I quit my job nine months ago. And while not the most fiscally responsible thing I have ever done, it is undeniably one of the smartest — and bravest — things I have done in a long time.
I loved the work I did — creating engaging work environments for people. The work suited me well… half science, half intuition. Nature and nurture. I love when dualities come together to make a more perfect something. And I did the work well.
Very well, in fact — winning award after award for the engaging work culture I had worked so hard to create.
A change in leadership in late 2015 brought about a change in philosophy about the work — not so much its importance (well…), but how to go about doing it. The difference in our philosophies was big — miles apart — but I was fairly confident that we would, eventually, meet at a comfortable middle ground.
So I put on my game face and tried to work within the new parameters. What I found, however, was that I was becoming increasingly sad and angry about how I was no longer enabled / entrusted / empowered to choose the direction of my work because that meant I was no longer enabled / entrusted / empowered to choose the direction of my life. See, there is no difference between me and the work I do. I echo the sentiments of a close and trusted friend who recently said to me,
“My work is my sacred ground. The truest expression of who I am.”
My Sacred Ground
When the smallest disagreement sent me into a tailspin I knew I had hit my breaking point. The fight was taking up too much psychological space and it was time to throw in the towel. I was done defending my work… done defending me… done defending my sacred ground.
I am confident in my talents and abilities. I am confident in my purpose. To have stayed in my job — even with all its safety and security and hella big paycheck — meant I would have to acquiesce to a system — a philosophy — that refused to acknowledge, let alone honor, me.
Some things are more important than a paycheck.
Once I put in my notice colleagues, family and friends kept asking me where I was “going” next. The only honest answer I could give them is that I was “going home.” Going home to breathe, to collect my thoughts and to regroup. And then I am going back out into the world to find my tribe — the group of people that I will surround myself with that will honor and help nurture what I have to give this world.
Whether that means I will end up working for someone else or working for myself is still up for debate — even nine months later after opening a new business and successfully building up a consulting practice. The answer changes hour to hour, minute to minute, second to second as new possibilities and opportunities present themselves. I continue to allow myself time to explore them all.
Soon after leaving my job a dear mentor encouraged me to get real clear on my truths — the principles that will guide this next phase of my life. It continues to be a work in progress.
My absolutes circa June 2016…
I will erase “should” from my vocabulary. Should is dangerous and an ineffective bandaid for fear. It is someone’s else idea of how they want me to show up in my life. Also, “Because I said so,” stopped working for me at about age two.
I only want to work with the willing. Potential is good, but only half (if even half) the equation. Dragging along the continuous neigh-sayers will not be part of any future job description.
I want to have important conversations with brave people. If I ever have to sit through one more 90 minute meeting about who has permission to email all staff, I’m out.
I will honor people over process. Listen, I get the need to have (some) rules and standardized operating procedures, but the minute they become more important than the people they were created to serve, they have lost their usefulness.
I will not have a work persona and a real life persona. It is all real life. In real life I have emotions and I am vulnerable and I have ideas and sometimes I fail and I always laugh a lot and I like to dance for no reason other than dancing is damn good for the soul.
I will not suffer to do good. I will not sacrifice a need to be personally stimulated and fulfilled, nor a desire to earn a comfortable living to do work that contributes to the greater good. Good work feels good and good work can be done just about anywhere.
I will not spend my time excusing and explaining away bad behavior — mine or anyone else’s. Sometimes good people behave poorly in bad situations and I get that, but when bad behavior becomes the norm, it’s no longer acceptable.
My absolutes have not changed, but I have found a few new truths in these past nine months…
I Trust Diversity.
I am but one, singular voice
I have a very strong internal compass and I seldom need/seek the advice of others to help define my true north. How I get there, however, is a different matter. I love getting diverse input and differing frames of reference to help guide the “how” of my “what/where/why.” Opening myself up to the diverse input of others has helped create a life that is beyond my, own, wildest imagination.
I Trust the Universe.
Slow down and listen for the wake up calls
No matter how much I plan for the future I, ultimately, can only control one thing… how I respond to what is happening around me. I have had to learn to open myself up and listen/watch for the Universe’s wake up calls to help guide me. Sometimes this means “sitting in the muck” of uncertainty much longer than I am comfortable with. I like to move quickly. I have come to discover that, many times, quickly means the one next best step until the wake up calls around me become less fuzzy.
I Seek the New.
The old solutions are not the only solutions.
I am an extrovert who loses energy quickly if left alone too long. My community has, historically, come from my work environment and it’s absence has grown to an issue of great importance to me. So much so, in fact, that I entertained going back to work for someone else full-time recently. That’s what people do after all — work full-time. Except I don’t want to work for someone else full-time unless it’s my dream work.
I reached out to a few trusted advisors in hopes of finding a solution (i.e. “work”) and they all said the same thing to me … “It’s not only the only option. Think differently. Where else can you find the community you seek?”
I don’t have the solution yet (see ALL of the above “new truths”), but I’m open to it and searching.
I Trust My Inner Circle.
Trust those that have earned the right to be trusted to help
Get clear on what you need and ask those whom you trust to help. The first important truth here is that it is up to me to get clear on what I need and not expect others to do my heavy lifting. Secondly, I must not be ashamed to ask for help. Lastly, I only want to ask for help from those whom have shown themselves to be worthy of my trust.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that, when I feel particularly lost and scared, I will open myself up to input from just about anywhere. Those that have not yet earned the right to help guide my life almost always give advice that is self-serving in nature. How could it be anything differently? They don’t know me or my frame of reference and they aren’t as invested in my well-being as my trusted advisors.
I Will Not Fail
Failure is not an option if you are open to the experiment
At the end of the day I only seek to find my new truth and getting there is all a grand experiment. Some of the experiment will work and some will not. The pieces that do not work are not failures, they are merely data points that guide the rest of the experiment. There is never shame in collecting new data points, so there is no shame in failure.
The Grand Experiment
If you’ve never done it before, it’s unsettling as hell to have to define yourself outside of someone else’s vision of who you should be, what you should do, how you should behave. I wish I could say that the uneasiness eventually goes away, but I’m not sure it ever does.
The place I am in and the person I am today, nine months after walking away from the one entity that had defined the majority of my adult life, is nothing like I imagined it would be. Getting here has been such hard work. Hard work — AND a grand adventure, the magnitude and rewards of which I have never before experienced.
AND the adventure continues…