Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Those First 100 Days; Part II

As I have begun my journey of self-discovery, I started by examining patterns of places and things I’ve seen before.  I immersed myself in repeating history over and over again (translation:  I have watched marathon re-runs of Friends, Grey’s Anatomy, and CSI).

Realizing there was only so much to be gained in laughing at Chandler or lamenting with Meredith, around week two of my enlightenment phase, I moved on to Ted Talks.  I’ve always found them to be inspirational and they have always seemed to help put me into the right frame of mind when I was seeking a higher order of meaning for my life. 

I’ve had a great deal of change happen in an incredibly short amount of time.  I find myself facing multiple decision points and suddenly with more time than I’ve had in the past to reconsider my direction in life and where I’ll go next.  There is something to be said for a frantic schedule, no work life balance, and no time to consider the meaning of life…because once you stop and stand still…once you hear the deafening silence that gets you to that solitary path of self discovery, you find that you have moved too far out of the norm and can’t reset and join the ranks again without a close examination of your life…at the point you find yourself in the present and where you want to be in the future.

Anyone who tells you how important it is to figure out what you want out of life and what makes you happy…ask them if they’ve already completed this task because I can assure you that it’s not an easy path to take and I’d argue (with great passion) that at first glance, there is no obvious value in such a bloodletting of thoughts and emotions. 

There is this thing that greets me every morning when I wake up.  As soon as I open my eyes and realize a new morning is creeping in, the prickling sensation of anxiety immediately begins to wash all over my body and I try to close my eyes tightly and shut out a new day, wishing that my journey to higher learning could disappear and that all things that once felt familiar would return or that the new familiar was already in place and I wasn’t still facing so much change.

I feel like I am spinning my wheels, stuck in the mud and I can’t get enough traction to break free.  No matter how much momentum I start or how hard I push, the energy I put forth is wasted and I am continually exhausting myself…I am burning myself out before taking a single step in the direction of what I consider to be my new path.

It's a struggle to consider my future and make decisions about tomorrow when I am searching for meaning right now.  My sense of urgency is mostly self-imposed.  I have the gift of time and an opportunity to take a pause and reflect on everything.  

But I’ve never considered a stopping point in my life any more than I’ve thought about where I started as an adult and in carving out my life.  I always just kept going…somehow found a way, often without giving a lot of thought to why I made the decisions I made along the way.  The goal was always to survive, not necessarily thrive.  From the start, I think I was on a different place on the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  I see that as a signal of success and progress in knowing where I am now… seeking the very pinnacle of that pyramid … self-actualization.

I’ve often heard that ignorance is bliss.  I’ve never had the luxury of that particular joy…or maybe I did and wasn’t even aware at the time.  There’s an oxymoron in itself, right?  How would you know?  I’d argue you know when you reach that tricky place where you can’t unknow.  And right now, I find myself in the middle of that place.  Which means there is no turning back.  I have to move forward with my newfound knowledge and find a way to accept my new normal.  And in this state, I am feeling a greater responsibility to myself in truly pursuing that self-actualization.

One of the very first things I have realized about myself is that there is something I require regardless of what path I take forward; I need faith.   

It’s been absent in my life as of late. And after a lot of free falling, I see now that it would have been easier to just let go.  I should have spent less time and energy fighting and resisting, trying to control everything.  Sure, it feels better when you believe you are in control…until it doesn’t.  Until you realize that being stubborn and refusing to wield doesn’t make you strong…it makes you stupid.  You remain ignorant and can’t learn from anything. 

Once you begin to learn, you realize the only real control exists in the individual choices you make in how you handle all the uncontrollable occurrences surrounding you in life.  Admitting that you need to let go is not an admission of defeat or failure.  It’s a state of enlightenment and higher level of awareness.   


