The late great Superman Christopher Reeve once said “a hero is someone who, in spite of weakness, doubt or not always knowing the answers, goes ahead and overcomes anyway.” What if a hero instead is someone who, because of weakness, doubt or not knowing the answers, goes ahead and overcomes?
To get to the happy and fulfilling place I am in life today I’ve had to learn how to overcome self-doubt and build up my strengths around it. To do that, I discovered the power of self-reflection and began a journey to understand the very core of who I am. I’m not a hero, but I know when to be one. When fear and worry appears I recognize it. And then I conquer it.
If you don’t think you are good enough or smart enough to be and have what you want in life, then fear is holding you back, too. The story that follows is both inspired by and written for you.
You may not believe it yet, but you’ve already got what it takes within yourself to live a happier life.
Let me show you how you can discover it.
This Is Me Today.
I am a Norwegian expat in Canada. Here, I live in the heart of the world’s most multicultural city, Toronto, and lead a happy and full life with my wife and our furkid. By so many standards around our globe, my lifestyle is privileged. It hasn’t come easy, and I often am reminded of how fortunate I am.
I never could have envisioned living this life when I, one and a half decades ago, trapped, lost and without hope and goals for the future, decided on a whim to learn how to code and develop websites. I read about people making a living out of it, yet didn’t believe it was something I myself could do.
After a year of trying, failing and learning I began to prove myself wrong.
Today I work at XWP, a global company powered remotely by people working from their homes around the world. Our core expertise is WordPress. Our team dreams up and engineers platforms, tools and workflows that let companies more effortlessly connect with their audience. We help our clients to sell and deliver their services and product, and grow communities that serves as an extension of their businesses.
XWP’s roots date back to 2004, and I’ve been part of the journey for 10 of those years. In my current role I serve a team of 40 people. I was fully entrusted with the care of the company and the people working there by its owner in 2014. I am responsible for guiding our company vision, strategy and direction while ensuring its healthy growth and great performance. A vital area of my mandate is helping each person on our team have meaningful, impactful work in a purpose filled role they can be successful in.
The workplace environment and my role allows me to connect directly with my own professional purpose – to be a catalyst and energizer in helping people discover their personal and professional strengths, and uncover the opportunities and possibilities it can bring in their life. At work, I am also able to apply my strength of bringing people together to build unity and community.
At home, I am at my happiest when spending time with my wife and our senior rescue lab. The love I give and receive, our deep and our silly conversations together, and all the laughs we share are things that fills me up and re-energizes me. Cooking and serving food, especially for a small crowd, also energizes me. I’m known for preparing elaborate meals with menus that can take days to plan to get “just right”. Earlier this year I completed a Culinary Arts program at George Brown College here in Toronto to further explore my passion for food and for service.
My whole life I’ve found joy in doing sports. In my youth I actively played football/soccer and volleyball and did well with it. Since moving to Toronto I’ve taken up running, and I’ve discovered a way to keep myself motivated to exercise and train is to sign up for running races. It also has become a way I get to compete against myself, measuring my improvement to pace and finishing times. In 2015 I ran my first half-marathon. My goal was to run a full marathon this year, but I pushed myself too hard and strained a muscle, so I’ll run it next year instead. I am looking forward to passing that 42.2km mark in under 4 hours.
- I lead my life guided by a set of deeply held values, principles and beliefs:
- I value compassion, kindness, care, integrity and authenticity.
- I believe in serving others before myself.
- I offer my trust from the very start of a relationship, choosing to believe everyone has good intent in their heart.
- I strive to listen to and understand others. This lets me be empathic which will help me serve others needs better.
- I am of the opinion that everyone deserves to live a happy, fulfilling life, regardless of any personal flaw.
- I recognize my flaws and build up my strengths around them.
I am so grateful to have discovered all of this about myself at an early stage in life so I can live authentically who I am today and embrace all the opportunities it is affording me.
When I Discovered My Strengths.
I was invited to join the team at XHTMLized (today known as XFive, and a sister company of XWP), as a front-end developer in 2006. There was no shortage of work, the demand for its PSD-to-HTML service was growing rapidly. Opportunities to be part of great projects with exciting brands kept coming my way, and I continued to hone and develop my skills as a developer and project lead. Opportunities to be part of building the company surfaced, and I began investing time into helping the business grow.
Trying on and wearing the hats of different areas of the business was encouraged. I served in a variety of roles that touched on most every function of the business, including project management, sales and account management, finance and HR. I would often run into new and unfamiliar territory. Through my own determination I battled my fear of failure, and figured out how to do the things that needed to be done. I was surrounded by people who believed in me and recognized my strengths and achievements even when I wasn’t able to see them myself.
It was here that my belief in trust, empowerment, collaboration and autonomy in the workplace was shaped because I was experiencing how powerful it was first hand.
When our WordPress-focused team came together to form XWP in 2014, the opportunity to lead the company surfaced.
While faced with startup jitters and challenges of building up a brand new business, and while working with a team of enormous potential, I became uncertain of my own place in it. I questioned my ability to add value, to set us up in a way that would help us fulfill our potential. I began questioning my professional future. To deal with this uncertainty, I chose to start working with a professional coach. It was a decision that would greatly alter how I viewed myself and where I was in my career.
Through the work with my coach, I was introduced to the concept of unique ability, a belief that at the heart of who you are lies the secret to your greatest success, best quality of life, and biggest contribution to the world. It gave me new hope. I began the work to define my own unique ability. I discovered the concept of Servant Leadership, the understanding that leadership is not for personal power or gain but it is in service to others. This deeply resonated with me. I had seen traits of Servant Leadership in people I worked with and I was unknowingly applying aspects of it in my own life.
