Courage to tell the truth

Sometimes telling the truth feels like a very brave and vulnerable act for me. Not everyone wants to hear the truth. Sometimes I do not like to even admit the truth to myself. I am getting better at it. But it takes practice. As I have started “unbuffering” my life, I realized I was trying not to see some truths that were bubbling up.

Truth seems straight-forward. Just be honest. Yeah, and risk offending people? Risk being banned from my tribe? Risk the job I have now, because my soul is telling me my time is limited there?

cat lion
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Today I will have my semi-annual career discussion with my director. At our company managers are required to have three annual discussions with staff: goal setting/planning, career development, and performance. I like it that managers are encouraged to work with employees on career development. It is actually my favorite part of being a manager because I love developing my team.

I told my director in our last career discussion back in August that I do not intend to stay in this position long-term, and that I intend to make a move outside of clinical research. A couple years back, he had thought I may be his successor when he retires, and he just turned 65 so I know he was not happy to hear this. But it is an emerging truth for me, and while I like the IDEA of a promotion to director, I know in my heart that I am done with this part of my career in clinical research.

There is a lot of dysfunction in the division where I work. Large companies (and we are too large now) have a lot of bureaucrazy (spelling choice deliberate) that can be aggravating. I am considering other positions within the company, because I think my networks and professional skills could contribute in other ways. I believe in the mission overall, and that is a big driver for me.

But I am not committed to staying at the company. In truth, I want to be self-employed rather than working for a very large (80,000+ employee) company. But I was recently reminded by my hospital visit that having good health insurance and good benefits cannot be taken for granted. Self-employment takes planning, some savings in case of “dry spells” between contracts, and a lot of self-discipline.

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I was a self-employed consultant about 11-12 years ago and I really enjoyed it, until it became clear that I was great at bringing in the business, but not as great at executing it all by myself. Fortunately I knew other consultants and could work with them to get projects completed. Since I struggle with a.d.d., I have to be careful not to get distracted by too many separate projects. Ironically that is part of what makes me successful in my current job though – I am fairly good at juggling a lot of things and switching back and forth.

I take comfort in knowing that my meditation practice has helped me learn how to focus and be more intentional with my time and commitments. But I still have some fear about making the leap. I do not want to burn any bridges – actually there are a number of potential “clients” at my current company that could be a source of business.

Today my goal is to be as honest as I can with my boss, knowing that he may have some wisdom to share with me on the topic. He has told me in the past that the development work I do can be taken with me anywhere, at this company or my next endeavor. But he has spent 43 years at this company, and I know we disagree at where our division’s leadership has chosen to focus.

My real challenge is that I do not know EXACTLY what I want to do next. I have a lot of ideas, and things I am willing to try, but I do not have a clear idea of what that means for me. I have been toying with the idea of a side hustle for women’s leadership development, specifically working with Latina women. I also love the idea of teaching “Design Thinking” workshops while using the Medici Effect to recruit diverse cross-functional teams.

I love coaching and helping people with their career development and leadership development. If HR did that kind of thing at my company, I would definitely look in that area. Maybe what I need to do today is ask for some development coaching in order to discover this “next big thing” that I want to do. I am not sure if my boss would support that, but it is worth asking for, right? The worst that can happen is that he says no, but maybe he will offer an alternative.

If you have any advice on having these sorts of conversations, please weigh in. Otherwise, think good thoughts of courage and bravery in my direction today. Much appreciated!

Starting over again

Right now I am going through a period of transition related to my career. I have spent over 10 years in the clinical research field, and have general expertise on clinical research regulations in Latin America (but not as much in the U.S., where most of the jobs exist). I keep thinking I want to leave and change fields. It is a highly bureaucratic area of expertise. There is high demand and there is also high turnover.

My current company has added more layers of bureaucracy in its hiring and contracting processes. They have also made it nearly impossible to contract with small vendors or independent consultants. Right now a translator that did some work with us several months ago still has an outstanding invoice and our payment/vendor team is not working with me to fix the situation. They keep passing the buck to another person/department when I ask for help.

So sometimes I wonder if the major stumbling block for me is the incredible level of internal bureaucracy at my company, or the true work of getting clinical trials off the ground, or perhaps those two “squared” or compounded?

Between hope and despair
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People complain that the government sector is not very efficient, that there is a lot of waste in what they do. Perhaps this is true, I do not work in that sector. What I do know is that there is a tremendous amount of waste in corporations. It is painful to see it sometimes, the workarounds we have to use because our systems do not work for real people. We claim to care about innovation, and yet we are the LAST to fix the internal bugs that create massive challenges in getting things done here.

I consulted my financial adviser a few weeks ago to figure out a plan for leaving this job, and he suggested getting some recruiters to work on my behalf in finding something new. If I wanted to stay in clinical research, that might be more feasible. But since I want to leave the whole business behind, that seems harder to do. If any of y’all have experience with that, please weigh in, will you?

I really do not mind starting over in some ways. I have done it already a couple of times in my career. I know that fear of the short-term consequences is a part of my reluctance more than a true assessment about what is best for the future. So there is the hope of better things, and also frustration that comes about with not being able to enact the changes I want in this current space.

