Do you remember the 1996 romantic comedy Jerry McGuire? Its hard to believe I was just 16 when that movie came out. In it, Jerry (Tom Cruise) has an emotional breakdown after a series of injuries puts one of his clients back into the hospital. In the middle of the night he writes a “mission statement” about what he thinks his work as a sports agent should be all about and prints it out for 150 colleagues to read. For all of its biased representations of women and Black characters for which we could do without, the underlying story of the loss of purpose and meaning is just as relevant today as it was back then.
When Jerry distributes his mission statement he takes a leap of faith, and a risky one at that. But, would anyone follow him?
In a recent practice coaching session of mine, a colleague made an important discovery about her own struggles with taking leaps of faith – like presenting ideas in a group or launching her new venture. In discussing her struggles, something familiar washed over me. Oh yeah, I know that feeling all too well. I put my personal experience aside and we continued the conversation.
Towards the end of her session she took a deep breath. I asked her what the deep breath was all about. She said:
“If I’m going to ask others to take a chance on me, I need to take a chance on myself”. Later in the day as I was rolling this around in my head as it sunk deeper into how much I could relate. It dawned on me:
The difference between preparing for success and being successful is taking a chance on yourself.
A year ago, almost to the day, I started training to become a leadership coach. I too, have been fearful of taking a leap of faith. I’ve mentioned my new profession to a few people. I’ve hidden it in a piece of writing here in there. I’ve even added my company to my linked in profile and to my title. But, secretly…I was kind of hoping no one would notice, that no one would click on my website. I kept telling myself I wasn’t ready.
I’m not experienced enough. I haven’t graduated from my training. I haven’t received my certification. I haven’t ______, _______, and _______.
Ready: what does it mean to be ready? Will I be ready this coming Tuesday? Will I be ready when I finish that project? Will I be ready when its spring? Will I be ready when my website is “finished”? Will I be ready when someone gives me permission?
The truth is, I’ve been preparing for this for at least 20 years! Maybe even my whole life. It started with my long held values. I’ve always been someone seeking to contribute and connect with people, in whatever job I held. I’ve been reading and studying organizational development for 20 years – soaking up as much as I could about business, psychology, social science and leadership. I have a Master’s degree, and don’t forget about the last 10 years I’ve spent putting everything into practice in my own business – with success, failure and everything in between. I have a management certificate in hospitality and I’m just one test away from graduating from my coach training. I have also sat on a couple of boards as well and founded a leadership retreat for women in travel. How much more prepared could I be?
So what is holding me back? Hmm.
I haven’t given myself permission…to take a chance on myself.
I despise these kinds of tasks including tiny details, numbers and a fair share of estimation (because I like round numbers, perfect squares, neatly folded piles…you get the picture). At 10am that morning, I put down my clip board half way through what I was doing and walked straight home, directly to my room and pulled the covers over my head. And I slept. For the next several days, willing myself out of bed took everything I had.
My own crisis of purpose is what lead to that moment. I also wasn’t taking good care of myself. I was feeling disconnected from the meaning of my work. Everything was about budgets and putting out fires. I felt like I was swimming in the middle of the ocean without a life jacket or land in view.
I knew something needed to change. Slowly the feeling of drowning began to subside especially as I started taking care of my physical health. Then I started tackling my struggles one by one. I hired a coach for a short period. I started reading a ton more and watching tv much less. I addressed my deficiencies in knowledge with online learning certificate program. I arranged and asked for more help with child care and my kids started becoming more independent as they entered elementary school. Ultimately, I regained a feeling of purpose in my work and found a way through deliberately designing the shape of my career and personal life to create a more harmonious relationship between the two.
Looking back, I wish I had engaged with a coach for longer. It would have made a world of difference with my confidence and made the process much faster. Instead, I muddled a long mostly by myself. But then, surely by no coincidence, coaching came back to me.
In the beginning I knew I wanted to bring these leaders together, but I hadn’t nailed down what would differentiate this event from others. Then someone introduced me to a corporate coach in my area. At the same time we also distributed a survey asking women leaders in hospitality what challenges they were facing. It all came together, what we all needed was professional development support.
Creating Accelerate Women Leaders in Travel was the final inspiration I needed to realize that in addition to my hospitality career, I wanted to become a coach. I didn’t know it 20 years ago, but everything I did and experienced in those 20 years lead to this moment.
Jerry McGuire’s relationship with his one and only client Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) shines a light on the power of the coaching relationship. Coaching is about partnership and the coach learns as much as the coachee in the process. In one of the final scenes of Jerry McGuire, Jerry and Rod have an intense conversation about the things they are struggling with. Throughout the movie Jerry shows that he is driven by heart and passion in his professional life. But in his personal life, its all about practicality. Rod on the other hand, is all heart and passion in his relationship with his wife Marcee (played by Regina King), but in his professional football career he wants Jerry to “Show me the Money!”.
In the final scenes when Rod Tidwell makes a miraculous touch down catch and in the celebratory aftermath, both Jerry and Rod, having influenced each other, make a connection with what was missing in the other part of their lives.
Who will follow me on this journey? Jerry showed, that it took only one client with heart and passion to make all the difference.
Rachel Vandenberg is a leadership coach living in Stowe, Vermont with her husband and three children. Rachel also owns and operates a hotel and attractions property with her family. She sits on the board of the local tourism association and also created a leadership retreat for women leaders in travel.