In 2016, my husband bought me my first Nikon DSLR camera. I had been taking pictures on my phone, feeling excited about the images I captured. As I carefully unwrapped each of the parts of the kit from the camera box, I thought, “This is too technical for me. I can’t learn this. I don’t even know how to attach the lens.” But after it was assembled, something happened. I held it in my hands, felt the weight of it in my arms, the sensation of the lens piece on my eye, and I was home. Sure, I had so much to learn about photography, but my excitement was so much bigger than my fear. There wasn’t anything going to stop me. So I put the camera on automatic for a long while, studied composition, light and timing, until I was ready to learn manual photography. I did it on my terms, my time. My focus, literally, had come through a process of play and exploration.
Fast forward to March 2022. That spark of joy for photography has exploded and continues to give me deep satisfaction. Once again, as a career coach, my excitement is bigger than my fear. As a new business owner, there is still a lot to learn. So whenever that voice pops up that says, “this is new, this is scary”, I have a simple conversation with me. Slow your shutter speed (mind). Open up the aperture and let in light (heart). Recompose the frame. You’ll see the shot. I have a blueprint for how learning happens. I have a deep inner trust that the pieces are coming together at exactly the time they are supposed to.
For a minute, let me shift from me to you. After all, I am a coach. Occasionally, we can lose focus – the settings on the camera don’t work anymore, the “subject” (you) has changed position. The picture returned to us isn’t the one we feel inside. Maybe the job you’ve done for twenty years feels achingly familiar and yet still overwhelming because of the setting or expectations. Perhaps you landed in a profession that you never really chose, but was chosen for you. (It happens, we all want to please our parents the most.) Or what if you have stumbled upon a new set of concepts, tools, knowledge or skills that open up a whole new world of possibilities? What might that look like, you ask? The retirement account manager who left an upwardly mobile career to return for his pilot’s license. An HR manager who left to coach scholar athletes. A marketing manager who left to teach math, and then returned to business after realizing teaching in middle school was a tough gig. The photographer who felt uninspired until he discovered that food was his true passion, who now combines his incredible recipes with beautiful images of food for culinary magazines. A lawyer who left to start a philanthropy that does amazing work for woman and children in underserved communities.
We are all possible of reinvention. Life allows U-turns.
People change, grow, evolve. Our careers do too. It doesn’t mean we need to change tracks or leave a job! Sometimes we just need to get reconnected to those reasons that brought us here in the first place. That could be building community, the thrill of complex problem solving, keeping others safe, leading with integrity, providing amazing service, innovating a product, writing dynamic code, inspiring the next generation, providing good counsel, creating art and culture…our WHYs are often profound.
Two months post corporate departure, I have tremendous clarity about the work I am meant to do in the world. Here is what I am here to tell you, and also me. Okay, maybe mostly me. I made it a mnemonic- TWWW: That’s Why We Work.
The things that excite us are not random.
When we feel deeply connected to our work, that feeling can provide amazing passion in our lives.
When we see our purpose clearly, our potential becomes unlimited.
When we dictate our terms for following our bliss, we will find it.
For me, the key is saying yes to my intuition, and no to the voice of expectation.
While the things that excite us are not random, neither are the things that exhaust us. It has taken me eight weeks away from the workforce to see that my decision to leave the corporate world was, at least in part, due to burnout. Nobody wants to admit to burnout – we as a society hold a lot of shame about saying that anything is too much for us. During COVID, I lost the boundaries of a healthy work relationship. I was working too many hours, and when I wasn’t working, I still wasn’t present at home. I missed family dinners and baseball games and movie nights that I was physically “there” for, but lost in my own head. That realization of the distraction hit me hard. Of all the gifts of this transition, my ability to be fully present with my guys is not the icing – it’s the whole damn cake. As I write that sentence, it blows me away – the truth and power of it.
I do know this. Transitions are not linear – there will be ups and downs, and I’ve got a seatbelt on. I’ve taken a much needed vacation. I’ve started writing copy on my website. I am meeting fellow coaches, what a beautiful group of humans. I am networking with amazing people who see me and feel me and believe in me, and I see and feel and believe in them. That human connection alone can have me buzzing for days. I love being with people and talking about what’s real, what’s hard, and mostly what fills our hearts.
Just like that camera, there is one thing that comes naturally to me, and that is the actual coaching. That is sitting with a person who isn’t quite sure of the way, and knowing that they are taking the camera out of the box and trusting me with that exploration. (Legal disclaimer: cameras are not actually provided to new clients. Yet. It’s an interesting idea.) That person is on their way to the amazing world just beyond the new lens. I can’t wait to see the beautiful image returned to them.