Filed under: Professional Destiny Heroes
I’m always thrilled when I hear of someone who gained a new perspective from reading Professional Destiny—and last week was a big week for that! First, we heard the story of Diane LeBleu, and then Pete Hayes sent me a link to his blog, Phayes Two, where he had written about his experience. I consider this one of the greatest honors an author can have, and I’m delighted to share Pete’s inspiring story of how he gained the vision of his professional (and personal) destiny. Here’s how he tells it…
“When I left a senior executive position at a Fortune 500 company this past summer, I had a lot of thinking to do. It was clear that I wasn’t interested in jumping right back into the corporate world, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to nail down a vision of my future.
Good thing I met with Valerie Hausladen, former president of Tocquigny, plus head of Enfatico’s Austin office. She’d recently published her book Professional Destiny and was willing to talk about it over lunch with me. And the timing was perfect, because I was headed to New Mexico for backpacking the following week. Sitting in my tent in pouring rain for several days, I literally waded through her book, making notes and doing the exercises she suggested. Shazaam. I had my vision for my professional (and personal) destiny. It put my radar on alert so that when the opportunity to join Chief Outsiders rolled around, I was able to recognize it as a perfect fit with my goals.
So have a look. Read about Valerie here on her blog. And here in the Austin American-Statesman this week (a great read!). Thanks Valerie, on behalf of those like me who’ve been helped by your book, and those soon to be!
Thanks Pete and all others who have shared their experiences. If you have a Professional Destiny story to tell, please email me through the contact form on this site—I’d love to hear from you!
January 11, 2010
Diane LeBleu (left) with one of her first clients, Jennifer Hough. Both are breast cancer survivors.
I am pleased to introduce a story of a multi-talented woman who was inspired to make a life and career change after reading Professional Destiny a few months ago. Meet Diane LeBleu—former management consultant, now breast cancer survivor, entrepreneur and mother of four. According to Diane, the message in Professional Destiny helped her articulate a vision, harness her gifts and remember what she loves to do—which she had forgotten while focusing on her growing family. This is her story in her own words…
“I studied Communications and Business Management in college. I also loved to write. I chose Trinity because of their good communications program and I really enjoyed it. At the time, I did an internship at a TV station thinking I might be a reporter. It was fun… I listened to police scanner, and all that. Then one day one of the producers told me that people made more money waiting tables than he did as a producer. That was sobering. I graduated in 1991 and the economy was in the tank. I had college loans – and I thought to myself, ‘what am I going to do here? What are my choices?’ I had financial obligations, so I took a job at Andersen Consulting. I was a business and technology consultant for nine years. It was fine and the pay was great. My husband and I had no kids and were making a lot of money. Then we had our first child. I tried to keep up the corporate consulting thing with a baby and then my husband got sent to Newport Beach and I got sent to Simi Valley. Between us, we had two apartments, a home in San Antonio, a baby, a nanny, two demanding careers and a crazy work schedule. It was completely unsustainable, so I quit. We decided to move to Austin.
My husband started a business and I joined a company, providing sales support. While I was there, we had more children and I was working three days a week. I wasn’t crazy about what I was doing, but it was a job—it was okay.
Our fourth child was born in May and I realized that I couldn’t go back. With four kids, I decided to use this time as a sabbatical to figure out what I really wanted to do. I had been doing the consulting thing and I was good at it and making six figures, but I didn’t love it.
I finally realized, ‘I can’t go back to IT consulting. It will kill me. Money is a great motivator, but I just can’t do it.’ My husband told me, ‘just figure out what you want to do and go do it. I’m tired of living with an unhappy woman!’
The first two years of being home with four kids under eight, and no family in town, was harder than getting up at 4:00am and helping my husband with his business. I didn’t sit down all day. It was physically hard. I was 110 pounds and up all night with the babies. I knew that staying home full-time wasn’t right for me.
I read Marcus Buckingham’s book, Now Discover Your Strengths, which is a great book. It confirmed for me what I thought my strengths were – achiever, harmony, relator, input, connectedness.
