Thursday, November 3, 2016

Happy leaving day! (and respect)

Six years ago this past October 31st, I left my dad's business. The closest analogy I have for doing this is: it was like jumping out of a plane, without a parachute, trying to figure out how to break the fall and not splat on the ground. It has been, and still is, lots of hard-earned, learn-from-challenges-and-your-mistakes fun.

Truth is I should really be saying "happy birthday!" as the past six years have seen me grow up from a naive, insecure individual (I should also add immature to that list), into a person I have great Respect for (capital 'R' intended) when I look in the mirror.

I would probably say that respect is the single most important part of this process. I say this because to achieve respect, you need to overcome so many inherent, and at many times inhibiting, perceptions of yourself. From feelings of insecurity and lack of self-worth, to the feeling of deserving others' love and appreciation. This is no easy feat, and it takes perseverance and hard work, much of it on yourself and on healing those past scars. But once you recognize and accept your abilities—some call this "being comfortable in your own skin"—do you begin to value your achievements in life and the challenges you have overcome. That's when respect starts to build in you.

For us leavers, though, there is another aspect to respect and that is the respect of our family, and in my case the respect of my father. Six years ago that respect did not really exist. I think a lot of our run-ins and arguments, during my time in the business, stemmed from me trying to gain a foothold in the realm of mutual respect (only to be kept/pushed out of it). Today, though, the picture is much different, and is one of mutual respect: We see each other on the backdrop of our accomplishments in life.

With the clarity of vision granted to us by hindsight, I can honestly say that the burden of getting here was completely my own. The person standing in front of my dad six years ago, is not the person standing in front of him today. Building my self-respect has earned me his, and it was something that I had to do on my own and for myself.

Happy leaving birthday!

Monday, September 12, 2016

There are no shortcuts

There just aren't.

There are certain things you must go through and experience before you can become what you want. This is true to pretty much everything in life. Working hard is part of the process; falling down again and again, only to pick yourself up is part of the achievement itself, and really, is the success.

With that in mind, don't get too upset if your plans take a little longer to happen; and don't stop learning your lessons and staying focused and positive. It's not a question of "if", its a questions of "when".

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How good are you?

When you think about this question, is the first thought one of comparison? Do you compare yourself to someone else? Do you measure yourself based on someone else's success or failure (as perceived by you)? Maybe you don't really know... Maybe the stories you choose to tell yourself when you try to measure your worth are biased tales of inferiority and failure.

If you are not being successful at measuring yourself, here's a little tip that can help: Firstly, stop doing the "measuring" all by yourself—if you are digging the pit of inferiority and failure, it's hard to see the light. Instead, let others do the measuring for you. The only thing you need to do is be attentive to the little queues they leave. Here are examples:
  • People asking for your advice/opinion
  • People asking for your company at lunch
  • People who notice you are away
  • Your colleagues complimenting you on a job well done

If you stop ignoring the little things, which tend to happen every single day, you will see that you actually mean something to someone(s). That you are liked and respected and meaningful. And the more you notice these signals, the easier it will become to answer the question!

So, how good are you?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Micro tears

Do you know how muscles are built? When we exercise and strain a muscle, we create little micro tears in its tissue. The more we exercise it and the more resistance and strain we add, the more tears we rip through it. The damage triggers the body into action and it quickly works to mend the torn tissue. In doing so it builds a stronger, bigger muscle—one that is ready to take on even more weight.

I've realized recently, that life is the same way. As we take on new challenges and explore new directions, we exercise our "muscle". We stretch it into making sense of the new, unknown experience, straining it to figure things out. These are our micro tears; some are more significant than others—leaving the business, for one—others less so. But all, in some way, rip our tissue and we must mend it. Unlike the body though, that "automatically" repairs the muscle, we need to choose to mend it. And the only way to do this is to choose to learn from the experience. Learning makes us stronger and more resilient, better prepared for our next challenge.

Looking back over the (nearly) 6 years since I've left the family business, I've recognized that as hard as it was to leave, and the incredible turmoil it had created in my life, the stronger I have become. Learning is about finding the silver lining and leveraging it to become better—as hard as it may be.


