LEAP! with Jackie Bassett
Introduction to LEAP!
I’ve always been a leaper- no, not a leper…a LEAPER! At a young age, I would leap onstage without hesitation and I’d sing, dance, and perform in front of hundreds of people. No sweat! I leapt early and often, which meant that I learned to LOVE leaping, how ALIVE I felt mid-leap, and where I landed. Some of my greatest achievements happened because I leapt. With a suitcase and a few boxes, I moved to D.C. to start my first job on the Hill after negotiating a way to complete my remaining grad school credits from our nation’s capital. I quickly leapt from politics to management consulting, trading in my short walk to work for cross-country flights. I said “hell yes!” to that last-minute overseas assignment in Amsterdam which was supposed to last 2-3 weeks (I stayed for nearly 9 years!). I offered my popcorn to the handsome Dutchie sitting next to me on an airplane. I pushed to move my position to the Middle East and encouraged my Dutchie to do the same. I founded and led a professional women’s network in a part of the world where women have been historically oppressed. I left my corporate career to re-train as a professional coach and start she dreams big. I jumped on a plane to visit a fertility clinic in Dubai when I ran out of options in Doha. Despite my fears and many obstacles, I just kept leaping in the direction of my dreams: to develop and empower women, to start my own business, to become a mother.
I leap because I’m meant to leap, because I’m driven to leap, because I don’t want to live a leap-less life.
And I’m not alone. I’m surrounded by inspiring women who take mini and massive LEAPS every single day. With so many trail blazin’, risk-takin’, big-dreamin’ women in my network, I often reflect on how blessed I am to be surrounded by such talent and courage, and how I want to shout their amazing stories from rooftops around the globe. I’ve been dreaming about this day for a few years now… dreaming about the day that I would launch an interview series featuring inspiring women who aren’t afraid to LEAP in the direction of their dreams. So, I’m taking another LEAP as I launch the first interview in this exciting new series.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of “Lean In,” encourages women to lean into their careers, and I want to encourage women to go beyond leaning… I want to encourage women to LEAP! I hope these interviews will motivate you to LEAP in the direction of your own dreams and give you encouragement for your journey. No more excuses, just do it… you were meant to FLY!
As always, I’d love to hear your feedback, ideas, inspirations, passions, and dreams of leaping. Ready, Set, LEAP!
“When you decide to leap, it has to be a decision of the heart.” –Jackie Bassett
Have you ever fantasized about quitting your job? Just resigning and and then taking a looooong trip to Maui…. then coming home to start looking for a job that aligns with your values and passions, while giving yourself plenty of time and space for writing, meditation, exercise, connecting with your loved ones… just BEING present, reflecting on what you want most in life and how you want to leave your mark on the world. Hmmm….sounds divine, doesn’t it??? Maybe even a little cray-cray? But oh how freeing, how FABULOUSLY FREEING!
Well, I’d like to introduce you to a woman who did more than fantasize about quitting her job, she did it. Not just once, but TWICE. Yup, TWICE. Meet the courageous Jackie Bassett, a talent, strategy, and operations consultant who recently resigned from IBM to pursue her passion for putting people first. Not only is Jackie a former colleague and dear friend, she is also one of my clients and a fantastic example of a woman who isn’t afraid to LEAP. In our recent interview, Jackie shared her story, wise advice, and motivational quotes with me in hopes of inspiring other women who dream of pursuing their passions.
Below are the selected highlights from my recent interview with Jackie. However, I highly encourage you to listen to Jackie’s inspiring interview (approx. 40 min).
On Learning to Leap
“Growing up in a small town in Illinois, my favorite pastimes as a kid involved reading home plan magazines and drawing sketches of my dream home. At 8 years old, I ‘knew’ what I wanted to do with my life. I started my career as an architectural engineer because I was good at math and science and I loved architecture. About 7 years into my career as an engineer, I wasn’t feeling inspired by my job. The engineering problems didn’t feel challenging enough– they felt like slightly different applications of the same formulas. I found myself getting more interested in the business side of things, and I often went to my boss with ideas for how we could improve things. He politely told me he really just needed me to be an engineer. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear, so I chose to leave my job. I took some time off to reflect and that’s when I decided to go to business school.”
On Leaping AGAIN
“After business school, I became an internal consultant at IBM. I focused on strategy consulting, operations consulting, and, over time, talent consulting, which is what I found I loved the most. Then a few months ago, after 8 ½ years with IBM, I decided to quit my job. I still loved my job a lot – I had great clients, I worked on interesting projects, I had just been promoted to the senior leadership team, I was making good money, and I had the privilege of working with some really extraordinary people. You might be asking, why on earth would I walk away from that? Passion can really make you do crazy things! It was becoming increasingly clear to me that my passion for people was so strong that I wanted a career that was more focused on solving people-related challenges. So, I chose to leave my job to pursue my passion for the second time in my career. This time, I’m pursuing my passion for people, specifically my desire to help companies thrive by putting people first. My goal is to find a talent-related job with a company that has a people-first culture.”
