My personal journey towards self-leadership

Driving to work my mind was busy with the same thoughts again. For the fifty-eleventh time the same question had absorbed me as soon as I’d woken up.

I’d been driving the narrow road between Hilversum and the highway entrance that would take me to the office five days a week for the past three years. The first year or so it was with excitement, even joy in anticipation of what the day would bring. Not anymore.

the road to discovering purpose

I think it was somewhere towards the end of the second year something happened and this particular question gradually infested my mind.

At times the question took silly proportions, I even spent time going through my old boxes in the basement for my physics books to refresh my memory on kinetic energy. At other times I’d take the train to the office in an attempt to divert my mind, away from the alleyway and those sturdy trees.

The question that had come to overtake my mind was:

What’s the optimal speed to hit one of those trees, so I don’t kill myself but hurt myself enough to get three months in the hospital?

It’s an understatement to say that I needed a break from running a $100 million dollar sales organization in one of the coolest IT-companies in the world at the time. I was 30 years old, had 65 people reporting to me, earned great money and I felt like shit.

So why didn’t I just take a break you may ask?

I thought I did – within the paradigms of how I constructed my world at the time. I took all the breaks the system allowed me to, 25 days of paid holiday a year. At most two weeks at a time and I spent 3-4 days winding down, 3-4 days trying to convince myself I was relaxing and the last 3-4 days dreading coming back to the office.

To be fair it was not all bad. The highlights during the work week was when I could work closely with the people in my team, try to understand the demons they were fighting, challenge them to overcome their fears, nudge them in the right direction, see them grow and jointly celebrate their successes. Unfortunately the reporting requirements where such that I spend more time with Excel forwarding numbers up the command chain than helping my team be the best they could be!

I was living a comical tragedy or maybe a tragic comedy. By most people’s standards “I’d made it”! The problem was it was killing my soul. Every morning I parked my heart and head at home, took my laptop and went to the office to do things I that didn’t mean anything to me. Every Sunday evening I longed for Friday afternoon.

I knew I had to change but I was scared because I was supposed to be happy and I didn’t know what I would do instead.

“The opposite of courage in today’s society is not cowardice but conformity.” – Rollo May in Man’s Search For Himself

Early 2006, after almost a year of pondering optimal crash speed along the alleyway between Hilversum and the highway entry, I realized I had completely lost myself on the way of pursuing other peoples ideas of happiness and success.

In the spring of 2006 a good friend approached me with a business opportunity and I decided to leave corporate and start a completely new chapter in my personal and professional life.

I’m grateful for the opportunities I was given, the people I got to know and what I learned – it was a great corporate school!

Two years after I had the opportunity to go back to corporate as a contractor to mentor and coach junior sales managers and in preparation for that I submerged myself into the world of coaching and…. eureka!

I realized this was the framework, process and tools for my own journey of getting back to passion and purpose and I promised myself that whatever I do next it must support my purpose.

It’s a been a long and winding road to where I am today, a mix of corporate life and entrepreneurship but all the time with a clear vision of how it supports my long-term ambition – my purpose.

Corporate life is fascinating. I see it a bit like University, it’s somewhere you go for a couple of years to learn new skills and build new connections, then you jump off for a while and do your own thing, maybe come back to corporate again to learn new things, further expand your network and to give back.

In 2012 I decided to get serious about coaching so I started my accreditation course towards ICF certification. To manage this next to a fun and demanding corporate job I committed myself to getting up 2 hrs earlier two days a week for study and practice sessions and did that for about a one year before getting my Professional Coach Certification by ICF-accredited Corporate Coach Academy.

The inner journey I’ve set out on is life long and the experiences far more rewarding than the worldly travel I’ve made.

To quote Zen teacher Eido Frances Carney “The inward look is the outward view.” Our inward polishing of thoughts and believes manifests itself as good action in our interaction with others.

Where are you on your road towards purpose?

Read more about my professional journey here.