busy” – Dale Carnegie
May 2010. Time to reconnect with ME and MY Passions. Well, at least time to start. Finally!We don’t know what we don’t know. Or, in my case. I don’t know what I don’t know. That pretty much sums up where my head was at on that day in Toronto when I met the partner whose program I was about to join as program director. Was this the opportunity that I was looking for to help get me out of my current rut on the career front? Was this going to be the opportunity to relaunch my career? Was this job going to allow me to play to my strengths? Was I going to find my passion? Was I going to find my purpose? Was I going to stop dreading getting up in the morning? Especially Monday mornings!
Fast forward about 7 years from that day. A friend of mine shared some advice with me that he had received from a mentor of his at one point in his career. It really resonated with me. It was related to making a change on the job front which was pretty much what I was up to on that day back in May of 2010. And that advice was “Never go from a job. Go to a job”.
Going to a job. That to me implies that we are aware of what we are looking for. Well, that sounds like a logical approach, but the problem with me back then, was that I did not have a clue what I was looking for. I was having trouble just getting up in the morning. Just being able to function in those days was my only strength at the time. MY purpose? My passion? My long-term career aspirations? I had no clue. Somewhere along the way, I had lost them. And along with them, I had lost my confidence. I had lost my confidence and with it, my belief in, and my trust in, myself.
I had just spent the better part of my career aligning myself to a set of pre-defined generic performance standards. So much for playing to my strengths. I did not even know what they really were. They seemed unimportant. It was all about the performance standards back then. The generic, one size fits all performance standards that seemed to be so important to me, and my employer, at the time. I had spent so much time following a performance framework that had been developed for a specific role that I had forgotten what makes me tick as a person. Before you knew it, I no longer had any passion for what I was doing, and I was doing those things for close to 50-60 hours a week. Yuck!
But back to that day in May. Back to that one-hour meeting with the program leader in that office in Toronto. It turned out to be a pretty one-sided conversation because I really did not understand what the program was all about. He spent an hour explaining it to me but I was so clueless that I could not even conjure up a question. I could not conjure up a question but I was able to answer one. “Yes”, I responded back to that question, “I would like to take on the role”. Even though I did not understand the role and that lack of understanding placed me outside of my comfort zone, I felt that I had nothing to lose by just GIVING IT A TRY. I had no other options at the time. Having no clue as to what you want to do does not help inspire a whole lot of options. And besides, although I did not trust myself a whole lot in those days, I trusted this leader and I was inspired by his passion, his passion for the program. And I trusted the person who had sent me to see him in the first place. So, I accepted the role.
So, was it a good fit? Good question. It took me a while to figure that one out. It actually took me a few months to even figure out what the program was all about. But when I did, guess what I finally started to find? I started to find my passion. More like feel it. Feeling it turned out to be the way that I found it. I started to discover my likes and my dislikes and I started to use them to shape my role and priorities. I started to find my strengths and I started to play to them. Before you knew it, my 6-month secondment had become a permanent role that ended up lasting five years. Five of the most engaging and fulfilling years of my career. Five years during which I grew so much that when it was time to move on to my next career adventure, I was ready this time around. No falling on my sword the next time around. I had found my confidence in myself. I believed in myself. I trusted myself. When it came to making my next career transition, one of the biggest and boldest and most courageous career transition of my life, at an age when most people are slowing down and not gearing up, I was ready.
I will tell you more about that big, bold and courageous transition in a later chapter, but for now, back to me trying to reconnect with me back in those early days. How did I find my fit? How did I find, or re-find, my confidence? Well, it was pretty straight forward. I tried out a lot of things. A LOT of things. Some of the things fit and some did not fit, but the more I tried things on, the more I got to know myself and what felt comfortable for me, and what did not. The funny thing was that, the things I did not think I would like, I ended up liking, and vice-versa. It was like I was making the theory real by trying it out. It was like trying to find a pair of shoes that fit properly. A pair of shoes that fit snugly. How do you do that? Well, you try them on for size. You put them on and walk around a bit with them on. I can’t tell you how nice it felt to finally start wearing a pair that fit. My previous pair were quite painful, actually, more like, very, very painful.
