When Your Entity is Your Identity ™

snap out of it

The ceiling had to literally fall in on me before I woke up.

One year ago, I sold my company, Career Systems International, which had been my identity for more than 40 years. I had naively looked forward to new opportunities and new adventures.

I had no idea how adrift I would feel and how deeply I would suffer the loss of what had been the core of my creative and professional life for so many years. I quickly missed so many of the aspects of running a business that I created from scratch with my ideas born all the way back in graduate school.

I tried to tell myself that there was much about running a company that I should be happy to let go of. I have always loved the career development field and am very proud of the accomplishments I have contributed but I never really felt like being the CEO of a company. I never thought that carrying all the responsibilities that entails on my shoulders was truly something in my wheelhouse. I should have been happy to let that aspect of my life go but I just wasn’t.

The truth is I didn't know who I would be without being the leader of Career Systems International. My Entity was my Identity.

I am always moved by courageous people who speak out about the tough times in their lives. I so appreciate when a well-known person admits that things aren't always as rosy as they appear on the surface.

And yet I could not do this myself. I didn't want people in my field to know what a tough time I was going through. I wanted to put on a brave face and show that I was just fine with the changes in my life when that wasn't true at all. I didn't know how to redefine my life and to give it meaning once again. And for the past year, I have suffered from anxiety and even depression, constantly looking for a window that would open and breathe air into my new life.

I started to feel that there was nothing that would pull me out of this negative place I'd fallen into. I was running out of things to try. Even a wonderful trip to Spain with my dear husband Barry could not shake the gloom.

But given that life is full of unexpected ironies, when I returned home from Europe what I thought was a disaster turned out to be the turning point in my life.

In my absence on vacation, the ceiling had literally fallen through from the upper floor into my office due to a plumbing problem and destroyed everything. And I do mean everything!

I had to toss out books I had gathered for over 40 years. And so many papers that were the trappings of the past business that I felt nostalgic about. I was overwhelmed with the loss and how much could never be saved. And then I had an epiphany. I did not need to hold on to those books to hold onto the concepts inside of them. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise. I didn't have to go through every piece of paper. It was gone in an instant and I felt free to let it go.

Now I'm so relieved to say I'm beginning my life anew. It is true when one door closes another opens you just have to have faith and keep your mind open to possibilities and new learning.

As I begin 2019, I now feel free of my anxiety and depression. My curiosity and creativity have both returned and I'm ready for what lies ahead. Change is scary but when you accept its inevitability, you can move on and find an even more exciting future.

Looking back on this year I think that it taught me a great deal about what others go through when confronted with change. This experience has made me stronger and in the long run happier, more compassionate and open to sharing what I have learned with others.

I know I will always be driven to make a contribution, to have purpose in my life and to share my journey with other professionals. My identity was not really the entity after all.

27 thoughts on “When Your Entity is Your Identity ™”

  1. I retired in February of last year and have also found myself adrift. Add to this several personal challenges and I found even a basic daily routine was a challenge. I was pushing too hard to fix this and find a solution. Giving myself some breathing room and time has resulted in a renewed sense of energy. Give yourself a break. You don’t need a solution immediately. You do need to be kind to yourself and let the inspiration come. I’m with you sister. Take care of yourself.

    1. Transitions ARE hard…and although I’m thru the worst of it….I’m sure it’s not all “packed up and put away!” Am still doing some speeches…still writing…still thinking. Watching for the next stage to emerge!

  2. Dear Bev thank you for sharing your honesty and authentic journey. Sending love and appreciation for all the lessons you continue to share and teach me over these years. Judith Katz

  3. Kudos for sharing this story Bev!!! I think these are words to live by and a great lesson about change and letting go! Thank you for making my career dream come true!

  4. You’ve always focused on storytelling as a leadership method. You’ve modeled it beautifully here…even with a
    tougher story to tell.

  5. This is a lovely story, Bev. It ‘s all about storytelling — and sharing those stories through meaningful conversations. When I left Amazon.com, I went through much the same thing. Amazon had become my identity. All my books have questions for group discussions; people need to engage with each other in this souped-up time we’re living in. Texting has its benefits, but I’ll take a deep conversation any day.

