So it's that time of year again. End of the year holidays, closing out our yearly goals and starting to think about 2018. Some of us may be feeling exhausted, out of breath, tired and battered. Others may be feeling content, happy and satisfied with how this year went. But many of us will be looking at 2018 with fear and anxiety. Knowing, sensing, feeling something gnaw at us from the inside that tells us something is off. Something's just not right. Some of us know that we need to make deep, lasting changes. Maybe other people around us know this as well. Our friends, spouse and family might know it too and might be pushing us to make those changes. The question is can we do it?
So we'll look at some YouTube videos. Check out some self help posts. Read a book or watch some inspiring movie. Maybe even read a few blog posts on "The top 10 ways to change your life." But deep down, even though we know we need to make these changes, and we read / see all this stuff, we still doubt we can make these changes happen.
So rather than rattle off another "how to change your life post" and clog your inbox and your mind with more BS you're not going to use or read, I figured it would be more useful to share with you what happened to me that forced me to change my life and some tips on how I went about doing that. My hope is that you'll find some inspiration in my journey to help you figure out how to go from ideas to action in your own life.
Twas a few weeks before Christmas
A year ago I was finishing off the year as chief marketing officer at a successful education technology company. I was tired but elated and content. We had just rebranded the company, revenue was doing well, I had a great team and had a few quarters of really successful performance behind me. Things looked good. I left on holidays to see my parents feeling positive and upbeat about the future. The thing that mattered most to me on a day-to-day basis, my career, was going well and I was optimistic about the future.
How things change.
Fast forward three months later and I was really struggling. I was trying to build a high performance marketing team and spending about 50% of my time recruiting. I was working long days late into the night. I was so focused on my work that I made little effort to build friendships. I'd been separated from my wife for over a year by then and had made little / no effort to start dating. In fact, the lack of dating and intimacy was slowly but surely carving a deep, dark hole in my chest. I felt stressed, alone and frustrated. When I didn't have my kids on weekends, I would work or play video games or just watch movies.
Work had become really challenging. I'd interviewed a number of excellent candidates but kept losing them in the interview process. Some decided to take their careers in a different direction. Others had reservations about the reputation of our company through old articles they read online or malicious user reviews. Compounding my problem, in an effort to move things forward despite lacking enough people on my team, I took on certain projects on my own and tried to move them forward. As the days passed, I worked harder but seemed to struggle more. Slowly self doubt began to creep in. I would cycle furiously on my bike in the freezing cold on the way to work my mind racing. "Why wasn't I getting those people?" "Why were some of my projects stuck?" "Did I need to work harder." I doubled down and started to work weekends only to find myself even more tired come Monday morning.
I feel a lump in my throat as I remember those days. The pain, the frustration, the loneliness. At work I grew angry. I vented occasionally when things didn't go my way. Eventually things reached a breaking point. By March the situation wasn't working for either the company or for me. We reached an agreement and on March 6th I packed my things.
On March 7th, I woke up alone in my apartment with no real purpose. It was my 4th job in less than four years. After a 20 year career in marketing that had peaked with me building and leading the marketing team that created the Google play brand and helping grow that business to over $2.5 billion, all of sudden I looked around my apartment and thought "what the **** am I doing with my life? Where do I go from here?"
In the weeks and days that followed I did what most of you would do. I got out, met people, networked, read and spent more time doing sports. I started to take calls and get emails from recruiters and venture people I knew. They were sorry, they were sympathetic. They asked me what I was looking for. What would I like to do next? I'd be on a call and listening to someone drone on about how they had this CMO job at this cool company or that cool startup.
"This is going to be the next big thing! These guys are going to be huge. They really could use a guy with your experience. What do you think?"
I felt like Groundhog Day to be honest. I'd seen that movie before. When you've done roughly the same job over and over again and the only thing that changes is the name of the company, you know you've got an issue. (Tweet this)
My heart would sync to my stomach. I felt numb. There wasn't a bone in my body that was excited about what this person was telling me on the other end of the line. I'd politely answer, "Thanks, sounds exciting but I really need to think things over and figure out what I want to do. Let's keep in touch." But deep, deep down I knew that there was no going back. I just couldn't keep doing this stuff again. Something deep inside me was screaming, fighting to get out. A voice inside my head was quietly telling me
Patrick! You knew going in that you were tired of doing these gigs. How many times are you going to do this to yourself? When are you going to wake up and realize this path isn't working? (Tweet this)
I knew I had to make a change. I was on bike one day and I just broke down. I'd had a near miss with a car and all of sudden something popped into my head: Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. A single quick instant of pain. Then nothing. I'd had an amazing life. Why should I care?
I stopped my bike. Shook my head in disbelief at what I was thinking. Images of my kids, my two beautiful kids, flashed in my head. I pulled out my phone and called my insurance company. I asked for an appointment to see a therapist. I had hit rock bottom. Change was no longer an option. It was a necessity.
