Mistakes Lead to Certain Death.
Early in 2017 I was working on a proposal that would grow my team ~30% and nearly double our coverage area.
This was a great opportunity for the company, and my career, to say the least. I was personally enthusiastic about the challenge, and the opportunity to spearhead it.
I remember thinking, “𝑤𝑒’𝑣𝑒 𝑔𝑜𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠.” And that confidence came from a sense that we (my team and I) knew the needs of the business better than anyone else.
For us though, 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝘄𝗮𝘀𝗻’𝘁 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝗮 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗮𝗹 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝘄𝗲 𝗲𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗰𝗹𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗱𝗲𝗮𝗹, 𝗼𝗿 𝘄𝗲 𝗱𝗼𝗻’𝘁.
To add a little pressure to the mix, if the proposal didn’t go through, there were many jobs potentially on the line, including my own.
So in short, this was a 𝗺𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝗻.
As you can imagine, the logistics and strategy around finances, staffing, operations, and performance and measurement can be, at times, complex…
And talked through time and time again, with the aim to make sure we have the right calibrations across all needs of the business.
𝗔 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝘁 𝗮𝘁 𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗳𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻
𝗠𝗮𝗿𝗴𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗿𝗼𝗼𝗺 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗲𝗿𝗿𝗼𝗿
𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝗶𝘁 𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲
While still needing to be flexible, and ready to make enormous amounts of changes as the discussions and negotiations proceeded.
Nothing wrong with this in theory, or execution.
When it became challenge, for me specifically, was when I couldn’t take my mind off it. I couldn’t seem to turn off my thoughts about the proposal.
About the potential implications.
I had continuous thoughts that..
𝗘𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 “𝗧” 𝗮𝗻𝗱 “𝗜” 𝗺𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝗯𝗲 𝗯𝘂𝘁𝘁𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝘂𝗽
𝗘𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗻𝘆 𝗮𝗰𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲
𝗘𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗹𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗱, 𝗿𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗱, 𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝘂𝗽𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗱𝗼𝘄𝗻
𝗔𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘀𝗲… 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗻 𝗶𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗮𝗹 𝗳𝗲𝗹𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵.
I went back and forth between excited and thrilled about the challenge, and at other times, anxious about what loomed on the other side.
As you can imagine, in my mind, failure was not an option.
This proposal consumed my mind for about six months. Six months of…
𝗖𝗼𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗱𝗮𝗽𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻
𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗴 𝗻𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘄𝗲𝗲𝗸𝗲𝗻𝗱𝘀
𝗔𝗻𝗱, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝗺𝗯𝗶𝗴𝘂𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗴𝗼𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗻, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗻.
In my mind, and by job definition, it was my responsibility to ensure we pushed this through, as other people’s jobs depended on it, not just my own.
I felt responsible, and took it very serious, to my own detriment during this time period.
And after months of developing, adapting, and negotiating, the proposal went through. 𝗖𝘂𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗯𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗼𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗲𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴.
Instead of shrinking, we were growing.
𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗱.
𝗪𝗲 𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗱.
𝗪𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝘄𝗶𝗽𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝘄𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗯𝗿𝗼𝘄 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗮 𝗺𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁…
Now it was time to execute on the plan.. But that is not what this story is about.
I think back during that time.
All the emails, the meetings, the changes, the negotiations, pressure building along with my stress levels.
And my conclusion…
#𝟭 𝗜𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗵𝗲𝗹𝗹 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 𝗺𝗮𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗻
#𝟮 𝗜𝘁 𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗺𝘆 𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗺 𝟭𝟬 𝗳𝗼𝗹𝗱
#𝟯 𝗜 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗱𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗼 𝗲𝗻𝗷𝗼𝘆 𝗶𝘁
Allow me to expand on #3.
When I was working on the proposal, I mean actively working on it, I was spot on. My mind was in the right place.
I was confident, focused, and certain what we needed to do.
