Rob Hatch International Coach. Bestselling author.
Today Rob talks about limits and your story.
Twelve years ago, Chris Brogan asked me if I would consider helping him run his company. This meant leaving my position as the Executive Director of a non-profit organization.
My initial response was no. I loved what I was doing. I had a successful and rewarding career in the field of early childhood education. The organization I led was mission-driven and served children with special needs and their families. I was quite happy.
My reaction to Chris was rooted in how I had defined myself. I struggled with how far removed it was from the mission-driven work I had done for nearly 20 years. I had crafted a story around my profession and invested decades in writing it.
It was what I was known for by my friends, family, and others in the field. So, to leave and do something entirely different felt jarring. I struggled to reconcile the divergence.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
I’ve had similar calls with two different coaching clients in the past week. Each person is considering making significant changes in their career and business. However, one of the core challenges in embracing the opportunities in front of them comes down to the limits of their story.
You may have experienced something akin to their situation. They each owe their success to being rockstars with some specific skills. They also have very high standards and a tremendous work ethic.
Naturally, as they continued to prove themselves and deliver results, they were asked to take on new responsibilities. With each new challenge, they applied their standards and work ethic and developed new skills along the way. After all, it’s just what they do.
Of course, countless accomplishments have come from each new challenge. But, although they have acquired myriad new skills, the story they hold onto is still tied to the skills that got them noticed in the first place.
Much like my attachment to the story of “Early Childhood Rob,” they are anchored to an incomplete narrative.
New chapters, Same Story
When I first entered the field of early childhood education, I was a teacher in a preschool classroom. I was pretty good if I do say so myself.
Over the years, though, I was given new responsibilities. Those led me to direct two large corporate child care centers. And eventually, I became the Director of Operations of thirty-two child care centers. I was in the Executive Director role I mentioned for seven years. All were still in the field of Early Childhood. I couldn’t leave that world. And who was I without it?
I had to reconcile the contradiction. This meant looking at the work apart from the field and taking stock of the skills and abilities themselves.
For example, running a child care center has unique aspects, but it’s still a business. Supervising thirty-two locations is a significant operational undertaking. It’s also not specific to that profession. My role as Executive Director meant managing multiple programs with various funding streams. The list of experiences these roles afforded me is humbling and the skills clearly not confined to that field.
I realized I was no longer Rob, the Early Childhood Professional. Instead, early Childhood Education was simply where my story began. And I had not yet embraced the elements I could write elsewhere.
Obviously, I did start working with Chris. But it took letting go of the limits I had placed on my story to the throughline which allowed me to write new chapters.
My favorite realization was discovering what I loved most about my work, supporting exceptional professionals to do their best work. As it turns out, that sounds a lot like coaching.
What elements of your story might be holding you back? Have a great week.
I have one coaching spot opening up in a few weeks. It’s yours if you want it. Let’s talk.