What’s Down That Road?

Note: I have been asked a lot the past year about leaving my successful corporate job and I am finally ready to write about it. I have found so much encouragement, inspiration, and amazing stories from other women’s journeys of pursuing or creating another dream.  As my journey unfolds if it has a positive impact on just one person that would be worth it.

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I don’t remember exactly when or where, but a long time ago (probably 15+ years ago) I bought a card with this quote on it.  At that moment it sparked something in me because I suspect that deep down I was already contemplating whether or not I was on the right path. I bought that card and put it in my office for inspiration and the sheer happiness I got reading it. That card came with me through several promotions and job changes. Sadly, I am not sure where that card is today; it was likely a victim of one of my many moves where I kept downsizing. But I can still picture it clearly and boy do wish I still had it on my desk because I believe that simple card purchase kept that “what if…” alive in the back of my mind.

Everyone has a fork in the road, a point where the decision about which road to take will forever impact their life. One of my most defining, perhaps the most defining, happened when I was 40. And since then I have embarked on a mission of positive transformation.

I spent 20+ years building a kickass career (at least I think it was). I worked my way through various levels of experience in an accounting firm, a small privately held company, and a major international corporation. And I was passionate, dedicated, focused and intense (oh so intense). As a result, I was climbing the ladder, leading, transforming successful businesses, and shaping the future of the profession. As with most jobs, in the corporate world, the pressure to deliver was intense. Coupling that with my type-A personality and desire to succeed, that meant I was working non-stop. And I never really stopped to ask myself if I was achieving what I wanted out of life. I think for so many of us, the every day kicks in and we just go, trying to keep up with the demands of being an adult (and seriously this is what we were so impatient for when we were kids???)

Along the way, I lost myself. I neglected to build and nurture other parts of my life. I let down my family and friends by always putting them second. I didn’t develop passionate hobbies that gave me an outlet. There are two things that I will spend the rest of my life regretting. The first is that I attended my youngest sister’s wedding via Skype because I chose to give priority to a work meeting in DC. My baby sister is one of the most unexpected and precious beings in my life. I am sure I didn’t make her feel that way on that special day. The second is that I missed telling my grandmother good-bye for the last time because I was pushing getting on that flight as long as possible because I had a huge deadline looming. My grandmother was courageous. She is one of my feminist, push the boundaries, don’t put up with bull$#@&, take the world by the horns role models.

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When we were both babies!

I slept too little, stressed too much. Ate too little, drank too many of my calories (ahhh…the complicated love affair with wine). Exercised too little, stared at screens too much. Checked my phone too much, lost myself in the presence of my family and friends too little. It was not uncommon for my hubby to find me madly working away at 2 am because I could not shut my mind down from everything that needed to get done.

I don’t think my story is that different from so many other women (or men) out there and I am simply recounting the every day that so many people live. I don’t write any of this feeling sorry for myself. In fact, it is the opposite. I write this celebrating everything I did accomplish. I write this so incredibly thankful that I have the opportunity to try something else out. I write all of this with the understanding that everything that happened is a result of decisions that I made (or didn’t make). The flip side of the coin is that it helped make me the kickass strong, independent, self-supporting woman that I am today (a job my grandmother, mom, and dad started years ago).

Kerri at AICPA
A career highlight was being invited to the AICPA executive round table for companies shaping the future of the profession. I completely love and embrace my inner tax geek!

And it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Far from it in fact…I had many amazing career accomplishments! I learned from some smart business people to become a smart businesswoman. I also learned how to run a successful business, make tough decisions, lead, inspire (I hope), collaborate, solve tough problems, and keeping moving even when the path forward is not clear. I loved my customers and loved my profession. But I made three big mistakes along the way (well, I have made A LOT of mistakes but for the sake of my dignity we will keep it at three for now):

arrowDefining my success: I was measuring my success by someone else’s ruler. And quite frankly it is rare that we will ever achieve success using someone else’s definition. I was just going, doing what it took and never stopping to ask was I on my path?

arrowLack of balance: I was seeking too much fulfillment, acceptance, and approval from my career. Instead of also filling my cup with adventures, experiences, family, and friends.

arrowSetting boundaries: I didn’t create any boundaries in my life. I did not use the word “no” often enough (to compensate it’s possible I use it a little too much now). Because of this I did not stop often enough and allow myself to rest and rejuvenate.

