• Scott Merkel

1. Storytelling is Power

Updated: Apr 8, 2019

Welcome to CareerFli! As I write this first blog post, I am committed to portraying my authentic self in each and every interaction with my clients and with casual readers of the content we will be posting at CareerFli. To keep things conversational and authentic, you may notice a switching of tenses within the same post. I know that is a grammatical no-no, and while I understand that may be troubling to some, I am going to press on with my style. Authenticity first! The story I will tell during my first post extrapolates in a major way on my story found on the CareerFli homepage.

In late 2012, I felt stuck in my job as a management consultant. You see, despite my best attempts to ignore my narrative identity, I couldn't shake this unsatisfying feeling that my work had no deeper meaning. I was effectively pushing paper for the government, breaking a bunch of different systems down and re-configuring them in a less efficient manner. It took me nearly four years to step back and actually reflect on my work. For the sake of accounting, let's call this three and a half years. There are 2080 hours in the average American work year. That is 7,280 working hours. I spent 7,280 hours creating systemic inefficiencies. That was a tough realization.

I wish I had woke up one morning realizing all the hours and years I had spent falling into a funk. The truth is I was forced into this realization. At the time, my relationship with my live-in partner suddenly came crashing down in a fury of pent up emotion on both sides. When the dust was settled, I didn't have much of anything besides a pillow and the clothes in my closet. It is these moments when you are forced to take stock of the situation. Initially, the discomfort is unbearable. Distractions from the self discovery, the re-evaluation, they are (and were) everywhere. Hindsight is always 20/20, and eventually I was able to make piece with the fact that I was stuck, lost, and unaware well before I got to that climactic moment. At the time, it was just easier to ignore it and block out reality.

Later on, I would learn that having a live-in partner doesn't necessarily mean that you have an accountability partner. Having an accountability partner means that you can actually do this work (reflection and self-discovery) with fidelity. Having an accountability partner is a choice that is often made outside of normal, ubiquitous self-improvement cycle that starts on January 1st. It is one of the most powerful elements of forward momentum that anyone could subscribe to. I learned this lesson myself as I began to pick up the pieces from my complacent lifestyle and the fake narrative I had composed in my head.

That is where we fast forward eight months. I am coaching youth soccer and mentoring at a high school. I love the work. There is meaning to what I am doing. I began working with an accountability partner, in this case it was a licensed professional counselor (though an accountability partner can come in various forms). I had made a lot of progress in eight months, but I was still stuck. I was ready to move forward and explore a new career path, but I couldn't make a decision. I was gripped by the fear of the "what if." What if I make this choice and it is the wrong one? The "what ifs" are a tricky spiral to fall into. They create what counseling professionals might refer to as "analysis paralysis." I had already looked at both options in every possible way. I tracked every variable and assigned them a rating. There were t-charts, Venn diagrams, letters to myself from the future. These are all great strategies, but I still couldn't decide. So my counselor at the time looked at me and said, "We are going to flip a coin. Whatever the coin says, you are going to do. Can you accept that." "Yes", I said. I remember feeling a rush of nerves and adrenaline. I had left my biggest life decision to date up to a coin. The coin landed on the far riskier of the two decision points. I accepted the results, moved across the country, worked full-time to put myself through my master's program and met the love of my life. The coin was right! Well not exactly. The coin was a regular quarter, a copper and nickel alloy with two sides and George Washington's face on the front. What the coin did offer was a chance to get out of my head. It forced me to take action and to make the best of where I stood at that moment in time.

There is something very freeing about letting go of the stress and anxiety of indecision, of being stuck, or of hating your current situation. We have control over certain aspects of our lives and much less control over others. The coin forced me to confront that reality and to make the best of the elements I could control. That is the lesson of the coin and one that I reflect on every single day. You see, I still carry that coin with me as a reminder that acting is better than reacting and that the opportunity to be pleasantly surprised by the outcome sure beats being paralyzed by the potential fear of the outcome.

There are certain predictable patterns in Hollywood movies or in page turning novels that draw us in as human beings. Those patterns almost always involve a connection to a character, an unexpected conflict or challenge that the character faces, and then a conquering of that challenge so that the character can reach another plateau of peace, happiness, or [insert positive emotion].

At CareerFli, my mission is to try and recreate this pattern as it relates specifically to careers. I am going to talk to people who are relatable and who have completely re-invented themselves through challenging or unexpected circumstances. These are the stories that matter in facing our own career challenges. We all wake up each day trying to live as our best selves and sometimes we need a reminder of what is possible. Tune in to CareerFli to access these stories/profiles for free. Subscribe to our mailing list if you would like to know when the next profile has been posted.

I hope you thoroughly enjoy the stories and will find some value in applying them to your own life!


#lifestyle #decisionmaking #careers #storytelling #challenge #courage #authenticity

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