I was serious about this sabbatical – I needed to figure out what I wanted to do. I didn’t want just a job, I wanted a career. Someplace to picture myself in 5, 10, 20 years. In between diaper changes, I used the resources at hand. I read Purpose Driven Life, which I loved and I’m a big Stephen Covey fan. I even spoke with a professional coach who charges $150/hour. I was serious! And then I started writing again.
I had to go back to work, but I faced an inner struggle with need to earn some money and my desire to write a book. I had started the Austin chapter of a writer’s group called “The Writing Mamas Salon of Austin” and I was ready to plunge in. I went to Hungary. I was going to write a story about my best friend Holly Wright’s experience as an expatriate living abroad with her family and I went there to do research. As soon as I returned from Hungary with all my research and notes though, I found a lump. It wasn’t completely unexpected since my sister had breast cancer at 33 and my aunt had it in her 40s, but it totally changed my plans. I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and was scheduled for surgery in January. I spent the time enjoying my family, meeting with the writing group and contributing to a blog called ‘Mama Bird Diaries’ which ultimately landed me a guest post on the NY Times parenting blog, Motherlode.
I went through the chemotherapy when I found your book through another author at Writing Mamas. I read Professional Destiny and realized I was stuck on the vision thing. As the book says, it all starts with a clear vision—if you don’t have one, you can end up wasting a lot of time. The book helped me determine and articulate my vision. I asked myself, ‘what are your strengths, what do you love to do?’ I didn’t know. I’d been serving my family for so long that I’d forgotten. The discipline of figuring out what you like to do is hard and reading Professional Destiny gave me a mechanism to help do that.
I did the three-column checklist and wrote down what I love to do, what I’m good at and what I loathe. I realized that I really like helping people and staying in touch—and I’m good at it. I also noted that I remember everything about people—I even remember my neighbors’ and their kids’ birthdays from 20 years ago! I asked myself, ‘how can I harness these gifts, how do I make money doing this? I’m a relationship person and I want to help people solve their problems.
Then I met a woman who’s a partner at Asset Strategies Group and was putting on seminar for women. She talked about Mass Mutual products and I was really compelled. Mass Mutual is a company that is very advanced in underwriting life insurance for breast cancer survivors. Once you have breast cancer you usually become ineligible to get life insurance— and it can be a major problem. I wanted to help people and I realized that a career like this was perfect for me. All my gifts and experiences lined up: I had been an entrepreneur, I had a gift for building relationships with people, I love solving problems—and I had survived cancer. I did some soul searching and decided that representing this company would provide a career that meant something to me.
I feel uniquely suited to do this well. I can remember all my client’s details and make recommendations to fit their lives. It is satisfying to me and beneficial for them. I understand their challenges. What’s more, I enjoy being my own boss with the added benefit of having meaningful interaction with others. I realize that I’m paying my dues right now and my hope is that in 10 years, I’ll look back and realize that I was able to make a nice living, help cancer survivors like myself, and build long-lasting relationships.
This opportunity lets me combine my experiences and put them to use in a positive way. I like that. In fact, I plan to call my business Pink Lemonade Financial Services. ‘Pink’ for the breast cancer survivor aspect, and ‘Lemonade’ because we’re making lemonade out of lemons.
And I might just write a book about this too!”
January 3, 2010
One of my greatest joys is to meet people who are wholeheartedly embarking on their Professional Destiny—and Noi Wegiel is clearly one of them! Noi is the creator of exquisitely hand-crafted, Austin-made natural chocolate treats & delights. Each and every piece of her decadent chocolate is truly a work-of-art, with a pairing of flavors that is unforgettably delightful. She uses the finest ingredients mother nature has to offer and many of her products are organic, raw, sugar-free and gluten-free (although for the hard-core sugar enthusiasts, some are still sinful!). In addition, she holds a commitment to using ingredients from sustainable suppliers, and supports organic and natural living. Truly this is a case where you need to taste to fully experience her chocolate magic, but it’s fascinating and inspiring to hear Noi’s Professional Destiny story until that wonderful moment:
“I’m from Thailand, and I moved to the United States when I was 17. When I arrived here, I didn’t know how to cook at all. Because I didn’t speak English very well, the only job I could get was in the kitchen at a cafeteria-type restaurant. They put me in the pastry department and I learned—on the job—how to bake. Soon, I got interested in cakes. Every time I made a cake in the restaurant, I thought to myself, ‘this could be prettier.’ To learn more, I bought a book on sale about cake decorating. I was fascinated by learning the technique, but the book was from England and they used fondant (sugar paste) to cover the cake to make it smooth and beautiful. I couldn’t immediately find anyone here to teach me how to use fondant (I learn best by watching), but after a few years, I found someone to teach me how to professionally cover the cake and make the gorgeous, life-like flowers. After that, things seemed to take off. I believe that once the student’s ready, the teachers show up. I was so hungry (no pun intended) to learn more! I started finding tons of teachers who taught me how to decorate cakes, and within three years I became the teacher.
