From the Corporate Mound to the Compost Heap

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I would like to share the story of a person who became a successful entrepreneur. The first part of his story is not so unusual, but it was how he came to understand himself that has meaning.

The man was a marketing executive for a Fortune 500 company. He made a good living; he tried to do the right things, and he had put together some noteworthy programs.

One day an opportunity presented itself. He was going to tie his company’s brand to a major motion picture. He made several presentations to his management and the sales team. He thought he had everyone’s enthusiastic “buy-in.” Then, without warning, the team turned lukewarm to the idea and him. The program vanished.

Walls began to surround him. People who had been friendly pulled away. Work became dreadful, and even his employees began to have closed door meetings with his superiors. He was filled with worry and had trouble sleeping. One evening he awakened with sharp chest pains. The ambulance rushed him to the hospital.

He was suffering (fortunately) not from heart disease but anxiety. His wife scolded him. She loved him much more than the taxing job. She demanded that he quit. He reasoned that if he resigned, he would never revive a career in marketing with equivalent compensation and benefits, but she persisted. Ten days later he left the company with a severance package.


Stop Moping

For weeks, he felt sorry for himself. He became resentful. He imagined what he would say to “those people” if he ever to had the chance. He wanted revenge of some kind. Finally, after hearing enough, his wife told him to go out and get a job, any employment that would help him refocus.

“Doing what,” he wanted to know, “lug topsoil for a landscaper?”

He didn’t get a job with a landscape architect, but he heard that his local home improvement store needed a manager to work in the Lawn & Garden Department. He had always loved growing things. At one time he even dreamed of being a farmer.

The former marketing executive secured a position at slightly above the minimum wage. He made decent progress in getting off the couch, but his “healing” was incomplete. Then one evening his store manager informed him that the district manager was coming to do a major inspection, and asked if he would mind working late to help clean the garden area.

That evening, a cold rain was falling on the garden department, and the early spring wind had kicked up as well. It matched his mood. Carl (that’s his name) was out there sweeping, tying down trees, arranging bags of top soil, mulch and the like. The more he arranged, the more unkempt it became because of the inclement weather.

He started to use language I dare not repeat! All the old feelings rose up once again. He was yelling at the injustice! Oh, the injustice! In mid-sentence, a light went off (and no, it wasn’t lightning!). He realized that he would never see any of the people again from the corporate mountain. They could never again hurt him. He was free of them. He would be just fine.


A Life with Purpose

He really did enjoy the gardening department, and he loved to teach people about gardening and landscaping. Customers would ask for him by name because he was so passionate about his work. He started to write about plants for gardening magazines. Over time, he used the severance to open a small nursery that specialized in hard-to-find “Alpine” plants. He supplied several area landscapers and shipped Alpine plants to customers across the country.

He has become an authority on mountain plants. In fact, today, Carl is helping to save nearly extinct Alpine varieties. He has been interviewed on radio and television and even consults to botanic gardens.

He refocused himself and, in the process, found his life’s work. He found joy in unexpected ways by learning to forgive himself and let go of the past. He ultimately recognized that misfortune permitted him to pursue a passion he always had.

Each morning, Carl drives to his nursery with his partner (a rescued Golden Retriever named Sam). He has a few part-time employees. Every so often, he looks up at the beautiful blue sky and gives thanks for the blessing of his new life that is now driven by purpose, fueled by passion and defined by pride.





For more information about Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author Steve Gilliland, please contact: steve@stevegilliland.com / 724-540-5019, or visit his website at www.stevegilliland.com.