The day after Christmas might mean lazing around in your pajamas, hitting the day after Christmas sales, playing your new video game over and over or getting back to the grind. On this day after Christmas, I want to revisit one that sticks in my memory and has led to some of the most significant leadership lessons of my adult life.
Seventeen years ago, the day after Christmas was the day I made an appointment at the bridal salon to try on wedding dresses. I awoke in my childhood bedroom in Republic, Ohio, ready to take this exciting trip to Columbus, Ohio.
That same morning, the local newspaper, the Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune, had a headline that read something like this “National Machinery to Close”. National Machinery was the company where my dad worked. This was a surprise to all of us and was how my dad learned he was losing his job of 25 years. On the front page of the newspaper. The day after Christmas. The day he was taking his youngest daughter to Columbus to try on wedding dresses.
Even though the newspaper headline didn’t come with specific details, everyone in my family knew this meant big changes. Security, gone. Loyalty, gone. Sense of contribution, gone.
I don’t think we ever considered canceling the wedding dress shopping trip, but I can tell you that day became bigger than saying “yes” to a dress.
I ultimately picked the first dress I tried on, much to the dismay of the men in the family, who had big plans for the day while the women shopped. I believe I picked out that dress because it was truly my favorite and fit my wedding day vision, but perhaps part of me also wanted to focus on the bigger picture of that time.
Needless to say, this was a tough time for my family. My sister and I were wrapping up college and getting married, contributing to our family’s financial strain; however, this was bigger than a financial impact. It was about loss of identity that comes from working for a company for 25 years – sometimes pulling the overnight shift, occasionally taking on overtime, and at times, balancing the factory job while working on the family farm.
This event caused disconnection in a community where everyone knew everyone else’s business, but somehow didn’t know how to process one another’s pain. As a family, we didn’t even know how to talk about and process this major life event. It caused lots of questioning about what to do next in a small town where suddenly many people were faced with the similar fate of unemployment.
This event has created ripples through my entire professional career.
Here are the lessons I’ve taken with me:
On this day after Christmas, I feel fortunate to wake up in a house that Santa visited. I’ll check out the after Christmas sales at the mall. I’ll enjoy the leftover prime rib and chocolate cream pie. More than anything, I’ll appreciate these leadership lessons from a day after Christmas that blended the best and worst times a family can face together.
What “day after Christmas” story are you carrying around that has had an impact on you?
Is this story holding you back or propelling you forward?
What can you to do use this story to your advantage?