What’s Their Story

Have you ever stopped to think about where some of the most successful people started out their life? Sure, you have probably heard that Steve Jobs started Apple in his garage, but what about people you come into contact with that you don’t know well enough to know their life story? Are you looking at them and the success they’ve had in life and wishing it could be that easy for you?

I recently received a reminder that if you don’t know somebody, you don’t know where they’ve come from. Even if you think you know, they might not have told you the entire story.

The company I work for is serious about our mission and about improving the lives of others and before COVID hosted pretty consistent volunteer opportunities. I joined the company just a couple of months before COVID shutdown life as we knew it and work remotely from across the country so I didn’t get to participate in the volunteering they did. When COVID hit, I didn’t think about the lack of volunteering the company has done, at least in the traditional way you think about volunteering. As a company, we’ve worked with other large companies to give back to our target market, but that is not what I’m talking about today. 

During one of our biweekly company-wide team meetings, the team brought up an opportunity to volunteer with a local organization that the company has supported through the years. This opportunity is to donate food or personal care items to a local non-profit for those in need. Us remote employees have the option of donating locally to participate or providing money (or not participating, but that’s not the option I chose). When one of our leaders started talking about how near and dear this is to his heart, he told a story I didn’t know. Now, the story is entirely his to share and I’m not going to go into detail, but the part that stood out to me the most was something that I related to.

As a child, he was able to eat because his family received food stamps. Me too. I cannot remember a time as a child that my parents didn’t buy food on their EBT card. It was shit food, but that’s another story for another time. This admission from one of our leaders who I haven’t gotten to know very well because of being remote and COVID, slapped me in the face as a reminder not to assume anything about anybody. This leader has been super successful from what I know of him. Like REALLY successful. But I never considered where he came from. What did he overcome to reach the level of success that he has?

When you look at these successful people that have started companies and sold them for millions or billions or who are models or Instagram influencers or whatever, do you ever consider what their story might be?

I haven’t. In fact, it feels like every time I hear a story like this or like Robert Herjavec’s story, my heart drops, I feel so much empathy for them and then I get inspired. If you don’t know who Robert Herjavec is, he is the founder and CEO of cybersecurity firm Herjavec Group and is one of the Shark’s on Shark Tank. Or there is Sarah Jessica Parker or Charlize Theron or Ursula Burns or Geisha Williams.

Remember that quote, “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, don’t judge any person that you see as successful before you learn their story. They might be living pretty damn cushy right now, but they might not have started that way. Not every successful person is born into a family with what seems like unlimited funds or perfect parents or even a roof over their head. If you find yourself thinking it was or is easy for somebody, do some research and don’t assume.

That vice president in your company that you think has it all or the CEO who works a shitload of hours and demands (rudely or not) dedication or the actress or influencer or whoever you are assuming had it easy to get where they are, they probably didn’t. I have learned in the past few years that there are more and more successful people who started out with rough childhoods that most of us don’t know about. It doesn’t matter what level of success you are thinking about. It could be the teacher down the road with a beautiful house or that person that drives a spiffy new car all of the time or the doctor at the local clinic. 

As I sit here and meditate on the new fact I learned about this leader in my company, the more my empathic emotion wants to just hug him and tell him it’s okay. There are so many people who start life with little to no food, no shelter, abusive parents, being bullied, immigrating from a warzone or drug cartel area, or so much more. Let’s stop judging these books by their cover and start learning their stories. We might be surprised by the person behind the cover. 

Remember my Imperfect Warriors, you already have what it takes, believe in yourself, and crush every failure on your way to your dreams. Let’s be imperfect together.

Episode 18: What’s Their Story

Failing Imperfectly
Episode 18: What's Their Story
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Those celebrities or successful people you hear about or are in your life, where did they come from?

Sacrificing Your Mental Health

We are going to talk about one of the things that society has placed a negative stigma on, mental health. Growing up, anything to do with mental health was negative and was generally not talked about. And if it was talked about, the conversation was judgemental and demeaning. The sad part is that if our society hadn’t been so damn judgemental, so many people could possibly still be with us today. While so many people only think of mental health as depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder or something similar, that’s not all that mental health is.