A number of years ago I had another turning point. I needed surgery and had to stay in bed for six weeks. Because I was bedridden, I couldn’t do anything but watch TV and read books. I read a book that changed my life—it was called “Sugar Blues.” It talked about how sugar affects people and is the cause of several medical problems. It was then that I started looking for classes to teach the healthy version of making beautiful desserts—and I become the student once again.
I studied conscious eating and built an awareness of using quality ingredients in the foods I prepare. I started checking labels and using organic and local sustainable ingredients whenever possible. The struggle I faced was that I had perfected the art of making pastries with traditional ingredients such as eggs, butter, milk, sugar, etc., but I still needed some work on how to make the new, healthy way taste even better. Not to mention that my friends and family thought it was weird to make desserts this way and didn’t really understand my quest!
I overcame the taste challenge by experimenting. I don’t tend to follow rules and this gives me creative power. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it works, I duplicate it. I record all of my successes and they become my recipes. Now all my chocolates are made with organic ingredients and most have delicious natural sweeteners such as agave and maple syrup.
My passion started with baking and pastry, then it changed to cake decorating, then food carvings and then chocolate. I’ve always believed that God wanted us to do whatever our passion is. We all have a unique ability and now my passion is chocolate and raw food. I love to eat good chocolate. I love creating it and discovering the way ingredients combine together to make something delicious, beautiful and tasty. My joy comes from seeing people light up when they eat something I create and when they ask, “how did you do that?!” Most of all, I know it’s healthier than what they can typically buy in the stores.
Most people do meditation while sitting and quieting their mind, I do mine in the kitchen. I tune into whatever I’m doing—preparing food, making cakes and pastries, and especially chocolate!
My advice to others is that it doesn’t matter what you do, just do it. You have to believe and do it with your heart. For each person it’s different—be responsible, but do what moves you. If you think something is your passion, go with it. If it works out, that’s great; if not, make a change and try again. Do what you love and savor life’s sweet moments.”
A sampling of Noi’s “heavenly bites” will to be available at my book signing tonight at BookPeople. Come and experience the bliss for yourself.
October 1, 2009
This is the story of Marcie Finney—a former ad designer turned entrepreneur of Seeds for Goodness, a fast-growing, eco-fashion brand that creates stylish, earth-friendly jewelry and adornments. It’s an inspiring Professional Destiny story of her choice to thrive, and make a difference.
“My entrepreneurial spirit started eight years ago. I had been working in an advertising agency, but knew it was time for me to go out on my own as a freelance designer. I loved my client interactions and wasn’t getting enough if it in the agency, so I struck out on my own. I do love design and it’s a gift. In particular, I love seeing an idea come to life. Yet, I always knew I’d do some-thing else, but I didn’t quite know what.
A clue was that when I was young, my friend and I teamed up in school and made necklaces. I even sold enough pieces to buy a pair of rollerblades! I always loved to make my own funky pieces, but that’s as far as it went.
Over and over again, people told me that they loved my usage of color. All of my work is colorful. In fact, if you don’t like color, you’re not going to come to me. I like vibrancy! My gift in the design sense is that I’m meant to bring color into whatever form I create.
Every year I take a trip to reflect. It’s a quiet time for me to ask myself: ‘What do I want? Where am I going?’ It’s necessary for me to pause and just get quiet. I went to Cabo and during that time, felt my life was going to shift. I knew it, but didn’t know what it was shifting to.
