The days have grown shorter, the nights chillier, the landscape is now painted with colourful hues of reds, yellows and browns, misty mountain views and October rain going pitter-patter on the rooftops. It is clear that Autumn is here.
This year, the transition from Summer to Fall was a powerful and challenging one. Did you feel it too? First, there the total solar eclipse in the mid-August that ushered in a new academic year in September, followed by Autumnal Equinox and Mid-Autumn Festival, then Thanksgiving amidst an unusual number of natural disasters within the last month alone.
We are experiencing a collective ache and a “wake up and shake-up” call to face what we have chosen to dismiss, ignore or otherwise sweep under the rug. Now we can open our eyes and choose to look – really look – at any beliefs, patterns, dynamics and stories that have been running unconsciously “under the radar” no longer honouring of our truth are showing up as chronic issues or repeated problems in business and in life.
These last two months brought with it winds of change, and with change inevitably comes discomfort and sometimes pain. It is called “growing pains” after all for a reason!
Even in my world as a leader, trainer, coach and mentor, as someone who supports other leaders through change, growth and transformation, I have to confess that this transition was one of the most excruciating ones that I’ve experienced recently.
It began with a choice to take a week-long vacation at the end of summer. I had just settled into my best friend’s home in Vancouver Island, where I visit her and her family each year for a week-long vacation leading up to Labour Day weekend.
My Father’s Cancer Scare
I will never forget the moment I received the text message from my father.
It wasn’t just any other text message. Little did I know, it was the text message that would bring about an emotional earthquake.
The text message came in at 11:30 p.m. It said: “I was diagnosed with possible prostrate cancer. I have to undergo biopsy to confirm.”
The message punched me right in the stomach and for the next hour I was overcome with grief.
You may have heard me share my story about growing up in family business and watching my father struggle with stress, overwhelm and burnout. Watching this, I swore I would never be an entrepreneur. I even dropped out of business school (against my father’s wishes). But alas, entrepreneurship was in my blood, and little did I know, in that journey I would become my father. One day I woke up with my back completely arrested and unable to move. Stress had taken over, and my body screamed “no more”. It was in this vulnerable and helpless moment that I came to terms with the unconscious beliefs running my decisions and actions. I was operating from the belief that bigger is better; if only I did more, I would be more successful. This paradigm led me down the path of stress, overwhelm and burnout.
It was a breakthrough moment realizing I had become my father, and that something needed to change. I made a decision to dig deep and define success on my own terms and from the inside out. I hired mentors who modeled success in holistic sense: being on purpose, being free, and making an impact while being richly rewarded financially and spiritually.
When I was suddenly faced with my father’s mortality, I came to the painful recognition that while I had created and will continue to create a different life for myself, the reality remained that my father still struggles with the same stresses and pressures in his business, at the cost of his health, his marriage and relationship with his daughters.
I came face-to-face with the pain of not being able to change things for my father, and for the choices we both have made, and the distance that resulted. (The photo accompanying this article was the last time I spent quality time with my father and my mother, along with my grandmother and cousin in Hong Kong in 2013).
After two excruciating weeks of waiting, thankfully, my dad’s biopsy came back benign. But he is not out of woods. He may not have cancer, but he has a host of chronic health conditions that have plagued him for years. My hope and prayer is that one day he will become free to experience health, wellness and a slice of enjoyment out of life in his later days.
The Gift of Conscious Leadership
Why am I sharing this story?
Because stress, overwhelm and burnout among executives, entrepreneurs and leaders have reached epidemic proportions.
Burned-out, stressed-out, anxious and frazzled executives, entrepreneurs and leaders create organizations that experience high turnover, low morale, expensive health care, ineffective or inefficient processes and systems that ultimately hurts the bottom line and robs society of the potential great contribution that you and your business is meant to make.
If you are in business, I imagine that at some point in your life you have felt the call to leadership because you knew you had a unique gift to offer to the world and you want to make a difference in the field or industry that you are in. I’m here to let you know that it is possible to have the success that you seek while being free and fulfilled in all areas of life, without sacrificing your health and relationships.
My father’s story is not an isolated one. You may have recognized his story in yours, or in a friend, a colleague or a boss. I would not want my father’s fate to be your fate. His gift to me is experiencing firsthand the hidden and often relational costs of unconscious choices in business. The good news is that it’s not too late to make a difference choice. This was the gift my father gave me, unbeknownst to him: to fully live and experience the pain of his choices, to repeat his mistakes, but also to turn around and do it differently – more purposefully, more consciously, more sustainably.
Conscious leadership in business begins with having the courage and humility to recognize that something has to change, and only you have the power to take that first step.
If this is hitting home for you and you’d like to chat about what’s really going on in your business, I invite you to schedule a 30-minute clarity call with me here.