Thursday, April 14, 2016

April 14, 2016: Time to Launch (Part II of III)

When we deny the story, it defines us.
When we own the story, we can write a brave ending.

I love this quote. Our story is our very own. The key is that we own it and learn from it. And then with that great knowledge, we script our own ending.

My 90 days+ off gave me the piece of mind to reflect on my journey to date. My work life. My home life. My faith life. I spent a lot of time carefully reflecting on my past. With my main goal to best determine my purpose in life, this perspective was vital. My quest to fulfill my purpose meant owning my story.

Over a conversation with my brother last weekend, I was reminded that my siblings and I have been paying into the Social Security system since the mid-70's. Work and experience in a variety of endeavors is not something lacking with the Wagner kids. We walked beans as soon as we were old enough to go to school. Before I was out of high school I had babysat extensively, detassled corn, worked at a small town drive-in and waitressed at a popular local steakhouse.

I had a checking account since I was old enough to write. My dad made sure of that. In order to teach us the value the dollar, we did chores at his barbershop and earned an allowance. We were paid well, but would manage our own money; writing checks for everything from our school lunches to uniforms.

I vividly remember the introduction of the ATM machine in the early 80's. I would make great money in tips at the steakhouse, giving up my weekend nights for this profitable work. With smock on, soiled from a night of hard work, I would deposit my tips into the machine, reveling in the deposit receipt spit out to me as a reminder of my growing checking account balance.

My 2:00 a.m. trips to a bank ATM with cash overflowing from my pockets would probably be frowned upon today. Back then I never gave it a second thought.

Dad taught me a lot about money. Some of the greatest lessons were by being told 'no'. Monies weren't spent before earned and saving for a rainy day was a must.

Many have questioned my ability to take time off from work without financial distress. I have found myself puzzled by the frequent puzzlement of others. I assumed most have had the same fiscal responsibility lessons that were taught to me.

A great piece of advice to others is just that. Live simply and save for a rainy day. You have no clue when the rain showers are going to hit. And financial security gives you greater opportunity to seek what you want in life without settling. Financial insecurity is like handcuffs on your wrists.

The work ethic taught to me has been equally invaluable. Because my story includes a hugely varied skill set with experiences in many areas, I have had no fear on my work future. The key is choosing the ideal work situation. One that is in alignment with my values, life purpose, and talents. And the people who I collaborate with are just as important as the type of work I perform.

An Aha moment I had was on a trip to New York with friends last December. This was just days after I left my last position. With many people sending me words of support and encouragement, I sensed worry. But strangely, I had none.

Sitting at lunch in Chinatown, my friend told the story of the last time she frequented the same restaurant. It was for a 50th birthday party for her dear friend, Lu. Her description of Lu was that of a gorgeous, but aging, Asian supermodel. Her friends expressed concern at the birthday party on what Lu would do for a living as her jobs would soon be given the next generation Asian supermodel. And then my friend made a statement that resonated with me and I have thought of often during my time off.

"Everyone is worried about Lu, but Lu. Although she doesn't know what she's going to do, she isn't worried a bit about her future."

After hearing this statement, I didn't give my lack of worrying another thought. I knew all would not only be good, but better. I get to write my brave ending. And although an Asian supermodel is not a viable option for me, I do have many options and skills of which I can contribute. The difficult part is choosing which one.

Working through my life plan and reflecting on my story to date helped me accomplish this. I have a plan and I have my own personally designed filter to apply to any potential engagements or partnerships. Future interactions need to pass both my filter and my moral compass.

An example of this filter is to the left. Each line item from my Experiences to Pathways includes a deep dive on what defines me as a person. 'If there is a red, it is dead.'

The self-awareness I gained through this process has been invaluable for my future decision-making. It has also shed a lot of light on why past experiences were great or not so great. I allowed too many 'reds' to pass by my filter and into my life.

Through my LifePlan process, I documented the key turning points in my life and how they affected my five life domains of family, career, personal, faith, and community.

I have found that too many people only focus on the one domain that is their concern at that point in time. If I were to only focus on my career without taking into account the other equally important pieces to my life, I would have never received the clarity in purpose that I was seeking. Here is a visual of my highs and lows to date. I am sure I am not alone in having this visual of life looking like a roller coaster...

