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I Fell Off A Ladder

Thank you for reading this week’s Operation Melt update.

Operation Melt started as a blog to share my personal transformation and weight loss story. After achieving success with that goal, Operation Melt has evolved into a platform to help inspire, motivate and equip people to achieve their own personal and professional goals so they can live their best lives.

I am trying to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Amuse Bouche

My amuse bouche for you today is a light “dad joke” to entertain your mind before we get down to business. Like any other amuse bouche, you may hate it, but it is worth every penny that you paid for it, right?

A bear walks into a bar and says “I’d like a gin & …………. tonic please.”

The bartender responds, “why the long pause?”

The bear replies, “I don’t know, I was born with them.”

Goal Success by Choice

Do you have dreams that you are trying to make come true? Do you have a goal that you are trying to crush? Success doesn’t happen by chance. You don’t have to get lucky or win the lottery to live the life of your dreams. 

You just have to choose to be successful. If you make the right daily choices, adopt good habits and behaviors, and approach life with the right mindset, you can make your dreams come true. 

Goal Success by Choice helps you make the choices that will move you closer to your goals and keep you from holding yourself back. 

I hope this post helps you get a little closer to crushing your goals.

I Fell Off A Ladder

I work very slowly. It’s like building a ladder, where you’re building your own ladder rung by rung, and you’re climbing the ladder. It’s not the best way to build a ladder, but I don’t know any other way.

Joyce Carol Oates

I was climbing a ladder. Step by step, I kept getting higher and higher. Some of the steps were easy, some more challenging, a bit unsteady, and my footing wasn’t as secure as I would have liked. The higher I got, the more uneasy I felt with my stability, but I just kept climbing.

Suddenly, but not without warning, I fell off the ladder. Rather than being painful, my fall was soft and cathartic. I haven’t gotten back on a ladder ever since, but that’s not to say that I won’t get on one in the future. If I do, trust that I will take a different approach to my climbs.

Today I will share the story of my fall from the ladder in hopes of helping you climb your ladder a bit more safely.

Long Climb

Twenty years ago, I started working as the intranet webmaster for a major retailer in Columbus, Ohio. My job was to build websites accessed by tens of thousands of employees, create online apps, and I was the go-to person for many internal communications projects. It was the perfect job for me at the time: full of variety, an important role, challenging, fast-paced. Plus, I was making great money, and it was for a very high-profile company with many brands that were household names. 

I enjoyed my work, but something that kept me from being completely happy in this role. My official job title was Programmer/Analyst, Advanced Technology, which sounds pretty impressive. The problem was that there was a job title called Senior Programmer/Analyst, the next step up from where I was. Instead of taking time to enjoy the job that I had, my focus was on something else. I wanted to get promoted. That was my priority.

Less than a year later, the magical day arrived; I got promoted. I had an even higher-profile role and was making even more money. It wasn’t quite as fun as the previous role at first, but I grew to like the new responsibilities. And, who doesn’t like getting more money? 

But, there was a problem; it was the same problem as the last role. I knew that there was another level called Technical Consultant, and I knew that I wanted to get there. I worked hard to make a big impact so I would get promoted to technical consultant. The next promotion didn’t happen soon enough for me, so I left the company to take on a higher title and higher paying job.

My climb didn’t stop there; the process continued for another dozen years. I left the new job for my first formal project management job, a program manager. There were higher levels on that ladder too. I continued chasing the next step instead of enjoying where I was and getting good at my job.

I was getting good at climbing the ladder. I got promoted from program manager to manager, senior manager, and then earned the big promotion to director. That’s when my footing started getting a little less secure, and my climb wasn’t as steady feeling as in the past. But, in just a couple of years, I got my next promotion, senior director, which I believed was the gateway to becoming a vice president.

Quick Fall

I had climbed so high on the ladder that my footing became very unsteady. Simply holding onto the ladder required tons of work, meaning long work hours (sixty or seventy hours per hour) plus an abundance of stress and frustration. 

The ladder was shaky and unstable. It wasn’t comfortable, it didn’t feel right, and I was constantly insecure. I was sure that a fall was imminent. Then, one Tuesday morning in January, it happened.

“I need you to come with me to a meeting right now.”

Those were my boss’s words when he pulled me out of a meeting. I was the third person pulled out of the meeting, and I have said those words myself, so I knew what that meant. I grabbed my things and followed him down the hall into a small office where my HR partner was waiting for me. Nervously reading from a prepared script, she pushed me off the ladder.

“We are making some changes today, and you are one of the people impacted. We have eliminated your position, and today will be your last day with the company.”

We reviewed the details of my severance package, went through a checklist of items for me to return, then she walked me out of the building for the last time.

