People often ask how I got into coaching. The truth is I’ve never really done things the way other people would do them which has often meant that I have taken a longer route to get to my destination. It’s probably a good thing since coaching didn’t even exist when I was studying.
When I started University, I thought that I could become a lawyer, have my own practice and a family while I worked half-day. Anybody who knows the legal professio knows that is virtually impossible. When I enrolled to study law; I didn’t know that. What I wanted was a balanced beautiful life featuring Mom, Dad, kids and my lucrative career. Law was my obvious choice.
University was a tough period in my life and by the time I finally started the practical legal training I was already a few years behind my peers. I had suffered a breakdown during my degree precipitated by a toxic relationship and dropped out of full-time study. I was able to complete my degree part-time thanks to the generosity of a lecturer who offered me a job as a Junior Lecturer in his department. Although my career had been pulled from the ashes, it seemed I was doomed to unhealthy and toxic relationships, as one failed relationship after the other my self-worth became eroded. By the time I finished my studies, my parents were going through a divorce and I found myself back in a round-a-about, on-again-off-again relationship with a man who had hurt me deeply over many years. This time though, it would be different, I was sure!
Back on Track (or so I thought!)
I started my articles at a firm that only hired female attorneys. “They make better lawyers”, my male boss told me! I had made a name for myself as something of a Labour Law expert at the university and it was this skill that they wanted in their practice. Two weeks into my practical training, I found out that I was pregnant, a completely unplanned and wonderful (if not scary) surprise. The Office Manager reacted well when I told her, my boss, not so much! He and his wife (who had carried his child through her articles) called me in and informed me that I was no longer to be employed there if I intended to keep my baby, as it was not feasible to be pregnant and do articles.
No more law career?
Fired for being pregnant, isn’t that illegal?
Of course, it was! And I acted against them (I was a Labour Law expert remember). Although I succeeded in getting a settlement about 12 months later, nobody was willing to hire a pregnant woman (for any job, much less a legal two-year apprenticeship).
Behind the scenes, my mother’s boss had always had her eye on me to take over her role as Credit Manager in a motor vehicle franchise. I felt I was above the motor industry and whenever the topic came up, I brushed it off. I was going to be a lawyer after all. Life is a funny old thing; just as I was being fired, she was retiring. She sent application forms home with my mother and a message to say that she would make sure it all went through. I resisted. There was no way! My mother pointed out that the job came with a salary and a car, of which I had neither. Reluctantly (because even at 26 I was still the compliant eldest child) I completed the forms, thinking to myself that I will simply decline the job offer at the interview. My sneaky exit plan. You probably wonder what my alternative plan was…. there wasn’t one exactly, well, at all!
So, the day of the interview arrived, and I had my game plan ready. I was met by a panel of three senior managers looking very serious. One of them opened the session by saying “we are so excited that you will be joining us, we have already ordered your uniforms”. And that’s it. No more interview!
Where is the exit?
How do I get out of this?
In a daze, I left the building. With few alternatives (no alternatives), I resolved to take the job and determined that if life was going to hand me this fate, I would make it to the top job, Dealer Principal. I had no idea how just that I would do it.
Success at last!
Fast forward a few years and from the outside, things were going well! My career progressed strongly. It was not without its challenges; I was the youngest (female) manager in a male-dominated business and I had no sales background. I rose to them all. I earned increasingly well, taking home good bonuses. I also discovered a love for people. Leading, mentoring and coaching my staff were the highlights of my working life. I could afford to send my daughter to a private school and to own a family sized home with a large garden and swimming pool. Although her father and I split up early on, I was determined to give my daughter the same lifestyle that a child with ‘Mom and Dad’ would have. And I was getting it right! There was a lot of excitement in the industry, especially in the high-end brands I worked with. I was going away to launches and on trips to five-star venues. I had awesome hobbies, scuba diving and horse riding. After 8 short years, I finally got the promotion I had worked for – Dealer Principal! With my salary increase, I bought a brand-new house, bigger than the previous one and qualified for a 100% mortgage. I had arrived!
