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How I Became the Leader of My Own Life

As a kid I pretended to sleep in the backseat on car rides with my father and my older brother. Over the disagreeable crackle and static of sports radio, they talked about subjects that bored me, so I found peace closing my eyes and retreating from it all.

It was common for me to retreat. When I was small—and my brother was being yelled at—I would hide. Hours after he’d been reprimanded, I’d be found playing in the solitude of my closet.

It wasn’t only in times of conflict that I was hard to find.

I discovered a cassette tape that was recorded when my brother and I were young. He blabbered on as if he were being paid by the word. After a few minutes of listening, I heard a higher-pitched tone. It was me looking for a space, a crack to seep through. I was overrun by his locomotive-speed energy each time I tried. My voice reminded me of a fire alarm beeping when its batteries need to be replaced. The sound is both piercing and fitful. You wonder if you’ve really heard it, or if it was just your imagination.

It isn’t surprising that I spent 10 years as a chief of staff. I climbed into the backseat while the leaders I supported drove me somewhere I wasn’t really interested in going.

That was my old life.

As I took a step toward my new one, I attended a three-day workshop that kicked off my professional coach training. The icebreaker at the start of Day One was “Two Truths and a Lie.”

The facilitator asked for a volunteer to share one statement with the group of 50 strangers, so they could determine its veracity. My hand instinctively shot up.

I strolled to the front of the room and challenged them to decide if I’d had a camel as a pet when I was growing up. It was hotly contested, but ultimately, the skeptics were rewarded when I confessed the only pet I’d had was a stubby-legged, brown and white mutt named Dewey.

I hadn’t given this experience much thought until after I’d launched my coaching business.

I planned to leverage social media as part of my business development strategy, but I told myself I only wanted to post when I had something valuable to share. As a result, I posted sporadically, and when I did, I shared the thoughts of others.

Then something somehow shifted.

I tuned into the insights I offered my clients each day. I recognized their usefulness, so I started to transcribe them. I woke up at 4 am with ideas in my head, so I reached for my phone to record voice memos before losing them back to sleep. As I listened to podcasts, I turned up the volume on my own thoughts—the questions, the rebuttals, the connections I was making—and I wrote them down. My observations and opinions were accumulating. I needed a process to capture them, so I created a Microsoft Word document that grows every week.

I was confounded by this at first. Where did the surge of content come from, and why now? Then I realized something: I’d always had a river of thoughts and ideas. I just learned to keep them to myself instead of sharing them. I’d stopped looking for the crack to seep through a long time ago.

I didn’t know it then, but when I walked to the front of the room on the first day of training to become a professional coach, I was making a declaration to myself. I was done with the backseat. I was getting in the front and shutting the staticky radio off.

Can you hear me now?  

Jill Sammak, Founder of Jill Sammak Coaching and Consulting, LLC

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