Chapter 8: The Beginning of the End

Chapter 8: The Beginning of the End


You don’t mind if I stand today, do you? Chapter 8: THE BEGINNING OF THE END
Don’t wait. The time will never be just right. – Napoleon Hill
If you don’t listen to podcasts, you should; radio these days is awful. There’s a podcast out there by Michael O’Neal
that’s worth listening to called The Solopreneur Hour. The tagline for his show is, “Job security
for the unemployable.” And that’s what I was becoming, unemployable. As I began to read and work on myself, I was
becoming less of the ideal employee and more of the aspiring entrepreneur. In the fall of 2011, without knowing it, I
set in motion things that would have devastating effects on my career, livelihood, and even
my marriage. What was this awful thing? What did I do that would end up getting me
fired from my career doing something I loved and was great at? What could have caused all of the emotional
pain and mental anguish that I would eventually put my wife and me through? I read a book. I’m not sure how I heard about this particular
book, but I picked up and read an old copy of The Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring to Excellence,
Learning to Let Employees Lead by James A. Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer. Reading that book was the beginning of the
end for me. I learned so much about doing business, taking
and placing responsibility on the people who were responsible, and how to lead others. After that, I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough personal development
and the more I read, the more I wanted. However, the more I read, the worse things
became at work. The more I read, and the more I learned, the
more unemployable I became. To see my recommended reading list, please
refer to Appendix A at the end of the book, or at www.theexitstrategybook.com/appendix-a/. I read everything I could get my hands on. Over the next twelve months, I would go on
to read over twenty books on leadership, personal branding, self-help, sales, and mindset training. I was hungry for knowledge and the more books
I consumed, the more books I bought. I think I single-handedly kept the local Half
Price Books in business. And, the more I read about leadership and
business, the more my eyes were opened to what was going on around me. I began to see things I’d never seen before. What I thought was business as usual, and
“just how large companies operate” I started to see as poor leadership and inadequate management. Every book I read showed me a glimpse at a
better future; a way things could be if company leadership would only read the same things
I was reading. So, I did the only sensible thing. I started a book club. Taking the famous Gandhi quote to heart, I
decided to be the change I wanted to see in my department. I wanted to take initiative and demonstrate
my leadership skills. I thought I was doing the right thing by putting
an emphasis on personal development within the company. If I wanted the work environment to change,
I would be the catalyst it needed, and I would start a movement amongst my peers to do the
same. So that I wouldn’t take valuable time away
from the business, I held my book club meetings during the lunch hour in a conference room
down the hall. When I pitched my book club idea to our Executive
Director, he was in full support, and I got approval to email the entire department about
the meeting. I received a fair amount of interest, and
at first, everything looked good. At first. If I’m perfectly honest, and I told you I
would be, I started the book club because I thought it might help me get promoted. I wanted to move up in the company. At the time, starting a book club focused
on making my teammates and I better seemed like a good idea and an excellent way to stand
out from the crowd. Right out of the gate I started messing up. The club’s inaugural book was The 21 Irrefutable
Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell. Right away my peers began to see the things
I had started noticing months before and I had to work hard every week to keep our meetings
from turning into a gripe session about management. Let me give you an example of what this was
like. Growing up, my wife’s dad always grilled
his steaks to well done. She was raised thinking that gray with ketchup
was how you were supposed to eat it. Fast forward a dozen or so years and I take
her to a steakhouse and order my sirloin with a hot, red center, juicy and delicious. After she had gotten over the shock of seeing
how a steak should be cooked, her eyes were opened to a whole new world of delicious culinary
cuisine. Once she tasted what she was missing she could
never go back to gray meat again. My book club was for my coworkers like that
medium-rare steak was for Ashley. Once they saw what was possible, they couldn’t
ignore the way things had been, and they definitely couldn’t go back. While Flight of the Buffalo was the beginning
of the end, my book club was the smaller rock that smacked the slightly larger rock and
knocked it over the edge and down the hill. Over the next several months my book club
read many more books. Jeff Olson taught us in The Slight Edge that
we never get anywhere by accident; that we get where we are by taking small actions and
repeating them over time. When we read Good to Great by Jim Collins,
we learned about teamwork and surrounding ourselves with the right people. Collins told us how focused leaders could
change the course of a company’s history and make changes for the better. In Drive, Daniel Pink showed us that not all
salespeople are coin-operated like our managers told us. He put into words what we were feeling about
wanting something more than money to be a motivating factor. We learned that people with purpose are not
only happier at work, but that they perform better too. Pink showed us that what drives us isn’t
dollars but the pursuit of excellence, the quest for conquering a challenge, and the
pursuit of our passion. These books and several more showed us what
we were missing. They gave us a glimpse of what Corporate America
was leaving out. The authors of these books connected with
us in a way that our managers never could and never seemed to want to. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was
hurtling toward the point of no return. I was changing on the inside and becoming
unredeemable.

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