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Impacting tomorrow's leaders: Humility and the speech that never was

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I was invited to be part of a speaker series for high-schoolers at a technical school. The topic was pretty much anything career-related. I jumped at the opportunity and began to write, then summarize, then bullet-point. A handful of late hours over the next week, I got what I wanted to talk about narrowed down neatly onto a few index cards.

My mind saw me on a stage in an auditorium similar to the colleges I had spoken at previously.

That expectation went south as I was told to report to a classroom. Slightly disappointed I didn’t have the auditorium look, feel, and as many in the audience, I panned the classroom, looking at each face, and then at my index cards. I wasn’t feeling what was on those index cards.

I looked at the first 2 bullet points: Introduce myself, soft skills.

Students probably expected me to dictate instructions how to get into public relations and media.

And it came out something like this:

My first job was at a typewriter doing lead data entry at Kayak Pools when I was 15 and minimum wage was $3.35.

Then they hired a couple of people as they got computers, and I did data entry which output the info to humongous printers in another room, that was fed with continuous scrolls of punchcards. I became a trainer and got a .15 raise, which I was pretty excited about.

Soon after, they hired more people, and I became a Group Leader and a raise to $3.75.

But being a Group Leader at 16 definitely had its challenges.

How do you get the respect of a 60 year old man when you are a 16 year old kid in high school? I maintained a positive attitude. You will get much further in life by being open and approachable.

If I had a chip on my shoulder, and thought, “Oh yea, Im the boss, you gotta listen to ME,” do you think I’d get any respect? They’d say who the hell does this piss pot think she is?

You have to learn to listen to the concerns of others, and know now, that every person you will ever meet has something to teach you. It might not always be a good lesson, and that’s okay, because it is still a lesson. And you need them all, to make better decisions for yourself and step forward.

I went on to work in the business-to-business IT services industry. I supported my family, always loved my job, enjoyed the people I worked with, steadily earned bonuses, raises and promotions..

But you just can’t get too comfortable, because the economy and businesses constantly change and shift. Shit happens. You will lose your job, more than once.

The companies I worked for went through acquisitions, and I lost my job. A few times. Nothing I could have done.

Through it all, I was masking my home life being interrogated and beaten by my husband.

Damn, I can't really omit that last part like I planned on.

I worked lots of overtime to not have to deal being with my abusive husband. I was an over-achiever and was very absorbed and focused in my work.

Now I was working for a little IT services company. I grew this business from regional to national. I was a Hiring Manager, Project Manager and acquired new business. I worked tons of overtime, including weekends.

Five months after I finally got out of that 22 year abusive marriage, just before Easter vacation, my boss decided that I "just wasn't all there anymore," and he let me go. Shortly after, he laid off the rest of his staff, deciding their salary should instead be used to pay for his fiance's diamond ring and brand new car.

I started a telecommunications installation business.

After all, I had the relationships since back when I was that 16 year old Group Leader, and all those I maintained through different roles at various IT companies over the years; I had their respect and they knew my work ethic.

The relationships you establish and build will last a lifetime, so make them good!

My company did fantastic for a couple years, making good money and even being paid to travel.

In 2010, the recession hit. My ability to compete was about to bleed out.

I was asked to send a technician an hour away to troubleshoot a down phone system at Blockbusters (yea I know, but a sign of the times), for $45.

I paid my techs $20/hour. An hour to drive to site, an hour onsite and an hour back that’s $60 already I have to pay out, plus tolls, gas, paperwork, wear and tear. $45? Do the math. ‘What would you do?’ I asked the students.

Would you lose money and keep your client happy? Maybe hope that things will bounce back and you can rejustify your rate? Some magic solution?

I had to make an executive decision and fired all my clients. I don’t have technicians that work for me anymore.

I launched a new company; this one a nonprofit to raise awareness and resources for people impacted by domestic violence.

One night I had this vivid dream of a big show with lots of smiling people that I hadn’t met yet. The EXPOSURE Concert: Because love shouldn’t hurt, came to fruition 9 months later. Streaming it live, it was a 3 day show with over 50 bands that played, watched from 8 countries around the world. This year, the 4th year, we were live chatting with fans in Poland. Cool.

But, a nonprofit can’t promote bands. I couldn’t promote my radio shows because they promoted bands. To satisfy that, I started an additional company, Hot Jam Media and publish Hot Jam Media mag, and can promote whoever and whatever I wish. I interview businesses, bands, all kinds of cool people and was even invited to Meet the Media in New York City. I met people from the Huffington Post and NBC.

I interviewed rock stars and music industry professionals in Los Angeles.

Finally, I realized my nonprofit’s direction shifted and the name just sucked. Nobody had a clue what it was or what it did. My original concept was not what I was pursuing anymore; and so now I have to rebrand… so now I have Love Shouldn’t Hurt.TV.

People will try to take what is yours and competition to be all you want is not easy. You will be lied to and double crossed. You will lose your job for the wrong reasons. It’s going to happen.

You get wounded.

What do you do?

Are you going to let yourself bleed out? Some do.

Are you forever impaired? Will you lick your wound and cry about it for the rest of your days? Some will.

Will you let it heal, and continue to delve into furthering your purpose, seeking to discover your self-worth and happiness?

Many get stuck, or flutter back and forth; few find that courage to keep on going and even fewer to rise over it all and be fully resilient.

We all wear battle scars.

As you encounter these experiences, (and there is no way you can be successful without going through it yourself) train yourself to step outside of the situation. Put it into a glass ball. Look at it, look in it, analyze it from an outsider's perspective, before making important decisions and commitments, you will learn to identify problems ahead of time, and re-route yourself. Sleep on important decisions because you might feel different the next day. Don’t react with vengeance.

You will grow to understand people better. Understanding different personality types is huge, avoid negative ones, especially who tell you why you can’t!

It gives a bit of a personal spin to 'only the strong survive.'

When I asked if there were questions, there was silence, followed by smiles and applause.

I closed it then, by saying, “I want you to never take no for an answer. When anybody tells you (as I pointed an accusatory finger and made a stern face) “You can’t! You won’t! You’ll never!”

You just take a breath inside and look them square in the eye, and say, “WATCH ME!”

Feedback graciously provided by the teacher said the students resonated with me because I "kept it real."

Without realizing it, I think I just delivered my own TED Talk about overcoming what seemed to be insurmountable, about losing [what you thought was] everything, discovering your passion, creating your own path and trusting yourself to get up and try again.



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