You’re Not Rejected. You’re Redirected.

Someone said this to me the first time I got fired. Yup. I’ve been fired more than once. Not many people know this. Perhaps because I was ashamed to admit it (even to my parents). But, it is time for some honesty here, because I think you will find it relevant.

The first time, it was simply because the organization I was with just couldn’t proceed with the initiative I was brought on for. They had to restructure, and my division was part of that. Keep in mind, I had never had a bad performance review in my career. Everyone knew me for being a hard worker and passionate. I mean, every single box of a good employee checklist had been checked off as far as I could tell. So I was immediately confused. Why wouldn’t you give me something else to do in the company, as an example? Why wouldn’t you involve me in the conversation? SO. MANY. WHY’S.

So much so, that when my boss sat me down to tell me what was going on, I couldn’t help but laugh. (That’s a normal reaction, right?) I just didn’t get it. Laughter turned into tears shortly after, followed almost immediately by an unshakable feeling of being lost. I had dedicated years of my life to building my career. It truly was my identity. And without a job, I genuinly could not figure out who I was. Added to that, was the sheer panic around the lost source of income. I was lucky that I was living with a friend at the time. But I had recently purchased a house and I couldn’t help but think about failed mortgage payments, then trying to find a rental property, and then oh my goodness who is even going to want to hire me. aaaah! Adulting – nobody told me it would be this way.

The frustrating, and beautiful thing, about all of this, was that I was forced to slow down, and think about what I wanted to do. It actually is a beautiful thing if you can get past all the why’s. For a limited period of time, someone pays you to do nothing else but to figure out what you want to do. Where it became frustrating for me, was that I had no sense of identity or self.

The whole process of getting fired ended up triggering a self discovery journey for me, that to this day continues. I picked up a few books. Ego is the Enemy was a great reminder for me, that my frustration (and let’s be honest, anger) really stemmed from my ego being bruised. It wasn’t “why did you fire me”. Maybe it was more “How dare you fire me after everything I’ve done”. Like I said…it is time to be honest.

I read Daring Greatly. And not even half way through it, I decided to sign up for Landmark courses – begrudgingly I might add. BUT, I had free time, it was only a weekend course, and whatever path I had been on up to that point was clearly no longer servicing me and my purpose. (Without having a clue what either of those were, by the way).

When THAT was done, I found a therapist. For months, I drove an hour each way, twice a week, just so I could figure out myself, and my worth. It was painful. Everytime I was done our session, I felt exhausted. But it slowly got easier. I learned that there is never a bad time to define, or redefine yourself. You can reinvent who you are, as you choose! Isn’t that exciting?

OK. What is the point of this story exactly. I can tell you that I’m a fundamentally different person today than I was the day that I got fired. I’m still as driven (and goofy) as ever. And I do associate my worth to my professional success to a certain extent still (hey man, nobody said that would be fixed overnight), but I found my voice, and my power. And that, for sure, would have never been possible if I didn’t have the opportunity to pause, and reflect.

Here’s what I learned.

I learned that there is no shame in asking for help. I encourage you, if you haven’t already done so, seek out a therapist. Life is hectic, it has ups and downs, and challenges that on most days can be tough to handle alone. Family and friends, while amazing and supportive, might not always be objective. I found I needed someone to call me on my bullshit, tell my ego to chill, and tell me to smarten up. Every major athlete and every successful person you’ve heard of has therapy in one way shape or form. It might be just mindset coaching, but it is still an outlet to help them adjust, and adapt. There is no shame in it.

I learned that this happened FOR me, not TO me. That’s super important. My dear friend Jenna bought me a book called The Universe Has Your Back. It is beautiful, and I think you will find it fascinating. Judith, my therapist, also had similar beliefs. It simply suggests, that the Universe has an incredible way of putting you into a direction that fuels your fire and feeds your soul. The last time I was fired, I had been miserable at my job for months. MONTHS. I refused to make a change, because I thought things would get better. So when the time finally came for me to pack my bags, I knew it was because this wasn’t my path. (Clearly. Miserable sabba can be funny and all, but my goodness is she ever cranky)

What I had been resisting to do, the universe created for me. I just had to listen, and allow myself to be redirected.

I learned, oddly enough, to listen. Listen very closely to what your gut, and the unvierse, has been screaming for months. And to look back and, as Steve Jobs puts it, connect the dots. Everything that has ever sucked about my career, has propelled me into something else that I could have never achieved had I just remained stagnant and stubborn. I can tell you, having been fired multiple times, that everything does happen for a reason, if you can be open.

When I got fired, and was done crying about it, I incorporated my business. I sat with myself and thought about what I’m capable of. I talked to friends, old bosses, coaches, anyone I could get feedback from, and I made a plan. Within two months, I got my first client, who on a contract basis, paid me more than I had ever been paid full time. By the summer of the following year, I had to stop accepting new clients. My roster was completely full. I made my own hours, I went at my own pace, I got to travel, AND…I managed to pay my mortgage on time. Would ya look at that.

