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.

17 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!

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