Dave is Restless
Dave was just an ordinary kind of guy, working in an ordinary job. He had been employed with the same company for more than ten years and been loyal and dedicated. He'd always believed that if he worked hard for the company, they would look after him. At least that was how it had been since the dark ages.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he felt that something was not right. The company was not making as much money these days, due to such things as increased global competition and sudden changes in the marketplace. Ever since the "temporary" freeze on pay increases, which had gone on for some time now, much of the fun had gone from his job. The management attitude had changed from one of caring to one of survival. The welfare of the employees somehow had dropped off the list of management concerns.
Dave was concerned. He had been loyal to his employer in exchange for security. But now that security seemed to be disappearing. Just when he thought he knew the rules, the game had changed.
Dave used to feel like part of a big family, but that feeling was gone now. Then the company began the rounds of downsizing. At first he did not notice anything much. There was a slow degradation of the support staff, but the new technology helped compensate for it. Dave did find himself doing more work for the same pay, but the company now expected everyone throughout the company to put in longer hours. He figured it was just the way things were. Perhaps things would improve, and the company would return to normal. In the back of his mind, though, he kind of knew that they never would.
The company, the industry and even the economy seemed out of control, like an airplane in a tail spin. He felt that he had no influence on things. All he could do was hang on tight, and hope he did not become the next casualty.
When Dave had the chance to talk with friends who worked elsewhere, he heard the same story. The whole industry was changing. Downsizing was common everywhere. Some companies were going out of business. More people were chasing fewer jobs, and those who still had their jobs had to work unpaid overtime to make up for the lost positions.
Dave continued to go to work. He felt uneasy, yet he did not know what else to do. Perhaps if he just worked harder, he might survive future rounds of downsizing. He tried to come up with ideas on how the company could cut costs. If it was just dollars that caught their attention, perhaps they would see him as one of the more valuable employees.
In an effort to further reduce costs, certain benefits were cut. Dave did not complain. He felt even more uneasy though. But he kept working, trying to be a valuable employee, trying to keep his job. Fear was now his motivation. Each evening, he would return home feeling tired and empty, burned out and helpless.
Dave Seeks Help
Dave had a friend from high school days, Sue, who was in business for herself. As a personal coach, she worked with people to help them become more successful in life. Dave decided to give her a call.
They met a few days later for coffee at a local restaurant. As Dave talked about the challenges in his job, Sue listened with interest, and thought about when she used to have a job. She was much more content now that she was working on her own.
So, what are you going to do about it? Sue asked when Dave had told his story.
I dont know. I feel so helpless! I guess I cant halt progress, was all Dave could reply.
Try not to confuse what is going on at work with your actions. Downsizing is not a problem unless you choose to let it be. How you choose to perceive a situation is more important than the situation itself. Do you understand?
Yes, I think I do, said Dave. He wrote down the following in his notepad and showed it to Sue:
Good! So, if you were to perceive your situation as an opportunity rather than a problem, what could you do with it?
Hmm, well it has given me an opportunity to think about things, said Dave.
You know, that is a very important insight you just made. Do you realize how many people go through life without thinking. It's like they are flying an airplane on autopilot. The result is that they miss so much of life that way. If your work situation has caused you to stop and think, then it presents a very good opportunity.
Wow! I didnt see it that way. I guess I do now.
Tell me Dave, if you leave the airplane of your life on autopilot for much longer, where do you think you will end up? asked Sue.
I figure there is a mountain ahead. I will crash into it if I continue the way I am going.
If you were the pilot of an airplane and you saw a mountain in front of you, what would you do?
Well I would change course, said Dave. Sue looked at him. He had a pensive look on his face, as he considered the meaning of what he had just said.
You are the pilot, said Sue. That mountain is very real. You are fortunate to have the opportunity to change course. From what you said about downsizing in your company, many people did not wake up in time to see it coming. What you do next is very important.
Dave said that he would like to think about it, so Sue left it there. She had planted the seed. Before he left the restaurant, he wrote down the following:
After Meeting Sue
After the meeting with Sue, Dave went home. He started to think more about his future. There seemed to be no end to all the downsizing. His career was at risk. He felt like he had spent years climbing a ladder only to find it leaning against the wrong wall.
The next day, when he went to work as usual, Dave looked around the office, but it was not the same any more. I should not be here he thought. He sat down at his desk and contemplated having to work at this desk for years, always living in fear that he would be next. There was no sense in it any more.
