Finding My New Identity (post 3/9)

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So, there I was with Maria, trying to figure out what to do next. How do I take this business owner passion and either parlay it into a different business, or somehow set it aside for the life of an employee? Leaving behind my entrepreneurial spirit was almost unthinkable to me at that point, if it wasn’t for my family’s need for an income – any income – something to hold us over in helping my wife pay the bills. This was not going to be an easy road. There would be four failed jobs before landing where I am today. Four stressful periods of being new, learning new systems, working for pennies, and struggling with my identity.

First, I called an acquaintance I knew at the local Subaru dealership. He brought me right in for an interview and I flew through it. Looked like I would be selling cars. After a few weeks of training on poverty pay, I’d be sent to the wolves. I don’t even like cars. I mean, give me a Vette or a Ferrari and I’m going to be thrilled, but to sell them? I don’t know the first thing about them and certainly don’t get excited about them. This job ended with a mental breakdown of significant proportion. I was driving into work one day, I couldn’t bring myself to turn into the dealership, so instead I drove myself to the hospital, crying hysterically. I wasn’t suicidal, but I didn’t know where else to turn. My life seemed to literally be crashing in around me.

identity-2

A Little Bit of Luck

Life is filled with luck. And I like to think when you’re a good person, luck comes your way when you need it most. Almost immediately, I got a message from an associate in the interior decorating business and she knew of a job opening at a lumber yard for a kitchen designer. After a long, heavy sigh, I picked up the phone to set up that interview. You see, the kitchen cabinet and countertop business had been the business I was in, and failed. Home Depot and Lowe’s were both in-town competitors and as I foolishly grew too fast, there simply wasn’t enough business to go around. So, did I want to go back into this business in the next town over? Certainly not. It was a painful subject for me. Most of me wanted a clean break from it and to move on. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury. I was very good at the actual design and sales of kitchens, I couldn’t deny that, and here was a job that just landed in my lap. I had to take it – my family needed the income – and if I had sat home one more day thinking about all my failures, well, that wasn’t going to be doing any good for anyone. But I hated this job too.

It was right at this point when Elliott was born. I took a few days off from the lumber yard to be in the hospital with my wife and son. All the while, I was having another severe nervous breakdown. The same, frustrating parts of the kitchen business had been rearing their heads again at work. Trying to fulfill my promises to customers while my sub-contractors weren’t returning phone calls, showing up late…just not being professional. And I took the disappointment extremely personally. My customers were counting on me to execute their projects and when product constantly came in damaged or late and I couldn’t control the subs, it was on me. And that was too much for me. I always put myself in my customers’ shoes, always strove to do the right thing every time, but I was getting no satisfaction from my efforts. After a few days at home with our new baby, I tried going back to work, but only lasted a few days…I couldn’t go on like that.

Calling In Favors

Next, it was on to another phone call to a trusted, dear friend, who had decades of success in the furniture and mattress business. Again, not the identity I necessarily saw for myself, but my family was desperate and though I knew the hours were going to be horrible, Sybil and I talked about it and were willing to give it a try. The income potential was literally six figures. Peggy got me an instant interview at Raymour & Flanigan and it was on to a six week (again, poverty-level training pay) orientation into their sales team. I learned a lot and enjoyed my time very much at this large company. It was well run –  something that was refreshing to me – and I finally got to work with a large handful of people whose company I genuinely enjoyed. Most of my working life had been rather solitary, so it was a nice change to have co-worker camaraderie. I had mentors who cared about me and took me under their wings. It started to grow on me. Until the hours started to wear on me.

I could be “Up” – the term we used to indicate that the next customer in the door was yours – and literally sit in a chair or stand on the tile floor for sixty to ninety minutes just waiting. This was not good for my head. I’m a doer. I’m a thinker. When I think too much, I get frustrated that I’m not doing enough. But that was the job. We had a very small handful of chores, but for the most part, your job was to wait for your next customer, especially if you were ‘up.’ You weren’t expected to do anything but wait. And waiting was not my style. Couple this with the stress of getting home at 7:00 or even 9:30 some nights and working most every Saturday and Sunday…this was not good for my young family. So again, I needed to move on.

dj

My great friend, DJ Murphy, with his sister Lesley

Friends are everything. And I had a great one in a guy named DJ Murphy. After I had quit Raymour & Flanigan, I had put out a text message to a few of my closest friends. “Hey, I need a job, any ideas?” Now, I don’t blame anyone for their responses. It was nobody’s job but my own to find myself a job. Everyone’s got their own bigger fish to fry than to worry about me. But DJ, I will always be grateful for, in that he was the only one who sent back a thoughtful, useful response. He literally sent me three very solid leads on folks he knew of looking for help right then. That meant the world to me, and I called them all right away.

I landed with ServiceMaster disaster cleanup and restoration services as their new Marketing Director. This seemed like a great fit for me. The owner’s job description for me said that he was looking for someone to attend 2-3 networking events per week to really get the word out on his growing business. Well, I could literally attend almost 2-3 networking events per DAY, based on all my experiences and connections within the business community. To me, this was the perfect position. I’d get to network – which I loved – and talk up our company to warm contacts. I wasn’t even really selling – how do you sell a disaster? – so it was really more of a PR position than anything else. Yes, I would be paid a base plus commission, but I didn’t feel like I had to go out every day and get somebody to sign on the dotted line for something I sold them…it just wasn’t going to work that way.

So, I designed an entire Marketing Plan for the company, found the best organizations to join, researched a huge list of the biggest potential clients and lead sources, and was off to the races. Then, another big blow to my enthusiasm. Once the plan was outlined, the lists were in place, and the networking events only turned out to take up a small fraction of the week, the only thing left for me to do – in my boss’s eyes – was to cold call insurance offices. And I mean all of them – across the entire western side of the state. This was to be my daily routine going forward. “Hi, I’m Tyson, with ServiceMaster, just want to make sure you know who we are and I’ll pop in every now and then and say hello. We’d love for you to think of us when one of your clients has an insurance loss.” That type of spiel, every single day, all day long to 15 – 20 stops per day! Now, I would be back to begging for my living. These were not warm contacts, these were completely cold calls, people who had absolutely no interest in me interrupting their day. But I was going to have to annoy people for the foreseeable future. It’s just not me, not my style.

Stay tuned for where I landed next…it gets better! On to post 4 in the series of 9.

Finding HOPE (post 1/9)

Finding Maria, my Therapist (post 2/9)

2 thoughts on “Finding My New Identity (post 3/9)

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