It’s hard to make the last jump from Maslowian safe, contented, self-esteem to self-actualized and truly happy. A very small set of people get pulled from their inertia by the call of a compelling mission. Others get pushed out of their safe, contented position and have to find their way. Most stay safe. Angela Eifert got pushed out of her safe place, struggled to get her footing and ended up finding her mission and its associated self-actualization and happiness. There are lessons for all of us in her story.
Angela spent 10 years consulting on compensation and benefits to financial services organizations. This was valued, interesting work with interesting people that paid very well. What’s not to like? Angela was content with her work and appreciative of the lifestyle it afforded her and her husband.
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The financial crisis of 2008 upended many people’s lives. The work at Angela’s firm dried up and her job went away. As she accessed her network for help finding a new job, she discovered many of her contacts either were out of work themselves or struggling trying to hold on to their jobs. As much as they wanted to, they couldn’t help.
After several months of looking for a comparable job and a few months in India on a Rotary fellowship, Angela realized she needed to reinvent herself. So she started over with an entry-level job selling office supplies. The good news was that it leveraged her natural networking skills and her new employer invested in her training.
At one of her sales training events, Angela met Ray Menard. Ray runs Cheetah Development, which invests in a portfolio of value-chain businesses that work directly with smallholder farmers, helping them commercialize, feed the world and exit poverty. Angela was fascinated by what they did and started volunteering.
A few months later, Angela met Colleen Striegel, HR Director for The American Refugee Committee (ARC). ARC helps people survive conflict and crisis and rebuild lives of dignity, health, security and self-sufficiency.
There was a natural connection between the Cheetah and ARC, which Angela brokered and shepherded. As Striegel got to know Angela she encouraged her to devote more and more of her time to that good work she was doing with Cheetah. Finally Angela had to explain that she was doing this as an unpaid volunteer and couldn’t afford to spend any less time on her paying sales job.
That was all Striegel needed to know. She and ARC CEO Daniel Wordsworth promptly hired her to work full time for their organization.