Daves mind was racing. Having to think about his future was new to him. Until now, he had blindly believed that his employer would take care of him. The image of the airplane on autopilot had shown him that he was headed for trouble. He saw that he had to disengage the autopilot and take back control of his future. And he had to do it soon.
His days at work seemed to drag by painfully slowly. It was funny. He used to really get a kick out of working here, but those days were a distant memory. Now, all he thought about was getting out.
Dave had to make a change. Staying put was not an option. Move somewhere else? But what if other places were just the same? It would be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. He would lose his years of seniority and be no better off than before.
Perhaps he could go into business for himself. He didnt know much about business; all his education and training had prepared him to be an employee.
Dave thought about Sue for a moment. She clearly was not living her life on autopilot. Perhaps if she could do it, then he could too. The more he thought about Sue, the more her example gave him confidence.
Thinking Some More
After thinking about it some more, Dave decided to give Sue another call.
Hello Dave, how are you? said Sue, which rather startled him.
How did you know it was me?
I have one of those phones with caller ID. Also, I figured you might be calling. How can I help?
Well, I've thought more about my future. I see that I have to change course. I have to do something, yet I dont know what.
What are your options? asked Sue.
I could look for another job, or I could become self-employed. I already ruled out staying where I am and unemployment.
Good, you are making progress! Now which option looks best to you?
Well, as I see it, I have no guarantee that a new job would be any better than my present one. I could end up worse for jumping ship. Since I have to make a change now, I dont want to end up in the same situation later on, said Dave.
And so ... ? asked Sue.
I guess I would go for the second option. But, I dont know the first thing about starting a business. I dont know where to start.
Just for now, assume you knew all that you needed to know, and you have all the skills you need to succeed. Then would you go for it? Dave felt that he was being set up for something.
Im not sure, said Dave.
What else is holding you back? asked Sue.
I feel scared that I could mess up and fail. Id end up unemployed and broke! Dave replied.
It is natural to feel afraid. But tell me, is it more scary or less scary to put your future into the trust of an employer?
When you put it that way, it makes sense. So, what do I do next? said Dave.
Sue explained that he had to make a commitment. He had to be willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. There is power in a decision, backed with a burning sense of desire. It was at that point that Dave decided to start his own business. He made a note to himself.
What To Do Next
The next day, Dave went out for a walk in the local park at lunchtime. The weather was good for this time of year, but Dave did not seem to notice. He had a lot on his mind. He had a job, but that was no longer enough. He was committed to taking control of his life. If he was to fulfill his commitment, his future would have to change. But he had no idea what to do next.
What can I do? Dave thought to himself. He thought of various types of businesses, but none of them seemed right. He also had no idea how to start a business.
He looked around the park as he continued to walk. The surroundings were beautiful, but they provided him with little inspiration to help him with his quest.
When he got back to his place of work, he could not seem to concentrate on work. He scanned the yellow pages for possible businesses and tried to imagine them as his business. Nothing seemed to jump out as ideal.
He also made lists of things he liked to do in his life. He remembered reading that some people turned their hobbies or interests into some sort of business.
The next week, Dave had lunch with Sue. The main topic of discussion was finding the right business.
I feel kind of trapped," Dave said, "I know I have to do something, but I dont know what. It all seems so unfamiliar to me.
Thats ok. Youre doing fine. You are conscious of the need to change. Youre ahead of many of your coworkers. You just need to take the next step, said Sue.
And that is? asked Dave.
Were agreed that you need to change course. So far, you have let others decide that for you. Now you have to take control. Therefore, you need to take control of your life. It would be pretty pointless starting out without knowing where youre headed. Sue smiled.
I get it. But how do I do that?
You need to discover your purpose in life. And, you need to identify your values. A purpose answers the question Why am I here? and values identify what is important to you. Until you are clear on these, don't quit your day job. Sue said.
Before they left the restaurant, Sue gave Dave a book to read and some worksheets to help him get started. Dave wrote down another note to himself:
It took a while for Dave to go through the book and the worksheets. Over the next few weeks, with help from Sue, he came up with a personal mission statement and list of his values. It was quite an eye opening experience for Dave. He found that he already had values, yet he never put them on paper.
Sue explained that mission and values are like a compass that points in the right direction. Everyone has values and a purpose, but few people ever take the time and self-exploration necessary to uncover them. The result is that they waste a lot of their lives doing things of little consequence.
Dave had also formalized the relationship with Sue by becoming a client of her coaching practice. Although they had been friends for a long time, he saw the value of the help she had given him.
