It was New Year’s Eve at about 7 PM. It was my first night waiting tables at a fine-dining restaurant in Roanoke, VA. Although just 22, I’d already been waitressing for 6 years. This was the fanciest restaurant that I’d ever worked at by a long shot. However, no one who knows what they’re doing starts a new waitress on the busiest (and most expensive) night of the year. I knew that things were not likely to go smoothly. I didn’t know that evening would be the catalyst for a big leap forward much later in my life.
To say that the food was delayed is the understatement of the century. It was a disaster. So much so that we even ran out of bread. My customers were now living on wine and crackers. The lyrics to Hotel California floated through my mind. “We are all just prisoners here of our own device.”
As we all hoped and prayed that the food would come out soon, I made my rounds, offering whatever comfort that I could and chit chatting to provide a distraction. When I dropped off some paper and pens that I had pilfered to keep some children busy, the father asked me what I’d do with my life when I finally graduated with my accounting degree. “I’m going to make the world a better place,” I stated confidently. “But how?” he wanted to know. He was both bewildered and amused. I didn’t know but that wouldn’t stop me from trying.
I did eventually get my accounting degree, but by that time I already had two children. That passing conversation had become a distant memory. I had wrongly thought the opportunity to change the world would come knocking at my door. Instead, the opportunities knocking at my door had been convenient consulting gigs that kept the bills paid. Sure my colleagues appreciated my efforts, but I had forgotten all about my urge to make a larger difference… until the first semester of my MBA program at Lehigh.
In our strategy class, the professor said something that lit up my life. “Sometimes good strategies fail. And sometimes bad strategies succeed. And no one knows why.”
My complacency had become so natural that I didn’t know it was there until I was startled out of it with those words. Implementing strategies is a key issue for any business. My professor’s words had brought me right back to the conversation in the restaurant and re-activated my desire to do work that mattered to me. I recognized the opportunity to be true to myself by pursuing change management, and I haven’t looked back since.
Let’s talk! What was your vision for yourself when you were 22? And what do you do when complacency sets in? My answer is in the comments.
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