I was turned down for a job I didn’t even apply for this week from a company that has already turned me down twice for jobs I did apply for. It was like they were saying, just in case the first two weren’t clear, let this third - unsolicited - rejection letter serve as notice that we really, really, REALLY don’t fucking want you. And even though it’s an ego blow to receive a third (totally harsh and unwarranted) rejection letter, I wasn’t being the least bit facetious when my response, upon reading said (really fucking harsh and really fucking uncalled for) rejection letter was, “I didn’t want to to work for you anyway!”
In fact, there aren’t many entities that I do want to work for any more. Quite a few I want to work with, but for? There’s about three and one of them is whomever is going to pay me copious amounts of money to do yoga on the beach every morning as a precursor to sunning on the beach all afternoon as a precursor to shopping at fabulous stores and eating at fabulous restaurants all night (also known as vacation).
Which begs the question, if I don’t want to work for much of the anyones out there, just why the hell do I keep applying for jobs?
The truth is, I have been searching for jobs because I am seeking external validation. Even though I have been successfully leading people and organizations through change for the better part of the last two decades, it’s scary as hell to officially call myself a change leader. (In fact, it took three days of this blog post sitting open on my desktop for me to type the words “change leader.”) It would be so much easier / way WAY less scary if some big official entity first anointed me as such, right?
The fallacy here is that there are a few big official entities that have already anointed me as such. There’s a mighty official looking diploma hanging on my wall right now, in fact, and a mighty official resume that details many other mighty official entities that paid me mad cash (okay, not so mad - I worked in nonprofit for a long, long time) to be a change leader. There are also a gaggle of mighty official direct reports, peers, mentees and current clients out there that can attest to the same.
So, just who the hell else needs to give me permission before I actually believe my own value?
Okay, okay… it’s me. We all know it’s me. The mighty, official… me.
Which is exactly why I’ve spent quite a bit of time this week doing research on overcoming Impostor Syndrome. My favorite piece is this one which starts out, “I’m a fraud and everyone is about to find out. I feel that every time I am about to share something. I feel that right now writing this: I don’t even have impostor syndrome. That’s how bad my impostor syndrome is.”
There are all sorts of practical tips out there on how to keep the Impostor Syndrome at bay. Lots of good stuff, in fact. But these two spoke to me in a BIG way…
Realize that nobody belongs here more than you and realize that when you hold back you’re robbing the world.
In my heart of hearts I know I am a good coach. I am a good coach because I can not only talk the talk, I have walked the walk. I have an academic understanding of how change happens but, more importantly, I have an intimate knowledge of what it feels like because I have done it. Save my hair color, there isn’t much that I haven’t changed in the past decade. (It’s a really spectacular hair color.)
I have earned the right to be here.
Also, helping others find their way to a more desired life brings me joy. It doesn’t feel like work - it feels like purpose. Why would I deny the world that? Why would I deny ME that? Because some mighty official big company won’t hire me? That’s not a sign that I shouldn’t be doing this work - it’s merely the universe moving me along to another place where the work is needed most.
But here’s the thing… I already knew all this - I just forgot it for a hot minute. Figuring out why, so I can recognize it quicker in the future (because it will happen again) is the work now. Because that’s how change works… back and forth, back and forth.
Us humans weren’t designed as the most linear of beings, but sure as hell the most interesting.
I woke up this morning super-excited about nothing in particular. I had a full day ahead of me with no real plans except to spend some time building out the SheHive website and spend an hour at the yoga studio. I love days like this when the day is totally mine to do with as I please. Which, by the way, is most days now.
It dawned on me as I made my first cup of coffee that I wake up excited like this most mornings now. Sometimes I am less than thrilled about how early the day starts (because 8 a.m. is an UNGODLY hour, people!), but I can't think of much I have had to do in the past two months that I didn't want to do.
This is kind of a fucking awesome way to live.
I am fully cognizant of the fact that I live a life of privilege - that my husband has a job that provides fully-paid health benefits for the whole family, that I had amassed a stupidly-big retirement fund in my fifteen years at United Way, and that I have had many over these past few months that supported, rather than laughed, at my lofty ideas - and that without any of those things I'd still be hitting snooze ten times every morning while dreading going into a job that made me feel angry, sad and meaningless.
So, for tonight, I can only say thank you. Thank you to the many brave souls that went before me, setting the example of a non-snoozed life. Thank you to my husband that works his ass off every day. Thank you to my mother who instilled the need to build a retirement fund in me early on. And thank you to every sweet soul that has reached out to me since I left United Way to affirm the decision.
I am living this fucking awesome life on the shoulders of giants.
Every Tuesday night a group of my friends from grad school jump on the phone to talk about what it is we are all up to these days. Even though the topic of the call is loosely “career support” - the call almost always revolves around the start up of new businesses. Tonight’s call focused on the idea of being “all in” as in, “When you start a new business do you go ‘all in’ or do you go ‘part in’ and launch slowly?”
When I left United Way I was convinced that I had to go “all in” with the SheHive. All around me I was hearing messages about only being able to succeed if I jump in with both feet and without a back-up plan. Oh, and I had to be "scared as hell" to boot. In fact, two of the most successful small business owners I know have both shared stories with me about how they just up and quit their jobs one day, went home and declared they were in business for themselves without knowing where the hell their first client was going to come from.
