The new year is approaching and bringing a new decade. For so many of us, that means taking time for reflection about the last year. In this case, I'm reflecting on the last 10 years. I'm also thinking about what my world will look like 10 years from now. Wow!
This was the subject of our Christmas family dinner last night. What was everyone doing 10 years ago? Bella was 1.5 years old playing with her new keyboard. Eliana hadn't yet entered the world, but was in my tummy and forming herself into the amazing little human. Chris had just started working at Kount that year and we were living in the home we moved into when we first moved back to Boise. I was struggling with career angst, as the real estate market had completely crashed by Dec 2009. We were a year into a deep recession and I felt broke because my income had dropped so much. I felt I didn't have control over my income or my future, like I was failing at work, failing as a new mom, and failing in life. And I knew our life was about to crazier with another baby on the way.
I remember I had started conducting informational interviews with people in different industries to decide if I wanted to consider a new career path. I was gathering data and doing some introspective work. I think this is also when I did the Strengths Finder assessment for the first time so I could better understand what my Zone of Genius might be. I was looking for answers. My 5 Top Strengths were: Discipline, Harmony, Deliberative, Analytical, Significance. (Side note: I just retook the text this Fall and will reveal those results another time).
Flash forward 10 years and so much evolution has occurred. And yet, certain themes are still there. The career conflict is back and yet it's so different. I made it out of the financial crisis of 2008-2010 just fine. My business partner and I actually built something pretty amazing from about 2013 on. We built a brand and a business to be proud of -- designed around a mission of passion and purpose. I no longer feel broke. My income is healthy and I no longer feel like I have no control over work, my future, and finances. I had proven I could not only be a successful real estate agent, but I could be a successful real estate business owner. And it was so successful that we ultimately ended up deciding to pump the brakes on what was feeling like a runaway train by 2017. In a time where everyone is scaling up and growing BIG, it felt like we had decided to go against the grain and do the opposite. Spending more time with fewer clients, but clients whom we love working with. This, in turn, has created space and time for pursuits outside of real estate and career.
So why the career angst today? How is it different from 2009? I think there have been a couple defining moments over the last 10 years that have really had a profound impact on me and forever changed me: The first was experienced my first panic attack, after which my husband had the nerve to suggest that I might need meditation (After 23 years of marriage, he knows me better than anyone on the planet and he's the only person who can lovingly see through my bullshit every time). This, coupled with the direction of my friend Farzin, introduced me to the Art of Living, meditation courses, breathing practices, silence retreats, and yoga. The second defining moment was my move to Keller Williams and all the lessons I learned while drinking from the firehose of knowledge they deliver on growth and mindset.
My First Panic Attack
It was July 2011. We were flying home from San Francisco. I had just completed my 2nd marathon and I had hit my goal of a sub four hour run. It wasn't my PR, but I was happy with the result. My goal was to finish a marathon right after each of the girls was born. The first marathon had been the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon 1 year after Bella was born. It proved to be great for my mental health and physical health to do a marathon after the birth of each child.
On that flight home from a successful weekend in SF running the race and visiting friends, a sudden and debilitating feeling of suffocation took over my body. Panic attack! I had never had one, but I had no doubt what was happening to my body. I watched my mom struggle with them when I was a teenager and I was terrified by watching how terrified she had become about not only having a panic attack, but the anticipation of having another. I knew immediately what was happening to me; yet it was still terrifying. We had a quick layover in Seattle and I was so scared that I told Chris I couldn't get back on the plane. We might need to rent a car to get home from Seattle to Boise. Anyone who has ever had a panic attack will understand when I say you have the knowledge that it's completely irrational (in your head); and yet it's such a full mind/body experience that fills you with fear and a feeling of dying and suffocation.
Long story short, I got back on the plane, made it home, and then proceeded to do a shit-ton of research on panic attacks. I wanted to be able to control this horrible "out of control" feeling my body had just inflicted upon me. I wanted so desperately to control it that I even considered anti-anxiety medication (though I never ended up going on meds). During this research period, I had a couple more panic attacks. For people familiar with this, you understand that the fear of another attack will actually produce the panic attack. I was in that fear cycle big time. I learned that certain chemicals or foods could actually make me more vulnerable to a panic attack. Pineapple, though I love it, became a no-no food for me. I learned that the epinephrine in the numbing medication the dentist uses would make my heart burst into a rapid rate of panic. I learned the hard way (having highlights put in my hair while vacationing in Las Vegas) that hair chemicals could bring on that dreaded racing heart sensation.
