How Did One CFO Become a Wealthy Farmer?
Many of our people are facing profound challenges with change and making a living.
Over the next few weeks, we are running a series of articles highlighting some of the remarkable people that have not only changed their work, they have transformed every aspect of how they make a living.
We help people find their way to the truth. Anyone who comes through our programs emerges with clarity of their unique purpose and an understanding in how to become successful doing that. In some cases, the discovery helps them succeed in their existing work. Others make significant career changes into new jobs. Others launch businesses for the first time.
We treat work as a relationship, one that consumes most of our waking hours. Just as in romance, the success of that relationship is based on finding the work we love and developing the life skills that sustain our success.
The intent in sharing these stories is to provide insight in just how far with a bit of courage and humility can have life-changing and successful change in relatively short periods of time.
Some of the stories are from clients and participants that have permitted us to tell their stories without disclosing names. Others are comfortable with revealing their identities.
This particular story is one that I will never forget.
Several months after we launched Inspired Work, a group of human resource executives came to the program. They were from a financial institution that was starting to implode. After the experience, they offered the program to anyone who wanted more than a “transition.” The sent the employees who wanted to elevate this change in their lives as a turning point.
One young man walked in the door and I was immediately struck with how other participants responded to him. His story was a bit breathtaking. He grew up with a family of immigrant farmers. He was the first person from that family to graduate from college. In fact, his performance was so strong that he received a scholarship to Harvard for his MBA.
By his mid-thirties, he was the CFO of a big financial institution. In less than ten years he had risen to the youngest C-level executive in the organization. Now, we sat in front of us without a job.
We do not tell people what to do with their lives. For many of us, that is where our career troubles began. We help people define what their heart, mind, and soul most wants with such detail, taking action can take place immediately.
We ask questions, and as our participants write out the answers, a comprehensive picture emerges. We don’t pressure people to share their responses. However, most of them become quite enthused with their discoveries.
The CFO raised his hand and began sharing a surprising story.
“I grew up in the fields of Central California. All of my family members worked on farms. It was a difficult life, but I loved it.”
He looked down for a moment and back-up. It became clear he was telling one crucial truth for the first time in his life.
“All that I ever wanted to do was to grow things. For me, the experience of being outdoors, planting seeds, nurturing their growth, and doing that with my family, that was magic.”
I asked, “Why did you move so far away from the work you most loved?”
He gave an ironic smile. “I always excelled in school. When I left for Harvard. they were proud and joyous. Our entire community talked about what I had accomplished. As I got carried along from their enthusiasm, I didn’t have the courage to tell them that I was unhappy about work for a long time.”
As gently as possible, I asked,
“Since the day you left home. how much have you learned about business?”
He began an inventory of his knowledge and skills. He understood how to grow a business, raise funds, and make informed decisions about the strengths and shortcomings of business plans. He had facilitated large commercial real estate transactions.
I waved my hand to take a break.
“I’m getting the sense that you feel you either have to turn your back on business in order to return to the farm.”
“Are you planning on going back without those gifts? The truth is that you have grown into a person very different than the boy who left the fields. How could you take that and make a triumphant return to all that you love?”
The next morning, he walked into the room, and it was clear he had set himself free.
The moment I asked the participants to describe what happened and what they wanted to accomplish, his hand shot up.
We ask to hear about everyone’s progress so that we are in the best position possible to help as the second day unfolds. His hand shot up.
He announced, “I’m buying a farm.”
We are not big on ritualized excitement. But, the group began to applaud and it could have been the one moment that he experienced just how much people want us to be happy.
I asked, “What are you going to do with your family?”
He smiled broadly, “I’m making them part of the business.”
A few years later, he called me out of the blue. I can recall his enthusiasm and the music in his voice as if the call took place today.
He developed a farm in Ventura County that brings the most beautiful produce for the finest restaurants on the western seaboard. He wanted me to know that his breakthrough became a turning point for his entire family. In fact, all of them have equity in the business.
He added, “Most every day, I get here early. But, I pick that time for myself. I get to watch the sun come up over the hills. As our fields come into view I realize that God has watched over all of us. That sense of magic has never grown old.”
What is the lesson for us? When we open our eyes and commit to the work we were born to do, life falls into place. I have worked with thousands of people like them. Each one found their way into work that is as detailed and exquisite as their DNA.
What have I learned?
Everyone has imprint within that is as detailed and as moving as our thumbprint. When we develop the initiative to find that, the courage to grow that, a big portion of our lives come together as well.
We live in a place in time where I knowledge grows more swiftly than at any other point in our history. This is the time to stop settling for work that doesn’t suit us, especially if it is based on mind-numbing tasks.
Technology offers all of us the freedom to deliver work that is essential, that matters, and that solves one of the billions of problems that have results because of accelerating change.
The single most important lesson from this journey is my truth. Each and every one of you who read this article, you have a unique purpose. If you are living in that place, I don’t have to say another word. We are living in challenging times. Human nature is such that when our financial survival is at stake, we lower our standards. But, the world in which that might have worked is gone.
One of my clients is a former chief human resource executives from a variety of large organizations. He developed a vital and unique business that manages human capital during mergers and acquisitions. In his first year of business, he called to tell me his CPA had just informed him that he made more in the first year of business than his best year with a job. Both of us were so moved that we shed tears together.
He just finished his second year with more growth. I acknowledged him for having a variety of options and picking the one that offered the greatest fulfillment. He laughed, “Options! I didn’t have options. By the time we finished the questioning process the only work that made sense was this one, the one that I love and that makes the best use of my skills.”
If you or someone that you love has been struggling with the big changes and the turmoil roiling through our country, keep our eyes on positive outcomes. Task work is turning into powder. Whatever is left will turn out to be cheaper, shorter and even less satisfying.
But, we have progressed at a high rate of speed into new work that demands more of us, that often makes the world a better place to live, work that is far more engaging and meaningful.
For my friends and readers, this is the most important statement in the article:
The new world of work is offering us freedom.
Some are already thinking, “I wasn’t looking for freedom. I want my job back.”
For years, our home has always had a couple of dachshunds. The first one that came into our house had been in a cage for about a month. We placed her in a crate that was quite similar in size to the cage. When we got home, we opened the door and invited her out. Eventually, she began moving around in a rectangle that fit the dimensions of her old home. She was terrified. Then, she looked up and realized she was in a whole new world.
This new reality raises the most important question to answer:
How do you want to use your freedom?
Schedule 15-Minutes to Discuss Your Workplace or Career with David (Here)
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