I’m beginning to realize that my bounce…my Mary Poppins-like disposition…well, it appears to be closely tied to that faith.  For the past 50 years, regardless of the struggles I faced, that optimism has always served me well.  Sure, there have been disappointments and surprises along the way.  But everything has always turned out exactly as it was supposed to, regardless of whether or not it happened in the way or order I expected it to.  And at the very top of those “hierarchy of needs,” I’ll appreciate that distinction as I go forward.  I still work for me J 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My First 100 Days Begin Today


Typically, as a business leader new to an organization, you come in and assess the current business environment, find opportunities for improvement, and begin to envision a strategy to make step changes for future success.  

The average number of days to see initial impact and results is around 100 days…though I’d argue there is no magic number for making a difference.  That milestone simply provides a platform for new leaders to step away from the fire hose long enough to come up for air and give a thumps up as an indication that they’re still up for the challenge (translation:  “fake it until you make it”). 
Last Day Happy Hour

For me, I find myself working with a much wider and completely blank canvas.  I am no longer constricted by a specific role or position.  I am no longer shackled by the parameters for which one would usually work within at a company.

After 19 years of waking to the familiar expectations of a single organization, this morning I awoke to complete freedom.  I could choose to do a post mortem analysis, but one of my commitments to myself is that I not waste another second on anything that no longer holds personal value to me.  And in this instance, there is little doubt in my mind as to how I arrived at this conclusion and decision to move on.  And there is no value in looking back.  I’ve already celebrated every milestone, lived every victory, and enjoyed every success firsthand. 

Beginning today, I work for me.  I’m not suggesting that I’m embarking on a new business venture, though I am not leaving that off my blank canvas as a future possibility.  No, what I’m saying is that for the first time, I am in a position to take a step back and consider exactly what it is I want to be doing with my next fifteen to twenty years in the way of a career.  And when I say, “I work for me,” I mean that while I am ready, willing, and able to deliver great results for the company of my choosing…at the end of the day, my objectives have shifted.  My work ethic commands nothing short of my full focus and attention.  But my personal journey has now intersected with my professional journey and from this point forward, I will either need a role that feeds my soul for the areas that touch me the most or the role will need to align with my expertise and ability to deliver great results, thus enabling me to work towards future goals that feed my soul and keep my heart and mind alive.  

In short, I’ll work for a company so long as it works for me too.  I accept the transactional nature of employment and changing business needs.  And if a company can’t inspire me to be my very best, those changing business needs flow in both directions. 

Over the next 100 days, I’ll be closely examining what the work looks like and my strategy for success.  I’m carving out my own vision this time, and once I’m clear on that landscape, I’ll have a better idea of the kind of company and people I want to surround myself with. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, there is a fire hose I need to get back to.  One thing I know for sure…once you begin a journey of this proportion, there is no turning back.  I will be overwhelmed, afraid, and at times, even remorseful for having set upon this journey.  I will wish I could pull a Dorothy and spin back to Kansas with some rocking red shoes.  But I know that the only guarantee I have now (and spoiler alert…this applies to everyone at any point in life) is that there are no guarantees about anything.  Because just as quickly as I put a plan to paper and pen, the variables change and I immediately need to adjust to changing road conditions and accommodate the areas I can’t change.

I consider this time in my life to be an awakening of sorts.  And I challenge you to similarly take stock in life, and think about your own awakening.  I’m not saying go to extremes and make a complete u-turn on life…but when you don’t pause on where you’re headed, sometimes you miss the chance to change course and direction.  It’s still taking shape for me, but a recurring theme in my own awakening has been that all the materialistic things I’ve spent years collecting and surrounding myself with have lost their appeal.  The days when I struggled to pay bills in my youth were actually the days when I was more sure of myself and confident in my ability to do whatever I wanted to do with life.  I believed it was as simple as setting my mind towards something and making it happen.  And in most instances, that proved out as being correct and exactly what was required.


There is a risk-averse mindset that creeps in as we get older, taking with it our early hopes and dreams.  I’m guilty of it and I’m now trying to reset the way I think about life and my approach to everything.  Don’t get me wrong.  I fight anxiety on a daily basis, worrying about absolutely everything.  But my observations over the course of my lifetime have proven to me time and time again that I always learned and benefited the most from the times in my life when I faced the biggest challenges or uncertain futures.  And I’m still swinging and ready for the next round.  More to come…