My take on why it matters how you respond to setbacks.
“It doesn’t matter why things suck; it matters what you do about it.” Let’s just say it was a “Slap” in the face when I heard this comment on Episode 14 of the Customer Obsessed Podcast by Eric Berridge and Erin Acevedo. This episode showcases business culture leader, Stan Slap, who shares how to get the maximum commitment from employee culture and succeed in the face of COVID-19. Eric, who has followed Stan for decades, declares early on that he loves Stan because he cuts through the bullshit, which is exactly what he did and what I intend to do right now.
As I listened, I was reminded why I really started Five to Flow. So, it’s time to cut through the bullshit. Things sucked, and I needed to do something about it. I was miserable, gaining weight, getting sick, struggling way more than I should have been, reacting instead of being proactive, and living in a constant state of anxiety. Of course, this wasn’t just a recent occurrence. This happened at least four times in my career where feeling as though things sucked was the culmination of a mountain of traumatic experiences. During all of those times, I looked over my shoulder before I spoke; I used more of a filter than I knew I had; I hid; I sat down from my boat-rocking. Mind you, none of this was happening while failing at my job. From the outside looking in, I was winning, reaching the heights of Partner at a Big Four, achieving double-digit sales growth, and earning a ridiculous amount of money. Simply put, I stopped liking myself. Somehow, other people who were beating each other down were so good at it that it even worked on me, the “entertaining optimist,” as the Enneagram puts it.
Now, before I go on, I want to be very clear about something. I haven’t been living under a dark cloud for my entire career. I’ve had some fantastic bosses, and I worked for some unbelievably happy cultures and CEOs who I want to be like in every way I can. Those relationships I have kept, and I will never burn those bridges.
As I read through all of the Five to Flow content and received feedback from friends, family, and colleagues, I want to share something with you. I am usually more blunt, direct, and use way more profanity than the website does. (I think using the word bullshit in this blog may fly past my CMO, but let’s see.) The site intends to make you feel at peace, hoping you landed here to find some, so that’s why I am not in your face with a passionate rant about what I think is wrong with the business world and what I want to do about it. I started Five to Flow because I was tired of feeling beat up, and I was even more tired of seeing other people get beat up. I am the person who always sees the best in people, even when they are horrifically mean to me for no apparent reason. I just assume they are in pain, and I was caught in the crossfire. On the other hand, I do use a lot of sarcasm, and I am sure my sense of humor on occasion has hurt someone’s feelings, but that is never my intent.
Listening to peoples’ pain points as part of my core role for the last decade and then experiencing my own pain at all new levels took me to a breaking point.
So now, back to Stan Slap. He goes on to say in this thought-provoking podcast that he had to address teams with some “tough love” back in the financial crisis of 2008 with the following statement:
“Whining is not a strategy. ‘Victim’ is not a job description. ‘Everybody else is in trouble, too.’ is not management information.”
Stan: That. Is. Brilliant. He couldn’t have better summed up why I left any and all jobs for a reason other than a promotion and why I finally started Five to Flow. I was whining, and I felt like a victim, which is unlike me. I tolerated the culture for much longer than I should have because I saw everyone else was in the same situation. When the effects led to apologies to new friends for being so negative and explanations that I am usually very optimistic and energetic, I realized, like in an abusive relationship, I was submitting to the dominance of a toxic culture. As I recognized it, I thought about a Caitlin Moran quote I read a few months prior: “My core belief is that if you're complaining about something for more than three minutes, two minutes ago you should have done something about it.”
So, I resigned. Then, COVID-19 hit, and there I was with no job and nothing but a vision, alone in my apartment on the other side of the planet in another time zone without anyone who truly knew me in the same hemisphere. I felt very lonely and isolated, but I have to be honest, it was also glorious. I had nothing but time to find myself. I discovered the parts of me that I stuffed away at work to seem more professional, in long-term relationships to appear more “dateable,” on social media to seem more “perfect,” and inside my own head to feel more “normal.”
This self-discovery was like training for a marathon. If you have never done that, just imagine committing yourself to a daily peaceful yet torturous run on an upward sliding distance scale until you have to run 26.2 miles six months later among thousands of your closest friends who can all run faster than you. Similar to marathon training, I needed an army to get me through it. Since March 2020, I have worked with ten different coaches who supported my fitness, nutrition, sleep, energy, mental health, mindfulness, optimal performance, positive psychology, resilience, and entrepreneurship. Notice that 90% of that is far more personal than the last one, which focuses on professional development, and that is not by mistake. I knew that the only way I could tackle what I was about to tackle would take way more personal confidence and wellness than any business issue. Again, I was validated by Stan Slap when he said, “If you are going to really solve a problem, you have to solve the problem that really needs to be solved.” I knew my first problem was me.
No matter how great of a team I build, or how great of a product I design, or solution I craft, it’s all worthless if I don’t feel worthy and empowered. To solve this issue, I had to feel worthy to have a team behind my vision helping me, worthy of a customer paying me for my work, worthy of having a press release, worthy of you reading this blog, worthy of being called a CEO, worthy of existing in this space, and empowered to do something.
Helping people feel engaged and empowered are the real issues that need to be solved. Without that, they will never feel worthy at work, at home, or in the privacy of their thoughts. It is a huge problem to solve, and the way we are going to solve it is together. If you want to talk about solving this problem to feel better about it without doing anything about it, we are not the consulting firm for you. If you want to actually do something to solve this problem and can join me by starting with yourself, then we are the right firm for you. Please feel free to contact me directly to get started. Help me help you. (Thank you, Jerry Maguire, for that perfect sentiment.)
For those unsure about why this all matters for your business, other than fostering a positive culture and caring for people as humans, please refer to the studies and statistics below that show the measured benefits of empowerment and the negative financial impacts of disengagement.
Empowerment directly influences engagement as seven in ten employees rank empowerment as an important element of their engagement. High engagement scores show:
Low engagement costs U.S. companies up to $550 billion a year.
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