What you lose may be what you gain. Once, many moons ago, I lost out on a job – an impressive job – because I wasn’t “aggressive enough.” I sailed through all the interviews, aced the proposal, and got to the final round. I could hardly sleep the two days before the final decision was made.
Everyone was rooting for me and loving on me. I knew I had done everything to the absolute best of my ability. It wasn’t enough. Instead I got a respectful and firm phone call that told me I wasn’t the chosen candidate. There were some experiences that I had too much of (too global) and too little of (not enough management) and one professional weakness: I wasn’t aggressive enough.
I was floored. This was years after my first coaching experience to explore how to embrace and build the power of assertiveness as a female leader in the tech industry. I had been sent to coaching because I was veering often and fully into aggression to get things done. I was pushy, demanding, unrelenting, and it was awful. Awful for me, my colleagues, my customers and none of us were experiencing success.
What you lose may be what you gain
Over time, as I embraced assertiveness and retained my high professional standards, we all experienced success:
• Projects reached more of our KPIs
• Colleagues had more fun and learned more when we worked together
• Customers experienced bigger results
• My responsibility grew while my income and my happiness soared.
I knew that and still, when I lost that awesome job because I wasn’t “aggressive enough,” I grieved. Oh, I grieved.
It was intense and it was short. I quickly realised that I was, no, I am, utterly, completely, fully, absolutely grateful that when that job was available, I had already grown past a position that needed someone aggressive.
The loss was actually the light that illuminated the role I aim to play in this world: one of bravery, joy, boundaries, and inclusion that makes long-term, positive change in this world.
And I bet you are similar: you yearn to make a positive impact in the world, to enjoy your personal and your professional life, and play a bigger role in creating the future we deserve.
I am here to proclaim: you can.
For like Jacinda Ardern, the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand, said,
“One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”Jacinda Ardern,
I’ve written before about rebelling with joy and now I am encouraging you to rebel with joy and welcome your assertiveness. Welcome your empathy. Welcome your compassion. Welcome your strength.
Because your empathy and your compassion are your strength.
These are difficult times. We are now all in quarantine for much longer than hoped. Our economies are shrinking and we all know people losing their incomes. Many of us know people who are sick, people who have died. Our systems, relationships, and hearts are stretched to the brink.
We are tired. We are tried.
In the coming months (and perhaps years), we will all face situations that aim to yank us back towards the old-school void of aggressiveness, profit-over-people, and show-no-weakness. Many of us will need to face difficult choices to pay bills, keep health benefits, care for people we love, and hold onto the career progression we’ve already made.
Because life is life.
What you lose may be what you gain. Sometimes an awesome opportunity comes and goes from our lives, only to show us how far we have come and who we have chosen to become.
Permit yourself to grieve and then, not too early and not too late, chose to rebel with joy and turn to your strengths: your skills, relationships, empathy & compassion.
For what we may miss out on – like an impressive job – may end up being the light that shows us how far we have come.