The current state of volatility is no joke.
Whether it’s the market, geopolitics, our environment, or the economy, it reminds me of a time not too long ago when everything changed for me.
I had spent 15 years working as a sales executive – selling software into big companies up and down the West coast of the US and Canada.
It was the summer of 2013 and I felt like things were going pretty darn well. Until I was laid off!
I got caught in the final stage of the tech meltdown that was initiated by the 2008 financial crisis.
I see a lot of the same headlines today that I remember seeing back then.
“PayPal to cut 6% of its workforce.”
“Amazon to eliminate more than 18,000 jobs.”
“Zoom cutting 15% of its staff.”
“Meta (Facebook parent company) will be cutting another 10,000 people from its workforce and eliminating 5,000 job openings.”
It all feels a little unnerving. Not because I’m afraid of being laid off again but the last time I saw such volatility, I made life altering moves that challenged me to my core.
It was the best of times and the worst of times. Exciting yet dreadful.
I came face-to-face with making a really big choice…
Do I continue down a path where things are good or do I choose a new path (an uncertain path) where things could be great?
I remember the weeks leading up to my layoff. I had become somewhat frustrated and bought into the usual gripes of a sales executive; too many travel days, rising sales quotas, an uncertain economy, and the dreaded grind at the end of every quarter.
I remember telling a good friend about my frustrations and she asked me a brilliant question.
She asked, “What is it that you really want to be doing with your life?”
I remember that question feeling so abrupt and irritating.
I also remember my answer to her question and it didn’t have anything to do with selling software.
I said to her, “I think I want to be a coach!”
I didn’t exactly know what that meant at the time but I do remember that it was the first time I had said those words out loud to anyone.
This was a big shift for me. Have you ever said something out loud and then you realize, oh wow – now this is real!
Coincidentally, I had been reading a book by Gay Hendricks called ‘The Big Leap’ – one of the books I still recommend the most.
In the book, there was this important distinction between what the author calls your “Zone of Excellence” and your “Zone of Genius.”
In my mind, this represented having the courage to choose between having a good life and having a truly great life.
A great life felt like a space where work and life collided in a beautiful way and complemented each other.
It felt like being on a path that would allow me to realize my highest level of contribution.
This was a totally new paradigm for me at the time and I remember wrestling with the idea of continuing to go down the predictable, proven career path that I had spent the last 15 years cultivating or stepping off that path completely and doing something new.
I couldn’t shake the question that my friend had asked me. In fact, it kept haunting me.
The more I wrestled with her question, the more I realized that my current path represented my highest level of frustration …marching along in a career that no longer represented the best version of me.
That’s when I made the decision to pursue a new path that at least gave me a shot at making my highest level of contribution.
Here’s my question to you: Are you making your highest level of contribution?
Are you designing your life around the things that are most important to you?
If not, why not?
I’m not saying you need to quit your job or start a side hustle. Some of the happiest people I know are perfectly aligned in their role as an executive, a lawyer, a CFO, or a product manager.
The point is having the courage to explore options that get you excited and that you’ll naturally feel energized to “go big” and make your highest level of contribution.
If you feel stuck in a rut as an entrepreneur, an executive, a middle manager, a teacher, etc., then maybe it’s time to stop and answer these three questions:
- What do I feel deeply inspired by?
- What am I particularly talented at? (What comes easiest to me?)
- What path would allow me to make my highest level of contribution?
Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to be selective with what we choose to do with our finite time. And once we discover the next level of meaning in our lives, there is this tremendous energy and freedom – almost an invincible power – that will allow you to discover your highest level of contribution and give it, not just to yourself, but to the world.
An Idea Whose Time Has Come
We are once again faced with many challenges and yet we hold the key to unlocking the best version of ourselves by having the courage to embrace the pursuit of meaning and make our highest level of contribution.
When it feels like the world is on fire, there is a peace in knowing that we can eliminate what no longer serves us and move towards new opportunities that may never have presented themselves otherwise.
I have a vision for people everywhere having the courage to live a life true to themselves instead of the life others expect of them .
I have a vision of mothers, fathers, employees, managers, executives, world leaders – learning to tap into more of their intelligence, intuition, resourcefulness, and initiative to live more meaningful lives.
Just imagine what would happen in our world if more people were aligned with creating value by making their highest level of contribution.
Years from now (hopefully many), when you are at the end of your life, you may have a few regrets. But I’m hoping that making your highest level of contribution (whatever that means to you) isn’t one of them.
Let’s continue down this brave path and be committed to making our highest level of contribution together.