I am happy. Very happy. Loving and embracing my journey, my very own story. And I am not worried. Not at all. Just ready to get this launch going. A new chapter.

In closing, I want to share a timely quote that showed up on my Twitter feed.

"It's okay to lose battles, but learn from the losses. They prepare you to win the war." ~ DeMarcus Ware

In recent weeks, I have been bombarded with kind words and encouragement from the many people I have had the good fortune to share life with on my journey. Like the Lu story, people worry when they perceive a battle or a low. Thank-you for the kindness. It fills my heart. But know a low is nothing more than a new section to add to my life chart above. Both the highs and lows are what have given me perspective and filled me with appreciation of the wonderful highs. Life blessings.

(This is Part II of III part blog post series...)

Friday, April 1, 2016

April 1, 2016: Time to Launch (Part I of III)

My 90 days off is over. I actually hit the 90 day mark about a month ago. Which leads to a small confession. I gave myself an extension about halfway through my time off. I quickly realized how glorious it was to pull away from making any major decisions and just enjoy life for a while.

But I also knew that launching into a new career and starting a new chapter in my life would require some more time and planning. Time for decisions to be made and plans to be executed. Time to launch.

I have learned a ton about myself and life and much to share. But first off, I believe a recap of the last months is in order...

My 90 days off
I left my position in healthcare finance on a sunny Monday afternoon in early December. Although my departure was unexpected, I have always had a Plan B. And my Plan B was to take time off. Time to do nothing but enjoy my wonderful blessing of life.

Reflecting a bit last year, it was very apparent to me that my life had been full of the crazy train. Working through college to career to kids to promotions. All with only minimum breaks, if any at all. I have moved fast and hard my entire life.

My 90 days was a gift to myself. Will this 'break' add a 90 day delay to my future retirement? Possibly, but I chose the trade off. And it was a great choice.

Here's what I did over my 90 days off...
  • Traveled a total of 14,484 miles.
  • Visited 7 cities in 6 states.
  • Spent countless hours with family and friends, including having my father-in-law as our guest for a month and making two visits to my parents in Arizona (one with the grandkids and one with my husband).
  • Cheered on the Jays at 10 basketball games.
  • Visited with 55 business contacts in 48 meetings over coffee, lunch, or drinks.
  • Ran 281 miles.
  • Detoxed my body over 14 days.
  • Worked out 31 times with my trainer.
  • Read 11 books with a mix of fiction and non-fiction.
  • Wrote 29 blogs.
  • Spent 2 days developing my LifePlan (thanks to my great facilitator, Arlin Sorensen, and my husband as my supporting co-pilot).
  • Toured 3 not-for-profit entities and learned about their good works from their executive directors.
And I can't even begin to quantify the many laughs shared, the hours I was present for my family, time spent in my prayer room, and the many hours I had of restful sleep.

It is unbelievable how quickly one can adjust once off the hamster wheel. I would highly recommend to anyone to take time off for themselves. Listen. Learn. Live. That really sums it up.

You can pick up on what I did to listen and live based on the stats above. But as for what I learned, here are my main takeaways.
  • You can never compromise on your core values. Never. Not in any domain of your life. Sometimes people think exceptions can be made outside of their personal lives. Not true. If you compromise, you will not be happy. These are my core values to the right. I challenge you to list your own and then ask yourself if you have conflicts with any of your domains (work, family, friends, community, faith, personal).
  • Just like core values, you have key relationships in your lives. These are the people who lift you up and give you the best, most honest advice. And the net can go very wide. I met with so many good people over the last few months. Each have filled a special place in my life. Taking the time to enjoy those closest to us, while taking in their thoughts and observations, is time well spent. Adversely, steer clear of those who bring you down. Life is too short and they serve no purpose. I carefully chose each interaction I had over my 90 days with no 'bottom feeders'. It was unbelievable how much richer your life can be without the anchors who pull you down.
  • Self-awareness and perspective are the greatest tools for defining your future. They take a lot of time, energy, and reflection, but are well worth the investment. Great perspective is an asset difficult to quantify, but worth its weight in gold.

(Parts II and III to follow is separate blog posts...)