You might recall we talked about the two most important days in your life—the day you’re born and the day you find out why.
Author Taylor Hartman suggests there’s a third day: when you discover how to contribute the gift you were born to give. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my day of discovery was the day I got fired. Despite how painful the experience was, that event would fuel a future desire to help other rising leaders learn from my mistakes.
In 1982, I started working for American Convertors, a division of American Hospital Supply based out of New Jersey. I won Rookie of the Year and Top Quota Breaker in 1983 and was later recognized at our national meeting in Las Vegas in the spring of 1984. I was soon promoted to Product Leader that year and relocated to Chicago. Six months later, I was thrilled to be promoted again and moved to Detroit as the youngest Sales Leader in the company’s history at 23 years old.
A year into the Sales Leader position, my boss calls and says, “Can I come see you?” I respond with a hearty, “Yes!” imagining that we’ll have a chance to connect about how well my team is doing. Instead, my boss arrives and essentially tells me, “You’re out of here.”
I was stunned. The startling news marked the beginning of how I began to process three very essential lessons:
- The only things you can control are your attitude and effort. I made the mistake of living off my past successes. I was trying to ride a wave that had already hit the shore and I was stuck on the beach with my head in the sand. Attitude and effort need to be a lifelong commitment so you’re always growing, learning, and pushing yourself.
- Remember that leadership is about service. I mistakenly thought, “I’m the boss so you serve me.” I wasn’t shaping my day to meet my team’s needs. I wasn’t there for them. Servant leaders help remove barriers and provide support so team members can reach their true potential.
- You have to work together to win together. I miscalculated how to get things done. I thought I needed to go it alone to go fast. I envisioned that working harder meant that it was about me and how I alone would make that happen. I hadn’t learned yet that you could get much further if you work together with your team.
These pearls of wisdom didn’t happen as I packed up my office. A pivotal event took place after I got fired. It opened my eyes to what I could learn and eventually pass along if I could commit to one thing.
Watch for my next installment when I share the details of that event and the one thing that changed my life.
Stand by your why,