They say there are four major stress triggers in life.
– Losing a job.
– Bereavement of a close family member.
– Marriage or divorce.
– Moving house.
I experienced all four in under a year in the midst of a global pandemic.
This was an emotional rollercoaster navigating so many things at once, many seemingly out of my control. Looking back, it was liberating in as much as I needed to go with the flow to survive, to let go and trust my instincts and intuition. It also triggered an intense period of self reflection and discovery, that laid the foundations for where I am today in my life and work – here’s how it happened:
When my last job ended, I took time out to reflect on what’s next, to dig in and think about what I
was truly passionate about, to investigate the clichéd what’s my ‘why’? To help me figure this out, I set up regular coffee conversations several times a week (this was pre-COVID).
These conversations were with a mix of like-minded souls, creative industry contacts and new connections who I was curious to hear their own story or journey. Increasingly I realised my interest was drawn to people and teams, in particular how to support emerging leaders and rising talent in business.However, at this point it was not clear how or what this support looked like.
I have been fortunate to have had some amazing professional opportunities, working as a CMO for Fortune 500 brands such Converse Vans, Lenovo, Levi’s and Polaroid. My career path has enabled me to collect life and work experiences along the way, across Europe, Asia and the United States. How could I use this journey and experiences over those 25 years to help the next generation of business leaders? I continued to explore, as the seeds of an idea started to form, even if it was not 100% clear what it actually was yet.
Then in September 2019, my father passed away suddenly.
I say suddenly. He was 90 years old and had suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for about 10 years.
Yet it still felt like a shuddering jolt out of the blue with a phone call that he had passed away peacefully during the night.
Part of the preparation for his Thanksgiving service entailed contacting the various former companies he had worked for and the many professional associations he had been a member of over his long career. The overriding sentiment from the messages of condolences the family received was how my father always came to work with joy and how he always put people first.
Here is one such example from a former co-worker:
“Jim and I shared an office with David at 15 Arthur St for a couple of years, and to this day, I’ve never encountered such a wonderful, kind and encouraging fellow worker. He always had a smile, participated in daily ‘banter’ and had a great sense of humour. Every morning, his arrival was a joy.”
These stories, and many similar others, struck a chord with me. It was the trigger I needed to fully appreciate the importance of putting people first and the significant role that kindness plays in business as well as everyday life. It reminded me that there is no distinction. We should treat everyone with kindness, whether it is in our day-to-day, in the workplace, or whatever station people are at in life.
It was in that moment I realised I had not only found my ‘why’, but my definition of kindness:
To enable people to be seen, heard and valued.
Recognising this revelation during a period of intense personal sadness had a duality to it. Reflecting on all the goodness and kindness that my father had brought to the world, yet realising he was now gone, was hard to reconcile. There was the comfort of knowing how much joy and kindness he had brought to people’s lives, both personally and professionally. But also, the pain that he would not be contributing anymore, that his ‘kindness quota’ for the world was now complete.
So what to do with all that kindness he had so willingly given, be it family, friends, colleagues or even strangers in the street? I used this double edge of how I could honour his memory whilst combining it with finding ways to build on his good work by bringing joy and kindness into the workplace.
The experiences from this transformational period taught me resilience – to never give up.
The power of momentum, to always keep moving forwards.
The importance of demonstrating actionable kindness and gratitude.
These are the four principles of my coaching consultancy, Mercury Jam.
The foundation of my coaching programs is to enable people to be seen, heard and valued.
Today, I couldn’t be happier or more energised.
It shows that sometimes everything has to completely fall apart – to unravel – to find out where you’re truly meant to be in life.
And that’s the founder’s story of Mercury Jam Coaching.