Soft Landing

As I have said in previous posts, the company was very fair and took care of me upon my exit. They were great about the process. I had some time before I had to get back into another job. This time gave me some flexibility at the exact right time.

The day I fell off the ladder (laid off from my job), I was in the seventh month of my weight loss journey. I had some time to transition between jobs and could prioritize my weight loss for a while. So, I turned my severance period into a life-changing sabbatical. I spent hours per day exercising, listening to podcasts, writing my book and meeting with people in my network.

My sabbatical kicked off my second journey, a self-discovery effort that continues today. I have spent time reflecting on the first half of my life and contemplating what went well and what decisions I would have made differently. I have revisited my personal brand, my values, my goals and my roadmap for life.

Most importantly, I have started asking myself one critical question more than ever before: why?

Instead of just moving through life and doing things on auto-pilot, I have started evaluating my motivations behind why I was doing what I was doing. I got better at viewing my choices and decisions through a lens based on my values and purpose.

If I had started asking myself “why?” earlier in my career, I might have approached the climb of my ladder differently. 

I don’t regret the path I have taken at all – it made me who I am today. But, through my continuing journey of self-discovery, I like to consider the lessons I have learned along this path and then share them with others to help them with their journeys.

The result of my soft landing is that I am in a position that better resonates with my values, priorities and goals as they exist today. I have not returned to climbing a ladder and am comfortable on my single rung, focused on doing good work and adding value. Again, this doesn’t mean that I won’t hop back on a ladder in the future, just that I will approach it a bit differently if I do. 

A Different Choice

I am not writing an autobiography, this is a Goal Success by Choice post, so I will share a few of the choices that I could have made differently. By making these different choices, my climb would potentially have been slower, but my footing would have been more stable. I would have also likely experienced a lower stress climb with more smiles on my face.

Know Your Goal and Your Why

Hindsight being twenty-twenty, I now know that I had an incomplete view of my goals and what I wanted from life. I didn’t take sufficient time to get to know myself and my values. When I started my career, my only goal was not to be poor anymore; I just wanted to make more and more money. Then I started experiencing the success and external validation of being rewarded with more prestigious jobs and got hooked. 

A more successful choice would have been to start with some introspection and determine my values before beginning my climb. If I had started by deciding what I wanted to accomplish in life, I could have set goals that were more clear than “get to the next step” and use those to guide my journey. Pairing this with seeking more internal vs. external validation and my climb would have been a bit more secure.

Build Your Own Ladder

The next choice I could have made differently to avoid falling off the ladder relates to the ladder itself. I focused on getting to the next step because there was another step on somebody else’s ladder. 

When I was a manager, my top goal was getting promoted to senior manager. Was this because I had a burning desire to do the work of a senior manager? No! It was because I knew that “senior manager” was the next step on the ladder. But, this didn’t have to be my next step. I could have followed any number of other routes and built my own path.

There have been many times throughout my career where my path has taken unconventional twists and turns. Every time I did that, it has worked well for me. But, once I accepted the ladder as my path, I spent less time trying to create my custom-tailored career path.

The alternate choice I could have made would have been to look at other people’s ladders as a reference point only. Then I could have built a personalized ladder to climb. Much like I am doing now.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Finally, I spent a lot of time reaching the next step and immediately set my sights on the one after that. I got promoted to senior manager and then immediately started focusing on how to get to the next step, director. I did this instead of focusing on becoming good at the job that I just took on.

I could have made a different choice. I could have paused to celebrate my accomplishments a bit more. I did something impressive and achieved a goal; I deserved to give myself a little pat on the back.

Once the celebration was over, I could have dug deep into the new job and be great at it. Would this have potentially meant a slower climb up the ladder? Yes. But every one of those steps would have included more stable footing.

As I said, I do not regret the path that I followed. I have learned a lot, accomplished a lot, and had a positive impact on many people. I have reached a place where I am happy and feel like I am in resonance with my calling. That said, there was a lot of unnecessary frustration and pain along the way that I could have potentially bypassed and got here a little sooner. Or, maybe not.

So What?

My biggest takeaway from today’s post is to be sure that you are making your own choice to climb your version of the ladder in a manner aligned with your values and life goals. Doing this is a sure-fire way to help you achieve solid footing on every step of that ladder. Just climbing the ladder because there are more steps, climbing on autopilot, is a recipe for a fall, and not every fall includes a soft landing.

Good luck with climbing your ladder and with crushing your goals. Would you like some help reaching that top rung on your ladder? Let me help. 

Click Here to learn more about my Operation Melt coaching services.

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Published inGoal Success by Choice

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