My corporate career was incredible. It was an adventure. It was brilliant. I was promoted. I had opportunities to learn and grow, to work with the best of the best. I learned to build a coveted international billion-dollar company by leading through passionate people, purpose and giving. I loved my life. I loved my work. I loved the people I worked with and had the opportunity to serve.
All of that is true - but it's not the whole story.
The whole story is that amongst all the brilliance, things were gradually fraying around the edges.
Following a few key transitions and major life events -- supposedly celebrations -- I found myself waking up on the floor in my home, in my parent's home, in public spaces, in the back of random ambulances and ERs from being unconscious. I was having grand mal seizures, brought on by stress and exhaustion. After diagnosis of epilepsy. I found myself asking 'Why is this happening to me?' I was a 'success.'
Why was I falling apart? Why was I so exhausted?
"Why?" wasn't the correct question to ask. In hindsight, the correct question was "What is needed now?" At the time, I didn't know how out of touch I was. I didn't know that I wasn't listening to what my body was telling me. And I didn't know that my success was built on half-listening.
On not listening to the strain my body and my mind were under. Or rather on turning up the sound of 'success' so loud I couldn't hear the strain. My family and close friends loudly begged me to rest. My inner circle at work became increasingly more concerned and worried. Some people tipped toed around me as if I was a time bomb waiting to go off. But I couldn't hear any of them at the time; I only knew success one way. I only knew myself as a leader one way. I only knew how to live life one way. I would not give up. I would not fail. I was winning and I had the results -- so I thought.
Until the day I woke up to the truth: that my life wasn't working, nor was my system. I awoke to the fact that by leading from my head and from the context of how I thought things are 'supposed to be,' from proving I can produce results versus tuning into my body and listening to what's really needed, I was operating on a shaky and inauthentic foundation.
The cost of my 'looking good' success system was big in my case. It affected my health immensely, my family, my relationships and my team. Striving for perfection is often a way of hiding behind competency. It's a false-sense of safety. Behind the false-sense of safety is fear of failure or not being enough. The fear is that failure or break down equates to a dead end instead of accepting the gift that failure brings -- which is exponential growth. If we continue to operate from fear of failure and lead from 'shoulds' and the energy of proving, it's a road headed straight for burnout and disengagement for ourselves and the people we impact directly.
The energy of proving lacks a key component that extraordinary leaders must embody and that is authenticity and attunement.