Then there is a blissful surrender I feel when I consider that I will no longer be propping up a system which is broken and dysfunctional. I feel great relief when I consider that possibility. It almost seems like a an act of service when I look at it that way.

Now, the process of narrowing down what I will do next. I am still getting there, thinking about whether there is a side hustle I can start up in the process before making the break from the full-time job. Starting over in a new field will not be a true start from scratch, since I now have experience in the world that I can apply to the new venture. It will involve re-invention and a creative approach. That is the exciting part. It will involve taking some actions outside my comfort zone. I know I can do that, and I will do it.



May I know what I know

I started writing a blog post yesterday about an experience I had a year ago. It was a story I feel I have to tell (and I will: the working title is Invited but not Included) but it rapidly grew to over 1000 words and I believe I was only half way through the telling. Since the medium of blog posting seems to favor shorter, tighter pieces, I realized I may want to instead break it into parts, and tell it in smaller chunks. So while I write the story, and then go back to edit, I will be able to tell how long it will be and then (hopefully) know the point of the story, or the point I am trying to make, and cut out the extraneous stuff.

I have been giving a lot of thought lately to what I really want to get out of blogging and the first thing that comes to me is: writing practice. I want to hone my daily practice here in a way that my handwritten journal is simply to “slow” to capture, even though I do not intend to give that up. I also want to explore certain ideas, concepts, ways of living, ways of thinking, and to allow for feedback, which is really why blogs exist – to get some conversation going on a topic, to be shared and to create some sense of community around ideas. Or at least that is my interpretation of why one might want to produce a blog. It is a way of being less alone in the world, to connect in some way to others, to find our tribe of people with whom we resonate.

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I was doing my customary podcast listen this morning, taking in some thought-provoking and thoughtful insights (from the Robcast and from Hidden Brain) when I realized that I enjoy consuming information, taking in new knowledge and using my brain to puzzle through it all. It is brain candy and I consume it voraciously, like a binge eater consumes sugary foods forbidden from their diet. But sometimes I forget to ask myself what my own soul is communicating to me, or I seem to avoid it somehow. There is some inner knowing, some tickling at the periphery of my consciousness, and I am not allowing that sensation to permeate my being. I am afraid to know,  and afraid that knowing will mean I will have to act on that knowledge. But I have convinced myself that I am not yet ready to know, not yet ready to act.

On of my favorite recent meditations from Insight Timer, the app that I use for tracking my daily meditation is by Anna Guest-Jelley called “May I know what I know.” It is a body awareness meditation in which I scan the various parts of my body, starting with my feet in order to bring them “back online” as Anna explains, when I realize I have lost contact with some part of myself. It honors the fact that our bodies have in them tremendous wisdom, and this helps us know what is true for us.

Truth. Oh boy, this could be another long post. I am sure to come back to it in future posts. But right here I want to say that admitting and absorbing our personal truths can be a difficult and painful process. For some of us, we have gotten used to a lifestyle, a way of doing things, perhaps ways of being in relationship that no longer serve us. By admitting that, or realizing that, we suddenly know that we will have to make a change. Though change can be good, it is also scary for us. Our brain develops habits and patterns of doing things, thinking in certain ways, to be efficient and to keep us safe. But sometimes these habitual patterns actually become destructive, or must change in order for us to grow, and to take ourselves to the next level of consciousness and self-actualization.

For so many reasons, we may suppress these truths and feel unready to know what we know. My current truth that seems to be emerging is that I want to leave the corporate world. I enjoy some parts of my work, and find some aspects quite fulfilling. I also long for something different, because I am waking up to the parts that drain my energy and deplete me. While I always try to focus on the positive, I realize that, to stay in my integrity, I will have to make a change soon. In my youth (20’s) I used to jettison jobs fairly quickly and easily when it turned out they did not serve me. Jobs were plentiful in the 90’s and with a solid college education, I just did not worry about finding the next one, preferably nothing like the last.

I am 43 now and recently re-married. My decisions affect not only me, but also my husband, and so I include him in my speculations and ruminations about what to do next. In the end of course I must make decisions that work for me, that align with my soul’s calling. But I also must consider how these decisions affect my family and loved ones. So a big part of me wants to work on a “side hustle” to find some type of income outside of my day job and allows me to use my creative gifts in a way that my job does not allow, without (yet) jettisoning the job, until I figure out what I *really* want to do next. And another part of me just wants to take a year-long sabbatical, sell all the stuff I do not really need, live on a lot less income (savings) and just rest from the corporate gig, follow my curiosity and see where it leads. That was something I could (and did) do in my single years, because I could and because it did not affect anyone else.

I actually fantasize about being laid off at my current job, and then having a little bit of severance pay (I think it would be about 16 weeks) to take a break and figure all of this out. Then another part of me says it is better and more responsible to be proactive and to figure this out on my own, before the company makes a decision for me. So my mantra in coming weeks will be: may I know what I know. As I meditate, journal and write through this question to figure it out, along with trying “side hustle” experiments, I expect my truth will emerge. And as I allow that truth to fully emerge, I realize it is still my choice what actions to take as a result.

If you have any advice for me, dear reader, on what has helped you take on big truths in your life, please share them with me below in the comments. Thanks for reading. May you know what you know.