As the world economy will soon have to start rebuilding from ground zero, it’s a really good time to reflect and ask… what do we want this new edifice of life to look like? I hope that by sharing my story, I might help shape your answer to this very question.
The story is about P&L. Profit and Loss. The two-column spreadsheet where no truths can hide once it has been duly completed. I started my banking career in Paris in the booming 1990s and consider myself to have been very lucky to do so. As a twenty-something-year-old, I was travelling business class throughout Europe and the Mediterranean, spreading the word about equity derivatives while working for the world leader, SocGen. My clients ranged from the Vatican to Greek shipping magnets, who invited me to their palaces to do business. I helped banks in Lebanon and Egypt issue the first structured products in their markets. I pro-actively approached the stock markets in Spain, Portugal and Italy to get them to open warrant markets so SG could come in and dominate.
At 30, I was sent as an expat to Sydney to set up the equity derivatives sales business for SG. I was then hired by Westpac to turn around their structured product business and then a few years later by CBA to do the same thing. In 2010, we were nominated for “Best Structured Products issuer of the year” by Standard and Poor’s.
At this stage in my life, the “profits” column appeared to be very full. According to many people’s criteria, I “had it all:” Career, status, a lovely home, two beautiful daughters and a doting husband.
At this stage in my life, any notion of a 'loss' would have been experienced as the price to pay for 'having it all', a sort of a pebble in my shoe I felt obliged to keep as a reminder that I was lucky enough to have nice shoes.
However, whenever I couldn’t get one of those corny happiness sayings out of my mind, or if I stayed fixated on that bumper sticker that invited me to follow my dreams, my husband was quick to point to the “profits” column of our family balance sheet.
“Why do you keep banging on about being happy? How many people do you think are actually happy going to work? Do you realize how much money you make?”
And that was that. The P&L review was done. The figures were signed off and I moved into the next financial year.
And then in 2011, I was out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. My stay-at-home husband did not react well to the revenue stream drying up. As fear consumed him, the cracks in our marriage expanded and the façade crumbled.
I really didn't know what to do for a while. Mechanically, almost frantically, I started applying for jobs, something I had never done as I had always been head hunted. The negative replies, in the hundreds, only fueled the self-doubt, criticism and negative self-talk that engulfed me.
Later that year, I was diagnosed with extreme depression and medicated. I still remember my GP saying, “If you don’t pull yourself out of this hole, no one will do it for you.”
So I started therapy and journeyed inside. I sat in my darkness until I finally saw my light. I didn’t want to be a banker any more. I did not want to be married to this man any more either. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to follow my passion. And so I decided to start over.
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. I didn’t realise it then, but this loss was in fact a gain.
Clearing out the old meant making room for the new. The heaviness of being a wonder woman was replaced by the lightness of being just me.
Giving myself permission to be who I truly am sits clearly in the profits column of my life and its value far exceeds that of the loss of a banking career, status, 'friends'” house and marriage.
The events of 2011 freed me to enter one of the most fulfilling and truly rich periods of my life. During the next three years, I trained as an executive coach, meditation facilitator, kids’ yoga instructor and NLP practitioner.
I have built a business dedicated to helping others benefit from what has been the biggest struggle in my life. Every day I strive to help keep people on the corporate 'perch' a bit longer, while trying to make the bird cage a friendlier, more supportive place to be.
I'm also pretty sure that none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.
Sometimes the Universe hits you in the head with a lightening bolt when you no longer heed (or even hear) your inner compass. When you let yourself to be lured by external signs of success, to the detriment of your internal contentment.
Don’t lose faith. You’ve got to believe in something - whatever it is - your gut, destiny, a god, karma, the Universe.
I'm convinced the only thing that kept me going was the belief in loving myself and honoring my gifts, skills and passions.
You’ve got to love what you do. As you know, work fills a large part of your life.
So the only way to have an accurate P&L for your life is to identify what it’s costing you to keep doing something you do not love.
The only way to have a healthy P&L for your life is to honour who you are. Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, "Love is the process of leading you gently back to yourself."
So love yourself. Honor yourself. And do it every day.
Listen to the wisdom that your intuition has to offer. And don’t mute out the noise. It’s trying to tell you something… everything you need to know is already within you.