A couple of weeks ago, my company had a huge event to announce its official entry into the US market (it’s a Latin American company). The three-day conference consisted of a lot of training, about the products and business-building techniques, taught by masters in the industry and top company leaders. The success lesson that resonated with me the most, was when one of the top earners in the company said, “I didn’t want to achieve a certain rank – I wanted to become the person who earned that rank.”
When I first started in the industry, I had zero aspirations of being a leader. I knew nothing about this type of work (network marketing), I just became a distributor because I absolutely loved the products so much that I wanted everyone to be taking them, and I may as well get some commission from my referrals, maybe it would at least cover the cost of my personal consumption. Suddenly, I found myself leading a team. And this made me very uncomfortable. See, I love being alone. I love avoiding people’s drama. I love being self-reliant and I love self-reliant people who don’t bug me (you see why motherhood, and to some extent marriage, has posed such a challenge for me). I love individual sports – running, triathlon, anything where there may be people around me but their outcome and my outcome are not interdependent.
The thing is, as I realized during the company conference, as I pondered my leader’s words, I cannot grow into the best version of myself on my own. My entry into leadership may have been accidental, but I am a leader now in a few arenas. In fact, we are all leaders – we lead our children, our families, our friends, our colleagues, our Facebook followers… We may not have applied for or aspired to the leadership job, but we are each making choices every day that are being watched, that are setting examples, and that are impacting everyone around us.
Today I sat in a AA meeting that had a guest speaker and he ended his incredible story with, “when I put everything I have learned, from the decades of sobriety, all the books I have read on recovery and spirituality, when I put it all through a funnel, two things emerge: awareness and responsibility.” He then asked that we go round the room and share what “inflated ego” means to us.
I quit drinking on Dec. 6, 2015, and did it alone (remember, I can do anything, I don’t need anyone!) for about 3 weeks. Out of curiosity, I went to a few AA meetings. I thought, hmmm, what interesting people and stories, and gosh, I’m glad I was nowhere near that bad! If I spoke up in a meeting I would say, “Hi, I’m Susanne, and I’m an alcoholic” and I wasn’t saying it honestly, I was lying. I was only saying it because that’s what you’re supposed to say. The kids’ schedules changed, things got busy with my company’s impending launch, and I decided, going to meetings is just another thing I need to put into my day, they’re not really doing much for me because they are sort of depressing, and I have zero desire to drink, so I guess I don’t really need this after all. I carried on like this for about 3 weeks.
It was when driving, and listening to a newly discovered podcast, the Bubble Hour, that it hit me: I DO need a tribe in this. I DO need to be proactive and start going to AA and working the steps with my sponsor. It was like a huge lightbulb when off in my head when a neuroscientist explained how alcoholism is a progressive disease, and just because you catch yourself and get off on the 10th floor, it doesn’t mean that the elevator isn’t waiting for you to get back on and crash hard – which it will. He pointed out that the number one symptom of alcoholism is denial. He said, if you aren’t doing the work you need to do, while you are dry, your disease is doing push-ups – so if you pick up a drink again, you will have a much quicker downward spiral. A couple of the women on the podcast described their descent – how they were totally functional, “normal” social drinkers like most people, but then in the space of 2-3 weeks their disease kicked in big time and their lives became horrific. That scared the shit out of me and I got my ass back into meetings.
Awareness. Responsibility. Ego. I go around every day bemoaning the fact that people in real life and on Facebook completely lack self-awareness. Humility pill: the realization that I was the queen of that! Now, back in the rooms, soaking in everything everyone has to say, it’s like something completely switched in my brain. I no longer see it as a depressing, desperate group who are still revisiting shit they did 25 or more years ago. I see everyone in these rooms as a walking, breathing, yes, often quirky, inspiring miracle. I don’t know a single person outside of the rooms and in the rooms, who doesn’t have something they are suffering with in some way. And yet, most of us figure, “I can handle this; I can’t share this, it’s too shameful; no one would ever understand; everyone thinks I’m perfect and I can’t disappoint them or I’ll lose their love…” etc. In these rooms, everything we are all dealing with or have experienced – pain, disappointment, isolation, misunderstanding, underappreciation, physical distress, grief, guilt, shame, self-hatred, helplessness, hopelessness, stress, anxiety, depression, etc. – all of this shows up in these rooms, and the people in there are sharing this. And feeling heard. And accepted. And loved. In our admission of powerlessness, we are actually becoming empowered. I look around the room now and am amazed that people who at one point were probably considered, or considered themselves, perhaps still do, complete failures - they are actually more personally evolved that most people outside of the 12 step programs, because they are actively working on these principles every single day:
Every morning now, I wake up, and I lie in bed and pray to God, to please help me today, to do His work. I ask for help. I may be an accidental leader, but with the grace of God, I will grow into the leader I really want to be – not because of ego, but in spite of it.