I know I haven't posted here for a very long time. I think it was the fact that I had moved past the actual leaving "event" that I was emptied of content. Recently though a friend and fellow leaver, poked me to start sharing again, and that sparked the flame...

So, I'm back!

I don't know where the blog will go from here, but I think sharing my experiences with my family post-leaving can serve this community well, so that's where I'll start. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Phantom pains

There's this phenomenon that occurs to people who have lost a limb; long after the limb is gone it will generate pangs of pain. The pain is generated in the mind, but is felt physically in the missing limb. This is called phantom pains.

I thought about this after a fellow leaver emailed me writing about unresolved anger towards his dad and the family business. He had left a year or so earlier, but was still trying to find his way in life. From his perspective he was failing and that feeling was creating pain.

I'm guessing you've experienced this at one time or another, being thrown back to painful emotions you thought you had left behind...

For me it is usually brought on by belittlement—it awakens the pain felt by a criticizing dad/boss. But it's a phantom pain; the lacking self-worth I had grown up with is gone, I've defeated that dragon. Yet, the memory of it exists in the mind and every now and then is felt in the "limb".

Recognizing this is the first step in overcoming it. Once you do, the anger will subside, clarity will return and you will regain control. It's not an easy process, but you stand to learn so much about yourself if you choose to try.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

It's been a while

A long while... A comment left a few days ago pulled me back suddenly into the blog. Truth is, I haven't checked-in for a while, and was thinking that with the lack of activity on my behalf so would interest decline. I was wrong. I am humbled by the many readers/leavers that still visit the site.

So firstly, thank you anonymous for the comment and for pulling me back in. Secondly, I am still here regardless of my posting activity so you are more than welcome to email me directly if you are looking for advice (

So what have I been up to in the past year? And is leaving still the best decision I have ever made?

Since leaving I have been (re-)building my career within "corporate America". It's not been easy, and the past year was a real test of endurance. Corporate America (if you've never experienced it) is plagued by bureaucracy, politics, "c-players" and (low) glass ceilings. For a person with family business "DNA", this provides for a challenging environment. We are used to taking full ownership and getting things done; we are not used to clocking-in and doing a job. Which is were endurance kicks in: sticking things out and never calling it quits has become a trait of mine (Nixon has a great quote on quitting). And for me, recently, it has finally paid off.

As for leaving the family business and whether it is still the best decision I have ever made? Absolutely and without any doubt! It has freed me beyond my wildest dreams.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Infinite Distances

I happened across this quote the other day and it resonated deeply:
“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.”

Rainer Maria Rilke
So much is said in that one sentence; it sums the essence of human interaction so beautifully... We are all different; different in how we think, how we process, how we feel, want and need. If you realize this about the closest of people to you—be it parents, brothers, your spouse, children or close friends—you will find yourself a lot more accepting of the differences that set/keep you apart. You'll be able to see that, at the end of the day, we are each trying to do the best we can (in life), in the best way each of us knows/thinks/feels/understands how.

That's when you will be able to see us whole against the sky.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Season's Greetings

Another year has gone by. A year of ups and downs, of lessons learnt, and experiences gained. In hindsight, it's been a good one.

I hope you enjoy this time with the people who matter most to you, and that 2014 brings you all that you wish for. But mostly I hope you find the confidence to follow your path, and enjoy the sense of accomplishment and success in doing so.

Yours truly,

The Leaver

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

From simmer to boil

Seems like year-end causes plans to go from simmer to boil: You sit around simmering all year in the family business, thinking about leaving, when suddenly the year is over—or really one is beginning—and you start to boil, going into a must-leave-the-business-now mode.

I once read a study that talked about prison escapes. Do you know when prisoners are most prone to try and escape? You'd think sometime at the beginning of their term: with the prospect of spending years in prison, they would try and make a run for it, right? Wrong! Most escapes are attempted at the end of their terms! The psychology behind this is: they just can't take it anymore; they can smell the freedom, it's so close, and they just can't bear another day in jail. So they make a run for it (and in most cases fail).

