How Parkinson’s brought me back.
It is very common to hear people encourage others to chase their passion, and to set goals. I buy into the need to set goals, but for most of my life I would have said you can find passion in what you are doing. You don’t have to chase it. I am no longer so certain about that. You should at least find a high level of satisfaction in what you are doing.
As a sales leader, I used to offer plenty of encouragement to my teams to hit their quotas each quarter. We all got paid bonuses and/or commissions when we hit our targets. The real benefit though, I used to tell them, of hitting your quota was you didn’t have to explain what happened. Most of them thought I was joking, but I meant it.
If you achieved expectations, you were left alone to carry on. If you didn’t hit your numbers, you spent the rest of the following quarter explaining why, and what you were going to do to make up for it. You entered PowerPoint hell with your colleagues that also missed their targets.
For me, it was a game where you got no points for a win and you got a point against if you lost. It was a reward system in financial terms only. Of course, I liked the money, but that was never the source of my motivation.
Even when big deals finally closed, what I felt was relief. I had already committed them in sales forecasts. I was on conference calls for weeks explaining why we were doing all the right things to close those deal.
It’s been a while now since I have been in that world. I miss the people (well, not all of them), the strategy sessions, and working together towards a common goal. I don’t miss how we kept score.
I can’t speak to how much of my experience is attributable to how businesses function versus me just being wired a certain way. It’s likely more the latter. Other’s most certainly thrive on the sales game, but I am relieved to be out. If I didn’t get Parkinson’s, I expect I would still be there trying to win at a game I couldn’t win.
I generally write posts about the challenges of having Parkinson’s, but in this case, it deserves credit for breaking a cycle.
I had to look for ways to continue challenging myself without adding stress that would exasperate my Parkinson’s symptoms. Writing has become a huge part of that for me.
The idea of writing isn’t a new one. When I went off to university, I had the aspirations of being a writer. As an 18-year-old, I just wasn’t ready yet. At least that’s what I told myself. Perhaps I was just afraid to fail.
After a difficult first year taking creative writing, literature and other arts courses, I ended up switching over to classes in subjects that I was confident I would get good marks in. Finance primarily. These classes eventually helped me make a pretty good living, but often an unsatisfying one.
I don’t believe in having regrets, but sometimes it is difficult not to look back and wonder. What if I had a little more patience?…
Now I write every day. I don’t know where it will take me, but I am passionate about it.
Today when I am asked what it is I do. I am happy to say; “I am a writer.”