It’s hard to make the last jump from Maslowian safe, contented, self-esteem to self-actualized and truly happy. A very small set of people get pulled from their inertia by the call of a compelling mission. Others get pushed out of their safe, contented position and have to find their way. Most stay safe. Angela Eifert got pushed out of her safe place, struggled to get her footing and ended up finding her mission and its associated self-actualization and happiness. There are lessons for all of us in her story.
Angela spent 10 years consulting on compensation and benefits to financial services organizations. This was valued, interesting work with interesting people that paid very well. What’s not to like? Angela was content with her work and appreciative of the lifestyle it afforded her and her husband.
The financial crisis of 2008 upended many people’s lives. The work at Angela’s firm dried up and her job went away. As she accessed her network for help finding a new job, she discovered many of her contacts either were out of work themselves or struggling trying to hold on to their jobs. As much as they wanted to, they couldn’t help.
After several months of looking for a comparable job and a few months in India on a Rotary fellowship, Angela realized she needed to reinvent herself. So she started over with an entry-level job selling office supplies. The good news was that it leveraged her natural networking skills and her new employer invested in her training.
At one of her sales training events, Angela met Ray Menard. Ray runs Cheetah Development, which invests in a portfolio of value-chain businesses that work directly with smallholder farmers, helping them commercialize, feed the world and exit poverty. Angela was fascinated by what they did and started volunteering.
A few months later, Angela met Colleen Striegel, HR Director for The American Refugee Committee (ARC). ARC helps people survive conflict and crisis and rebuild lives of dignity, health, security and self-sufficiency.
There was a natural connection between the Cheetah and ARC, which Angela brokered and shepherded. As Striegel got to know Angela she encouraged her to devote more and more of her time to that good work she was doing with Cheetah. Finally Angela had to explain that she was doing this as an unpaid volunteer and couldn’t afford to spend any less time on her paying sales job.
That was all Striegel needed to know. She and ARC CEO Daniel Wordsworth promptly hired her to work full time for their organization.
Now Angela gets to spend all her working time with ARC, bridging connections to donors and creating new opportunities to support refugees around the world.
Talking with her about this as I got to do at the last HATCH experience in Montana, her happiness is impossible to miss. She knows she’s making an important impact on people that desperately need help. She’s doing what she loves and is good at. And she and her husband earn enough to give their two-year-old daughter everything she needs.
As one of her colleagues, Brent Love, wrote,
Working with Angela is inspiring. She has such a deep regard for every individual she meets, and she quickly sees connections that are always co-strengthening.
1. Be open to your mission’s call whether it hits you over the head or whispers in your ear.
2. Be open to different routes to get from where you are to where you could be. Don’t fight contentment and self-esteem until you’re ready. But when something disturbs your inertia, take advantage of that disruption to think hard about what you could be doing as well as what you should be doing.
3. Be open to happiness and self-actualization, knowing that this is ultimately a very personal choice and what is right for you is not necessarily right for anyone else.