From Sues perspective, she had started off just giving advice to her friend Dave. She was happy to help an old friend. But recently, she found that she really wanted Dave to succeed. It was like she had taken ownership in part for his success. Perhaps it was that she was reminded of herself a few years ago when she looked at Dave.
Over the next while, Dave worked on his mid- and long-term goals. He used his values and purpose as a guide. Any goal had to be consistent with his values, and it had to somehow relate to his purpose.
As he put his goals together, he began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He saw how achieving his goals would help him achieve his purpose.
Life seemed different to Dave now. He had a sense of direction. Although he had not changed his job or anything else yet, his knowledge gave him a new sense of hope. Some of his workmates also noticed a change in him. He was more cheerful. It was as if a cloud had been removed from above him.
Dave met with Sue again.
I feel a lot different, said Dave.
You are different. Your eyes are more open to where you want to go. You see your future and what you need to do to get there.
Yes! Its like waking up after a long sleep. I feel more alive. Said Dave.
Well that feeling can wear off. You have to keep your eyes on your purpose, your goals. Many people stumble when they focus on obstacles. Expect obstacles, but dont let them distract you from your purpose.
Dave wrote himself another note:
Dave had a lot to learn. Sue gave him books to read and tapes to listen to. Each week they would review what he had learned.
Spurred on by his new sense of purpose, Dave worked on his dream. He realized that he had so much to do, so much to learn. He was scared and excited at the same time.
Sue knew what Dave was going through. She helped him instinctively with what he needed to do.
Dave learned all he could about starting his own business, which he had decided would be a consulting business. All his years of experience in the industry would be of value to several companies. He also saw the potential for hiring some of his workmates in the future.
Sue was also impressed with Daves progress. Many people would have given up before this point. It is hard to consider going it alone when youre in a comfort zone of employment. She saw that she could learn a few points from Dave.
Dave worked on his business plan evenings and weekends. The image of his business was taking shape more and more daily. As he set about completing some of the early steps, he gained momentum. Soon he had much of the research done, and he had lined up various resources his business would need.
Little by little, Dave was becoming an Entrepreneur. It was no longer a wish or a fancy. It was not just a business plan. He had started on the path, and was already irreversibly changed for the better.
After some prospecting, Dave got his first consulting contract. The next day he returned to his employer to deliver his resignation. This quite surprised his boss.
I thought you would be among the last to leave, said his boss. You always seemed to be the kind that never complains.
I was, but I decided to live for myself rather than for others, Dave smiled. I used to be afraid of losing my job, but no more. From now on, I create my own opportunities.
I admire you Dave, said his boss, you seem to have it all worked out.
Thanks. Dave said. He left his now ex-employer a free man. He was so happy that day. He understood that this is the way life should be.
About a week later, Dave was more than happy, working on his new contract and earning more money too. He thought about where he had come from. His ex-employer was not likely to last another year. Most of his ex-workmates were now unemployed. The funny thing was that they were waiting for the economy to turn around and for their jobs to reappear. To Dave it seemed like they were waiting in the rain for a bus that had already left. The industry where he came from would never be the same again.
Those of his ex-workmates who were lucky to be employed elsewhere were working longer hours for even less pay. They were miserable, but they just seemed to accept it. Dave had a hard time understanding their thinking. It was clearly broken.
Dave had taken the big step. He was now free. He was also responsible for his own future, his own success or failure. He now felt more empowered than ever before.
I wonder why I stayed there so long? Dave thought to himself. Looking back, he saw the life he lived as an employee was like a shadow compared with his life now. Dave felt so glad that he had decided to take the reins.
Dave met with Sue for lunch again.
You know Sue, I think I finally understand things. Before, as an employee, it was just an idea. Now that I have done it, I understand more clearly. I've woken up. said Dave.
Thats an interesting observation Dave. I understand exactly how you feel. That's what led me to become a personal coach. I love to work with people who are on the verge of awakening. It is like I am a witness to some sort of miracle. It is a special moment. said Sue.
Sue looked out the window of the restaurant. Can you imagine what a world it would be if we all lived our dreams? If everyone was doing something that they truly loved, rather than just getting by?
I'm beginning to. said Dave.
You made it Dave, and I'm glad for you. I know that from now on youre going to be fine. Said Sue.
Thanks Sue. I may encounter obstacles, but I know I can deal with them.
Same time next week? asked Sue.
Sure thing, said Dave.