(This post is part of a pact I made. Click here for the full story.)
It’s time for you to meet Jo. Jo’s lead is quite interesting to follow. Had you met Jo a few years ago, most probably it would have been at a hospital and she would’ve introduced herself to you as ‘Dr. Martin’. Had you been one of her patients you would most probably have cancer (but G-d forbid). That’s because Jo was an Oncology intern. If you meet Jo now, like I did a few months ago, she’ll greet you with a warm red-lipstick smile that goes from cheek to cheek, and she’d ask you – in her young yet husky voice – to please call her ‘Jo’ or ‘Joey’. She won’t ask you to undress, instead through a microphone, she’ll ask you to take a seat anywhere you like in the auditorium. Soon after she’ll launch into a most energetic presentation, packed with practical tips and advice about what it takes to succeed as a professional public speaker. That’s because now Jo is an inspirational speaker and mentor. She delivers her insight across the world through public speaking engagements. And Jo knows success well. In fact, she made over $1.25 million in sales her first 12 months as a professional speaker.
To the untrained eye, Jo’s career metamorphosis comes across as total madness. After all, what does Oncology have to do with inspiration and professional public speaking? After being on different career paths, Jo found the common thread that led her to find career Nirvana.
Note to self: Be honest with yourself. Only you know what feels right.
By most standards, Jo has it all. She did well in school, she’s a doctor and a successful entrepreneur. To top it off, she’s sexy and has a loving relationship with her life partner. Yet as much as it seems that Jo has it all under control, she oscillated between career paths before finding her career Nirvana.
Note to self: Not having answers is not a sign of failure. More often than not it’s searching for answers that brings about success.
At the age of 8, before she even knew what a Paediatrician was, Jo decided to be a doctor – and announced it to her parents (which made them super proud, especially since both are Pharmacists). Until she reached the sixth grade it was possible to say that Jo was one of those lucky ‘born-to-be-a-doctor’ types. All that changed after she enrolled in the school’s drama program and discovered a passion for performing. From that point onwards, her decision to become a doctor began to feel ‘not quite right’ because when she was not acting, she was longing it.
After finishing high school, she took a year off to travel the world with friends. Perhaps she was hoping (and praying) that she could leave behind her longing to perform and continue life peacefully following her childhood decision to become a doctor. Yet her indecision was so evident, that it was at the very last minute, while speaking with her mom from a phone booth in Greece, that she decided to apply to med school. As she confessed at our interview, that was only because she missed the admission’s audition to drama school.
Jo found med school challenging and she enjoyed it. Except she never was sure what type of doctor she’d become. Finally Oncology found her – after two out of her five rotations during her Intern year were in Oncology. Even if she did not think much about her indecision at the time, it seems as if her thought process was being interrupted by her longing to be on stage.
After grueling months working in the Oncology ward, she finally cracked open. And at the end of her first year, she decided to enroll in drama school. Her decision came about almost as harshly as new teeth break through a baby’s gums. The catalyst was the passing of a patient she came to know well. That same night back at the hotel room, she realized that the patient could’ve been her. As she sat there debriefing after a long and emotional day, she asked herself: ”If I had 6 months to live (like my patient did) would I be doing today what I’m doing?” Her answer was a resounding no. That intense moment stripped her of all inhibitions and pretensions. And once her gates of honesty opened up, answers started to flow downstream from her core. In Jo’s words she said to herself: “Instead I would go to drama school and I would learn how to act, and I would try my hand as a professional actor.”
That was Jo’s first ‘if not now, then when?’ moment.
When telling me this, Jo made it a point to let me know that her decision to switch paths was not based on a dislike of medicine – or on feeling completely and utterly exhausted after working 12 to 14 hour days. It was because the practice of medicine was not giving her the benefits that she wanted, emotionally.
Note to self: Feelings don’t lie. They don’t know how. When things feel right, it’s because they are. When they don’t, it’s because something needs to change. Learn to listen to your instincts and to trust them.