Nope... boil is not the way to go!

Here's the thing: when a pot of water starts boiling, two things can happen: one, the bubbling water can overflow and put out the flame; and/or two, the water eventually evaporates, leaving you with an empty (burnt) pot.

In other words, don't make a run for it! That is something that the child does, not the responsible adult. Instead, plan it out carefully: figure out what you are going to do, what you want to become, what job is best for you. Start working on your CV and your LinkedIn profile. These steps will make the thought of leaving tangible—something that is actually doable and achievable— and it will build your confidence in the process of leaving. And then, and only then, you make your exit.

(By the way, simmer isn't a good option either. It too will eventually leave you with an empty, burnt pot... Better off making a decision either way.)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy (3rd) Leaving Day!

It's been three years. Three amazing years of ups and downs, highs and lows... So I find it only fitting to check-in (sorry for not posting recently) and give you some insight from a 3-year perspective.

Let me first give you the short answer to the question I can only imagine you are asking: Yes, it was worth it; and yes, I would do it all over again!

I really enjoy reminiscing over the past 3 years. It allows me to compare the person I am today with the person I was 3 years ago (and before), and bask in the warmth of my (little) personal victory. Taking the "path less traveled" was, perhaps, one of the best things I have ever done for myself. It opened up so many opportunities and afforded so many possibilities. But most importantly, it offered me a way to look at the world — and the challenges we are faced with — differently. It used to be that when anything "bad" happened I would default into "victim-mode", self-pitying myself over an unfair outcome. Today though, I constantly look for the other perspective, which is mostly the silver lining. I've reached the conclusion that that's the only way to overcome, with the added bonus of bettering ourselves in the process...

But philosophy aside, here are some of the more important lessons I've learnt in these past 3 years:
  • Accept your past (or: start believing in yourself and your abilities).
    This must be the toughest hurdle to overcome. I don't know how long you've been in your family business but chances are your self-esteem has been trampled. Recovering is no easy task, but it is doable. It starts with accepting the past for what it was – a lesson. Acceptance allows you to start fresh, to break away from the past and the person you once were and start anew. The other option is to live in it, casting blame on anything and everything from the family business to your parents and the lack of support. This option — and I am sure you will agree with me — is completely counter-productive. Opt for acceptance and move on. Once you do, once there is no blame or self-pity, you'll be able to focus on yourself and your abilities, slowly healing and building your self-worth.

  • Decide what you want to do as soon as possible, then focus on achieving that goal.
    In other words, don't waste time. This is a relatively new lesson for me, too. If you find yourself saying: "I'll try this out for a while and see how it goes...", stop and answer this question: How does this help me achieve my life goals? (whatever those goals are, tangible or intangible.) You need to focus your energy and efforts, and the decision to do something (move across the country, become a better parent, open your own business, accept that job offer, whatever) has to be made consciously and not "by-the-way"-ish. I'm not saying that you can't make mistakes. On the contrary – make mistakes! But make them having weighed the options and making the best choice possible. Don't waste your time.

  • Time does heal all wounds.
    My dad and I are now back in touch. We are warming back up to each other after a long period of silence. When we first got back together, it was hell for me. Here was the person who practically disowned me (and my family) for wanting to chase my dreams; and here I was in his house celebrating his birthday. What a trip that was... But time has this magical trait to it: it dulls the edges. The memories are still there, but the pain and anger associated with them have faded. It makes having a relationship – all things considered – possible... I guess what I am saying is: don't let the family relationship weigh down on you too much. Yes, it takes a toll; but you'll work things out down the road.

  • Stay positive!
    This is, perhaps, the most important lesson I can share with you (and I am going to become "new agey" now). Everything happens for a reason. We are tested and challenged in life all the time. This happens because there is a lesson to be learnt about ourselves and our abilities, about people and their nature, about how things work. If you accept that the lesson is the reward (and sometimes you'll have to look real hard for the lesson, like when your new iPhone goes for a swim) you'll become a more positive thinker. And when you become a more positive thinker, you'll become more open to the opportunities around you. And when that happens... there is no limit to what you can do!

Happy leaving day!