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The super amazing time I was invited to testify at the White House on the impact of ACA to the American Taxpayer. I am so thankful to have had opportunities like this!

I am lucky because I know exactly when my fork in the road appeared. I know exactly when I had a glaring moment requiring a life choice. And I knew exactly what the answer was…the answer that I needed for me. I might share what that moment was in a later post when I am ready because it is still hard and the emotions raw for me (just keeping it real). But, as hard as that moment was, I am forever grateful because this moment gave me the clarity, certainty, and strength I needed to answer the long contemplated and deeply buried questions of:

arrowIs this my best purpose and way for me to serve myself, my hubby, my family, my friends, the world?
arrowAm I leaving my best and positive mark on the world?

Without trepidation, fear, or uncertainty I knew the answer was “no”. I knew in my end game if I didn’t take this opportunity I would always wonder what else I could have been capable of creating, of being.

So…today it’s been a year since I last swiped my access card. A year since I said some hard and emotional goodbyes to people who had been an unwavering support system for me (I am so lucky that most of them chose to stick with me as friends and not just colleagues). A year since for the first time I didn’t know exactly what came next in my career path (which was also kind of thrilling). But the type-A in me had a plan to discover and create that path. After taking some time to invest in myself, learn some new things and work through some of my needed improvements (which BTW will never end) I know I totally have this!

Taking this fork in my road is turning out to be a good choice…

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P.S.  Are you even a little bit curious about what I am doing today?  Check out this earlier post!  Or check out this series on how I created my plan to figure out what career venture came next!

Feature Photo Credit: The amazing @atlantaaudrey  Follow her on Instagram.

 

Making 2018 Intentional

To Resolution or Not to Resolution..

Staying the same is kind of boring…easy and comfortable, but boring. It just so happens to be that time of the year when we all are thinking about how to be even more spectacular (I happen to think we all have some spectacular in us at this very moment).   So I will just put it out there that I am not a fan of NYE resolutions.  Often made spur of the moment and out of excitement (or pressure) they are often not changes we are truly committed to (fingers pointed in this direction).  Which then means they are forgotten or pushed aside with the reality of everyday life and then later used as a weapon to beat ourselves up.  At least these are my observations in my very scientific study of myself, family, and friends.  

“I don’t call them New Year’s Resolutions, I prefer the term ‘Casual promises I make to myself that I am under no legal obligation to keep” – Funny e-card

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans” – Peter F Drucker

Now with that said anyone who knows me knows that I am definitely a fan of goals and making life changes.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to make positive changes in their life.  These changes can be small like learning a new skill/hobby or trying an activity outside of a comfort zone.  Or they can be a big change like moving, changing jobs/careers, going back to school, ending or starting a relationship.  But regardless I believe that life changing decisions have to be tackled when you are ready, not because the calendar flipped to a day with a new ending digit.  

Anytime is good for change..  

Only you know when you are truly ready to tackle a change.  Because let’s be honest, changes or new challenges are hard.  If they were easy concepts like resolutions would not exist.  And if you do take the plunge before you are ready the commitment and smart decision making are difficult.  Knowing you are ready doesn’t mean you have all the answers, know the final outcome of the change, or that you are not nervous as heck.  But instead it is a feeling of peace that you have this, you can do this, regardless of how it turns out you will land on your feet a better person on the other side (with maybe a few more tough lessons learned than you anticipated), and some excitement that you are beginning a new journey.  Regardless of the size of the change, no one knows when you are ready except you.       

From the time the idea of taking a pause on my 20+ year career came up until the time I actually did it, took 2 years. Two years of wrestling with the idea, rationalizing all the possible outcomes, talking with my confidants until I was blue in the face (and they wanted to run the other direction when they saw me).  But I knew when I was ready and when I was at peace with the decision.  I know the moment I thought “If I don’t do this, I will regret this when I am at the end of my life.”  I knew that with 100% certainty even though I was scared to death and I didn’t have all the answers for how it would turn out (apparently my crystal ball is still on backorder).   And I have been committed, I am all in 100% through all the fun days and the not so fun days.  And I can measure what a better person I am for following through on my commitment but only when I was ready.  