A german philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, once said: "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger." And boy, have I gotten ripped in the past 6 months:
- I hired a personal coach
- I sought out a self-group for other challenges I was having
- I got into mindfulness meditation
- I started a business and generated over 150,000 in revenues
- I started a speaker series interviewing startup founders
- I created social media channels have nearly 10,000 followers
- I've written 30 posts that have been seen by nearly 100,000 readers
- I took my two awesome kids on not 1 but 2 really cool holidays
- I started dating again (last time I dated was pre iPhone days...!)
- I put my Xbox / games on the sidewalk with a "FREE" sign on it
But most importantly, I found my purpose. Over the years I came to realize that a lot of people would come to me for advice. People would share things with me. At times, very personal things. I never really understood why. They just did. And I always enjoyed helping them. There was something very satisfying about simply lending a helping hand, listening to someone and making them feel better. For me it came naturally. Much of it was business focused. An ex-googler would call me up for career advice. Someone else would ask me to help the with their startup. So after a few months of working with my coach, taking online self assessment tests and lots of reading it came to me:
My purpose was simply to help others. I discovered I needed to help others find their purpose in the same way I had. I wanted to help others avoid the pitfalls I'd faced in finding my own path. I believe that if you work in something you love and enjoy, you'll never work another day in your life (as Steve Jobs said) so why not help people find what they love?
So what did I do to make this all happen? What was my process and what steps did I take to get from where I was in March to get to where I am today? I wouldn't say that everything is perfect in my life yet. I have my struggles like anyone else but by and large, I feel like I'm living a life today where I'm alive, confident, powerful and happy. Every day is another test and another chance to push myself. Every day has it's challenges but when I look back at the things that really made a difference and helped put me on this path here's what I learned:
1. What do you want? It's a really a simple question which is incredibly complex for most people but the reality is that it all starts there. Lately, I've been reading Tony Robbins' book Awaken the Giant Within and he lays out a very pragmatic, structured way to do this. You have to quantify what you want in multiple areas of your life from your career to your financial situation, health, relationships etc. Decide what you want, write it down and put a deadline to it. Then prioritize what's most important to you and write down the consequences of NOT achieving your goals. What would that mean? How would that make you feel? Most businesses set goals at the beginning of each financial year and revise these each quarter. Why don't we do that with our personal lives?
It's a bit like booking a vacation. Would you get on a plane not knowing what your final destination is? No, right? So how do you expect to succeed in life if you don't know what your goals are? (Tweet This)
2. Make a decision. Robbins talks a great deal about this as well. Where I struggled often was in my inability to actually make a decision on things. For example, I thought about and talked about doing my own show interviewing startup founders for months until I finally did it. I was terrified nobody would show up. In the end, I made the first event very small and reached out aggressively to get people to come. It went marvelously and I got great feedback. I'm now that much more confident and optimistic about the next one. Setting your goals is one thing but it's up to you to make it happen. Make a decision and go for it. You'll be amazed at how liberating simply making the decision is.
3. Develop a bite-sized plan. When I decided last year to bike 75 miles, I didn't just go out and bike 75 miles. I ramped up one week at a time until I got there. When I was doing the actual ride that day and really struggling up the final hill, I didn't look ahead of me looking for the top of the hill. I simply looked for the next mailbox or tree, set that as a goal and worked towards it. Once I got there I picked another signpost and so on. Eventually I made it up the hill. Real change, transformational change is hard and it takes time.
Ambitious goals are awesome but you need to break them down into bit-sized milestones that are achievable. That's the only way you keep going. Remember, life is like a 100 mile ride: Those who finish aren't the fastest but the ones who keep pedalling. (Tweet This)
4. Share so others care. When I took Landmark Forum several years ago I learned that part of the way you succeed is by sharing your goals. For starters, when you share your goals, especially audacious ones, you become accountable to those around you. You lose integrity if you don't deliver and people will be aware if you don't succeed. Second, people around you generally want you to make it. Have you ever noticed how you root for people in the Olympics or in another competitions when they're struggling? We want that person to succeed and we become part of their journey as they struggle. The same is true in life. When we share, we enlist the help of those around us and they can help push us forward when things get tough. That's also why great athletes, politicians and business people get coaches. Not only do those people help give them direction, focus and challenge their assumptions but they are part of their success. They want to see at your very best.
When you share your life's goals with others you make yourself accountable but, more importantly, you enlist those people in your adventure since they become your biggest fans and want you to succeed. Think big and share bigger! (Click to Tweet)
So that's it. It sounds simple and we all know it's not. It's a lot of hard work. I also read a lot of books, watched inspiring movies, had a personal coach and did a lot of self assessment work. You can read all the details in this post as well but the gist of what I work on every day is above. So guess what, it's Monday, December 11th and you have 20 days until New Years Eve. Why wait for the New Year? The clock is ticking and you've got no time to lose.
Also remember that mad mork stories is now on audio so check out my podcasts.
If you're a senior marketing executive and feel like you might benefit from some coaching, feel free to book a session here (first session is complimentary) or visit my Facebook page for more info.