On Friday, a week ago, I sent a text to one of my Newfield Network coaching classmates and friends. We met this spring during our first Newfield coaching conference in Boulder, Colorado. It was his last day at work, and I wanted him to know I was thinking of him. Dan was intentionally ending a very successful career with a great company to pursue a life of his making.
Me: Hey pal. Thinking of you on your last day as you step into that amazing "open" system :D Truly epic! When you get your bearings, you'll wonder what took you so long.
Dan: Hi Carl your text message totally made my day. This is such a huge moment for me in my life and there are very few people that I can really share it with who understand. You're definitely one of the ones that understands and has the wisdom around the advice. I thank you so much for our friendship and your words of encouragement. It means a lot to me and I look forward to the next time we get together. I'll give you a call and we can catch up in the next couple weeks thanks again.
Me: You bet pal. For sure I TOTALLY get it! Allow yourself the gift of reconnection to your soul and core "you" as you shed the identity that served you well and others in your service for so many years. That doesn't go away as much as it eventually takes its proper place against the backdrop of your life landscape. As it recedes into that background, you can start adding fresh paint to your canvas bit by bit. You don't have to know what it will look like. And there's no rush. What you can be confident of is that what you ultimately paint will totally reflect "you." When you step back from it years from now you'll be amazed how beautifully it all fits together without having had a (conscious) clue in advance what it was going to look like. That's the gift. :)
Dan: Hi Carl all I can say is wow. I am completely speechless. That is some serious sage wisdom. Thank you for sharing it with me. I need to reflect on the magnitude of those words.
As I absorbed Dan's last text, his choice of words struck me. "Sage wisdom." While I am certainly no sage, except in the sense that perhaps we all are, there is no denying that a little wisdom is creeping in as a result of my experience over the past few months. If Dan was surprised to receive this advice from me, I was even more surprised at how effortlessly it came to me to give.
Six months ago, I wouldn't have found those words. The thoughts that preceded them simply wouldn't have shown up. This has been one of the most exhilarating and liberating times of my life. Don't get me wrong, it has also been incredibly challenging. And heart wrenching. And scary. And anger producing (at times). And confusing (at times). But I have changed. And grown. And come to know and understand some great truths.
The first is that beginning anew starts with ending the old. There is simply no other way. You can not begin anew if a "no-turning-back" end doesn't come to what would otherwise compete for your energy and attention. It's true in relationships. It's true in business. It's true in careers. Dan chose his end. Mine was thrust upon me. Dan planned his exit with his employer well in advance of his departure. His coworkers and colleagues worked with him to make his transition as smooth as possible for all, bringing his involvement to a mutually agreeable end. No hard feelings. No drama. My exit looked nothing like his. I was working one minute, and literally out the door the next. They are polar opposite circumstances ending long, dedicated careers. But they require an identical response, which leads me to the second truth.
It doesn't matter if your "ending" is by your choice or not. Not one bit. In the end, an end is an end, whether you choose it, or someone else chooses it for you. The only thing that matters when you're on the other side of a "no-turning-back" end is facing forward. Living fearlessly. And never, ever, thinking of yourself as a victim. Thoughts will pop in your head, hungry to take up residence. It's up to you whether you welcome and feed it, or dismiss it and replace it with a better companion.
If the perspective I could offer Dan was "sage," or wise at all, it is because I focused on looking forward and moving forward from the day I got the boot, despite my circumstances. Following is an excerpt from a LinkedIn post, Grateful and Curious," I published on January 31, 2016, just two weeks into my transition when my wife and I were still in a cauldron of chaos:
"If I've learned anything in life, and in my CEO role over the past twenty years, I've learned that you, and everyone you touch, benefit when you remain unconditionally grateful for the whole of your life experience, and genuinely curious about your future. This is the foundation for living fearlessly. Your curiosity is forward-facing from a position of enormous strength and positivity, standing in the truth that every event, every situation, even the most difficult, brings an opportunity to enrich your life."
Don't misinterpret the positive tone of my words. This was, and is, no Pollyanna experience. My words are true; but believe me, my wife and I were living in a witch's brew of turmoil, and some of that continues today. This wasn't "just" business. This was a "family" business. Every emotional response you can imagine we no doubt experienced. Anger and feelings of betrayal became our companions, and they brought their friends, pain and tears, to keep them company. When shit happens to you, these guests show up uninvited. It's not a choice. It is called being human. The choice you do have is how long you allow them to reside in your home, your heart, your life. Harbor them long enough, and they unpack their bags and fill your closets. They come to your breakfast table every morning and take a seat for dinner at night. They sleep in your bed and buckle up in your car. After a while, they are no longer guests. They're residents. And before you know it, these uninvited emotions have become your resident moods. Being angry resides as anger. Being sad, resides as sadness. Being victimized, resides as a victim. What once was a human who was victimized and made angry and sad by an experience, is now experienced, by themselves and others, as an angry, sad victim. A broken human.
Emotions are spontaneous and largely out of our control. Choosing to nurture them, however, is not. The question isn't how to prevent emotions from showing up. The question is, once they do, and if they're hurtful and potentially damaging, "How can I manage how long they're allowed to stay?" I suggest:
Look back with gratitude.
Face forward with curiosity.
Keep moving ahead with courage.
And never, EVER, label yourself a victim.
Thank you, Dan, for your friendship and kind support. I am eternally grateful for both. And thank you for your permission to share our personal and intimate exchange on the first day of your new adventure in hopes that it could resonate and help others who may "stumble" upon these words.