“Be patient.  You’ll know when it’s time to wake up and move ahead” – Ram Dass

“And suddenly you know…it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings” – Meister Eckhart

“You gotta know when it’s time to turn the page” – Tori Amos

Starting Change – Building a Plan

The other intimidating thing about change is that it can seem so big or overwhelming.  Good news: because change really happens slowly that means you have time!  Time to tackle it one step at a time.  As a self-confessed type-A personality I am a big fan of plans and I LOVE the sense of accomplishment of checking an item off the list.  Look at your goal and break it into chunks that you can actually manage.  Then each time you accomplish one you can move onto the next.  It’s the best way to actually get moving.

So for example last year one of my goals was to start a blog because I love to write and I needed a creative outlet.  For several months I stared at that goal written down in my planner and wondered how to even start.  I knew nothing about setting up a blog, writing a blog, or even how to publish it.  And it sat there for several months while I focused on other things which were also on my goal list.  But it was always in the back of my mind.  So finally in July my moment arrived when I was ready to tackle blogging and commit.  So I broke it down into smaller goals to make it manageable:  

  • July: Research blogs, read about them, find blogs I like and observe them, make notes of why I like them.
  • August: Research blog platforms and templates and choose an initial design
  • September: Watch tutorials, take webinars, and start setting up my website
  • October: Start writing content and get feedback from a few people
  • November: Keep writing and learning more about the capabilities and setup of my website
  • December: Start to publish my blog

And then each week I had an even smaller goal to support the monthly goal.  It took me 6 months of work before I publicly publish my first blog.  But I did it at a pace that fit in with the rest of my life, was achievable in pieces, and each month I could check off another item.  And even when the time came for me to publish that first blog I was nervous as a snowball in summer because even though I had worked so hard on it I was making myself vulnerable in new ways.  I was more open to feedback and criticism, but I also believe as painful as it can be which also is the only way I will continue to grow and get better.  But I also feel a burst of pride, joy, and accomplishment when I publish a new post.  Even if it’s only my family and friends that read it out of obligation.   

“You need a plan for everything, whether it’s building a cathedral or a chicken coop.  Without a plan you will postpone living until you are dead.” – John Goddard

“A goal without plans is just a wish” – Antoine de-Saint Exupéry

My Resolutions/Goals:  

So my resolutions or goals are constantly evolving but I know what I am starting off 2018 focusing on.  So in the interest of holding myself accountable I am sharing:

  1. Launching my rental business
    • Finishing the renovation of our new investment property
    • Defining my list of services and offers for my guests that will differentiate me (because I never want to be another “me too” in anything I do)
    • Building out my blog to support my business endeavors and to continue to get joy from the creative outlet.
  2. Character Building
    • Practicing patience with awareness (seriously no one on this planet is more impatient than I am)
    • Learning to collaborate more positively and effectively with my hubby on our new business venture (you would think that by now he knows my ideas are thoughts are always the right ones)
  3. Purpose:
    • Spending more time with my family (the hardest part about living so far away from them)
    • Fostering the relationships that are positive influences in my life and letting go of negative ones (I am really bad about investing in the wrong relationships)   

Note: I reserve the right to change or modify my resolutions/goals as my story for 2018 unfolds and I learn more.

Something new I started in 2017 was to pick a word that I wanted to focus on with my thoughts and actions.  I learned about this in my voracious reading of achieving a balanced life and it just resonated with me and I loved the concept.   

  • Breathing (word #1):
    • Definition: to pause, as for breath; take a rest
    • My first word because I needed to learn to stop, take a breath, release stress, and learn to let go and move forward.  And hence the name of my blog thanks to the creative genius of my sister.
  • Presence (word #2):
    • Definition: The state or fact of being present, as with others or in a place.
    • And then my word evolved into the idea of being present.  I was epicly bad at being in the current moment, I was missing out on so much, and that was not fair to me or the person I was with.  
  • Intention (current word):
    • Definition: Purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct  
    • I have recently felt ready to tackle a new word and this is the one that comes to mind over and over.  I want to approach the things I choose to spend my time on with intention.  Not waste it on things that don’t bring me joy, happiness, or closer to accomplishing a goal.  

I have become much more deliberate in the way I live my life over the past year instead of just letting it happen to me.  The result has been more joy, control over my life story, deeper sense of accomplishment, and eagerness for each day.  No matter where you are in your life, my wish for you in 2018 is that you are also experiencing life with the same happiness or that you are tackling the changes you need to start your journey there.  

Happy New Year!!   

P.S. As always I love to hear from all you guys about how you choose and tackle your resolutions and life changes.  Your tips, tricks, and things that give you confidence to move forward.  I love finding new ideas from others that I can use!