I know it is stressful. I know it is hard to sleep. The pressure you feel in your head and in your chest is overwhelming. Sometimes there is nothing to do but to sit and stare at a wall, or in my case, sit alone in a room and sob. I’ve been there. But I want you to repeat this to yourself everytime you get down on yourself:

You were not rejected. You are being redirected, and you just have to open yourself up to the possibility of what that new direction can be.

It didn’t happen TO you. It happened FOR you. And believe that you will look back at this in a few weeks, and you’ll see very clearly why things happened as they did.

Chin up, buttercup. You’re talented. You’re worthy. And you’ve got this!

Lipstick and Politics

A friend and I got to talking about office politics the other day. He mentioned he, like most of us, hates it. Playing that game is of no interest to him. As someone who did not get the hang of this concept until much later in my career, I completely get what he’s saying.

Go back a year ago, when at the peak of burnout hell, I walked into a MAC Cosmetics store, pointed at my face and said “THIS…needs help”. As one of the staff started assessing the situation (and believe me, it was a situation), she asked why I hadn’t considered using makeup before. My response flew out of my mouth like I had rehearsed it a million times. “I look young. I take care of my skin. I always figured I could just get away with not wearing any make up”, to which she replied “just because you can get away with it, doesn’t mean you should”.

Here’s why that shocked me and immediately gave me an “aha!” moment. For years I believed, it is what’s on the inside that counts. Inner beauty. Your makeup will wash off, your face will change, but your inner beauty will always shine bright. These are statements I, like many women, still believe. But the catch is, to get someone to see your inner beauty, you often need a hook. You “dress to impress”, you wear a cologne that you think will do the trick, you get a car wash, you shave, you shove your feet into 6 inch heels that are guaranteed to destroy your feet later in life. Dating politics, or, life!

It is perfectly fine to not want to participate in office politics. It is also absolutely OK to just wash your face, put on some moisturizer and walk out the door. But you must adjust your expectations based on your behaviour. You will not score a slam dunk if you’re satisfied with being a bench warmer, plain and simple. I would love to tell you that you will go far in the corporate World without playing that game, (or you will meet the man of your dreams one day standing in your dirty sweats without a hint of make up on your face), but the sad reality is, you need to step into the court. You need to dribble the ball a little before passing it on. To get into the spotlight, you have to get in the game.

The good news is, you can still do that with integrity and staying true to your values. In fact, I insist that you remind yourself of those daily. Then and only then will you be able to flawlessly balance the art of dancing around the politics, and the wonderful thing which is the true, authentic you.

Glass Ceilings. Hard Heads.

This article of mine got published almost five years ago. I remember sitting in burnout hell, (but at a beach so it balances out!) and in true Sabba fashion, committing to submitting it during the first two days of my vacation. It got published a few months later. After closing off the article by summarizing my career achievements, they noted: “She is among a handful of women to have such an accomplishment in her field of work.” It sounds crazy, but at that moment, the burnout was worth it.

Glass Ceilings and Hard Heads

Glass ceilings are meant to be shattered. Otherwise they would be made of concrete. Here’s some insight into how you too can defy the odds.

It is a man’s World. I’m not telling you this to be antifeminist. But the sooner you wrap your head around the concept, the sooner you can get to real work. I landed my dream job, against all odds, three years ago. You’re not ready. You’re too young. You’re green. You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. Translation: This is a men’s club. We will chew you up and spit you out. There was a very low glass ceiling set over my head, industry wide, and I’ve never wanted to shatter anything more in my life. 

Malcolm Gladwell once said “You must have the strength, the resolve and the courage to pursue an idea, even if the rest of the world thinks you’re insane.” Insanity can be a beautiful thing. There are no limits, no boundaries, no fear. It is destructive behaviour that in some context is terrifying, but when it comes to business, it is refreshing and often, coming from a woman, completely unexpected.  To be strategically destructive, you must have a clear, unbiased understanding of the very thing you are trying to tear down. You must be able to navigate through with a clear understanding of the peaks and valleys of your environment. We all have the urge to immediately go to war and execute knee-jerk strategies that will likely have an immediate impact. But what goes up fast often falls down just as quickly. This is important. The only way to gain short term momentum, truly, is to outspend. It is predictable. Predictable doesn’t break glass ceilings. 

Patience is Not My Gig.

That, is the predicament of a very impatient woman. I want what I want and when I want it. But I forced myself to adjust and be patient. The first few weeks were awful. I would look at my reports and think “they were right. I don’t know what I got myself into. This isn’t turning fast enough”, all the while a little (manly) voice in my head saying “just put it all on sale. Why else would people buy your stuff?” Immediate gratification. Bragging rights today, right now, the high of success – they are hard to pass up. But in that moment I decided, I’m not just after a pat on the back. I want to be talked about. I have to be remembered. You’re either Blink 182 or you’re The Beatles. It won’t happen overnight, and it shouldn’t take you decades. There will be dust and there will be smoke, but when all that settles, you need to still be standing. That takes patience.