Then one day, Chris said something that changed everything: "Maybe you need to learn to meditate." I was half annoyed when he said it and felt like he was judging me. Even though I was annoyed, I knew his words had struck a chord deep down. All it took was his suggestion and my mind took off like wildfire and immediately started looking for data and solutions to solve the mediation quest. "I know someone who can help with this--my friend Farzin!". I knew he had a meditation practice and I knew I wanted whatever he had. He radiates joy!
I talked to Farzin the next day and it turned out to be perfect timing for an upcoming course The Art of Happiness taught by Guru G (Swami G). I attended a 4-day workshop in October 2012 and I have never had another panic attack since. I have had anxiety, but never a full blown attack like I experienced on that flight home from my marathon. Turns out, the gift I received from my husband for suggesting meditation, was one of the most beautiful gifts I've ever received. It was the door that opened my awakening journey. It started as a desperate solution for a panic attack and it turned into awakening to my Self, my ego, spirituality, meditation, Silence, and ultimately an understanding of the Universe's abundant energy of pure Love. (That awakening I experienced through Silent meditation retreats will be a post for another time). It all started in that defining moment of "you need to learn to meditate".
Within a year, I had also taken my first hot yoga class, the first yoga class I had taken since I was first introduced to a yoga practice as a junior in high school. Now I'm a full-fledged yogi girl. Yoga is magical for me and has replaced running as my physical/mental health "happy pill" that I take every day.
So what does that have to do with my career angst? Well, that first Art of Living course started me on a path of awakening and asking questions; making sure I'm living my truth. Also, an understanding that it's easy to be seduced by our material world and shut down the work of our deeper soul purpose. I began asking more questions about happiness and fulfillment. Those were the questions I couldn't quiet in 2017 when I realized I was not fulfilled with work. I was trading my time for dollars and missing out on being present for my husband, daughters, and myself. I wasn't willing to do that anymore, no matter how much "opportunity" I passed up at work. I wasn't feeling fulfilled at work because I started to realize the reason I wanted to grow our business BIG was so that I could get out of it. If the mission of our business was to "provide value in our community through passion and purpose in everything we do", then I wasn't living that truth anymore.
Remember, I said there are 2 defining moments of the last decade. Here's the other.
That same amazing company that taught me dream big and create a big business, also taught me that I am in the driver's seat. So if I'm in the driver's seat, I could press pause or pump the brakes on my business and decide what I wanted my life and business to look like. During the recession of 2009, I didn't ever feel like I was in the driver's seat. I felt I had no control over my business or my income. I believed it was just my credentials that would determine my career. When we moved our real estate business to Keller Williams in 2015, I knew it was a big defining move. I could feel it with every new thing I learned about. Mindset. Abundance. Thinking like a business owner instead of an employee. The tools that gave us the confidence to build a big business also gave us the confidence that things would be ok if we scaled things back and redefined success for us. That was the start of me looking for a new definition of success and seeking more fulfillment in my career/personal life mix.
Just like in 2009 when I started conducting informational interviews with people in different industries, I'm now beginning to do that same thing, but in a different capacity. This time, my informational interviews are with people who may be able to teach me more about moving from business owner to investor (think, Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki). My intentionality around dreaming big and building a life by design is now focused on figuring out how to invest our active income so that we can live off passive income.
So how is this career angst? Because none of this happens overnight. The evolutionary process can feel slow. Much of the last 2.5 years I have felt like a failure because I'm no longer trying to double or triple our business; no longer "growing" my business numbers. I've felt like I let my team down. I've felt guilt in the middle of a morning vinyasa yoga class because I knew that used to be the time that we should have been doing lead generation for our business. I've felt like I'm letting Chris down because my income had decreased from what it had been. And yet, I wouldn't change a thing from the last 2.5 years. The time with my kids has been priceless.
The bigger gift -- the one I hadn't anticipated -- has been the deep awakening that's taken place within me. I have re-discovered writing. I have gone on a deep dive studying Buddhism. I have become a student of yoga. I have learned (strike that!); I AM learning (it's a process) that I'm not defined by my career. My truth is deeper than that and my self-worth for far too long has been tied up in my "accomplishments" or perceived accomplishments. I'm redefining what success and happiness look like. I have learned this -- fulfillment is a huge component of both success and happiness. It's that fulfillment that I'm working on today. I know that it requires connectedness and contribution to something or somebody. That's the balance point I'm focused on today and I'm grateful that my life is so privileged that these are the types of first-world problems I get to focus on today.