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The Day All The Wheels Came Off

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Over the weekend, a mompreneur friend of mine asked me how I came to do what I do for a living. At first I started to tell her about my first experiences with my friend and mentor Martha Beck, who has played a HUGE role in my development. But then I stopped and realized that it all started way before I even knew who Martha was.  She found the story kind of interesting, so I thought you might, too.

Back in the day when I had an RJ (a Real Job), I was what some considered a “turn around specialist”. I would get my hands on some failing program, project or  organization and infuse it with unusual approaches and strategies (and a TON of hard work) and turn the thing around in a fairly short time.  I absolutely LOVED being good at that. Head hunters would call and say “What if we could find you your dream job?” and I would say “I already have it. Good-bye.”

An national organization hired me (no naming names to protect the innocent) to come into a local office that was truly on it’s last leg. I was the last ditch effort to get it back on track and maintain a presence in the community. Sounded like a ton of fun to me and I eagerly signed up for the challenge.

I walked into an organization that 1) had no active board of directors 2) no community relationships left 3) revenues of $25,000 and an operating budget of $100,000 4) no staff and 5)no deliverables in place – those had all tanked. Yep – that was my kind of challenge and I took it on with all I had to give.

Then the person who hired me left and was replaced by a person who, let’s just say, did not think I was right for the job.  No matter what I did, there was something wrong with it or me, or something I was neglecting to make this fabulous thing happen. I brought on a major community partner. “Yeah but where are your deliverables?” I put $50,000 in the coffers in my first six months “Yeah but your services aren’t running strong.” Put a major CEO on the board of directors “Yeah but…” can’t even remember that one.

Oh and my favorite – I put on an event that became a national example. I was asked to teach everyone across the country how to do it. Did I the invitation come from my boss? No. Did she way one word about my personal and professional success? No.

Finally her incessant questioning and discounting of my abilities came to a head. We were interviewing candidates for an open position on my staff. The hire was to be a joint decision, so my boss came down to “help” conduct interviews. I left to room for a few minutes while she we were interviewing a candidate I was uncertain of. I cam back to find that my boss had offered her the job. No consultation – she did not even pretend that my thoughts about my staff were relevant.

I tried to stay because I loved what I was building. But the remarks from my boss became more and more condescending while my reputation with others continued to grow stronger. That’s how I knew I didn’t really stink at my job.:)

One day, triggered by nothing specific, all the wheels came off. I walked in the door at home and told my husband, “I’m quitting.” He’d watched me as I’d worked and celebrated and achieved so much. He’d also watched the incredible toll working in this environment was taking on me. So he said “I’m betting you’ve already thought this through and I support you.”

Now realize I had no job lined up and was in no frame of mind to go out and find one. I didn’t care. The next day, I submitted my letter of resignation.

The flurry of astonishment and support that poured into my office was surprising. And apparently my boss got a great deal of pressure to “do whatever it takes to make her stay” because I received a most uncharacteristic phone call making all kinds of promises to make our relationship better. Because I really want to give people second chances, I conceded and said ok.

BIG mistake. Within two days it became super clear that her call came under duress and she had no intentions of doing anything differently. So, I quit again for the final time.

Was it hard? Yes. Did people call and beg me to stay? Yes. Was I sad to leave behind an organization I’d rebuilt into a $250,000 entity with a board comprised of major power players in less than two years? You bet.

But it was killing me. I knew there was a better way to work and live. There just had to be. So I took a major leap of faith and set out on the journey to discover that path. For a year I learned from masters and re-invented myself and my ideas about what “work” was. (That is the subject for another post.)

That was over seven years ago and I haven’t regretted my decision once. Not once.

While I don’t advise waiting for all the wheels to come off to make such a monumental decision, I do recommend paying attention to the things that are dragging down your soul and dampening your spirit. Let them go. Leap. The universe is waiting for you.:)

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