Workwrite Resumes

When to let go of the career reins

When you have tried everything you can think of doing, try doing nothing.

Photo by Thomas Lennon, 2009

In rural North Dakota where I grew up, a story is told about sisters who rode a horse to their one-room country school every day. When a sudden spring storm blew in, they lost all sight of landmarks on their way home. The prairie path was obscured, and they became hopelessly lost. Instead of guiding the horse, they let go of the reins and focused on keeping each other warm. The horse took them straight home.

Sometimes, we need to take control of our career and get ourselves back on track. Sometimes, we’ve tried that and found the results less than we had hoped. When we’ve tried everything we can think of, what’s left?

During storms, we just have to faith it out. The storm may be an illness, a job we need to quit to keep our health or sanity, a relocation because of a spouse’s job, or perhaps an aging parent who needs care. There are a thousand things that can derail a career, and most of us will run into at least one of them.

It happened to me twice.

The first time, I was sick for two years. (I’m fine now, thanks.) I had been working as the editor of the community newspaper my husband and I published. When I had to quit, it ended a career, and my husband wasn’t thrilled, either. The financial and emotional repercussions were horrid and long-lasting. I struggled to regain my health and my self confidence.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I learned that I am not my job. I can count on someone else to take care of me when I can’t. Most important of all, I discovered that the best times come out of the worst times.  All you have to do is know that they are coming. I didn’t know if I could recover. Many don’t. But I kept searching for someone and something to help until I found it.

The second time, my mom was dying. With the help of other family members, I took care of her for several weeks and stayed to wrap up her house and affairs. It cost me a job. (Oh, yes, I took family leave and filled out all the right paperwork and went through the right channels. I wasn’t fired, but my supervisor made it clear that putting my family above my job was unacceptable. It’s also possible that refusing to spy and report on my co-workers as requested was the actual death of that job, but that’s a story for another day.) The net result was my resignation before I had planned, and before I had obtainanother position.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I started this business, and it’s been the most rewarding part of my career. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t easy. I spent plenty of sleepless nights and cried countless tears of frustration and pain. Making a major change right after the death of a parent (or any other life trauma) isn’t something I would recommend, but sometimes things just happen that way.

When you just keep getting more and more lost in the storm, think about letting go of the reins. In each of us is the horse that will guide us home.


If your horse is telling you to get some help, contact me to discuss what is keeping you from reaching home and how we can work together to change that.

If you have a story to share that will inspire someone who is still struggling, please leave a comment below.



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