Unlike most people, I always wear my jewelry when I practice yoga. After Cabo, for two months straight, people would comment on a piece I was wearing. It was every day, everywhere I went—at yoga, at grocery stores, you name it. They’d say: ‘can I buy your jewelry online? Will you sell me the piece you’re wearing?’ I asked myself – ‘do I need to do anything with this?’
A month later my friend Tony called me and asked me what I was doing besides design. He told me ‘you need to pursue it, it’ll be huge… bigger than you think.’
Some of the best things come when you least expect it. I was going about my day and I suddenly got an intuitive message loud and clear. It was ‘you need to work with seeds.’ I didn’t really know what it meant, but I started to do research about seeds and I was blown away. The colors, the texture were unbelievable – and so me! The trumpets started playing!
I said ‘I’ll do it’ and the universal doors flew open. It’s been a little over a year journey now. Aveda became interested in my line and has become a large client. There are several retail locations where my jewelry is placed in Austin, and it’s expanding into Dallas. I can see the momentum – everything I stock in a store will sell out. I feel like it has a life of its own, and it’s a lot of work, but totally fulfilling.
Most exciting is that the name for my line literally came to me—“Seeds for Goodness.” I chose that name because in this world, we can get hardened—we may not recognize the goodness in our lives. I wanted to remind people. All good things start from something small and it was perfect that I was working with seeds. You have to nurture them; you have to let them grow. You can’t just walk away. You need to expect the goodness that lies inherent in the seed to grow. This is a greater symbol of who we are. We all are these amazing seeds that have so much potential within us, and we need to nurture that potential. For example, if we’re doing something we don’t really love—if we’re doing something just to exist—we’re not to thriving. Seeds are meant to thrive. So are we.”
September 14, 2009
Ever knew what you loved to do as a child, but then lost track of it as an adult? Here’s a story of rediscovery. It’s a reminder that sometimes finding your professional passion may simply be a matter of remembering what you love and taking the leap of faith to do it. Today’s entry is the compelling story of Shelley Seale, one of the first nominations submitted as a Professional Destiny “Hero.” It’s a story of her journey from childhood writer, to real estate broker, and back to writer—as a successfully published author.
“I started my career in real estate, although I definitely had a passion for writing long before that. Because I was the first child for my parents and grandparents, everyone read to me. I loved hearing the words and stories. My earliest memory of writing was around age eight when I wrote dorky little books and published them. It was my hobby. My great grandmother lived in a nursing home and I would go to there and hear the most amazing stories. For example, one woman, probably in her eighties, had been a prima ballerina in the Moscow ballet. She told me about her fascinating life, and others would as well. I wrote each person’s story on a pad of paper, then would illustrate and bind it, and bring my newly published “book” to my new friend in the nursing home.
All this time, it never occurred to me that writing was a practical choice for a career. I couldn’t see myself making a living as a writer, so I never really considered it.
When I was in college, I started working in a real estate firm. One of the positions I wanted required me to have a real estate license, so I got one. I then launched into a career I would have for the next 15 years without a whole lot of thought. Looking back I would say that real estate chose me as a profession… I didn’t really choose it. I was making pretty decent money so I stayed in it.
I started writing articles about buying and selling homes for real-estate journals. People began to contact me and ask to re-use what I had written. For example, I wrote an article about how to ease the trauma for children in a move, and a mental-health-related website contacted me wanting to license the article for their publication. It was validating for me and it reawakened my love for writing.
It got so that I would rather write articles about real estate than actually show houses! When I started realizing that I enjoyed writing more than managing my business, I began to ask myself, “Why should I spend hours of my time doing what I’m not passionate about when I could do I AM passionate about?”
Writing was what inspired me, the other was just work… I considered it a chore. I knew I not only could write, but that I should. Otherwise it would be another 40 years of doing something I didn’t love. There are people out there who spend 40 or 50 years doing jobs they hate—I didn’t want to be one of them.
So I ramped up and began actively contacting publications. I first wrote about real estate because that’s what I knew, then started branching out. Soon I was writing about other topics such as owning a business, small business management and entrepreneurship—which were also things I knew. Then I expanded to write about other industries—technology, healthcare, travel, education. Over a period of several years I phased-in writing and phased-out real estate, until I finally flip-flopped careers. It took about five years.