I’ve carried those messages and those stories pretty close to the vest over these past six weeks. And every time I peeked at a want ad or took an interview for a potential job I felt guilt - like I was chickening out. I ought to forging ahead without a back up plan. I ought to be more confident. I ought to be braver. I ought to be all in.
Here’s the thing about ought… it’s some bullshit.
Ought is somebody else’s story looping on the tape playing in my head, drowning out my own story. And it is, most likely, an incomplete story.
It reminds me how, after bariatric surgery, I would read the message boards out there where other women that had the very same surgery as me would report how they took a deep breath one week post-op and magically lost 80 pounds. I would reprimand myself over and over because I would take a deep breath one week post-op and only lose two pounds.
Only two pounds?!
When in my life had I ever lost two pounds simply by existing for one day? I almost missed my chance to celebrate something really fucking extraordinary in my life because I was paying more attention to someone else's story than my own. I eventually unsubscribed from every bariatric message board out there.
And let’s be frank here, my gentle snowflakes, we all know those bariatric bad girls were dirty liars. Their stories were half-truths, if not full-on bullshit. But - but - even if just one or two of them were actually telling the truth, they were the outliers. Outliers with magnificent stories, but outliers none-the-less. And we need to stop comparing ourselves to the outliers with the amazingly magnificent stories.
Our own stories are all going to be magnificent in the end - if we let them be.
The fact of the matter is, I want a back up plan. I want a “bridge job” while I’m building the SheHive. And even with the bridge job, guess what? I’m still all in. The SheHive will still launch. (In fact, it already has - two clients strong now. Woot!) I just won’t have the extra added pressure of complete financial ruin while I get this dream out into the world.
Now, will the story be so extraordinary that they’ll end up making a Hollywood movie about it? No. But guess what, building the SheHive isn’t the story anyway. But what is going to happen there once it launches? Now that - that will be a story for the ages.
I've spent the day writing a stereotypical westernized business plan for the Red-Yellow Collective. The business launched a few months ago, but I find that I am narrowing the focus of my work more and more from OD consulting to coaching. Consulting is what I feel like I should be doing at this stage in my career, but I'm finding more and more that coaching is what makes me feel alive. So I've challenged myself to put a plan on paper that outlines a sustainable business model for a business that derives the majority of its income from coaching.
Now, if you know anything about me personally and how I work you will know that my least favorite thing in the world - just slightly behind poking myself in the eye with a pencil - is putting a plan on paper. Not because I can't and not because I don't see the value of doing... its just that that the act of doing so drains my energy.
I solve puzzles/problems/issues through a process I like to call mental gymnastics - a cyclical process of thinking, refining my thoughts, evaluating the current conclusions, gathering qualitative information, rethinking my conclusions, wash, rinse, repeat. It is a drawn out, non-linear process that will drain the energy of almost everyone around me but feels like total play to me. That style of thinking rarely lends itself to a stereotypical business plan. In fact, my ideal business plan would be a wall full of sticky notes that can be moved, changed, side-barred, and revisited as I spend weeks having conversations about "the shit on the walls." Then, once I've overthought the shit out of everything on the wall and placed all the sticky notes in the right places, some kick-ass pragmatist that could totally interpret the beautiful chaos would come along and put it all into a succinct, written plan.
Unfortunately I have neither the wall space nor the kick-ass pragmatist at the moment, though I am actively working towards finding both. Of course, to find either, I kind of have to have a plan... hence today's challenge. Such a demanding mistress, this business world we currently exist in.
What is helping me get through this day of flexing into a non-native style is the mindset I am carrying while doing so. Instead of lamenting having to create the plan, I started the day by affirming to myself that I do, indeed, have everything I need to create the plan. I have the knowledge, the vision, the tools, the wisdom and the desire.
I'm also time limiting myself - 30 minute blocks of writing interspersed with 30 minutes of play. It's a big ratio - just as much play and "wasting" time as working and, most likely, a ratio your typical boss would frown upon. Lucky for me my boss is fucking awesome and honors the natural rhythms of the human universe.
Lastly, I'm celebrating each completed section of the business plan like you would celebrate a three year old's first drawing. After each completed section of the business plan I take a step back and scream to the inner child in my head, "Look what we just did!" and then do a little mental jig. In fact, I very well may hang this mother f'er up on the fridge when I'm done.
Changing mindsets, allowing for play, celebrating... these are all behaviors that I am having to relearn now that I'm no longer in a typical job. In fact, I once got fired from a job for organizing a daily 15 minute putt putt golf game for my call center staff. (If they only knew how much more productive I was after each play break today, that same company would be paying me big bucks to come in and develop "play strategies" for them now. You know... had they not gone bankrupt. Coincidence? I think not.) I have actively had to recognize and name these good behaviors and stop shaming myself for them today when I reach for the phone and throw down a mean game of Yahtzee after the 50th iteration of a bullet point.
When I left my full time job my mentor suggested it might be a two step process. At the time I thought that meant grieving the loss and then moving on to create the future. I'm finding that my leaving process might just have an extra step - unlearning the behaviors I had to learn to function in the midst of dysfunction (which is typical of most workplaces - not just the one I left). I really, really do not want to recreate the reality I just left someplace else.
If you have ever left a toxic work environment for one that was not (or less so), what were the behaviors you had to unlearn to function where people actually - you know - functioned? Leave a comment below and help this office-PTSD survivor (and the other million out there) get a leg up on the future.