How Will You Feel When the Big One Hits?

Posted 08.24.2011

Eathquake So, the big question on the East Coast yesterday evening was where were you when the earthquake hit? I was in a large conference room in Baltimore leading a group coaching session for rising leaders at a client company. They were working in small groups when I noticed the image on the screen jiggling crazily and saw the projectors hanging from the ceiling shaking back and forth.  We moved outside into the courtyard pretty quickly.  When the building was evacuated, we decided to call it a day. Definitely the first time I’ve ever ended a session early because of an earthquake.

What a great reminder that if you ever think you’re the one in control, you’re not.  In a way, that turned out to be the theme of the day. Just a half hour before the earthquake excitement, we had wrapped up a lunchtime conversation with a company executive who essentially said the same thing. She began her talk by holding up a sheet of paper with 75 names and pictures on it.  She told the group that this was all of the directors and above in that sector of the company in the year 2000.  “How many, she asked, do you think are still here?”  The answer was 23.  Then she showed a photo composite of the top 15 executives from 2004 and asked how many of them were still around.  The answer was one and he’s the current sector president. 

Her point was not one of those, “Look to your left and look to your right; one of you won’t be here,” kind of deals. Rather, she was making the point that there are so many things outside of your control in your career that you have to be prepared for change and make the most of the opportunities you have while remaining true to your values. In her case, that has meant:

  • volunteering for jobs that stretch her comfort zone
  • always doing her best to “take the high road” (i.e. acting with integrity, treating others with respect)
  • taking time for personal connection
  • being realistic about what needs to be done
  • not being satisfied with the status quo
  • leaving space for and having interests for a life outside of work

Not to be overly dramatic, but yesterday’s earthquake was a nice, relatively harmless wake up call.  When the “big one” hits how will you feel about the way you’ve led and lived? 

What happens in the end is ultimately out of your control. How you feel about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it between now and then is completely within your control. 

How are you doing so far?