Oh, and what about the performance standards for that role back then? Well, there were none. I was given the opportunity to shape my own role. I was given the opportunity to explore how I could best contribute to the program. If trying things out was the way to find my fit, I had my chance. Carte Blanche. No hand holding. Shaping my role was up to me. Apparently, not only did I trust the leader of the program, but he also trusted me. He trusted me to figure out how I could add the most value to the program. How I could best meet the program mission and objectives. Nothing like a vote of confidence from someone else to help you find your self-confidence, especially when yours is at an all time low.
Well it took me a while to figure things out. A lot of things did not work out as planned, and there were a lot of lessons learned along the way, but guess what? That is how you shape things and find things out, by doing. It took me a while to gain the courage to start doing, I was after all, Captain Comfort Zone and not Captain Courageous back in those days. In the beginning of those days anyways, because the more I ventured out of my comfort zone, the more I learned, and the more I grew in self-confidence, and the more I wanted to venture out even more. To try even more new things out. To get to know myself even more. Before you knew it, I had built up some momentum, and along with that momentum, came more courage and more exploring. A friend of mine likes to refer to that magic of the momentum building process as the ripple effect”. In this case it was a positive ripple effect. A nice change of pace from the negative ripple effects that I had been experiencing in those days. A ripple effect on my level of engagement and the resulting self-confidence and courage and ultimately trust. Trust in myself, something that I had lost a while back.
Oh, and ironically enough, the program was about developing trusted business advisors. Helping others develop the confidence and trust in themselves so that they could develop and maintain relationships of trust with others. Well, I can’t speak for the others, but it certainly worked for me. It took me a while to regain that trust with myself. A lot of learning and a lot of doing, but is that not how we learn? By doing? After all, we don’t know, what we don’t know. Until we try it.
November 2011. Time to reconnect with others. Time to expand my lens and world of possibilities
Directing a program required some connecting with people in order to do so. So, it was time to start reaching out to people, and since this was a Global Program, it was time to start reaching out to a lot of them. Reaching out and connecting with people was not among my top priorities during my social isolation days. Social isolation strategies by definition do not involve a whole lot of reaching out, and I was doing a pretty good job of executing on that strategy back then. And besides, I am the shy guy, so reaching out is not something that is in my comfort zone, especially if I don’t know the person, and many of these people were quite senior, and I found that quite intimidating.
So how did I do it? Well, I just did it. I just started to reach out to some of my peers and the leaders of the program in some of the other country programs. And guess what? Not only did they get back to me, but they actully seemed to enjoy exchanging ideas and insights with me. As it turned out, in addition to our common desire to exchange insights and ideas, we also had a couple of other things in common. One was a common sense of passion. A passion for the program. We also had a common sense of purpose. A belief in the purpose for the program. It was contagious. It was incredibly motivating. Talk about the P words. Passion and Purpose.
Maybe it was my imagination at the time, but it seemed like everyone had drank a few hundred pitchers of the program cool aid. All of a sudden, my fear of reaching out to people was being replaced by the excitement of meeting new people, and, again, since my role was global in those days, that meant meeting people from all over the world. How cool is that!
I was finally waking up in the mornings, excited to start my day. I had come a long way. I had a lot of people to thank for helping me make that happen, including myself for having the courage to, well, just do it. From falling on my sword to trying things out to just plain old reaching out. I was just doing it.
I met a lot of really great people during those times. In his book on finding happiness, Neil Pasricha, puts forward his theory that “you are the average of the 5 people you hang around with the most”. Well, apparently, I was hanging around the right crowd.
