I made millions and lost my job
He lost his job as CEO after twenty years. The shareholders sold the company. The buyer had someone else in mind to run the new combined company. He was out. Well-rewarded for growing and building such great value, but out nonetheless. Now what?
He's fifty-nine years old.
His first thought was, "I need to get back to what I do. I need to find another tech company to run." But there was a check in his spirit. Somehow, for some reason, that didn’t feel right.
He visited with friends and mentors seeking advice on his situation.
There is nothing more unsettling to a successful executive than to be without an identity. To have it stripped from him as part of a successful exit. There is a great celebration. Lots of money is distributed to everyone, including the executive. The shareholders go home elated.
It is a confusing time of life for the executive. He wins and loses at the same time. The win is a successful exit and money to prove it. The loss is his identity and purpose is erased.
For the last twenty years, my friend was thinking about his business as soon as his feet hit the floor. Truth be told, he was dreaming about it most nights. Then he would spend all day working to make the business grow quickly. To continue to find and sell new prospects. To build an impressive client list of brand-name businesses. To get them hooked on his product and make it an integral part of their strategy on how they did business. To deal with all the personnel situations. To plan, set goals, and execute. Yes. Every day. Execute. Make it happen. Hit the growth goals. Build and maintain a great leadership team. Grow them. Motivate them. And become ever closer to them. Friends, comrades in arms. A team on the same mission with the promise of financial reward.
And then he signed the purchase agreement. And all this thinking changed for him in an instant. The journey he led all these people on was over. His mission was accomplished. He now had no mission, no title, no plan. This was the first time this had happened to him in his lifetime.
"Now what?" he asked his friends.
And the friends were full of advice.
You should find another company to run?
You should become a board member?
You should retire and enjoy your family?
You should do volunteer work?
You should become a coach or advisor?
But none of it resonated with him. He was mourning for what he lost, what he enjoyed, and even sometimes cursed. His whole life made sense, and now it didn't. He was an executive who was asked to speak at industry conferences. People were tripping over each other to get on his calendar. There never seemed to be enough time to be good at his business, his wife, his kids, and his friends.
And now, all that's left after the sale is time. Time to think. Time to talk to his wife and friends. Time to pray and ask God for his next step in life. Time. Unfilled time. Time to fill with no obvious priorities. Time to be confused. Time to drift, to feel lost in the world that just a short time ago made complete sense.
This loss of identity and mission happened to me a few times in my life. I understand what he is going through. In fact, it just happened to me...again. Each time it happened, it felt awful. The loss of identity and purpose is emotionally crippling. I didn't know what to do next, and Kathy, my wife, didn't know what to do with me.
While listening to my friend, I realized what I did to successfully traverse this rough patch in my life. I started down this path doing just what my friend is doing. Asking friends what they thought I should be doing. Then, not satisfied with their answers, I began asking God. God, unlike my friends, didn't have anything to say. And then the answer appeared, and this is what I shared with my friend.
Get comfortable not having an answer.
This is a God-created break in my life. It wasn't something I did. It is something He did. Just like He gave me my last twenty-five years of meaningful work, He now called it to an end. Giving me a clear, quick, and simple answer to my question of “what now” is not how God worked this transition in my life. He didn't answer me in my past transitions, and He isn't doing it this time either. My part in this process is to get comfortable not having an answer. My part is to learn to trust God.
I must allow God to take me along with Him where He wants me to be next.
This is the joy in the journey of life transition. It starts with giving up on me and trusting God. And then, I'm simply along for the ride. During this God-created break, I've had time to discover my motivation. To be honest about what interests me now. To explore new relationships. To pray. To write. To think. To meditate. To be still.
I know I've accepted God's leading along this path because I am at peace. I am confident He is taking me to something He has in mind just for me at this particular time in my life. It might not make sense to the world I just stepped out of. But the world didn't create me. God did. And He created me with a purpose.
I am so excited to see what He has designed just for me. It will be amazing. And the same will be true for my friend if he follows this advice. I'm sure of it.