History is my thing, particularly the “story” part of history. I have a thing for the past. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer living in the present. I have absolutely no desire to return to some idealized and romanticized version of my youth. I’m too busy enjoying today.
However, I do believe, “…what’s past is prologue.” Actually, the correct word is love; I love the idea that our past introduces our present.
Prologue: an introductory or preceding event or development. – Merriam-Webster online
Diana Bader – my podcast cohost – and I were so captivated by this idea that we produced a podcast episode about it. Naturally, the first thing I did to prepare for the episode was fire up my shiny new, superfast, custom laptop (a gift from my son) and Google the phrase.
I was gobsmacked when the attribution of this phrase was assigned to the Bard. My mind was blown when, for the first time in recent memory (nerd alert – I have read Shakespeare’s complete works several times), I read the phrase in context.
We all were sea-swallow’d, though some cast again,
And by that destiny to perform an act
Whereof what’s past is prologue, what to come
In yours and my discharge.
The Tempest, act II, scene i
It’s about resilience. Resilience? Man. Shakespeare, right? Just when I’ve read so many books (thousands – not joking) that I’m pretty sure there are only a few surprises left to discover, boom, I find out that Shakespeare created this jewel.
Here’s what grabbed my attention. Everyone was drowning. Some chose to try to save themselves again. Something in their past made them think they could save themselves, so they grabbed onto that idea and used it to power into the future under their own power.
Just wallow around in that for a minute. When was the last time you were in a situation where you needed a strategy to move forward? And, as soon as you realized you needed that strategy it came to you? Pretty sure the answer came from something you experienced in the past.
Here’s what’s been going on with me lately. First, I’ve closed a lot of new business. I had an “ah-ha” moment last week, when, as we’re standing around a table in our coworking space, one of the women I collaborate with, Anna, straight up said to me, “You’re a great salesperson.” My first instinct was to laugh at the idea. But I didn’t. I didn’t even deny it because…it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it.
So I went back in history. I think the first person who told me I could sell anything (that I actually believed) was my late husband, Bo. He said something like, “You can sell anybody anything you really believe in because they can tell you’re sold on the product.” Since he was a high level salesman as in – competitors had to provide classes for their salespeople in how to sell against him – I kind of believed him, but not all the way. It was too intimidating to think I could sell.
So, when Anna said that to me, I thought, “Maybe it’s true.” Then it dawned on me that I had been working the sales process just like Bo and my other sales coaches had taught me. Since the moment I committed to doubling my income this year, I’ve been flooded with voices in my head reminding me about how to close business – Bo’s voice, Tonya’s voice, my Camp Fire Girl leader’s voice (!).
My history was speaking to me. And, for the first time, I not only believed it; I embraced it.
Second, I’m kicking off a new group coaching program, the Women’s Career Bootcamp. This is my fifth attempt to create a face-to-face coaching program. I haven’t offered a group in almost a year.
Wondering why I waited a year? Because I kept thinking about how only one of the programs ever took off, how much I wanted them to work, and they didn’t, and it left me in my recliner, head buried in a Nora Roberts novel, trying to forget I ever offered groups. I was using my history against me.
Bet we’ve all been there. We’ve tried something and it didn’t work. So we tried again – because, hey, we’re resilient. We know about grit. We’re all about failing forward. And then, when we think about trying one more time, our brains balk – like a kid who’s not gonna leave the toy store, face in a grimace, heels dug in, dead weight, immoveable.
What if, instead of giving in to not another time! syndrome, we dig in and examine what happened to trip us up. Yeah. That stuff. The embarrassing stuff. We knew what we needed to do and we didn’t do it stuff.
Like, maybe it’s a good idea to market a group coaching program for longer than two weeks? Or, maybe it’s a good idea to reach out to people outside my mailing list – because there’s this thing called Facebook – and I could advertise on it for cheap. Or, maybe it’s a good idea to acknowledge that all those people who keep offering to help me with marketing really mean it.
Maybe. No! Definitely. So I decided to do all the things this time. An email drip (tech term for a series of emails pitching or teaching something), a Facebook ad campaign, calls to my network, confabs with my team (yes! Shout out to Victoria and Beth). I won’t lie; it’s been a struggle because – what if it doesn’t work again.
Strategy right here
Full disclosure, I just popped my hand for typing that last phrase. Leaving it in anyway to show you how hard it is to overcome those thoughts – even for someone who coaches and writes about the topic all. the. time.
See how tempting it is to draw on things in the past that didn’t work? What if, instead, I choose to believe Mr. Shakespeare and use the powerful things in my past to move me forward? Things like motivating groups of people to rally around kids who need help in school. Or, things like coaching up students so well that they believe they can learn by taking risks? Or helping clients come up with weird strategies, like building their kids personal offices made out of boxes, so Mom can get career building work done while at home with 2 kids under 5?
When I discover that I’m wallowing in the imperfect past, I force myself to make a list of what I’m doing right, right now and a list of what I’ve done right in the past. The act of making the list (even if I don’t write it down) always shakes something loose – a strategy, a thought, a different way of looking at the situation, a name to call.
As I was creating the marketing campaign for Bootcamp, I found myself wallowing in the imperfect past. I pulled myself out of that quagmire by grabbing my lovely laptop and sending out an SOS to my team. And, in the time it took me to type that I needed help, I had powerful, useful, motivating, irreverent (because what other kind of team would I have?) help that has kept me motivated for weeks.
I’m not going to let what happened I the past keep me from helping women stage their career comebacks. Instead, I’m going to stage another comeback of my own. Stay tuned.