Pastures New

Someone once told me that there are two types of stress – the type that comes at us whether we like it or not (deadlines, dealing with having to cook Christmas dinner, driving through Mexico City etc.) and then there’s the type that we do to ourselves by worrying about things that may or may not happen in the future (difficult conversations we need to have, giving presentations, worrying if I’m going bald etc.). I am an expert at the latter.

So much so in fact that when I joined Dale Carnegie it took me three months to make the move, not because I was involved in complex contract negotiations or tied up with a major project but simply because I was too nervous about telling my old boss I wanted to leave. Not that my old boss was particularly scary you understand, in fact the three years I had spent working for him had been a period of tremendous personal growth for me as I had taken on an account management role for the first time, it was simply that I didn’t want to let him down.

As you can imagine those three months were not pleasant with the constant worry about his reaction gnawing away at me and I am sure it affected the atmosphere in the office. It wasn’t until I was introduced to a book called ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’ by Dale Carnegie that I found a little 3-step formula that transformed how I was dealing with the situation.

The first step was to ask myself “What is the worst that can happen?” which I duly did. I thought his reaction could be one of absolute disappointment and irritation but it probably won’t be too much worse than that. Immediately I felt better; it really was as if a weight had lifted from my shoulders. So far so good – the next step was to prepare to accept the worst. I carefully considered that I have two choices – I can either tell him (scary) or carry on like this (not an option). So I decided to take the scary conversation.

It was the third step, however that really made the difference, which was try to improve on the worst. I knew my boss pretty well after three years and the one thing I knew he liked was plans and charts and so I put together a plan that would allow me to gradually transition away from my old firm (so I didn’t leave him in the lurch) while starting to work with Dale Carnegie and build up my client base.

The fateful day came and I tentatively knocked on the door to my boss’s office. It wasn’t long before I uttered the words “I’ve decided to move on” and I explained my reasons for wanting to leave. The reaction of course was not as bad as I had feared and in fact he finished off by acknowledging that my mind was made up and asked me to leave the “plan” with him.

Because I am very, very brave I went on holiday for the next two weeks, the intention being to give him time to mull over my transition plan. It didn’t take him too long – in fact I received a phone call the next day asking me if I could leave a bit earlier than I had originally planned!