Perfect Storm

In the world of risk management and strategy, the term "perfect storm" describes the coming together of a rare combination of circumstances that will aggravate a situation drastically.  The term is also used to describe an actual phenomenon that happens to occur in such a confluence, resulting in an event of unusual magnitude.

According to the all seeing eye, Wikipedia, the Oxford English Dictionary has published references going back to 1718, it was used to describe a "perfect storm" of applause. It can be used in all manner of situations from weather to war.

The Pink Flamingo in a Brown Duck Pond is the story of a perfect storm. It is my story, and I am the perfect storm. Perfect storms build over a period of time and they erupt all the time.  Watch the news.  Political conflicts that break out have been building over generations and generations.   Each person is a storm brewing, because each person is a confluence of events that culminate to create the story of that life time. Each person is his or her storm, a force to be reckoned with. Each person does in his or her own way create at the very least a ripple effect in the atmosphere.  If not, then I would say, that person is not living his or her life.

The other day, I went to hear Arlene Dickinson speak about her perfect storm. The keynote topic was "Lesson from the Dragon's Den", but it was not really about that.  She shared a story of having built a life that she thought she wanted, and did at the time, but through a series of actions, both hers and others, changed in a moment when she found herself with no job, no skills, no children, and no husband, and on her father's couch.  She said the best piece of advice she had ever received was her father telling her to get her butt off the couch and go take care of her life. Truthfully, I knew what she was going to say before she said it, because I read - no studied - her book trying to get off my own couch.

So there I was in 2011, on my own couch.  The life I thought I built was suddenly gone. My career as a corporate strategic planner was up in smoke. My identity was gone. I was outside of the circle, as it were, and nobody wanted me, because I did what we are not supposed to do. I declared the emperor has no clothes.

This declaration led me to do battle for four months with a team of professionals.  After that, the damage would ensue for months to follow as I was for the first time in my life, unemployable in my home market.

During that time, I struggled to redefine myself. I asked myself the question I have asked many an executive over the past 20 years. "What would you do if money were not a factor and you could not fail." I knew that I needed to do something.

I created Lynear Thinking, planning to take the consulting world by storm, but it was harder than I thought.  The new world outside of the corporate world didn't know who I was, because I was always the one in the background pushing the leaders up the proverbial hill, giving them words and watching them receive the recognition for my work.

During the first year as an entrepreneur, I read Arlene Dickinson's Persuasion at least five times, looking for inspiration, courage and some good advice on how to convince people to take a chance on me. I made $800.00 that year, but I learned a lot.

Sometimes I would count the money I was no longer making, and recall the moment when my life as I knew it ended. I was devastated and angry for a long time, but I did not want to be angry.  The fact that I was angry actually made me angry too.There was something holding me back.  I had been asking the wrong questions all along.

As a career strategist, the question, why did I not see this coming, haunted me.  How could I let this happen to me?  Why did I stay too long?  And so I did what I know how to do. I wrote about it. For more than 30 drafts of 150 pages of that last experience I looked for the answer to the question, why did I let this happen to me.

Strategy Table: When  did this happen.
Last July, I gave the work to my lawyer, who advised I not publish it.  He said I was not safe. That made me angry too, and a little bit scared once again.  But he had a point, upon further reflection. It occurred to me that if I were to publish that story, I would have to live in the details of it for the rest of time. That it would become the defining moment of my life. That the emperor would win.

I decided to rethink the story and the storm, and ask a new question.  When did this happen, and there on my table, the story began to tell itself.

The day that I backed out of my parking stall and made a decision to stand up and stand out was the day my life changed. Up until that day, a perfect storm had been brewing.  A storm of experiences where that began when I was too young to realize how my environment was shaping me and how I was shaping it through my own resistance and defiance.

There were the learning moments, and then there were the defining moments - those are the moments when my universe shifted. The shifts started as tremors, and with each shift, the ground shook a little more each time. There were trade offs of time and money, of status and power. There were times when my values took a back seat for a job. There were times when I disappointed myself and others in order to be the best I could be in my job.  And then there was the last time that unleashed the storm that had been building over time.

There are people who might write themselves into my story, and believe it is about them. They may feel revealed in some way, but rest assured, if you find yourself among those people, let me tell you that you are inconsequential to my life and my story.  If you see something, it is your own reflection.

And so I am the perfect storm. And I am here.