Digging Up Your Story.

As I stood over the dirt and the filth, watching the big Earth movers do their stuff, my concentration was absolute. What was down there? What would we find?

Sure smelled horrific. Last night, we were told to put dye drops in our toilets; our house got the blue tabs, another red, still someone else green.  Now, talking quietly amongst our selves, my neighbors and I waited for the tell tale sign. I had to stifle a little giggle; it felt almost like the reading of a Last Will and Testament.

As the red dye bubbled to the surface, we had our ‘beneficiary.’ The neighbors, top of the hill, it was their sewer pipe. Now the digging could commence.

Unearthing what had been buried in the 1920’s made me reflect on other excavations we all face in life.  I’ve heard them called ‘life transitions,’ or ‘life changes,’ and the newer word is ‘pivots’ as in life pivots, which is such a fun term for a challenging process.

Reading the life transitions advice today - some of it wonderful, some less so – I marvel that much of it is package in such a way as to suggest that one can power through, ‘fail fast,’ almost by sheer dint of will, eliminating or minimizing most of the inconvenient disruption. 

I help people with these inconvenient bumps in the road when it comes to their work, and no matter what it’s called, make no mistake, when you lose a job or career, or a promotion or a big client, you will be moving some dirt, and there may be a big smell, and fast is the enemy of sustainable.

Since you’re on LinkedIn, you already know that a network of colleagues is the most useful asset you can have. Building a network, aka a community, and nurturing and supporting it, is one of the best hedges against the shifting ‘sands’ of the workplace.

But here’s something else you may not know: shifting sands are everywhere.  Jumping at the first chance to escape ensures that you will only face another shift, at perhaps an even more inconvenient time. Sometimes, especially when you don’t have enough information, wisdom says, ‘stay, time to excavate.’

It takes courage to ask, ‘what’s down there that makes me nervous? What stinks?’  Who knows what answers you’ll dig up, about the job, the company, your choice to do a particular kind of work?  Maybe you’ll learn that your spouse is the one that’s nervous, not you, maybe he/she is unwilling to excavate because something, a paycheck, a lifestyle, an agreement, will unravel.

There’s a lot down there that can get covered up with the years. One of my clients, a very serious and smart attorney for a Fortune 50 company, ‘forgot’ she was a political and social activist on her college campus, she even remembered her nickname.  Her excavation led to a career change, re-aligning her with the true deep waters of her personality.  

Nobody wants to do this kind of excavation work, but when your life is off, you should be happy but you’re not, the things that used to bring you joy don’t anymore, staying and unearthing the source of the problem is worth it. 

If you can’t stand the stench anymore, time to do some digging.  (thankfully, sewer metaphor concluded.)