17: A New Operating System

17: A New Operating System

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

A New Operating System

A desire to be in charge of our own lives, a need for control, is born in each of us. It is essential to our mental health, and our success, that we take control.

~Robert F. Bennett

“Meeting at nine,” Joel said without looking up. As I walked to my desk at my secure major software company job, the office was buzzing. I meandered over to my best buddy Joel’s desk to quiz him. Was he being sarcastic this morning?

The moment I met Joel, I liked him. He was smart and funny and he was taller than I was. I had to look up to him no matter what, and when I did I always got a big smile. My task was to train him for the position I’d vacated a year earlier. Now I hid in a division that no one cared about. I knew Joel was not long for the job, though he was smart. His ideas were outside the box. He took great pride in challenging management and he was confident. My kind of guy.

“Now what?” I said as I walked into the room of glum faces. “Somebody forget to turn out the lights again?” I knocked back a large swig of coffee. Since the takeover of my division by a contract employment agency, these weekly meetings were routine. The big shots micromanaged while I did my best to sidestep their soirées. I showed up, did my work and left. I missed my old boss. I missed my autonomy. The joy had vanished from my job. What did they want now?

“Offshored.” The words resonated in every cell of my body. The exit plan was in place. “You have a job to do,” they said. “Your performance is important in making the transition seamless.”

“To make whose transition seamless?” I grumbled to myself as I took another swig of coffee. Their pretense insulted me. Not only were we losing our jobs, we had to train our replacements with a smile. And if we cooperated, we would get a nice bonus at the end. Tears filled the room. I could see the questions in my co-workers’ eyes. What next? Who would want to hire them? What would life be like without a comfortable corporate job? No one wanted to leave.

Except for me. I wanted out as soon as possible.

“Let’s create our own exit plan,” Joel whispered. “Do you want to find another job or do you want to have a life?”

The idea of jumping into another corporate position did not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. To use a software term, I needed a new operating system for my life.

As Joel and I exited the boardroom amongst the tears and angst, we looked at each other and smiled. “Six months. That should be enough time for our exit plan,” he said.

I matched his stride as we returned to our desks. “Exactly. Let’s do it. Let’s get on with the business of living. Our job here is done.”

Once a week for the next six months, Joel and I commandeered the boardroom under the guise of a one-on-one meeting and formulated our exit plan. We didn’t just chat about our dreams, we breathed life into them. We hashed out our ideas in an open forum. We gave criticism without judgment. Our bottom line was how to incorporate what we loved and make it a viable business. We weighed our strengths and weaknesses. We gave each other assignments with deadlines. We held each other accountable for the next step in our game plan.

Joel was both my competition and my mentor. His suggestions helped spark an idea I mentioned on our way home one day. I wanted to take my passions for horses and writing and weave them together. Joel’s encouragement was inspirational. I counted the days until it was time to leave.

The day I walked out of that office for the last time, I formed my own production company. Those six months with Joel had trained me to set goals and complete them. Each day, I performed one task that pertained to my new business and my new life. I had no idea what I was doing and I had no budget whatsoever.

Each completed assignment gave me the kind of satisfaction I’d never felt while working in the corporate world. My objective was to create an instructional DVD about horse training using my own livestock. To make the DVD more marketable, I wrote an instructional manual. My company was a multi-media organization, producing instructional programming and fulfilling my dream as a writer. Each day was different. Some days, I was frustrated. On those days, Joel was just an e-mail away, and his input was a comfort. His eyes could see solutions that mine could not. One year later, the DVD was complete and the book was ready.

Five years have come and gone. Two published books, several awards, and many film festivals later, I am blessed, not just by those achievements, but also with the most important aspect of life: peace of mind. Most of all, I am happy that I made the choice to change my life using a new operating system.

~Sabrina Zackery

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