Speaking from Experience


At fifty-six years old, now working under the most difficult boss of his thirty-two-year career, J.B. was convinced that his company had sponsored his work with me so that I would graciously convey their plans to “put him out to pasture.” His performance had stalled and his confidence was in a tailspin.

Yet over the days that followed, as I watched J.B. interact with his colleagues, I found he was the most respected member of the team. Wherever he went, others gathered. Whenever he spoke, people listened. It was clear that along the way J.B. had gained his colleagues’ admiration and lost his own perspective.

“J.B.,” I finally said, “we have an expression here in North Carolina.” And in my best southern voice I insisted, “Lighten up!” Caught off guard, J.B. found himself laughing with complete abandon!

A shift of perspective was precisely what J.B. needed, and as that was restored he was equipped to return to the challenges of the marketplace and resume the remarkable track record for which he had always been known. His company continued to give him assignments of greater and greater merit, and I would often receive postcards from around the world depicting the bright lights of various cities with this note:

“I remember your words of wisdom: ‘Lighten up!’”