When I asked Jo if she has a way to tap into her feelings, she shared with me a method, which seems simple by most standards. Jo uses a balance sheet model made up of assets and liabilities. When it becomes clear that the liabilities are outweighing the emotional assets of an opportunity, she knows that it’s time to change. And change she does, and quickly.
Six months after starting the drama program at one of Australia’s most competitive academies, she began to feel something she did not expect. Especially not after she had given up a career as a doctor to pursue her dream to be an actor. Although drama school helped Jo fill an emotional void and scratch a major itch, it did not do a complete job. She realized that performing was missing a key ingredient (drum roll please)…making a real difference in people’s lives. Although this realization took Jo by surprise, she told me that she did not panic. Instead, she focused on finding a solution.
Note to self: It is how you respond to set backs that determines how quickly you recover from them.
As tempted as she may have been to go back to practicing medicine, she knew that was not a sustainable option. That wouldn’t satiate her emotionally. Around that same time she started to train in executive coaching. There is where Jo found a path that allowed her to make a difference in people’s lives and to feed her emotional craving to perform.
Note to self: Cultivate an abundance mentality. Be open to having ‘this and that’. Don’t limit your decisions to either/or choices. Dare to ask yourself: “If I could have it all, what would that be?”
Soon Jo realized that she has a talent for improving people’s morale and empowering them to take responsibility for their lives. Her business as an executive coach, working with some of Australia’s largest corporations, grew at such a quick pace that she began to feel that drama school was holding her back. That was when she decided to quit drama school to work full time on her growing coaching business. Her work caught the attention of one of the world’s top results coaches, Chris Howard. He invited her to join his organization as Head of Research and Training. Even though that move involved a considerable down grade in income, she decided to accept because she knew that the opportunity would pay back in know-how.
Note to self: Learning is also a form of earning. It’s an investment in your career path.
1. Be open to learning.
2. Read inspiring material.
She spent the next two years developing business with Chris Howard’s company. Jo was so good at what she did that eventually she became the face of Chris Howard on platforms across the globe: UK, USA and Australia, replacing him on stage.
Note to self: When you’re passionate about what you do, success is likely to follow – and quickly.
Two years later, after spending months at a time working away from her family and her boyfriend (now life partner), she decided it was time to come closer to home. She made up her mind on her 30th birthday while she was celebrating it in London with work friends – instead of at home with her family.
That was Jo’s second ‘if not now, then when’ moment. Within a few weeks she quit her job.
Note to self: Take action. When it feels that it’s time to go, your feelings are probably telling the truth. Refer to lesson #3.
For the next nine months Jo went through what she calls a pajama phase. She did nothing. (Or as little as an over achiever like Jo can handle) Then, after several professionals in the public speaking circuit approached her for advice, she realized she had a lot to offer. That’s how her current company was born. She now spends most of her time helping entrepreneurs express their passion and find businesses that support their lifestyle.
Note to self: Nothing is the end of the world. Not even quitting your job or selling your business or even getting fired without having another opportunity lined up.
Jo admitted to me that she never has had a plan or has taken time to weigh up options. She simply relies on her instincts and a deep knowledge that she will be all right – no matter what. And that’s how it has worked out for her until now.
It almost seems that Jo’s instincts where being guided by a two-circle venn diagram model. Something inside of her knew that at the intersection of medicine and performing emerges success coaching and professional public speaking. Because she was willing to listen, her instincts guided her to her career Nirvana.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this fell from the sky, like a pie, on Jo. Although she has this inner sense that whatever happens she’ll land back on her feet, Jo is an extremely hard worker. She admits to have worked herself to exhaustion on several occasions. She says that this tends to happen when she’s enjoying so much what she’s working on, that she stays on a roll for very long periods of time. That leads me to Jo’s greatest strength – her self-awareness and brutal self-honesty. Both make her very down to earth and approachable.