Embrace Your Dreams – Build Your Castle

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Recently, I was asked to participate in a speaker series/panel discussion based on the book “Forget a Mentor – Find a Sponsor” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett.  The speakers were given several book related themes to choose from and the one that stuck out to me was “Embrace Your Dreams – Build Your Castle.”  It stuck out because unbeknownst to me, I had just recently done this very thing.

My journey was accidental in some ways. On June 27, 2011, I thought I was happy. I thought I had found my castle. I thought I was living my dream. I had seniority in my current role and the respect of my colleagues.  I had a high-performing that consistently exceeded expectations. I was able to work with a high-degree of autonomy. But my world changed the very next day when my company was acquired. That meant major changes in the way I did things, the processes I followed and my position in the company. Over the next 12 months I tried to adjust to the changes but it came became very clear that my ceiling had been lowered and reached. What was I going to do?

My boss had repeatedly told me that acquisition means opportunity, I just couldn’t see it. I had been on the giving end of acquisitions many times before and knew in reality not everyone survives and years later acquired companies are barely recognizable. Internally, I wasn’t happy and for the first time in years…work felt like work. I began rehearsing what I would say if I ever had the chance to speak with someone who could give me another opportunity. On October 17, 2012, I got my chance. During a skip level meeting with a senior leader, I decided to be open, candid and ask for what I wanted. Up to that point in my life I had never done that.

During that meeting, I expressed that I was unhappy and that work felt like work now. I told him I was ready to do something different and I was capable of so much more. I told him how I felt my career path had practically disappeared with the acquisition and I needed a chance to do something different. After an engaging dialogue about my dream job and wish list of things I was confident I could accomplish, that leader said he thought I would be a great fit for a leadership development program.   I’ll never forget seeing him write himself a note diagonally on a piece paper asked me to give him 2 weeks. He said he would get back to me. I said “Yeah right” under my breath. Not really knowing this leader well, I didn’t hold out much hope that he would make this a priority.

To my surprise, he came through by staking his personal reputation on me and my potential. This is when I learned the difference between mentor and sponsor.  He became my first sponsor.  But he surely wasn’t the last. His sponsorship as well as that of countless others provided me with the opportunity, time and space to realize that I wasn’t working in harmony with my dreams. I wasn’t living my castle. I was merely renting one that someone else had built.

The leadership development program he referred me into gave me an opportunity to see what my castle was meant to be.  It was never meant to be built around contracts and licensing.  It was to be built around helping people. People like my sister.  People who suffer from mental illness.

This experience helped me muster up the courage to ask for sponsorship in a major way. I asked for a role that would surely help me embrace my dreams. I got that role and I couldn’t be happier. In fact, I ran in to someone I hadn’t seen in a while and they told me I was glowing. Working on and living in your castle everyday has a way of doing that for you.

I think we all come to a crossroads at times and have to choose between what we know and what we love. My best advice is to never be afraid to ask for and go for what you want. No one will just hand it to you but they will offer you a hand if you ask for it. Mentoring helps you stand strong in your current space. Sponsorship helps you move along to a new one. Castle’s aren’t built overnight and they take a lot of sweat and tears to materialize. But I’m living proof that with sponsorship, it’s possible.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/110112536@N05/15188696784“>A European Honeymoon: Day 12 (Alps and Black Forest)</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/“>(license)</a>

Thank You for Saving My Life

 

Dear Precious Daughters:

I know this is a weekend where many will be showing their love and appreciation for their mothers.  But I want to change it up a bit.  I want to express my appreciation for you. You saved my life.

At the age of 18, I was on a self-destructive path.  I was angry with my parents, my sister, myself. I wanted to hurt everyone. I wanted to live wild and free. I wanted to do me. Up to that point in life I had been a selfish, arrogant person. I spent most of my days looking down on people, being insensitive to their problems, living a life with no empathy.  I thought I knew it all and would have it all. That all just didn’t include kids.  I didn’t want them. I didn’t need them. And then it happened.

Through sheer irresponsibility, I became pregnant. My whole world changed and in the blink of an eye, I wanted you. Because while the rest of the world misunderstood me, I knew you would get me. Unsure of what to do and where to turn, I became firm in my resolve that I would have you and you would compliment not complicate my life. And that you did.

To my firstborn, you saved me from me.  You came in to this world in dire circumstances, spending the first few days of your life in NICU.  Though our time together, face to face, was mere days, I knew I couldn’t bear to live without you.  Your spirit through it all was such a blessing to me. As you moved through that experience and I was able to take you home, you were the most beautiful child.  You were easy to please, happy all the time.  You brought so much joy and happiness to our family.  You taught me how to love someone other than me. You saved my life.

To my second born, my baby, you were a bit more challenging.  But you forced me to change my perceptions of the world and to care less and less about what others thought of me. You were a determined stubborn baby. You gave me a run for my money.  Through you I could see me. I am proud you chose me to be your mom.  You came in to the family and gave your dad and I the courage and kick we needed to do something great with our lives. You gave me the courage to humble myself and go back to school because I wanted to set a good example for you and your sister. You made me want more which led to me doing more. You saved my life.

Now you are both teenagers. One of you headed to college, the other headed to study abroad. When I think about how quickly our time as mommy and babies have gone, I get a little sad.  But then I remember all of our times together.  Me watching you grow and you teaching me how to love.  I am happy and I am grateful for this wonderful life you have given me. At 18 I couldn’t see that I wanted you. But at 38 I can see that I needed you.

Thank you my beautiful daughters for saving my life.

Loving you forever,

Mom ♥♥♥

The Courage to Let Life Happen

I’m a recovering control freak!  There, I said it.  A few years ago, I would not have been able to see it, let alone admit.  But today, in this moment, I am willing to own up to my controlling ways.  I could chalk it up to being a “Type A” personality with a need to make sure everything is in order at all times.  I could chalk up to being an overachiever with a need to be as near to perfection as I possibly can be.

Regardless of what is behind it, being a control freak is detrimental.  It is detrimental to relationships.  It is detrimental to me.  But I have also discovered one another thing about being a control freak.  It’s a cowards response to life.  Let me elaborate a bit more on that. You can sum up the behavior of a coward in one word – scared.  Cowards are scared to test themselves, push their boundaries and take risks.  Cowards seek comfort in the known, the routine, the certain.  Control freaks create the known, the routine, the certain.  See the correlation between the two?

For most of my life, I have been a coward of sorts.  I have relished in my ability to keep it together, conduct life in an organized manner, and be in control of every aspect of my life. I have been afraid to release whatever grasp of control I could exercise over things because something unexpected, unplanned for could happen. But what I have realized as of late is that in my efforts to maintain a firm grip of control, I was missing the life that was happening all around me. I realized the only way I could join that life was to let go.

To let go and have the courage to let life happen.  As a much wiser version of myself, I can now appreciate the importance of this.  I am saddened at times when I think of all of the things I missed out on while I was so fixated on maintaining control. But I can also admit that throwing caution to the wind takes an extraordinary amount of courage for someone like me. But I don’t want to be a coward anymore.  I don’t want to run from life. I want to live each day with courage. Like sitting on the handlebars of a bike or holding my hands high above my head as I approach the top of the roller coaster, I am letting go. I am letting go and I am anticipating the unknown. I am welcoming the uncertain. I am accepting of the unplanned. Because I have the courage to let life happen.