Note from Leveled: In our line of work, we're lucky to come across amazing women with inspiring personal stories to tell. In 2018, we'll be occasionally using our blog as a platform to share those stories.
Liz is one of those women - and here is hers.
Seven years ago, my life was a bad game of Tetris, and I couldn’t get the personal and professional pieces to fit. If you would have asked me if I thought I lived a healthy, balanced lifestyle, I wouldn’t even know how to answer. Today, if asked, I would say an enthusiastic “yes! and happy!” - and follow up with “and it took a lot of work to get here.”
Here’s my story.
For me, balance began when I met my best friend (my husband), found my inner badass, and stopped telling myself I wasn’t good enough.
I, like many people, always looked at the people who I admired and assumed they were just “lucky” or had better circumstances than I did. Then, I realized the people I admired and looked up to 1) Had goals, and a plan to execute upon, 2) Dedicated time to their goals, 3) Didn’t do it alone or weren’t afraid to ask for help, and 4) Weren’t duplicating someone else’s life, it was their authentic self. I knew I had to do the same for myself.
So, I embarked on some major changes in my health and fitness lifestyle (and believe me, that transformation is another blog post in itself). Once my body and mind started to come together, I was inspired to make the same commitment to revamping my professional life. Here are the ways that I put that commitment into action.
Have a Plan of Attack
I am about as free-spirited and chaotic as they come: planning is not (was not) my forte. And I also knew I needed to make a plan. I decided that just because you don’t classify yourself as something, doesn’t mean you can’t learn to be that something. So, I sat down and really thought about the life I wanted.
First, I knew I needed to find a new job. I was educated, and super driven, but had no clear direction. I was working an unstable hourly job for $13/hr. I had lost sight of what I wanted to be when I grew up and had no idea what I was truly good at anymore. I started applying for anything and everything online and heard nothing back, or I was kindly rejected by a canned email response. Talk about throwing myself a pity party of the century! Then my fiancé (at the time) told me “it’s like dating, Liz. You don’t need to find 10 people interested in you, you just need one.” The light bulb came on: I will never be everyone’s cup of tea, coffee, or whatever your choice of beverage is, and that’s okay! I also was not qualified for every job I applied for (be honest with yourself). My “apply on my own & get lucky” mentality wasn’t working: so, I tried “ask for help”.
I was referred by a mutual connection to a staffing agency. As soon as I got to the interview, my head was swimming with “why am I here? I don’t want to be doing office temp work.” Oddly enough, this helped me open up to the recruiter. My heart wasn’t set on the work she was telling me about, so I felt like I had nothing to lose. I had a staffing professional in front of me, so I told her I was looking new career path that involved helping people and networking. She then invited another colleague of hers from their finance team to interview me. Again, in my head I was thinking “I hate numbers - this would be my nightmare!” Finally, they asked me to come back for a third interview with someone from the creative team. It was then I realized the interview had switched from them helping me find a job, to hiring me internally. Say what!?
Everything clicked. I wasn’t 100% sure what my day-to-day responsibilities would be, but I liked the manager, the team members I talked to were great, and I knew I was up for the new challenge. I was sold. Then we talked compensation. It was low. With potential. Instinctively, I said these exact words “I am okay with it, because I know I won’t be at that salary in a years’ time.” (my plan!).
Fast forward to today, I just celebrated my 3 year anniversary with the same company. I doubled my income in the first year, I was promoted to division director within my first 8 months, I hit my million-dollar milestone with the company in 2.5 years, and my job involves helping people and networking. To be clear: this wasn’t a luck. I had a plan.
Dedicate Time to Your Goals
I also learned that there are a lot of people who plan to do a lot of things, but a plan takes work to produce something. If you aren’t willing to put time into your goals, don’t expect much to change. My “chaotic free-spirit” was hyper-tested with consistency and dedication 101.
I used my competitive spirit (which is VERY competitive) to motivate me. I knew I had the same hours in a work day as everyone else, but I needed to figure out how to be better than the average person. I applied the same mindset as building muscle in my body to building a client base. I picked up the phone. I went on meetings with people I had never met. ….You couldn’t pay me to go back and do my first year over again because it was really hard. Sales is hard. But I regret nothing. I never made failure an option. I found the average person is inconsistent, and the great people are VERY consistent, and I was determined to be great. Often, you don’t have to be “the best”: you just have to put in the time.
While all that was happening, my husband and I were also frequently being asked how we achieved our physiques (see above: plan and consistency!). And we saw an opportunity to teach people the healthy way to do it, without the extremes. So we started a business. THAT was not in my plan. Neither of us had started or run a business before, and there was a huge learning curve and a big-time investment. But, we dedicated the time: to marketing our business, creating programs, and helping people achieve their goals. Now, 5 years later, the same time and the same effort goes into the business to keep it growing each year. And we love it.
Don’t Do it Alone
When I decided I needed a lifestyle transformation, I called in the troops. I asked for help. My cry for help was a little emotional and desperate, but hey, desperate times call for desperate measures 😊
My husband was my biggest support system during my job search, holding me accountable and making sure I was dedicating enough time to finding my next opportunity. I found that the power of someone else’s perspective (especially of you) is a huge force: when I had self-doubt, he had a second opinion (and I found third and fourth ones, too) and all guided me towards strengths I didn’t know or see. Captained by Dan, I built a sounding board for questions, to celebrate wins with me, or simply to listen to an emotional vent session. I found and activated “my people”.
And running our business together is a whole other beast, that is anything BUT a one person show. Dan has his strengths, and I have mine. I am great with marketing - he’s great with financials. His logical/frugal ways keep me in line. My free-spirited chaos allow him to open in ways he wouldn’t otherwise if he was on his own. We need both sides.
And goals aren’t just for our business. We hold each other accountable every day to be the best individuals and couple we can be. Our relationship is constantly a work in progress because we understand it can’t be made great alone (and it’s not luck!). We’re always working to put our pride aside. We’ve realized that for us, we do best when we’re working as a team. And whether your “person” is your husband, best friend, or business partner, they’re there to lean on. So use them.
When I used to have MySpace (yes, that ancient beauty!), my tagline under my picture was “What you see is what you get!”
I’ve always been a little stubborn, strong-willed, crazy, and will always voice my opinion. I’ve felt that way since a young age, and thought it was the way we all operated. Yet, I’ve had people throughout my life, outside of my parents, tell me that’s “a gift.” And I’ve grown to appreciate it, whatever it brings. That’s my authentic.
I may not be “the norm,” and I may not be everybody’s cup of tea, and I don’t have to be. In my experience, most sales cultures can be tough and people can try to adjust their management style accordingly. I’ve found that I’ve still been able to be myself and gain respect from people. And when I go to bed at night I am proud of the person I am because it’s not a show.
I truly believe anyone can have a healthy, balanced life that is filled with everything they love. If you don’t like the direction your life is going, or you feel like you need an upgrade or refresh…put a plan in place today! Put together your own authentic lifestyle recipe and spend some time nurturing your goals. Remember, it doesn’t have to happen tomorrow, and it doesn’t have to happen alone, it just needs to happen!
Liz Krueger is an Assistant Vice President at The Creative Group in Minneapolis. She is also a Lifestyle & Fitness Coach at DK Fit, which she co-founded with her husband, Dan, in 2013.