Like most of you, I sat around our Thanksgiving table last week feeling grateful for what I often take for granted on a daily basis — my work, my family and of course the food. As I toasted the company of my loved ones, it occurred to me that exactly five years ago, this month, I was in a very different place.
I was seven months pregnant with my second child, and I received the phone call that no entrepreneur wants to hear. The parent company of the direct-to-public car-buying model I had developed from a seedling of an idea into a national operation purchasing thousands of cars per month no longer wanted to invest. I was given the directive to wind down the business. On the day I received the call, I was in San Francisco attending a technology conference, listening to Sheryl Sandberg deliver a keynote address about how to “Lean in,” when I received instructions to “Get out.”
On the night I received the news about having to close my company, an automotive executive that I had admired for many years invited me to attend a dinner. Reminder: I was seven months pregnant and I had just been told to close my business. It was the last thing I wanted to do that night. But I dragged myself to dinner and found myself being asked the question, “What do you want to do next?”
That morning I had been in meetings, making plans to expand our operating system. Now I had to determine how to return to my company, liquidate assets, take care of our strategic partners and most important, care for our employees. I left San Francisco the next morning with no idea about what I wanted to do next, or how to move forward. On the flight home, the stress and anxiety made me feel like I was having a heart attack.
Despite having to close my business, I was still receiving invitations from various companies to discuss my goals and interests, post-maternity leave. At this point, I was nine months pregnant, driving and flying around the country to have these conversations. If I’m being totally honest, I was fearful of lacking relevancy when I returned from leave, so I kept pushing. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that if I was being asked to meet for future job opportunities while nine months pregnant and closing a business, that I would probably be okay if I didn’t have something lined up upon my return.
When I finally paused to consider my options, I realized that my compass for decision-making was malfunctioning. I was emotionally and physically exhausted, but I wanted to keep pressing forward even though I couldn’t discern what I was pressing toward. It was at this point that I discovered time-lining, and I began to recalibrate my personal compass for making decisions.
Time-lining helped me learn to stop making decisions out of fear — something many of us do that often leads us down paths that just don’t fit. I wanted broaden my experience within alternate channels in auto, and over the next six months I consulted and pushed myself to accept projects that were unfamiliar. I knew that I wanted to explore the intersection of tech and automotive and my consulting work appeared to be a way to gain more experience in this space. Consulting took me out of my comfort zone, but was one of the best non-fear-based decisions I’ve ever made.
In the months that followed, I accepted more consulting work that took me around the world. I reconnected with industry relationships, and in one year, I went from being pregnant and closing a business to being tapped by brilliant entrepreneurs to embark on a journey in automotive tech. The business we founded was DRIVIN, a revolutionary automotive offering that was completely technology-centric. DRIVIN not only transformed the automotive industry, but it also launched my career into a new and exciting trajectory.
This brings me to present-day November 2018. As I think back to myself at Thanksgiving five years ago, I was overwhelmed. Did I make some poor decisions at this time? Probably. But did I make some good ones? You bet I did. But that’s the benefit of time and distance; it offers a glimpse of how much you have grown. If you’re in a tough spot, it’s like staring directly at a stunning canvas close-up. Your perspective is askew and it’s hard to discern the whole picture. But if you step back to look at it from a distance, you gain perspective and can see how the big picture comes together. I’m grateful for this perspective. But I know I wouldn’t have it today if I had not said, “yes” to opportunities that felt unfamiliar and somewhat scary. I’m eager to know your stories too. When did you decide to say “yes” and figure it out as you went along?