By Scott Westerman
Scott’s Maxim – “It’s never too late to become the person you want to be.”
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I was sure this would be an uncomfortable lunch. Someone I had recently fired wanted to link up to talk. Rolling the scenario over in my mind, it was clear that we had done everything we could to help him be successful. In the end, it was more about “will” than “skill”. He had the intellectual foundations to do what we needed done. He had done it well before. But over time, his performance slipped, past coaching, beyond the verbal and written warnings, and finally to termination.
I was set a little off balance by his smile and the firmness of his handshake. He beat me to the restaurant and already had selected a booth in the corner where we wouldn’t be disturbed.
“Getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “Not at first. I was angry with you, angry with the company. I felt abandoned and a more than a little bit of a failure. But I quickly realized that I was stuck on a treadmill and didn’t know how to get off. Thank you for giving me my freedom.”
This scene has played out a number of times over my career. People force their leaders to do the dirty work and then end up realizing that they should have reinvented themselves long before. I call this phenomenon, “Self selecting out of the organization.”
Our life story is truly a series of chapters. Scenes change. Players enter and exit the stage. Fresh plot lines emerge as others fade. But the story is still ultimately ours. The opportunity to write a new script is constantly at our disposal.
Perhaps that’s a good way to look at your future. If you could create the lead character in a twisting, turning thriller that is based on your life to date, how would describe that person at the beginning of the current chapter? How would your character develop as the adventure progresses? How do you envision the scene at the chapter’s end?
If you’re in college, you write a new chapter with each year, a segment of the story that ends at graduation. But like all good movie franchises, it leaves a dozen loose ends to tie up in the sequel. If you are in a dead end relationship, decide how you will rewrite the plot to turn it in to a romance novel or a story of escape and rediscovery. If you’re in the middle of a career, keep your senses sharp to perceive when you have accomplished your plot line objectives.
Then it’s time to create a new chapter. It’s time to reinvent yourself.
Warren Bennis tells us that , “People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out.”
That’s not a story I’d want to read.
Resolve this week to look back over the current chapter in your life. Are you in the early paragraphs or the final stanzas? Tomorrow morning, what new actions will you take to move your life story forward.
Lunch with my newly liberated co-worker was a two hour interaction, filled with exuberance, possibilities, some trepidation, but mostly eager anticipation. As we parted, I wondered where his story would lead.
Fast forward 8 years. It’s now the Facebook age and much easier to reconnect with those soul’s we’ve lost track of. A message popped up on my screen the other day. “Remember me?” There was a LinkedIn profile link attached. When I clicked it, there was that familiar face smiling back at me. “CEO” was his title and the company he ran was one of the ideas we had discussed during our lunch together almost a decade earlier. “This wouldn’t have happened without you, ” he said.
“I’m not so sure,” I fired back. “It felt like you were headed in this direction long before you left us. Congratulations on this exciting new chapter in your life! I’m happy to have been a witness.”
It’s almost always possible to turn any life story, from the tragic to the mundane, in the direction of redemption and victory. All you need to do is to envision the ending, create the right script and act the part.