Again… 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗹𝘆 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝗻 𝗶𝘁.
When we were waiting for the next request, adaption, and ultimately final word, there wasn’t much I could do during those periods, other than focus on the existing business, as usual.
With such a important decision pending, it’s easy to see how that might interfere with focus on anything else. I didn’t know how to turn it off. My brain, that is.
The topic ran my mind when…
𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴
𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗲𝘅𝗲𝗿𝗰𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴
𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗴𝗼𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲𝗱
𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲
And to a degree, understandably so.
I mean, jobs and business were on the line.
𝗪𝗵𝗼 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱𝗻’𝘁 𝗯𝗲 𝗻𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗼𝘂𝘀 𝗮 𝗯𝗶𝘁?
𝗪𝗵𝗼 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱𝗻’𝘁 𝗯𝗲 𝗮 𝗯𝗶𝘁 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗲𝗱?
Uncertainty already makes people uncomfortable. Then when you drag it out for months, the conversations turn repetitive, you feel like you are standing still looking up in the sky, and just spinning in circles waiting to fall down or run into something.
Ready to stop, but you can’t.
Ready to get off the ride, but you can’t hit the emergency stop.
During the course of this proposal, I was caught in an ongoing cycle of…
“𝐼 𝑑𝑜𝑛’𝑡 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒.”
“𝐼 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑓𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑠ℎ 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑝𝑜𝑠𝑎𝑙”
Inside and outside of work.
𝗜 𝗱𝗶𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘀𝗶𝘅 𝗺𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗵𝘀.
And honestly, looking back, I spent more time ruminating and over thinking, than I spent on the actual proposal.
𝗜𝘁 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗲𝘀 𝗺𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘀, 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗱𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗺𝘆 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲 𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗺𝗲 𝗹𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝘆 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗱.. And not actually serving any value to the proposal itself, let alone my own life.
I mentioned I could have “𝑒𝑛𝑗𝑜𝑦𝑒𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑒𝑥𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑚𝑜𝑟𝑒”. And I know what some people are thinking… “𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑖𝑒𝑟 𝑠𝑎𝑖𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑛 𝑑𝑜𝑛𝑒”.
It would have taken me constantly reminding myself of what I could do, could not do, and learn to quit fighting reality.
Because 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝘄𝗮𝘀… 𝗜 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝘄𝗮𝗶𝘁.
The other reality, my anxiety was drowning out the joy of life, and my career.
Hindsight is 20/20 often times, but it becomes foresight when we take time to understand it.
For me…𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗜 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗲𝗻𝗷𝗼𝘆𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲?
#𝟭 𝗥𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗴𝗻𝗶𝘇𝗲 that I was already putting my best work into what I could control
#𝟮 𝗔𝗰𝗰𝗲𝗽𝘁 there was nothing else I could do to speed up the process
#𝟯 𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗰𝘂𝗿𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗚𝗼𝗮𝗹𝘀 that once completed, I was able to allow myself to turn off the madness, as there was nothing else to be done
#𝟰 𝗥𝗲𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗱 myself that realistically whatever happened, I would figure it out like I always have
#𝟱 𝗥𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗴𝗻𝗶𝘇𝗲 my FEAR of what could happen was suffocating my life. I wasn’t living it. I was anxious most of the time
#𝟲 𝗖𝗵𝗼𝗼𝘀𝗲 thoughts and actions that supported me both from the proposal standpoint, but also for my life — as this would have dictated some different actions, and less time spent in a subtle panic that life could fall apart at any moment
If I could go back in time (clearly I can not), I would have spent more time accepting the reality, and stopped fighting it all of the damn time. Life and my personal relationships sure would have been more enjoyable during that period.
Because the truth is, fighting reality, fighting something out of our control creates fear based thoughts and actions…
And for anyone that has ever experienced being anxious, stressed, or fearful, we know it impacts multiple, if not all areas of our lives..