  6. Bev,
    I have the privilege of getting to meet you in person in just a few hours, after many years of reading your books and listening to your keynotes, This is the best possible insight I could ever have toward a meaningful conversation with you. Thank you for sharing your trust through being open and vulnerable.

  7. Bev, Your story resonates deeply for me. Although I never owned my own company, I participated in building several well-known brands in our talent management industry. One from the ground floor. Two years ago, I left my last full time role and struck out on my own. A few false starts later, I’m finding my spot and feeling good professionally once again. Our journey changes, but doesn’t end. Thank you for sharing your story, my friend.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I love the sentence…”I’m finding my spot and feeling good professionally once again.” Much to catch up on!

  8. Bev, you are a brilliant mind and storyteller. I get a glimpse of your deep and dark angst through your words and yet I couldn’t help laughing. The ceiling literally fell!! That is brilliant! Can’t wait to catch up with you 🙂 Joanne

  9. Bev, thank you so much for sharing your story. I am also in the midst of that transition having left a company helped start and work at for over 19 years. I often say it’s the only thing I’ll ever spend 19 years on in my life since I don’t have kids. Connie mentioned this article to me and boy was she spot on. Exactly what I needed to hear as well. I welcome the changes in my life, even initiated them, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t tough to let go. A dear friend said to me once when I moved across country for the first time, “That you never really know who you are until you leave the place that made you who you are.” I never thought that would be so true for leaving a long term job/career. But it so is. Thank you for sharing your truth! Hope to see you at Wisdom 2.0 again!

  10. Thanks Beverly. I’ve found that even a significant role change within an entity to allow progression for yourself and others can elicit the same reactions within.

  11. Way to go Bev! When one door closes….others open! As I have gone on many of these journeys with you, I know and feel your pain. Starting my own company has been both scary and rewarding. I now help “up and coming” authors grow their presence in the world. And I am now teaching these solo-prenuers how to grow their business through virtual assistants.

  12. Thanks for sharing this blog post with me Bev. As you predicted, I did chuckle a bit. As other respondents have observed, that “the roof fell in” is truly ironic and fitting, and a hoot to boot! I’ve been working with a small group reading a book together called “Living Grounded,” and it has a great phrase, “Don’t seek who you are; seek to learn whose you are!” –Pete

  13. Kudos for exploring the journey with us. Thanks for your honest, heart-connected message. As you said at the end of your article, “I know I will always be driven to make a contribution, to have purpose in my life and to share my journey with other professionals.” Your contribution is very evident.

  14. Hi Bev, what a great story that many of us can relate to. (less the ceiling incident!) I am in that transition now, and though my company was only entering it’s 4th year, it was something I created from nothing, so sending it into the world without my involvement was hard to see at first – especially when I noticed changes I would not have personally implemented. It was sort of like walking my 3 daughters down the aisle – I felt good about the job we did preparing them for life, and it was a joy to see them pursue their dreams. I had to think of my company the same way.

    I’ve known others that have emerged from this stage – ironically, what you will find is the knowledge and friends you have amassed over the years will probably present you with more new ideas and opportunities than you could have ever imagined possible. Can’t wait to see how the next “chapter” evolves because now you can be very intentional about where you spend your time.

  15. Bev – what an incredible story. Thank you for sharing it and for your vulnerability and transparency. I am SO HAPPY that you are now free to be you again. I missed you!! Let’s get together again soon. Love you, happy to have you as one of my role models!! Halelly

  16. Your value and inspiration continues 27 years later. I was a junior member of a project led by Beverly Kaye and Associates at a Fortune 100 company in the early nineties. I experienced it was possible to be a passionate, smart, professional, driven women and an expert in your field. I learned how to continue growing and learning. A few years ago I gleefully retired after almost four decades in my field. I too struggled with my ‘Entity being my Identity’. This week I found myself sharing career development theory and tools I learned from you with 8 of my nieces and nephews! I am still making a difference, my entity was not my identity either. Thank you for making my life better and for being real and sharing your journey.

  17. Bev,
    I love this Blog! It resonated with how I felt after I left the corporate world to start my own business. You have such a gift with words and I always appreciate your sharing your experiences.
    Continue to take care of yourself as you grow by climbing this next mountain.
    Love you my friend!

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