When I get to a networking event — virtual or live — almost inevitably, someone asks me, “so, what do you do for a living?” I so want to say, “it’s complicated… I’m so many things to so many people. Still, nothing compared to who I can be or what I will become…” but I end up with my standard speel, “I run a staffing and marketing services agency for my employer … and I also have an organizational psychology practice.” Quite a mouthful, isn’t it? But considering that I also work on B2B copywriting projects, training, developing, and coaching leaders, I think I get by just fine.
If you’re rolling your eyes, understand that all this chaos started in 1999 when the local cable TV started airing AMC’s hit legal drama The Practice (and years later, Boston Legal). I watched and re-watched every episode aired between 1999 and 2002. Those were my high school years, and boy, I wanted to be a lawyer. A damn good one at that! However, there was a problem — the judge of my house’s court, my father, “overruled” my decision.
That single decision threw me into a spiral. Instead of a courtroom or legal school, I found myself in a pizzeria! I was counting cash, cleaning the floors, toilets, serving, and delivering fresh pizzas (after having washed my hands, of course, in case you were wondering) way faster than lawyers and judges could deliver justice! At least that’s how I chose to stay ignorant. Thankfully, good sense prevailed, and I started to take my career seriously.
I got myself a new job at a computer hardware sweatshop, learned the trade tricks, switched to another opportunity, and then another, and slowly worked my up the corporate ladder with a boatload of setbacks and failures.
And along the way, I got obsessed with learning and development, so I began trying my hand at different business skills that would bring value to the organizations I served. I volunteered, went the extra mile, got criticized, shut down, and got fired (twice) but kept at it until I noticed, appreciated, and eventually promoted. Whoever said that the “first time is the hardest” was right because the rest came relatively easy.
Along the way, I also built a small business that bombed drastically! I lost a fortune just experimenting with things and helping unworthy people. I came out of that year worn out, poorer, and a heck of a lot wiser. It was one freaking expensive education, I must say.
After the catastrophe, I decided to work again, I ran my “system” and got to the top, quicker than I thought, but then I’ve been preparing for moments like these since 2002. I’d earned it. But I didn’t rest on my laurels; I kept pushing — worked on my failed company on the side (believe me, it’s more fun than doing it full-time) by creating opportunities to build relationships, help non-profits, and individuals for free. An occasional paid project may come through, but that’s all about it.
Early this year, I decided to ramp up my business to reach and impact more people, and then COVID happened. That didn’t stop me from making a difference by delivering three public leadership training programs for free! Sure, there’s no money in it, but that’s okay. What matters is that I keep pushing the envelope because that’s who I am.
And that’s why it bothers me each time I have to introduce myself. I’m more than my title. I’m a work-in-progress… I’m making a difference, just like my heroes, those lawyers in The Practice and Boston Legal, only in a different way.
(Originally a speech delivered at the International Maxwell Certification, August 2020.)