What is your potential?
“Life as a human being inherently involves suffering. This suffering is what pushes us, moves us, and allows us to grow into our fullest potential; there is no life without it. There is no change or growth without suffering, and most of our best experiences involve picking ourselves up after we fall.”-Sophocles: Mending a Broken Heart Chapter 1, Page 1
I spent 16 years in corporate America. As someone with a business degree in finance and accounting, I can logically sequence any situation with the best of them. However, one of my first jobs was as a human resource manager. I was hired into a job that I was very unqualified for based simply on my age and experience. I was thrust into a world of interviewing, hiring, firing, and extremely uncomfortable sexual harassment cases.
I recall being asked to fly across the country as an independent, and newly hired, counsel to arbitrate and articulate on the facts of a sexual harassment claim filed in our corporate office back east. I was incredibly green, but the case itself seemed very black and white. I was 25 years old and I felt empowered, I received tremendous accolades for my wisdom and insight on the subject matter… and, as most of you know, flattery for a young male ego goes a very long way.
About a month later the Vice President flew out to San Francisco to check the progress of our unit. It was a bit of a ruse.
She took me to dinner to thank me for my help again, and then offered me a job serving under her back at the east coast corporate office…. again incredibly flattered. But then she told me the real purpose of the HR work.
The secretary’s claim I had defended had all been orchestrated by the VP in order to oust a long-time board member of the corporation who was “getting too old and causing problems.” The secretary was offered double her retirement to make the claim, and the VP said she would handle the rest.
Locally the claim had been very public, damaging both individual’s marriages. The secretary retired early, and the board member was forced to resign. I was suddenly face-to-face with the dark underbelly of the corporate, working world.
At that moment, I began to lose faith in humanity. My internal compass was now spinning. The accolades I achieved were a complete farce and only used to topple the board member. An attractive 40+ year old female executive had me eating out of the palm of her hand by the simple use of flattery. I felt embarrassment, shame, and started to question my own integrity.
The struggle of adulthood had begun.
One of the more important things I learned as a human resource manager, were the details of the intricate procedural element, annual reviews. At the apex of my corporate career the 360 Review had been implemented and I could not help to yet again look for the integrity in this process… and only really found an avenue to assuage guilt by the governing party who was always on the front end saying “no promotion or raises.”
By the end of my corporate life, I myself had migrated to the front lines and was no longer in HR. This meant a 360 review for me as an employee. I laughed and guffawed at the questions I was now answering, as a decade earlier I was helping my company design these review questions to elicit appropriate responses and defer career responsibility to the employee.
When asked about potential, and living to my fullest potential, I wrote down the standard response to the standard question. But upon my face to face review, I blew myself out of the water with a spontaneous response. It sounded something like this…
“I do not even know what my fullest potential is… no offense to you (boss)… but I do not think I have even allowed myself to be challenged enough to find out what that potential is. I think what we are really talking about here is redefining what potential is, and maybe really discovering who I am.”
It was in that moment of spontaneity I found my organic self, and realized my life was headed in a different direction to the world of healing and therapy.