“Allow me to introduce you to one of our region’s most successful business icons.” This was how a colleague introduced me to another woman at a recent awards event. This happens often. Because of my public persona, many people place me on a grandiose pedestal. While always well-meaning, the challenge with any pedestal is that those looking up at the pedestal have not seen how bruised and bloodied the person has become to arrive there.
My 20-year journey has been filled with landmines. In both my personal and professional worlds, I have endured experiences that have brought me to my knees, leaving me wondering how I would ever emerge whole again.
Personal challenges include:
• Two brushes with cancer
• The deaths of loved ones (young and old)
• Being kicked to the curb by women I thought were my friends, in my darkest hours of need
Professional challenges include:
• Bringing my first company back from the brink of bankruptcy multiple times
• Having to walk away from something I built, 15 years in, to save myself
• Re-inventing myself while in the midst of crisis
I’m not sharing any of this as a plea for sympathy. My intention in sharing this is to correct your frame of reference when looking at anyone “successful.” You are seeing a sliver of the picture, like one glass pane on a kaleidoscope. Turn the scope slightly to the left or right, and you will see a completely different picture. It’s all an illusion.
When we look at those on pedestals, our vision is distorted. We focus only on what’s straight ahead of us. We don’t look to the sides to see the dark & twisted paths that led to where one is right now, in this place in time.
I’m also not discounting my successes. Like so many, I’ve worked hard to build a personal & professional reputation of integrity, trust, credibility, and competence. I take responsibility & accountability for my decisions and outcomes. I am tenacious in my quest for continuous personal learning, growth, & development, in mind, body, heart & spirit. I give 100% to my relationships. I immensely respect the power of our words, to both harm and heal. I live and lead from my whole heart, never hesitating to be completely transparent.
Through my personal exploration and development, I’ve learned to lean into all emotions, and to get comfortable with discomfort. I embrace both bravery and broken-heartedness, because you can not have one without the other. They are two sides of the same coin. There is no conversation I won’t have. I’m fully committed to living a life of compassion, void of anger. I will always choose living in harmony over being right, if I must make that choice.
I’ve also been in personal therapy intermittently for 15 years. My therapy provides a safe place for me to shine light into the darkest places of my psyche so that they aren’t so frightening. It gives me a place to grieve uninterrupted for people I’ve lost, for expectations that fell short, and for events that did not manifest as I expected. My therapy has taught me the survival skill of self-love and self-forgiveness. It allows me get to the root causes of why I make the decisions I make, and uncover potentially unhealthy and harmful behavioral patterns so I can replace them with healthy patterns. It provides me strategies for navigating potentially paralyzing fear and anxiety so that I can continue to move forward.
All of this work empowers me to show up in both my personal and professional life in a more healthy and complete way. To quote Brene Brown, “Recognizing emotion means developing awareness about how our thinking, feeling, and behavior are connected.” We can not experience growth and transformation until we address all three as equally important, interconnected parts of whole.
THIS is how I’ve become a 20-year overnight success. Certainly I’m adept at sales, marketing, and business operations. I acknowledge that I have great business vision, and nothing excites me more in business than turning my vision into reality to make the world a better place. All of this comes with risk, however. We can do all of the “right” things and still fail.
It’s the inside work I’ve done, and will continue to do for the rest of my life, that keeps me on track. I can say with 100% certainty that life is going to deliver me additional circumstances that will bring me to my knees, and cause me to step back. However, I will rise strong again. I can’t be afraid of loving, engaging, giving, and risking for fear of the downfall. This empowers the fear of the unknown to map out my future, and that is unacceptable.
I want to recommend some books to help you along your path of self-development. In a world where we are increasingly disillusioned by inflated personas… where we are bombarded by strategies to achieve great success, it is more important than ever to care for our emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual well-being.
As trite as it sounds, Happiness really is an inside job. When we get the inside right, things fall into place for us externally.
The books I recommend for everyone, whether you are just starting out on your path of professional growth or if you are a 25-year business expert, are:
• The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
• Rising Strong, by Brene Brown
I have proudly integrated my darkest hours with my greatest successes to write the story of my lifetime. There’s no other way to write our stories. They both play an equal role in creating the person you see on the pedestals.
The next time you meet a “successful business icon,” remember that you are only seeing one glass pane in their kaleidoscope. One does not rise without falling first.
Wishing you joy and peace on your journey.
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CEO, Successful Culture
“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”