After nearly seven years building a consulting practice within a healthcare IT firm, I walked into a conference room for a review with the company president. Instead, I was told that I was being let go. Candidly, it was a shot to my ego as I had not been fired before. With a parting gift of two weeks pay, I collected my small amount of personal items and walked out. I sat in my car and blankly stared out of my windshield into the sun lit parking lot. The sky was blue and the trees were green, but I couldn’t help but think of my failure as a husband and father. I thought about my wife, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer five months earlier, and my four kids. I failed at my most important role.
I pulled myself out of the blank stare and negative self-talk and decided to go visit with one of my best friends and business partner in Tunewelders. While working for this IT firm, I was building my own entrepreneurial ventures. My production company, Tunewelders was making music for film, television, virtual reality and advertising. I was also growing a decent body of work as a freelance writer. None of these efforts were yielding any major financial results because I was limited on the time that I could invest in them. When I pulled up, he kindly let me talk through all of the fear-based, ego-driven insecurities and reminded me that I’d been training for this exact moment for years. He was right. During the last eight years or so, I’d cultivated a mindfulness and meditation practice, I was writing every day and sharing my insights through a personal blog experiment, and I was translating my experience as a CrossFit trainer and athlete to exploring mental resilience. Behind the scenes, I was preparing for something that I was outwardly scared to do myself. Even though my work and opportunities outside of this full-time job were growing in promise and financial viability, I was scared to go all in. All the training and preparation in the world still requires a decision and an action.
With a wife and four kids, it’s hard to leave a salary and insurance when that message has been ingrained in your DNA. My responsibility was to find a stable job with good insurance and hold on for thirty years. Deep in my subconscious, I knew I wasn’t built that way, and I’d been fighting the tradition path internally for years. Empowered by the kindness of my friend and his thoughtful reminder that I wasn’t fully unemployed, I headed home. As I approached my neighborhood, I didn’t slow down. I watched the front entrance drift by in my driver’s side mirror. I aimlessly drove around as the self-doubt began to resurface, until I wrestled it into submission long enough to steer my car into my neighborhood. The sun was ducking behind the trees as I pulled into my driveway. My wife was sitting in one of two adirondack chairs on the side of my driveway. I stepped out of the car and sat in the empty chair next to her and told her what happened. Amidst mounting medical bills and the never-ending uncertainty that breast cancer brings, she looked me dead in the eye and said, “That’s okay. I know you’ll figure it out”. In that moment, her words propelled me through the fog of failure and gave me the courage to reshape my approach to work. While it was a bumpy ride for the first few months, I am working on meaningful projects, exploring and developing new ideas and have financially surpassed my most successful years working for any company. Nothing worthwhile comes easily, and I am thankful for my failure and my journey. I appreciate my old boss pushing me out into the deep end. I may have eventually done it on my own, but it could have taken years. Failure, coupled with the kind words of a friend and the full support of my wife, helped me write a new personal narrative that is led by my own curiosity and supported by the confidence in my capabilities. Today, I am producing music for NETFLIX, I am advising the largest brands in the world on music strategy, I am leading technology transformation projects for global companies, and I am constantly developing new ideas for my next projects. One of the most powerful outputs of this journey is a program for self-discovery through writing called Write To Know You. All of these things are happening while being more present with my family than ever before. All the preparation in the world means nothing without action. Fear is the foundation of inaction. I was prepared but unwilling to act. Failure was my catalyst and I am forever grateful.