Deb Sofield


Go Where You’re Celebrated, Not Tolerated

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A while back I stepped down from a leadership position that I really enjoyed. I like to be called Boss Lady, but the reality is I do too much, so in order to take control of my world, I had to make some changes to protect the time I have to do the things that I am interested in doing and, in some cases, am required to do.

It’s never easy stepping away from a project you birthed or created or really loved. But the fact is that in order to leave a legacy of success, there comes a time when we should all step away and encourage, allow or cajole others into the leadership position to teach them or grow them into becoming the person they were meant to be. That growth will not happen if you keep hanging on when you should have stepped away.

If you are a person who is in tune with what I’ll call the flow of life, you will instinctively know when the time comes to move on. And, hopefully, you’ll be wise enough to listen to the still, small voice that tells you to move on because the organization, the company, the program would be better off without you at the helm. Hard to do, I know, but necessary for you to live your best life ever and be a mentor and leader for the next generation.

I like to challenge myself to see how well I’ll do in building, creating or constructing whatever it is that is on my plate. Then, once the challenge is over, I move on to other opportunities. My friends will tell you that I get bored easily, so I am always looking for something else to challenge me, which, as I have come to believe, is not always a bad thing.

When my friends and clients tell me that they are so busy, so tired, or so over the job they have, I like to ask the question of what it would take to get them back on track. Not why they feel so overwhelmed, but what it would take to move in the right direction.

Tossing around the idea of Why and What, I came across a book by Tasha Eurich called “Insight.” She points out, “Why questions draw us to our limitations; what questions help us see our potential. Why questions stir up negative emotions; what questions keep us curious. Why questions trap us in our past; what questions help us create a better future. Indeed, making the transition from why to what can be the difference between victimhood and growth.”

One thing I find interesting is just how full to the brim people fill their lives with things that are not required or expected. Now, I am all for giving back and doing your part when you are able, but still hanging on to organizations that have long past lost your heart and soul’s interest…well, that just doesn’t make sense when so many other things are available if you’ll just pull back and take a fresh look at the options before you.

Friend, are you filling your time to keep busy so you don’t have to do the things you should be doing– hustling for new business or doing your taxes, or simple things like polishing your shoes, cleaning out your car, attic, house, garage and tool shed? The answer is probably “yes.”

And that makes me ask why we hold on to things that at one time were of great value but now, in reality, we’re just filling a seat. I’ll tell you what I have come to understand. I think it is because we’re afraid of being forgotten. There, I said it, and it hurts to speak the word “forgotten,” but I have been around long enough to know it when I see it.

A friend gave me some advice years ago that I have not forgotten and it is this, “Go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated.

Perceived obligations for so many of us hold us long past the due date. And just like the milk label says, best if used by a certain date, if that date is over, you need to consider leaving.

Let me give you a few reasons why:

  1. You’ve done your part. You’ve set a direction, cleaned up a mess, steadied the ship to sail to new harbors. Nothing left to do, so now go.
  2. Others need your seat at the table so they can learn and contribute; that will not happen if you’re still sitting there. And if you make them pry your cold, clammy hands off the table and take you out to bury you, all they are going to do is shake their heads and say, “Too bad you didn’t go sooner.”
  3. The truth is every organization needs new blood and new ideas from the new people, so go.

Trust me on this, no matter how much they “tell” you they want you to stay, it’s a ruse to make you feel better or to make the kicking out the door not hurt quite so much. Most organizations hope you’ll be aware enough to know when it is time to go; they just don’t want to hurt your feelings, lose your financial support or look like they tossed out the old gal.

Stepping down is never easy. Pride gets in the way and the thought of being dispensable hurts. It hurts the pride, it hurts the self-esteem, it hurts your heart since it was something you once loved (and maybe still do), but it is necessary sometimes for you to move on and in a new direction. Friend, I hope in life you understand the value of “Go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated.”

Now, I’m not saying that tomorrow you withdraw your membership in all your charitable or service organizations, but this summer consider stepping away from a few of the organizations that you spend large amounts of time with. Nothing makes a heart grow fonder than when you re-appear in a year or two or three (if you still have an interest) and then you can see the results of your years of hard work that built an organization to its success.

I am self-aware enough to know that my words are going to fall on deaf ears because some of you reading or listening today cannot imagine a world without you at the table. While I love your self-esteem, it might be misguided, my friend.

It is always hard to know when to step away, but let me give you a few ideas to help you figure out when you should do so.

I work in the political realm, and there is nothing worse than a politician who keeps the job but stops listening to their constituents and taking their concerns to heart; if that’s the case for you, it’s not rocket science–it is time to go.

I see in business many good men and women who want to keep the job they have achieved because it makes them feel important. The truth is they no longer contribute, and everyone knows it because the world around them has changed and their death grip on “their space” will be pulled apart when they least expect it, and that is sad for everyone to watch.

The one I don’t get is when a coach is no longer interested in learning new ideas, and they keep reciting the same old facts and figures that have been debunked years ago, but they’re too lazy to change or too tired to learn. If that’s the case in your situation, for the good of your clients, it is time to go.

Nothing is so sad as to see people who think they are hanging on to power that was lost long ago.

I’ll never forget a situation I saw unfold on a national scale where a lady built a recognized political organization, but as she got older, it began to decline. She refused to understand the needs of the audience and keep up with the times. Then she had a stroke, and in her altered state she “guilted” her board into allowing her to stay ‘till the end. Now it is the end, and the organization is in shambles, and those who finally moved her out were not able to even pick up enough of the pieces to rebuild what was once a nationally recognized and respected organization, all because one lady refused to let go of her perceived power. The organization she built, she killed, and from where I stand, that is a very sad state of affairs.

The fact is I could go on and on about many once-great organizations that are now closed or are so damaged almost beyond repair because one person would not let go; because the truth of “Go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated” did not win out, the flame died and the people left, and all that was good is now gone.

How about you? Are you hanging on for one last gasp in hopes of being remembered or thought of kindly? If you overstay your welcome, that is the last thing people will remember about you.

Let me move this to your personal life. Do your friends celebrate you or tolerate you because you have money? Does the person you’re dating or even married to celebrate you or tolerate you because they don’t want to be alone? Do your work colleagues celebrate you or tolerate you because they have no choice until you’re fired or removed.

Hard to think about and reconcile, but you know in your head and heart the answers to these questions. So now the question is, what will you do about it?

You know that I’m becoming famous (or infamous) for saying “move on and move out, and find those who will really care for you.” Find someone who will love you and be your cheerleader. Or be strong enough to live your life to its fullest, even if that means doing it alone.

Listen, if you keep doing the same things and expect different results, that is not going to happen, no matter how hard you hope, wish and pray.

I looked up the word “tolerate” and here is the definition.

  • Endure something: to withstand the unpleasant effects of something

Now compare that to “celebrate,” which means

  • Show happiness at something: to show happiness that something good or special has happened by doing such things as eating and drinking together or playing music.

Ah, friends, take some time to figure out who celebrates you–who shows happiness that you are you–because it is important that you “Go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated” for a lifetime.

Deb Sofield

Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say and Encouragement For Your Life ~ Tough Love Memos to Help You Fight Your Battles and Change the World, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

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