I got involved with non-profits and wrote an article about Caroline Boudreaux for Austin Women’s magazine. This led me to India where the idea for my recent book, The Weight of Silence, was born.
What were the obstacles I faced? I could make twice as much money in real estate as I do now, but I would be doing something I only tolerated, not what I loved. To me it’s worth it.
The benefit I’ve realized is even greater. I’m no longer compartmentalizing my life. Before it felt like the work I did was partitioned from who I was as a person. For so many people it’s: here’s your job, here’s your family time, here’s your hobby – they are compartmentalized as if they have no relation to each other. Now my life is integrated. My work doesn’t feel like work, because it’s part of who I am, not simply what I do. I have more of a focus on things that matter.
My advice to others wanting to make this change is to stay dedicated and persevere. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a commitment to pursue your passion. At times it would have been a lot easier to stay in real estate but I wouldn’t have been as happy.”
Have your own story of a career change that tapped into your gifts and allowed you to do what you love? Send in a comment and share your experience with others.
August 26, 2009
One of the things I’m most excited about doing with this blog is sharing stories of people who have made the leap from an unfulfilling job into their life’s work. Work that makes them feel alive and makes a difference. Whatever jobs these people held, or what careers they discovered, there are valuable and inspirational lessons for all of us in how they came to discover their own gifts and make the move to a career that was deeply rewarding.
Caroline Boudreaux (left) in front of an orphanage she is building
In my book, I include people such as Mark Misage (an aspiring engineer who felt ambivalent about his major and bucks tradition to become a nationally recognized high school physics teacher), Caroline Boudreaux (a successful TV account executive, who at 29 had everything except happiness, and then found herself transforming the lives of thousands of Indian orphans by starting the Miracle Foundation), and Trevor Romain (who fought the odds of dyslexia and being told he had no writing and drawing talent as a child, to become a bestselling author, speaker and illustrator of children’s books). Those who make bold moves like these are Professional Destiny Heroes.
Inspirational stories like this are all around us, so let’s expand the conversation and share the stories of others who have made this journey. If you know someone, please nominate them today. It could be you, any “everyday” person or someone famous. Just leave a brief comment in this blog explaining what your Professional Destiny Hero has done. Please include contact information. I will be writing a blog post featuring these heroes every week or so, along with my other topics, and I’d love to include the most inspirational stories.
Think about how you’d answer the following questions (for you or another person you’re nominating) and include as much colorful detail as you can:
- Do you consider yourself to be doing your life’s work? How is it different from a “job?” (See earlier blog post about the differences between a job and life’s work).
- Why did you choose this profession? Did it require a change?
- What obstacles (doubts, fears, setbacks) did you have to overcome?
- What signs/encouragement did you get to show you were on the right path?
- Do you feel that you are making a difference?
- What have you learned and what advice do you have for others?
That’s it. I hope this will be a fun, rich experience that will help to inspire and motivate others. I look forward to hearing from you!
August 7, 2009
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice. – Mary Oliver
I had the good fortune of having Paul Hawken’s Commencement Address to the University of Portland (May 3, 2009) forwarded to me by a friend, and I read it last night. Wow, it knocked my socks off! Paul said he was asked to give a talk that was, “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” It was.
Paul Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, and author. At the age of 20, he chose to dedicate his life to sustainability and changing the relationship between business and the environment. He talked about immense environmental challenges that we’re facing on our planet, yet he also talked about humanity’s willingness to restore, re-imagine and reconsider. People around the globe who are forming together to work on behalf of people they don’t even know.
“When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.”
In the past few years as I have researched and written about people who have chosen to pursue their Professional Destiny – people who opt to use their gifts and make a difference. I can’t help being both inspired and immensely relieved to find yet another person like Paul Hawken and the vast movement of others, who have decided to follow their passion and make a contribution. All over the world, there are ordinary people who have chosen to become extraordinary. It takes conviction, strength, passion and a lot of guts, but once you’re on the journey, your life becomes so satisfyingly rich, you would never choose to go back.
See Paul Hawken’s Commencement address at: http://www.paulhawken.com/paulhawken_frameset.html
July 10, 2009