Several years ago I sat on an airplane, on my way to New York for a department retreat. In mid-flight I instinctively opened up my Blackberry and read an e-mail that just sent me for a loop, and I was done. That was it. I had had it. I was going to quit my job.
However, I was the breadwinner in our family, and there were two young children and a mortgage at home and I had to think rationally.
Flying over some fly-over state I weighed my options, and I made a list. It wasn’t a “pros and cons” list, but a list of “would I be okay if I just up and quit my job.”
I thought about my finances. Hmmm. I had X amount in the bank, my 401K (this was before the market crashed), equity in our home (once again, before the market crashed). Worse case scenario, we sell everything and move in with my mother-in-law at the beach in Newport. I could live with that.
Then I started thinking about my network and I crafted an e-mail. I let them know that I was leaving my firm, taking some time off, and here was my contact information.
I was amazed at how large my network had grown over the years as I sent that e-mail off to hundreds of people.
Then the calls and e-mails started. I didn’t hear “are you okay” on the other line, I heard “wow, can you help me out with this project,” “are you available to consult with me on ….”
During that summer, I had several friends, colleagues and former work associates send me projects WITHOUT my soliciting them. They just knew I was available.
I, in turn, took a summer vacation, began a yoga practice, and slowly made a choice as to where I wanted to be professionally.
So, why this retrospective? I just read Nat Slavin’s article Make The List, which recounts his process of overcoming the fear of transitioning from his role as a legal publisher to what was then an unknown future.
I sat down at my desk with pen and paper and started writing down every name of every person who I thought cared enough about me to help me both personally and professionally. Without opening my address book I wrote down 357 names of people who had entered my life during the past decade and a half who I knew would take my call, and listen to my questions, and most importantly offer advice. These were the people whose life I had entered through both professional and personal circumstances. Friends from high school, relatives and of course folks in my professional network; in the simplest of terms, and I had never thought about the value of my personal network.
I was liberated. I didn’t realistically believe that all of these people would actually be able to offer me anything more than peace of mind. But if one percent, just 3 or 4, took a real interest in my professional development and served as a confidant or mentor, I would find my way. I would be able to, with confidence, enter the next stage of my life.
That list was a gift. So, I offer to all of you the tremendously liberating power of creating The List. Think of those whose lives you have been a part of, whose journey you have supported, and those whose respect you have earned. Make your own list, and know that if you got stuck, there will be names on The List, the members of your tribe, who will be there for you.