What I Learned About Myself: 2009-2019

Author: Shamis Pitts

My sister-in-law asked me if I was ready for 2020. I was thinking, “There are still several months left in 2019, people!” Then, I started to get curious about why everyone was so concerned with 2020’s arrival.

Back in September 2019, my sister-in-law asked me if I was ready for 2020. As I moved about the world and engaged with people, many folks were asking me the same thing. Honestly, I started to get a bit annoyed because I was thinking, “There are still several months left in 2019, people!” Then, I started to get curious about why everyone was so concerned with 2020’s arrival. Ah! It will be the beginning of a new decade, which can be the mark of a new chapter. I decided to spend some time reflecting on the past 10 years of my life.

What Did I Experience?

In August 2009, I entered business school so that I could develop my leadership style and skills, as well as fill gaps in my technical know-how. Getting acclimated to being a student again after 11 years in the world of work was challenging. It was worth every minute because I found my tribe.
Right before I graduated, I had a mild stroke (source: undiagnosed congenital heart defect), then I started my new job shortly thereafter with a heart monitor hidden under my suit. (smh) I somehow developed active, non-infectious tuberculosis (source: West Africa trip? New York City subway?…nobody knows) one month after that and eventually had a cardiac catheterization to repair my heart. Good times.

I was working 70-100 hours/week in education leadership, then in start-up tech leadership. I got married to my favorite person in the world who supported all of my choices and was there to pick up the pieces when I would eventually burnout. Then I stepped left. I decided to take a deep dive into who I was, explore my reason for being and connect with my purpose. At the end of that soul searching journey, Pitts Leadership Consulting was born in March 2019.

What Have I Learned?

1. It’s all about me. I have always spent so much time doing things to serve and support others that I didn’t create space to figure out what I really and truly wanted. Don’t get me wrong – I had a checklist of what I was looking for in a job and work environment and I ended up in those places. However, I did not have a vision beyond supporting what someone else wanted to create…And it was difficult for me to create that vision when I was constantly on the hamster wheel chasing impact.

Now, I am very deliberate about how I spend my time, being intentional about every choice and why doing “X” at that moment is important to me. I focus on myself, operating from a place of self-trust and self-compassion, because I cannot give what I do not have. How I move through life professionally and personally is totally different. I am still serving and supporting others. My drive is now sourced from a place of knowing, peace and joy. (Yup. “Joy.” I said it.)

2. It’s not about me. Everyone has a different worldview – thoughts, feelings, beliefs, experiences – that shapes how they engage and communicate with the world. When someone comes at me sideways, meaning the person talks to me in a way that I find disrespectful or combative, I remain neutral. My hackles don’t go up. I don’t take it personally.

9 times out of 10, their negative communication has absolutely nothing to do with me. It is usually sourced from their own fears, feelings of lacking or negative life experiences. Depending on the context, I close the gap with powerful questions to invite understanding and alignment or I just shrug it off and keep it moving. It takes too much energy to be angry. It does not serve me.

3. It’s all learning. I spent most of my life being very critical of others because I was very critical of myself. I was taught to have high standards and I tried very hard not to make mistakes. I have let all of that go.
These days, I recognize that every decision/action/inaction has consequences. With every outcome, I ask myself, “What can I learn?” Even circling back to my interaction with the person who came at me sideways, I ask myself the same question.

4. Be present. This is likely a hackneyed phrase at this point, but it has served me well the last two years. I used to be the queen of “multi-tasking”…or so I thought. (Well, my husband has been telling me for years that my multi-tasking abilities were $#@.)

Research shows that focused attention is the way to go. Committing to a mindfulness practice changed my life, which supports my active listening, focus and inner peace. I am not only more productive but I am also happier with the results.

5. Be clear about what support looks like. Asking for help has not always been easy for me. When I have asked for help, I have not always received it in the way that I wanted. Language is powerful and when words are strung together, the sender and the receiver may interpret the message differently.
I realized that I needed to spend the time to be clear about how I wanted to be supported and then make the request in a compelling way, explaining why the request was important to me. There may be some negotiating, but the end result is usually net positive.

Overall, 2009-2019 was my decade of discovery. I fancy myself a bit of a late bloomer. I also know that all of my personal experiences, learning and development were a necessary part of my journey because all of it makes me great at what I do today.

I love working in leadership development and am grateful everyday that I get to help business leaders connect with their greatness through professional coaching and training. I am now entering my decade of creation. I am so excited for what 2020 will bring! Stay tuned.

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