From Hamster to Ferris Wheel

I bet there isn’t a single one of us who has not asked the question, “What’s it all about Alfie?” at one point in our lives or another.

Work. Promotions. Competition. Corporate politics. Wealth accumulation. Stock options; strike price. IPO – acquisitions – venture backing. Investments. Retirement plans.

Capitalism at its finest – hallelujah!! Being a free-enterprise “A student,” I am all for success as our business world defines it… However, does it have a price?

Do you think that the corporate rat race, which sometimes feels like running on a hamster wheel where the view seldom changes, may simply not be for everyone?

Having been raised in Corporate America, and with a sincere, deep appreciation for the HP-Way culture where I spent my formative years under the stewardship of exemplary servant leaders such as Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, why wouldn’t I want the security of the mother ship? The achievements of climbing the corporate ladder, being associated with large big-brand corporate names, expense accounts, global travel, status and cache in your position, challenging three-dimensional chess games… Sounds pretty good, eh?

I didn’t want that…not anymore.

Newsflash: when it just isn’t fun anymore, or the day-to-day activities are just not filling us up and we long for – shall I say it? – shear love of what we do; a desire to truly contribute and make a worthwhile difference; the opportunity to build a business which fully represents the values and beliefs core to our existence… venturing out in a pod ship sounds better all the time!

I can’t begin to tell you how many folks thought I had truly lost my mind or, worse yet, I was just delusional in my idealistic expectation and desires. Gosh, leaving a Fortune 50 career, which had spanned over 25 years  to become – ok, I will say it – the CEO of a start-up, 1-person company, selling…myself.

However, not too surprisingly, there were/are just as many who were secretly supportive, perhaps a bit jealous and/or skeptical of the opportunity; nonetheless, they were/are bullishly on my team to help others reach their potential and to truly change the face of how we view their/our professional careers. Wow!

So, how in the world was this decision made? And more importantly, does it have any relevance to you, or others, as we navigate and align our careers and lives? Gosh, I can’t tell you that – only you can answer that. What I can tell you are the three basic pages (more or less) I turned – with angst, fear and doubt, in all honesty – to become more aligned to what I believe brings purpose and meaning to my life.

Trust your Intuition:

Years ago, in October of 2002, a friend of mine and I went to Detroit to hear Oprah Winfrey, Marianne Williamson, and Anne Lamott (among others) speak at a convention. This was certainly not my first “personal development retreat”; I had been attending these since I was in college. However, for some reason, I was highly attuned to what was being shared. Oprah was telling her story, which we are all very familiar with now, and she was emphasizing “listening to the whispers” in our lives. Then, heeding the message. The whispers (which in my case, turned into ‘pebbles’ and then ‘bricks’) represented the Message – from within me – of what choices were within my reach. I had certainly heard them over the years; I just opted to ignore them. I didn’t trust them. I allowed the intoxication of corporate life and all its trappings to shut out the message. What I can say now is, listening to your inner voice and trusting it will open your eyes to choices you may not realize you have. Whatever they may be. And choices can and will almost always lead to change.

Courage – Dive In!

Lest I sound like a PollyAnna motivational blog writer, this step took me more than a year to take. Fear is the common paralyzer. “Jumping off the board” conjures up many thoughts: if I leave… what if I fail in my new venture? Will I ever be able to go back? Will I be taken seriously? Can I afford it? What about my retirement? This list goes on and on – fed by fear and ego.

Trust me – I analyzed, weighed and worried over each and every scenario. There were and are no perfect answers. No panacea. No magic pills.

Jumping is a shear act of courage anchored in faith. Period.

I just decided if I wanted something badly enough, it was certainly worth going after. Oh, and by the way, I won’t fail – unless I allow myself to fail. Secondly, I can’t imagine going back onto the hamster wheel. Finally, it is a complete and utter misnomer for those of us from Corporate America to believe doing what we love and making money are mutually exclusive. Period.

Be as if:

So, I jumped. Now what do I do? Wise counsel from my own personal coach, Ann Deaton, encouraged me to get into my own skin and to “be – as if.” We have a saying in the business world: “fake it ‘til you make it” – which candidly lacked the true authenticity I needed and wanted. So, being rather than seeming worked for me. I am tackling my new responsibilities and associated challenges with zealous energy. Certainly, the new experiences are not without nagging concerns – as with any/all ventures. However, what I can tell you is that, when we allow it, “there is a peace that passes all understanding” – when you just know you are doing what you are to be doing. This doesn’t make everything easy… however, I will say unabashedly that the ride on the Ferris wheel – even with its turns and scary heights – offers the most fabulous, exciting views. The vision of life’s horizon is broad, full and inviting!

Now, who wouldn’t want to take a ride on the Ferris wheel?