Within 6 months of coaching I had made the decision to pursue the role I have in the company today. I was believing in myself again and recognized that I could continue to make meaningful contribution and impact at the workplace I already had.
I am reminded of a quote that has served me well over the last decade of my life and often comes to mind at times when I forget my strengths:
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do”. – Eleanor Roosevelt
A Personal Sidestory.
My biggest personal transformation to date began when I found myself at rock bottom.
I was at a complete and utter dead end in most areas of my life when I chose to end a personal relationship that had kept me abroad in the U.S for 12 years. I had come to the realization that in order to have the positive change I needed for myself, I had to be the change. I found the courage within to take the action needed to close an unfulfilling and unhappy chapter of life.
To do that, I needed to break with almost everything around me and start fresh – and it was terrifying.
And exhilarating. But mostly, it was just terrifying. I had to let go of people I had grown close to and become dependent on. I didn’t have money in my own pocket nor did I have a home of my own to go back to in Oslo. I put my pride aside and asked for help from my family and the company I was working for so I could do what I needed to do for myself. I renewed an expired passport. I booked a plane ticket. I made sure I met all requirements necessary to bring my little dog with me. I began shipping the few belongings I had back to Norway. And I prepared my closest friends and extended family there for my departure by asking for their support and understanding of my decision. It was one small step at the time, and each step helped move me forward.
Letting go of what I had then was one of the best decision I have ever made for myself. I gave myself permission to create a better life for myself.
A constant during this challenging period of my life was my remote work. It offered the flexibility I needed to relocate and start my next chapter.
Back in Oslo, I settled into an apartment which my sister helped me find while I still was overseas and had been unable to travel. I took a few weeks off work, still conflicted with what I wanted out of life and worried about what the future would hold for me. During my leave of absence from work I was called upon to lead an onsite kick-off of a significant multisite WordPress migration project with an important client in Canada. In my mind, I was still in need of “me-time” to get my life in order. But I chose to embrace the opportunity to be there for our team and to serve our client together. It would be another life-changing decision. During my visit to Toronto, I met and fell in love with the person who would become my significant other.
Steps To Conquer Your Own Obstacles.
Step 1: Commit To Becoming a Better You
I’ve learned through my personal and work experiences that nothing holds you back in life more than yourself. Life has taught me that who you aspire to be and what you want to do is within your reach. It’s within you.
You can start a transformation that lets you move towards a happier, more fulfilling place by making a commitment to consciously and continuously learn and grow yourself.
Welcome failures because they will provide you with new learning. You have the ability to overcome them.
Take care to hone skills you have acquired. Develop new skills you aspire to have.
Discover your strengths. Apply them and find ways to develop them further. Your strengths makes up your unique ability, and your unique ability is who you are and why you are here. Use it, it will be your biggest contribution to the world.
Be your own hero and get out of your own way. When you do, new and often unexpected opportunities are revealed. And you’ll discover that your possibilities in life are limitless.
Step 2: Find an Encourager
When you are ready to start your own journey of transformation, or if you are in the middle of one now, it’s important to find someone who can be your encourager and your ally on that journey.
Look for someone in your circle of family or friends, or within the community. If don’t have anyone, I would welcome the opportunity to get to know you and cheer you on!
Step 3: Let Yourself Be Inspired.
Below are the key resources that helped spark my transformation in significant ways, and has lead me to where I am today. They continue to be sources of inspiration, and I hope they can be yours, too.
- Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow
- Unique Ability: Creating the Life You Want
(Dan O’Sullivan, Catherine Nomura, Shannon Waller & Julia Waller)
- Wired Differently
(Vern Dosch, Wally Goulet & Tracy Finneman)
- Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
(Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace)
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t
- The Purpose Effect: Building Meaning in Yourself, Your Role and Your Organization
Thought Leaders, Influencers & Contributors to the Servant Leadership Community
- Cheryl Bachelder – follow @CABachelder (Popeyes)
- Art Barter – follow @Art_Barter (Servant leadership Institute)
- Ken Blanchard – follow @kenblanchard (The Ken Blanchard Companies)
- Garry Ridge – follow @LearningMoment (WD-40)
- Kevin Monroe – follow @kevin_monroe (X Factor Consulting)
I’d like to thank Topher DeRosia here at HeroPress for giving me the opportunity to share my story. It is against my nature to talk about myself to this extent, but I do it knowing it can serve others. To write my story, I’ve also had to move past my fear of being in the spotlight and accept there may be judgement passed. The reality is that no one will ever hold me to a higher standard or judge me harder than I do myself.
A very special thanks goes out to my wife, Heather, who bore with me through the, at times, difficult writing process. She has opened my eyes to life’s possibilities. In her, I found a partner I wanted to journey with. She believes in me and helps me believe in myself, and she is my greatest ally and encourager. As I write these words, I recognize they will be published the week of our 4-year wedding anniversary. Our years together have been the very best of my life so far.
I also want to offer a heartfelt thank you to another big ally and encourager, my coach and friend Jeff. He’s made me believe in pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows, and I am so grateful for him coming into my life and having him be part of the journey.
Lastly, I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to Dave and to the team at XWP. They have had and continue to have enormous impact on my life, and they hold a very special place in my heart. I look forward to continuing my journey with them.