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Episode 13: Sacrificing Your Mental Health

Failing Imperfectly
Episode 13: Sacrificing Your Mental Health
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Mental health encompasses everything about our life and we must protect it.

They Aren’t In My Life For A Reason

I have many people who I do not allow in my life for various reasons. I have some people that I’ve allowed back into my life, but I’m struggling giving them full access again. There are some people I have on a line of whether or not I continue to associate with them.

Many people see me as a bitch for being this controlled about my life. I’ve had family members threaten to not attend big life events because I refused to allow my father to even attend. I get told that ‘they are your family, it doesn’t matter’ when talking to some people, even when they have cut off contact to some family members. Hmm, that doesn’t make sense.

People who are not me feel that they get to judge and comment on my decision. However, I disagree. This is one thing that I have done amazingly well at, regardless of what other people say. I have protected my peace from people who I cannot have in my life for whatever reason. I have protected my emotional and mental health because of it.

I know that I am where I am today because I cut ties with certain people. I’m frequently told I will regret it when they are gone. No, no I will not. I cannot control other people’s actions, but I can control mine. By controlling my actions, I am able to live a healthier life.

For example, I cut my mother out of my life as soon as I did not need her for FAFSA forms. I didn’t talk to her at all and I didn’t see her even in passing. The first day that I went to see her in the nursing home when my uncle placed her there, was the first time I had seen her in eight or nine years. She didn’t know who I was. She thought I was her mom or her sister. She had hit a point with her early onset Alzheimer’s that she was in her final years.

I wasn’t there for her in the times she needed support. I wasn’t there to make healthy decisions for her. I wasn’t there to be the one to take care of her until medical staffing was necessary. I wasn’t there to make sure that my older sister took care of her properly, even though she didn’t. I didn’t step in to take legal custody of her, my uncle did.

I do not regret it. I do feel bad that I wasn’t there. I do feel bad that I hadn’t known that she was diagnosed and that she needed care. But I don’t regret it.

Avoiding the family members that I do isn’t about me being better than them. It’s about me protecting my emotional and mental health. It is about protecting myself so I can live a healthy, fulfilled life.

If I didn’t cut ties with these family members, I wouldn’t be the me that I am today. I wouldn’t be the strong person who is continuously working on herself. I would be living a path being held back by intense stress and shame. I would be financially supporting addicts who only blame others for their situations.

No, I’m not a bitch. No, you don’t get to judge me. No, you don’t get to hold me to a different standard when you’ve cut ties with family members too.

No, I do not regret cutting these ties. My health is more important.

I Am Not Mediocre

Mediocrity is how so many of us live our lives. Mediocrity is how we fit in with society. We don’t want to be too over the top so people don’t judge us. We don’t want to fall behind because that life is hard. We want to be right in the middle because the middle is what is comfortable. Mediocrity is safe.

Fuck mediocrity.

I have lived for mediocrity all of my life. I grew up being below mediocrity most of my life. I just wanted to be normal. I equated being normal as fitting into society. Normal was just enough for my life. Normal was just mediocre, nothing special. I didn’t want to stand out for any reason.

I had this realization recently as I was interviewing for jobs. I had just been laid off and I had multiple positions that I was interviewing for and multiple I was expecting offers from. I had two that I was really considering and was comparing against each other. One with a small startup that had a lot of unknowns and wasn’t established. My position would have been a new position that I would create. Another new position with what I believe is potential. This sounds just like the job that I got laid off from. The other position was with a well-established company that already has a project management team with processes in place. This would be a position that is being backfilled. This company has never done layoffs. This would be a safe position to get into.

I didn’t want safe. While the safe position would have allowed me to have a normal schedule and work with one of my close friends again, the startup has so much potential and a mission that I connected with right away.

To me, safe equaled mediocre. Mediocre meant it could take me longer to advance. Mediocre meant I wasn’t creating something to pass on. Safety was not something that called to me.

I didn’t choose the safe job. I chose to right above mediocrity and take a chance. I wanted a challenge and if that challenge means that I’m looking for a job again in three months, six months, or whatever because the startup failed, that’s perfectly fine with me. I have survived multiple layoffs and I know I can survive them in the future.

Mediocrity isn’t for me. I want to live outside of normal. I am not normal and my career isn’t either. Bring on the challenge and bring on the fun I’m about to have.