January 2012. Time to start taking better care of myself
Although I was finally starting to gain some positive energy on at least one front in those days, i.e. the career front. I was still not taking care of myself on the health front. I was not moving (a.k.a. exercising) enough. I was eating too much and too much of the wrong stuff. I was drinking too much of the wrong stuff (Yes, the booze was still flowing). I was going to bed too late and not getting enough sleep.
What I lacked in sleep I more than made up for in coffee, of the caffeinated variety. My late nights were still being aided and abetted by a bottle of wine. In my haste to start working on something that finally resonated with me, I would often miss out on some of my meals. I liked to brag about it at the time. For some reason, I thought that I was being super productive. I even came up with my own words for what I was doing. “Brrcrunch” was what I called it when I consumed both my breakfast and lunch at the same time. “DinnerBrrcrunch” was when I consumed breakfast, lunch and dinner all at the same time. Consuming them at my desk while working at the same time. I believe they call that multitasking.
It was going take me a little while longer to realize that my current approach to being productive via multitasking was not the healthiest one out there, and it was not as productive as I thought. As a matter of fact, it seemed quite the opposite. Oh! And to top it all off, I had just recently hit the 264-pound mark on my scale. I was at the heaviest that I had ever been at in my life.
Oh well. At least there was some good news back then on the health front. After many seemingly futile and short-lived attempts to quit smoking, I had finally gone cold turkey. I had stopped off at a truck stop for lunch one day. I was standing there enjoying a cigarette and that is when the thought occurred to me. What would my young kids do if one day I died from a heart attack or from cancer from smoking? How would they feel? I am not sure if I came up with an answer or not, but THAT cigarette ended up being the last cigarette that I ever smoked. Talk about a motivator! Thanks Kids! Oh, and I am getting ahead of myself here, but the kids were going to come to my rescue on the health front once again in the not too distant future, but more on that in a later chapter.
Getting Unstuck, at least on one front. Talk about good timing.
When I look back on those painful days when I was stuck on the career front, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had come out of that rut earlier. I also sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had come out of that rut, heaven forbid, later, or maybe never.
Oh well, as advocates of being in the moment like to point out, what is in the past, is in the past. So, I will not dwell upon the past but I am grateful that I did finally get around to making that change and building on that change. Not only did it end up having a profound impact on my career path later on, but my decision to move forward back then, with the support of others and not just by myself, allowed me the opportunity to get back on my feet and gain some much-needed energy and more self-confidence, and of course, some more courage. As it turned out, I was going to need all the energy and courage that I could get my hands on for what was going to happen to me in the next chapter of my life. For what was going to happen to me and my family, in the next chapter of my life. More like my new life, my new life as a single parent.
So, What did I learn?
How did I make change EASYer on myself 😊 (or not ☹)
Ever heard of the term “playing to one’s strengths”. The theory is that you can make things EASYer on yourself by focusing on what YOU, as a unique individual, both do well and enjoy doing. Kind of a top 5 list. Not only have I heard of the term, but I have taken the time required to flush them out. I have my Top 5 list of MY Strengths posted next to me on the wall of my office. I swear by them. I honour them. I don’t know what I did before I embraced them. How cool is that!
But back in the bad old nasty days, I really did not have a handle (a.k.a. self-awareness) on my strengths nor what made me tick. Everyone likes to feel as if they are contributing, yet I did not know how I was. I knew what scared me and what made me anxious, almost everything new in those days, but I was in the dark on what really excited and energized me. Instead of taking a proactive approach by exploring the things that I liked to do, and the people that I liked to do them with, I was in total reactive mode. I was just sitting around (more like laying around) waiting for good things to happen to me, becoming disillusioned, discouraged and eventually depressed when they did not.
That was all about me. What about YOU?What are you doing to make your journey of change EASYer on YOU? 😊 (or not ☹)
What does your vision of your future look like?
Do you like what you see?
Do you like WHO you see?
And, do you like what the path looks like in getting there?
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