One of the seven accelerants of personal disruption that I have elaborated in my work is the ‘step back to grow.’ Avoiding stagnation, battling entitlement or simply positioning ourselves to take advantage of future desired opportunities, often requires us to hop sideways, back and even down to new learning curves.
Wendy Sachs, guest on the Disrupt Yourself Podcast, is no stranger to this process. She’s the author of Fearless and Free: How Smart Women Pivot and Relaunch Their Careers and a brand, content and media strategist. She has a lot of valuable advice on the ‘step back’ as well as other topics relevant to personal disruption.
Some of it is very pragmatic; after all, dreaming is wonderful but eating is essential. When Wendy lost her job in 2014, she could see the writing on the wall in tech development in her areas of expertise and wanted to be part of its exciting trends. But she was hampered by age—over 40 in a world where everyone who interviewed her seemed to have graduated from college in 2009; about a decade and a half younger than she is. It took a while to make the leap she wanted to her next career stage. She wrote her book and studied up on the future of media strategy in our brave new world.
“For the next job move I made sure that’s where I was going. And I was really able to talk about that because…I’d been reading so much and could talk about what the industry was doing so I sounded like an expert even though I wasn’t coming from that position….I did my homework.”
Homework is an amazing thing. We can take a step back to learn and to look at the big picture. Sometimes we take a step back to rest. And sometimes, as Wendy asserts, we take a step back to put food on the table which is always a good thing and to have a safe space to strategically plan our next move.
“I think there’s this whole Pollyanna concept of ‘just follow your passion and the money will come and do what you love,’ and that’s just not the reality for so many of us…particularly if you have a family, you’ve got children, you’ve got a mortgage, you’ve got braces to put on your kids’ teeth, you know, you’ve got obligations. I took a job with a salary that would pay those bills for me and at that time is when I really started noodling with the idea of Fearless and Free, because in my head, this is…I’m trying to pivot, I’m trying to push myself out, I’m trying to go there; that was the goal…I dropped down from an SVP title to… Executive Director, something like that. VP titles were my boss, who by the way was 29 years old; she had a bigger title than me. There’s a little bit of eating crow and being okay with that. And I actually am completely fine with that.”
I wouldn’t call it eating crow, and told Wendy so. I think that sometimes we think it’s eating crow because we feel a little bit of shame around something that we shouldn’t feel shame around. We are simply repositioning, and being responsible about our lives while we do it, operating within the constraints that we have at the time.
Wendy says, “There is shame. There is a sense of ‘well what’s my value?’ I’ve, been working for 20 years; these kids, what do they know? And you have to get over that…Don’t feel shame around being laid off.”
For more of Wendy’s insightful view from the trenches you can listen to the podcast using the player below below, or on iTunes.
Resources Mentioned in the Show and Transcript
Originals by Adam Grant
Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant