Ladey’s—no holds barred, ‘it happened to me’, from Hero to Zero—story
“My career is over”. This was my first thought on the day I was unexpectedly called into the office to be told I was now ‘suspended’ from my position. A new journey had begun and I had been given the ticket with no knowledge of the route or indeed the actual destination!
Life can be like this! Curveballs thrown when life feels on track and great! What did suspension mean to me? How would it affect my career? How was God involved? and How would I learn from the experience to be a better—not a bitter—person? These plus many other questions would be answered as I fearfully fell from Hero to Zero!
Firstly, I’d like to explain what it was like, for me, to be a Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
Well for a start it played to my ego, My voices said, “I had finally made it.” “Yes, God is good, He placed me in this job so it is doubly good.”
I had reached a pinnacle of my working life; others may say I had found my way to the top of the ‘greasy pole’ whereas I saw it as finally working in my ‘dream job’ until retirement.
Pride came rushing in, and yes I was very proud. The ‘me’ who left school with only two qualifications, one in Religious Education and the other in Drama! The ‘me’ who was a single Mum at 18 year old, and here I was now in charge of and leading a staff of 36 people and 40 volunteers. Wow! I was as pleased as punch! Didn’t this show all those people who thought I’d come to nothing, those who had doubted me, teachers who’d said I was an under achiever and wouldn’t amount to much, how wrong they all were?
I had ‘made it’! The ‘me’ gained adult teaching qualifications and an MBA whilst striving and struggling against all the odds. Odds of being dyslexic but not discovering this till very late in life, the ‘me’ who hated school yet ironically years later gave a keynote speech at the headquarters of the National Union of Teachers alongside senior civil servants!
God is gracious, and along the way He had put some great people into my life, those who supported me to achieve everything of which I was so proud.
- A father who intervened when I was in my mother’s womb when my Mother was seriously ill with polio by refusing to allow the doctors to abort me.
- A mother who never gave up on me and made me practice words and writing.
- A fantastic supportive husband.
- Two lovely daughters who achieved their educational ambitions and break through the family glass ceiling of being the first girls in all our family (both sides) to go to university. More importantly they have taught me so much by their love and growth to independence
- Good bosses who set fine examples of people and business management and poor bosses who showed me how not to do it!
- My Newfoundland dogs who gave me unconditional love and one who was so loyal she would give her heart for me, and
- Friends, who prayed for me, brought my attention to God and were unafraid to speak out when I needed it.
Wow, God’s blessings shine, but in the shining, human nature takes over and puffs up pride, strengthening the ego.
The Role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Success comes with sacrifice and choices. Yes, I had worked for the dream job, its title, responsibilities and the ability to make decisions affecting other people’s lives. I took these duties very seriously and I believe prayerfully.
So, what is it like being a CEO? Well, the advantage is the people want to please you, and are eager to make even your smallest decisions happen. I would be in a state of wonder that something I had said was acted on so quickly. It meant the little ‘me’ ego grew and flourished. My decisions became bolder. In my mind, these were good decisions, prayerful decisions but perhaps decisions which were taken at a fast pace without a lot of time taken to communicate to others as to the ‘why’ of that particular decision.
This also happens due to the myriad of decisions a CEO has to make in a day. When I became known for making the decisions others did not want to make, more decisions were abdicated my way! The ego lapped this up.
At first glace this would appear to be a win/win situation but underneath resentment grows! When people do not make their own decisions or are not given time to assimilate changes then problems occur and after a while even good decisions are regarded with suspicion.
A CEO’s time is crowded, decisions need to be made at a fast pace, and pressure is brought to bear to insuring that they are implemented. My ego pushed for growth and God’s blessings pour out as expansion happened, success beckoned and I moved forward.
A CEO becomes a very busy person, as a family we used to joke that I’d become a VIP (very important person), influential, in demand by others. Is there a cost to this? Who is being pushed out to make way for all this success? Time becomes a precious commodity and focus is turned to maintaining high levels of success, keeping everyone in jobs, serving Trustees, others and the community. So in time, the concentration becomes all about the job with work consuming my thinking, talking and being. By living the ‘executive dream’ I ate, slept and breathed my work. I was working 50-60 hours every week—hours given willingly, gladly. My ego fed on feeling needed, making a difference and being popular.
CEOs are paid more than others, another fact the ego loves, placing an additional value on me. Money is not the main motivator here—as I believed I was in the right job, working for God in a secular position but within His plans and purpose.
CEOs stress levels are high, one factor can be the time commitment, isn’t the boss expected to be the first one to arrive and last to leave? God did not give me a body to sustain this continual pressure, to over achieve each and every day making decisions again and again (good ones and not so good ones), dealing with inevitable resentment and jealous of others.
The body screams for attention when something is not right and ultimately breaks down in dis-ease. For me, my skin weeps with psoriasis, eating habits get out of control and my blood sugars topped over 20s (for over a year) and I had to face diabetes Type 2.
However, the pressure cycles are relentless. The fight and urge to achieve, to prove those doubters wrong (well you may have made CEO but they will find you out eventually!) to be liked—it goes on and on. I would cling to the view that “after all God put me here didn’t he?” More time, more responsibility and to prove I can do this – more work is taken on. Diary planning becomes an art form, as meetings are scheduled back-to-back, early hours of the morning and weekends are used for writing reports and grant applications. Thus reducing, even further, the time available for family, for friends, for relationships, for God.
How necessary is Ego for survival? Those people who faithfully practice ‘Servant Ministries’ would think it redundant. Alternatively, the need of the ego to build self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect is good and healthy and can take you to places others would not consider. The danger hits when ego believes its own publicity, working in its own strength and at some point Ego stand for Edging God Out?
The ego seeks approval and gives uniformed messages such as my survival is linked to being popular and liked. No-one enjoys being disliked, so I turned myself into a people pleaser, which in hindsight is unhealthy for others and me. I married a man with a nature of being naturally liked, and I love this about him, as it is something I have had to work for.
So to be liked—I worked—worked for approval from others and to be popular.
The ego doesn’t mind what it takes, the feeling of being indispensable creeps in. As success occurs, I know it is due to my skills, my experience, my time, my purpose, and my ambition making all these things possible. Alongside this runs the belief that it will get better when… When there are more staff, when we win this contract, when the recession ends and so on.
The ego has made its own heaven … And it stands for Edging God Out
God loves me, believes in me, wants the best for me and my family, and understand my needs to make a difference but NOT at this cost. He will NOT tolerate being edged out.
So, if I fail to heed the warning signs, a crumbling body, stressed mind, compromising bible and quiet time, on the path of relentless “busy, busy, busy”, the frequent rescheduling of time with those I really love—my family, ignoring their concerns for me and discounting friends’ advice, jokes and conversations that “burn out” is round the corner. Mind-set conversations, which seem to happen a lot when I was driving in the car, went like this …”it will be all right and worth it in the end” or ”it won’t happen to me”. Someone who sends the warning signs and calls a halt is God. God will not stand for it, He loves me too much, and He calls a halt because I cannot!
For me this halt was in the form of suspension from my job. I can tell you this got my attention! The dream job, feeding my ego of importance and credibility came to a crashing and instant stop.
Suspension feels like this:
- Overnight my over-full diary was empty.
- Overnight the 101 decisions dropped to nil.
- Overnight my responsibility for people and the organisation became null and void.
- Overnight all those people eager to hear my opinion and work with me disappeared.
- Overnight I felt I’d become a pariah.
I was accused of something I didn’t do, withheld a right of reply, decreed as ‘not to be contacted’ and suspended from life as I knew it. I would come to realise that no matter what I did or said there would be people who actively disliked me (for whatever reasons) and they would actively seek to do me harm.
My work-life had stopped and dangled in the balance for months to come…
But God is good, He said to me, “Yes, I know, I know all about it … Ladey, you are not ready at this moment to understand it all, but come to me, find rest and peace in me.” He said, “My timing is perfect and yes I put you there, gave you the job but I also took you out of it.”
During the first two weeks of being suspended, I slept – despite being in a state of incomprehension and upset. I slept deeply for many hours! The luxury of sleep was returned to me for this limited time.
The following months, began an in depth journey to know God more, to read His word and to love Him more. Words in hymns and worship songs took on deeper meaning, bible verses suddenly made sense, devotional passages felt they had been written only for me. Christian radio was my only means of comfort when I awoke in the early hours of the morning or suffered insomnia.
I found time with friends and family and their importance resonated once more, the house began to fill with the Holy Spirit, people would comment on it when they visited and it was a place of peace and solace. I began to read Pilgrims Progress and it blew my mind. Once I overcome the feelings of shame and shared what was happening with select friends, they sent me verses and passages showing me how God would protect me from my enemies.
From a work perspective I was now under the controlled of others who were not interested in hearing my side of the story, feelings of being discredited, discounted and betrayed would shadow me for a period of time.
As this upsetting event developed God showed me that although I was at the centre of it, it actually was not about me. The lessons along the way would be hard—and I would find them very hard indeed—but somehow I was to be a catalyst—it was for the purpose of someone else. God told me I would be vindicated in the end and there will be something much better for me at its destination.
Suspended for an indefinite period of time meant the months contained many ups and downs: weeks of tears and upset caused by the feeling the intense pain of injustice, rejection and betrayal. I found frustrations in my emotions, which seemed at odds with my faith in God, battles for mind, body and soul. The Holy Spirit with His gentle gifts prompting me to learn, understand and experience a new gift from God.
To be better and not bitter
The gift of comprehension: when I felt the most upset it usually meant my ego was at work! New strategies were found and would eventually find their way into the book Unfrozen: How to melt your heart from life’s disappointment, disillusionment and discouragement by opening the door and stepping into God’s warming light.
Eventually, I would have the evidence to disprove the case against me, which proved God promise to me. I had to present my defence without vengeance or being sanctimonious, drawing on Proverbs 24:17 and Psalm 35:24, learning to phrase questions humbly but with dignity. I realise that as a Christian I am expected to go through bad, unjust and difficult (spiritual, physical, emotional and psychological) experiences. My valley of death walked me through Disappointment, Disillusionment and Discouragement, yet God was with me through it all, supporting, cheering on from the side-lines without making the situation or pain go way or getting any easier. I do not pretend to fully understand this but this is HIS way and I am part of HIS way.
Have I been vindicated by God—No—because there was never a case to answer in the first place. I can never be Zero in His eyes. HE loves me and I am HIS.
I pray, and need prayers from others, so that I can remember these lessons and take them with me in whatever God wants me to do throughout my life.
Time passes, I remember the strategies and my lessons well. Number One is to forgive my perpetrators (especially those with a Christian faith). I look back at being suspended from my dream job, which was the worst possible scenario any CEO can envisage and now see it as the best possible scenario that happened to me. This is because God turned it round. I have used the experience, to become an author, speaker and coach/trainer. Alongside a new attitude, love of God and people, meaning I will never mean having to ‘please’ or ‘turn myself inside out’ for others again.
I have found a new voice, my authentic self and know how I fit into the plans God has for me. In finding this, my vocation is to reach out and help others to find their peace in the workplace and understanding that no matter what comes their way, it can work for their good.
My body is healing itself and I am happier than I’ve ever been. I have published a book, Unfrozen, with two or three other books in the process. A new book is planned which is collaboration between my eldest daughter and myself. I have embarked on a 10-year project to write regularly, 100 words on each verse of the Bible. So far, 3 books, Ruth, Philemon and Obadiah have been completed! Email me if you want a sample!
God’s business plan is the one I now follow; turning my experience for good which in turn can be used to support you in difficult situations in your workplace or disappointments in your personal life.
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