Six years ago today I started more than just a new job. To call it a “career change” is correct as things go, but fails to capture the enormity of how it felt … like looking at a full moon through the wrong end of a telescope. It took a lot of thought, prayer, and wise perspective from my Wife for me to become willing to take the leap. When I had agreed to accept the invitation to leave the legal world of the courtroom and become an executive in the corporate world, I fully expected it to feel like traveling to a foreign country where the language and customs would be new to me.
Instead what I found was what felt more like landing on an alien world where the very laws of physics were different. Professionally, the transition was very challenging, to say the least. Psychologically, though, it was at times disorienting. I had moved from a profession and environment in which I was a bona fide expert into one where I was more clueless than the newest unpaid college intern. While the challenge of learning so many new things was definitely invigorating intellectually, it was quite humbling emotionally.
Now, six years later, I’ve made yet another career change and this one may be even more radical than the last. After standing for awhile at the intersection with the freedom to go any number of directions, I’ve decided to embark on the entrepreneur’s journey by launching my own leadership and communication consulting practice:
It is an interesting exercise to look back through time with the perspective of distance to see how the road of life’s journey has unfolded. A few of the pivotal moments that have brought me to this point:
- If I didn’t get myself fired in 2005 (the subject of my TEDxDayton talk), I would probably still be there 13 years later, because I was utterly content and had no interest in growing or doing new things;
- If I didn’t experience the ugly underbelly of local politics and lose my job once again in 2010 as a result, I would never have had leadership aspirations;
- If I had gotten the assignment with the US Attorney’s Office that I interviewed for in November, 2011, I wouldn’t have been around for LexisNexis to come calling for me in February, 2012 … nor would I have been interested;
- If I didn’t start blogging again after ten years of being afraid to do so, I wouldn’t have developed the IDEAS concept that is now the basis of my new venture’s analytical framework;
- If I didn’t lose my job via layoff last November, I wouldn’t have had the motivation or the time to survey my options and step out into the direction of what I actually want to do.
To see how these experiences all played a part in me arriving at this exciting point is not to pretend away how hard they were. Quite the opposite, in fact. Losing your job for any reason is painful, whether because of your own mistake (#1), the dishonest dealings of another (#2), or the cost-cutting of a corporate layoff (#5). Facing the fears that come from the scars of that pain (#4) and the disappointment of not getting the job you want and know you’re qualified to excel at (#3) is hard too.
The point is this: if you’re looking for them, you can find supremely valuable lessons to take into the future with you from painful events like this. Without the introspection that came from the suffering of twice losing my job as a prosecutor, I would not have been in the frame of mind to take advantage of the huge opportunity LexisNexis offered me when it came knocking: not only would I have had no interest in growing my skillset and experiencing organizational leadership at a corporate scale (learned after #2), I would have been unable to conceive of myself without the identity of “prosecutor” (learned after #1).
Ironically, it is from these experiences as much as (or more than) the successes that I have found both the unique perspectives that are at the heart of the value 5×5 will be bringing, as well as the courage to undertake this venture in the first place.
I hope by sharing this, you will be encouraged to do the same: use yesterday’s pain and disappointments as insight and fuel to seize tomorrow’s opportunity.