A few years ago, Amanda Hammett was on the top of the world. She had a supportive husband who was her business partner at a small boutique firm, a two year old young child, a beautiful home in the suburbs, and in her words, she “made lots of money”.
Amanda remembered her father telling her again and again as a child that failure is not an option. In fact, she heard the phrase so often during her formative years that as an adult, failure is not an option became Amanda’s personal mantra. She believed it, as so many people do. And because she believed that failure was not an option, she also believed that she would always be successful and that her success would ensure her family’s financial stability. But little did Amanda know that things would change abruptly in 2010, and that her favorite mantra would have to change, too. For Amanda, failure is not an option eventually gave way to a new mantra: Failure is not an option…but it should be!
Amanda became my career coaching client soon after the bottom had fallen out of her world. She’s given me permission to share her story with you, and I hope you find it to be as compelling and deeply moving as I do. I think you’ll learn a lot from it. I know I did. Here’s what happened.
When Amanda and I first started to work together, she described herself to me as a “mess”. She was on the verge of bankruptcy, lost her job, lost her company, and lost her home. The legal bills were piling up, too. In fact, when we met, Amanda was in the process of packing boxes so that she and her family could move out of the home they’d loved and lost. It was a sad and desperate time, to say the least.
Both Amanda and her husband had to reinvent themselves, secure jobs ASAP, and work for other people so that they could earn a weekly paycheck. Amanda also felt the pressure, as a full-time mom, to give up working out of her home, having flexible hours, and spending a lot of time with her son. She wanted to continue to work close to her home and was open to taking a salary at a fraction of what she used to make to make that possible. But her husband was job searching too, so things were pretty dire. The question was: What job could Amanda get that fit her criteria?
Amanda was determined to take the first job offered to her. That’s something that I usually caution my coaching clients against doing, unless the job happens to fit all of their criteria. But as a career coach, I also advise my clients to trust their gut instincts, and that’s exactly what Amanda did. She took her first job offer — one from ITT Tech as a Community Liaison. Her role was to reach out to high school students to tell them about the merits of getting a technical education/vocational training at a proprietary school like ITT Tech vs. going a more traditional college route. Amanda had never before considered working with high school students. However, the ITT campus was close to Amanda’s home and the job offered her some flexibility in her schedule, which was important to her. Besides, it was a paying job, and she certainly needed one.
Amanda visited high school after high school week after week and made her presentations. At first, she was relieved just to be working and making money again. But then, something miraculous happened. Amanda found her passion! She’d never spoken to high school students before or thought about doing that kind of work. But she loved speaking with them. She also realized that after her “spectacular failure,” as she calls it, that in retrospect, she wasn’t as happy as she thought she was when she was just making a lot of money.
Amanda followed her passion and has recently launched a new career as a motivational speaker for high school students. I’m writing this with tears in my eyes because I know what this means for Amanda. She should be incredibly proud of herself for following her passion. And I’m inspired by her, too, because Amanda found her calling not in spite of her failure, as many people might think, but because of it.
We can all dig into our pasts and look at our disappointments and our career and personal derailments with self-pity and wallow in them. Or, we can come out of our failures, as Amanda did, by taking the next positive step in our lives and career paths and by remaining open to new possibilities. Are any of us immune to failure? No. I certainly am not. And working with Amanda enabled me to revisit some of my “failures”, too, and to assess how I worked through them. In our next post, perhaps my story will inspire you, too.
Want to know more about Amanda Hammett’s motivational programs for high school students? Visit her website. And if you’d like to know more about how career coaching can help you overcome and use your failures to reach greater heights and find your passion, please email me at Valli@valliassociates.com or give Valli Swerdlow a call at 703-615-3834.