Phase 1 of Reimagining Life

How Discontent Led Me to Avoid Change

This is the second in a series about getting your life back on track and achieving your goals.

I was 38. I had a great job. I had a support staff. I was making good money and traveling first class. My title was president of US operations. I had an encouraging and supportive boss, a boss that believed in me. I even had a terrific office.

But it wasn’t enough.

On the personal side, I had a beautiful wife. We were very much in love.

But it wasn’t enough.

I had three amazing children. I had a loving sister who supported me. I had a beautiful house. We drove late model cars.

But it wasn’t enough.

I had great friends, including college buddies, neighbors, and business associates.

But it wasn’t enough.

I was healthy.

But it wasn’t enough.

My life was a dream come true. It was way more than I ever imagined.

But it wasn’t enough.

And because it wasn’t enough, I was not content. I kept asking myself, “How can all this not be enough?”

I later realized I was facing one of life’s significant challenges. I was about to enter the life reimagining process.

The 20 Year Cycle

Up to that time, life reimagining had happened just once before to me. I was in my early twenties. Back then, it was all about finding my right industry and occupation and the right woman. Those were stressful times with a fantastic result. Now here I was 20 later, and it was happening again.

In between these reimagining moments, I had my head down. I was on task and filled with hope. I was working hard, doing well, making money, and on the plan.

I was hitting goals and reaping the rewards. But here’s what I’ve learned. Every 20 years, I begin looking for more.

What I’ve been content doing every day for 20 years isn’t satisfying anymore. It isn’t enough. I begin thinking, “There must be more to this life then what I’m doing.”

Phase 1: Discontent

The process of reimagining started with discontent. Something in my life was not working. And it was not a little thing. I kept grinding on all aspects of my life. “What is it?” I asked myself. All I knew was that it was not readily identifiable, and it was something big. Very big.

It also wasn’t something out there.

I went through a process of blaming others for my discontent. Not being the fastest learner, I eventually realized this was the wrong path. It wasn’t my wife, my kids, my boss, my work, my direct reports. It wasn’t my car, my house, my city, my travel. What was it?

It was me.

But how could it be me? Everything was going so well. I kept coming back to this: How can I find contentment?

My Response: Avoid Change

I thought something had to change, but I wasn’t about to do anything about it. I was not going to risk all I had achieved. I had spent my whole life getting to where I was. My wildest dreams were a reality.

Here’s what I did to make sure I didn’t have to risk my present for an undefined future. One Saturday morning, I went for a haircut. The hair stylist was in a strip center. Right next door was a knick-knack shop. I was looking around as I waited for my haircut and saw a sign hanging on the wall. It was a ceramic sign ten inches long and five inches high with white letters on a pastel blue background. It was hanging at eye level from a little blue ribbon.

It said, “Bloom where you are planted.”

“That’s it!” I said to myself. “This is the answer I’ve been looking for!”

I bought the little sign and took it to my office on Monday morning. I hammered a nail into the wall directly across from my desk and hung that sign from its blue ribbon.

Every time I looked up from my desk while on the phone or leaving my office, I would see the message, “Bloom where you are planted.” And that is what I did.

I forced my head down into my work and tried as hard as I could to forget all this contentment nonsense. I had a wife and three kids and a high paying job. “Shut up and work,” I would tell myself. “Bloom! This is where you are supposed to be.”

But it didn’t work.

The discontent continued to grow. One day, my boss called and asked me to meet him for dinner in NYC. That’s when he told me he was cutting my salary by 10%, along with all the other senior executives.

We were a London based public company with flat sales because of the recession. With the stock price down, the chairman wanted to show “The Street” that we were all sacrificing.

I went nuts.

It was an irrational reaction. The cut would have meant nothing to my family, my lifestyle, or me. But I told him, “No way. That’s not my deal. You want to cut your pay? Go ahead and do it. I do not agree to this.”

We ended our meeting that night with him saying, “I’ll be in Atlanta in a week. Let’s discuss this over breakfast after you’ve had time to think about it.”

That breakfast was momentous. Discover why in the next post.

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4 thoughts on “Phase 1 of Reimagining Life

  1. I watch so many of our peers go thru that process and decide “I just can’t risk it – there’s too much at stake. Better to play it safe.”

    We need to help our peers navigate this passage in life to a better result. I’m working on that issue.

    • That’s the next blog. Comes out on Friday. Phase II. I’ve been reading your book (finally). You should be writing these blogs not me. I recommend “Kingdom Journeys” to everyone. Well written and researched with great insights and great message.

  2. I can’t wait for Friday. I don’t know all the details and numbers around your business at the time. And while “flat sales” is certainly different than “declining sales”, I wouldn’t think your reaction – while irrational it may have been – was really about the money. It was about the respect.

    Also, bought Seth’s book on Amazon. Looks good.