It is a natural reaction for many to help others in their times of need. Many people put the needs of others before their own. 2017 was a year of reflection for me as I experienced ups and downs professionally and personally. I learned a lot about myself, but the reoccurring lesson was that I need to always pour into myself before I can pour into others. At the end of the day, you must take care of yourself and invest in yourself before you can effectively do the same for others. You can't pour from an empty cup.
I will share a few quotes I rely on to keep me motivated
“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation” – Zig Ziglar
“life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” – Charles Swindoll
“Leaders lose the right to complain” – Michael Pope
I often draw parallels between careers and dating; they aren't that different when you think about it. You seek out a good fit knowing what you can bring to the table, hoping they bring what you are looking for and the end is a suitable match with mutual outcomes. Just like dating, personalities matter. Personalities are just like workplace cultures- how they are early on is more than likely how they will continue down the line. YOU can’t change a person’s personality, and YOU can't change a workplace culture. Once you realize the personality or culture you must decide- do you stay or leave? In the professional setting, there is a third option, do I stay just long enough to learn what I need to learn and achieve some wins or is it not worth it.
Late last year I realized my previous employer's culture wasn't a good fit for me, which isn’t a diss to them, it’s just like a relationship, you realize you are just on two different planes and the long-term outcome isn’t mutual or aligned. I knew this feeling was mutual, maturity and gray hair give you this special sight beyond sight sometimes LOL. I worked on my exit plan and began to pour into my business and readied my parachute just in case. That preparation paid off when they ended our relationship before I could. Pouring into myself and business sustained by family the entire time until I entered a new role. Had I put all my eggs in one basket trying to “force” or “save” the relationship with the previous employer or been focused on my new temporary yet the involuntary role of stay-at-home dadprenuer, I would have been of no help to anyone else. The time I was afforded to spend with my daughter during her first year of life was priceless, not-so-hidden blessings.
The job search also taught me a lot about myself and helped me overcome some self-doubt I'd been carrying around. I had interviews with some dope organizations and institutions but I wasn't a good fit for their needs, which was fine. Just like dating, all good looking options aren't for you. It was an ego booster being called in for interviews and multiple rounds in some instances. Some times the boost you need takes on unlikely forms.
During the final stages of the job search, I had a clear focus on what mattered most to me, which wasn't title or pay- the latter was important but not the end all be all, again maturity teaches you a few things. My decision between two employers came down to culture, it just fit and worked. It was what I needed for where I am in my life professionally and personally. The other company made a generous offer but I found myself asking them too many questions about the culture and workflow dynamics, and it was clear, I would be forcing myself to like the cute girl with nothing to add to my life. So, I chose the woman who brought more to the table because I knew what I needed in my cup so that I could pour into my family and community in the ways which mattered most to me.
As a testament to the culture of the new role, they upped the pay and the salary because they felt to get me and keep me, they needed to come correct up front. They also told me they wanted me to build out the unit and develop a team, which again is what I needed. I'm a strategist, not an order taker and doer; I just needed someone to realize they needed that and make an offer : -) Prior to those changes, the only difference between the final two offers was the title, the pay was the same. Ironically, after I declined the other offer, they changed the title of the role to where it should have been in the first place. That kinda reminds me of dating; you break up with someone, and next week they are ready to settle down and get married. Good for them.
For those wondering "why don't you just do your business full-time," I don't want to. It takes more time and commitment than I want to give at this point to maintain the life I want to live right now. I did it for 7 years full-time, so I know what it takes and that's just not what I want to do right now.
Among the professional challenges of 2017, there were several personal challenges in which I had to navigate. I won’t go into detail on those because they are personal and frankly none of your business- but rest assured me and Ruth are fine and have not had any issues. Nosy bastards. Some of the fallout from my professional challenges spilled over into my personal life including stress and anxiety. I consider myself to be a high performer and committed to excellence and when I am not in an environment to do that, it affects me. I have been more committed to my health and mental well-being this year as that is the ultimate pouring into self. Just like relationships, when your career affects you on that level, it is time to leave. Beyond that, keeping yourself first must always be a priority.
Back in 2016 is when I began an internal campaign "finding my happy," which is me simply making sure I make time to do the things I enjoy and make me happy- balance. For me it was reconnecting with sports and going to more games, reading more, tending to my collections of things, resting more, and just whatever else makes me happy at the moment. I've also been more comfortable telling friends and family "no," and being completely fine with that without further explanation. It can be taxing when you have many people depending on you for various things as you often realize you have no one to lean on yourself. Relieving that tension often calls for telling folks no, not responding to them, or just letting them figure it out on their own, the latter is hard for me because I am a problem-solver.
I love the organizations of which I am a member, but they can take over your life if you let them. I've done well in managing that over the years and not allowing that happen, but this year I made it a point to limit my involvement and be strategic with my time. I’m still around, I’m still involved but my time is finite and valuable and should be respected. It’s easy to want to put in work and time for various organizations and causes in which you are passionate, but there must be a balance, and in my opinion, it should add value to your life. If there is no balance and it adds no value, why are you doing it? In my case, does it advance my family, business, philanthropy, or professional goals buckets? Sometimes you must step back and recalibrate your focus and intent and in some instances, make hard decisions.
2017 was a year of reflection and rededication to myself. The challenges of the year have prepared me to face a new year with a refined perspective. I’ve never been one worry to ask why me, why this, or why that, but more so one to take it in stride, make necessary corrections when possible, and share my experiences, so others don't have to experience what I have whenever possible.
What are five ways you will pour into yourself in 2018?
1. Reducing my bandwidth. Focusing on less and doing more vs. trying to focus on too much and accomplishing little.
2. Focusing on education and professional development
3. Communicating more with those beyond my immediate family members
4. Travel and relaxation. I don’t know what this looks like just yet, but it will happen.
5. I will marinate on #5 and report back.