“We’re creative. We’re resourceful. And Goddammit we are desperate!”

Those are the words my co-worker and I tweeted at my first ever International expo. I secretly live by that line to this day. The World is a much more colourful place when you’re a little desperate. You do not get the privilege of being an underdog very often. And it is a privilege. I love nothing more than being an underdog. When you’re resources are completely limited, you are forced out of familiar ways. You have no choice but to think differently. Even today, as one of the fastest growing brands in my space, I knock myself off the pedestal very regularly.  There is a certain level of arrogance that naturally comes with doing something well. Did you ever see Michael Jordan do the same play over and over again? Or make a slam dunk and then stand there and admire himself? I didn’t think so. The “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality is no longer acceptable. You better believe there are people, like me, looking at your perfect strategy trying to tear it apart and beat you at your own game. (I told you I’m destructive!) Wins are meant to be celebrated, but they are lessons just as much as any failure will be. Take notes, go back to the start line as a poorer version of yourself and figure out how you’re going to win again knowing what you know today. It is a frustrating exercise and people will question your sanity, but when you figure it out, it is as beautiful as any moment in business can ever be.

Arrogance and Ignorance. That is All.

I’m a big believer of Humility. It is an incredible concept and it doesn’t exist nearly as much as it should. I’m about as competitive as they get and when I come out on top, I can’t help but make a sly remark. Nothing disrespectful, just more along the lines of “you’re right. My plan really isn’t good at all!” (as I kiss my trophy for the #1 product in the category, for the 3rd year in a row). We all think it. I just put it out there from time to time. Humility isn’t just about how you handle wins and losses. It is being self-aware enough to know that you cannot possibly know everything there is to know. Things evolve quickly and most industries, thanks to technology advancements, are becoming fast paced. Information you knew a few months ago is almost archaic today. 

One of the many questions I often get asked, is how do you have time to read? I flew 190 thousand miles last year. To say there is no routine to my life, outside of getting on and off planes, is an understatement. But there are two things that are a guarantee. I get on the bike every morning, and I read 20 pages. I cannot imagine any other way of starting my day. If it’s important to you, you will make time. If you’re a know it all, then “there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to read”. Nothing will ever be a good excuse for ignorance and arrogance. They are fatal flaws and we are all suffering from them on some level. Nobody expects you to read “Wooden, A Coach’s Life” by Seth Davis (which is probably some of the best 624 pages you will read by the way), but at the very least, read a couple of articles, in and out of your field. Some of the best strategies I have used are based on things I learned outside of my field. There is nothing related to your business that should be perceived as beneath you. I work every expo in my markets – every single one. While the people that set those glass ceilings for me are sitting in the hotel lobby or sending their minions to run expos, I get out there and get insight that no book or article can ever give them. These interactions are gold. Some will tell you your time is better spent doing something else. You tell me – what else you would be doing on a Saturday or a Sunday that is this insightful? 

See You At the Finish Line.

Having a good support system is important. But nothing trumps having the vision for where you want to be and your relentless (and I mean relentless) pursuit for that goal. I started my career at 21. I moved away from my family and friends to live in a basement apartment, for a job that barely covered my rent and student loans. I told myself, the day I started, that I will be a VP by the time I’m 30. I will make the decisions. I will be the boss. And everything from now until then is a step in that journey. I understand there are sacrifices but I believe when I have reached my destination, I will look back and see without those sacrifices, I would not be here. As Steve Job famously said, “Connect the dots”. I believe I can have it all, but they will come one after the other, not all at once, and that’s ok. Is it unfair that women have to sacrifice part of their lives to get ahead while men seemingly breeze through? Maybe. But you can either waste your precious energy obsessing over it, or accept it for what it is, tell yourself and the World that you will make it, and get out there and be an absolute badass.  This is not a race to the “Have it All” finish line. It is the Iron Man World Championships. You just have to make it through, one (thoughtful) step at a time.

In the end, I did it make it to VP, and I didn’t have to compromise my values and morals to get there. What started out as a single country launch led to a global takeover just over a year later. It is a dream, but it was a lot of work. I watched all my friends get married, have babies and move into the suburbs with their cute families. I missed the birth of my best friend’s baby, one of the most heartbreaking misses of my career. It took a lot of sweat, and yes, sometimes frustrated tears. In public. In front of my boss. Twice. 

It is a man’s world, but you don’t have to stop being a woman to get in it. We are beautiful, delicate creatures, but we are also fierce (I would like to see a man live through menstrual cramps. That’s all I’m saying). Set your priorities, accept what it takes to move forward, and know that should you choose to aim for that glass, you will have challenges physically, emotionally and mentally. The sweet smell of victory makes it all worthwhile, and hopefully you are surrounded by people who will help you make up for what you missed out on in the process when your journey has reached its glorious end.