Internally, I was a mess. I had once-and-for-all ended the toxic relationship with my daughter’s father. The break up was highly acrimonious and the conflict continued for years. I was still unable to figure out how to avoid the ‘wrong’ men and found myself crushed when yet another relationship would blow up in my face. I was working 15-hour days in a high-stress environment. There were days when I dropped my little girl at school at 6am with the security guard because I had to get to a dealership across town. There were weeks when I didn’t see her for more than an hour a day because there was pressure to make up numbers before the month closed. Despite my love for growing people, I was increasingly frustrated by the restrictions that the corporate machine placed on my people, typecasting them and keeping them in their place. It wasn’t sustainable. Something had to give, and it did!
I took a few days off work to move houses. In my moving clothes, hair a mess, between half-unpacked boxes, I received a call from my MD. Please would I meet him at his home, we needed to talk. Not knowing what to expect, filled with trepidation, I drove to his house. He was sorry he said, the holding company had decided, he said, my dealership would be closed, with immediate effect. I felt sick to my stomach. My mind reeled; what about my staff, my people? I had nurtured them, loved them, protected them, grown them, what would happen to them, how could they do this to us? It only occurred to me later that I had a massive debt burden and a kid in private school. My first thought was my people! And that was when I knew!
Always Follow Your Passion
Although they offered me a position elsewhere in the group, I wasn’t interested. I wanted out. I was tired, tired of the stress and tired of not being a mom to my girlie, tired of not having the beautiful balanced family and career. I resigned and determined to find a way to grow people (my favourite part of the job), spend time with my kid and make a difference in the world while enjoying life. There was no retrenchment package for me because they had offered me an alternative position.
I had been hearing about “Coaching” and had done some mentoring in my job. Searching further on the internet it turned out that Coaching was an actual profession. That was it! There was my way to change the world and do meaningful work. I could grow people and have the freedom of working for myself. When people asked my next move, I told them I was a coach. I enrolled in an accredited coach training program. I accelerated my learning so that I completed the 10-month course in 6 months and qualified in record time. And I was off…coaching! The coaching I had received during my training has changed me and now I was able to change others.
There was still one problem though, all the time I was coaching other people to live their dream lives, I was secretly still hating parts of mine. I lived in a city that left me feeling claustrophobic, and unable to breathe. I had grown up in a seaside village and had never been able to adapt to inland and city life. I did it, but I hated it. I was still a single mom, with a long-distance boyfriend. In the middle of a session with a client, I heard myself say, “you know if ever I was to move back the sea…” and I suddenly realised that it was time to leave.
So, when my daughter, all of 9 years old, leaving a holiday in our current hometown, through her tears, asked me if we could move, I said yes without hesitation. Within 3 months, I had left everything that I had known for 22 years. My girl and I were on an adventure to find the life I had designed before she was ever thought of. People thought I had lost my mind. I was told that what I was trying to achieve was the equivalent of climbing a mountain with one arm. Still, she and I were determined. We loaded the dogs and the cats and drove 1000kms away to find ‘OUR’ life.
I still remember the feeling of taking my daughter and the dogs to the beach that first day. Watching them all run free on the sand, laughing, jumping through the waves and I knew we would be ok. I had come home, and my dream life was manifesting before my eyes.
Small towns are places where everyone knows everyone else and people help each other out. My landlord asked his friend to help out at our house and one ordinary day in December a quiet, gentle man arrived at our house to put up a washing line. Although I didn’t know it then, by taking a stand for me and my dreams I had broken the spell on my relationship life. Within a few years, that man would become my true love and my husband. With him came two amazing little people who now also form part of my family. When I followed my dream, I found the family, the career and the life I dreamed of all those years prior.
Coaching changes people, it makes you believe that you can achieve your dreams. It gives you the courage and the tools to stand up for your innermost desires. It turns the impossible, the far-fetched and the crAzy into a reality. My life is proof!