“Part of my inspiration came from my earlier life experience when I chose to leave engineering to pursue my passion for business. It ended up being one of the best decisions of my life, and I can’t even imagine what would have happened to me if I had stayed in a job that didn’t inspire me. So, I learned early on that taking the leap is a far better option than not taking it. I’ve also found inspiration through the stories of other extraordinary people who took leaps and ended up the better for it. One of those extraordinary people is my mom. She is probably the most courageous person I know. She has taken many leaps in her life, such as selling her home and business to travel around the country in a camper with her life partner. After her life partner died unexpectedly, she decided to move to Hawaii, where my sister lives, and enroll in massage therapy school at the age of 60. Today, she is one of the happiest people I know, living in Hawaii, practicing massage therapy and providing daycare for her granddaughter. My own desire to lead an inspiring life is a big motivator for taking leaps.“
On Decisions of the Heart
“I couldn’t have made the leap if I didn’t feel strongly that it was the right decision. When I tried to logically weigh the pros and cons, the cons outweighed the pros. So, I threw out my pros vs. cons list, because my gut told me it didn’t matter. This was not a decision driven by logic–it was driven by my intuition. When you decide to leap, it has to be a decision of the heart, not the head. Your head will always try to convince you to play it safe. I just know that, if I didn’t take this leap, I’d regret it.”
On Overcoming Fears
“My number one fear has probably been the fear of what people will say when I tell them I’m unemployed. Unfortunately, we’re so often judged in life by our ‘professional label.’ When you meet people at parties, their first question is often, ‘What do you do?’ If I say ‘I’m an unemployed consultant,’ that’s probably not a great strategy for making good connections. So, I’ve had to think carefully about how I answer questions like that, finding ways to tell my story in a way that communicates who I really am: someone who is driven by my passion, so much so that I’ve made major life decisions based on my passion. I also constantly have to remind myself that what others think doesn’t matter, what’s important is how I feel about myself, and I made the decision that I know was right for me.”
On Connecting with My Soul
“I’m not a religious person, but I’m a very spiritual person. Several years ago, I read a book by Neale Donald Walsh called ‘Conversations with God,’ which changed my life. One of the main messages in the book is that we are creators of our own lives. At some level, our soul chooses everything that happens to us. I believe deeply that, by following my passion, envisioning the job I want, praying for it, and working diligently to make it happen, I will find the perfect job at the perfect time. What helps me to connect to my soul is daily meditation- stepping out of my head, breathing deeply, and just being. Daily reaffirmations that I’ve made the right choice and that I will find the right job at the right time are also helpful. Being able to exercise regularly makes me feel calmer, happier, and relieves the anxiety of not having a job.”
On My Support System
“I have an amazing family and such supportive friends! I rely on my family and friends to support me through this big change. My husband, Nigel, has been my champion. He was incredibly supportive of my decision to leave my job, even though I think he thought it was a little crazy. He knew how important it was for me to make this leap. Every day, he helps me by giving me career advice, suggesting possible employers, and brainstorming blog topics with me. In addition, my coaching with Christina has been such an amazing source of support. I had reached a point in my career where I was just letting my career happen. Our coaching sessions motivated me to be more deliberate about driving my career in the direction I wanted to go. I think everyone should have a coach, and I suspect we’d see a lot more people taking bold leaps if that were the case.”
On Looking Ahead
“In the short term, my plan is to focus on three things:
- Keep looking for that perfect job by networking- meeting interesting and inspiring people and having great conversations with them.
- Build my brand. I have a new website, peepsfirst.com, which is a blog about putting people first. I’m focusing on creating interesting content, publishing it, and promoting it through social media. Not only do I love writing, but I love that this will help me build my brand as someone who is passionate about putting people first.
- Keep enjoying this gift of time- time to write, time to read, time to exercise, time to reconnect with the people who are important to me, time to visit my family, and time to just be. Once I start working again, things will be extremely busy, I’m sure, so I’m appreciating the time I have at the moment.
In the longer term, I’m still figuring that out. I will have a wonderful job where I can focus on my passion for people, but I don’t yet know exactly what that will look like. Stay tuned!”
(UPDATE: Since the publishing of this post, Jackie accepted an offer to return to IBM in late June 2015 and is now working in an Organizational Development role within IBM Marketing.)
On Inspiring Others to LEAP!
“First and foremost, follow your passion. I believe wholeheartedly that, if you use passion as your beacon to guide your decisions, you will live a life of joy and inspiration. Believe in yourself. In the words of Henry Ford, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’ This quote ties to my belief about having the power to create anything we want in life. If we don’t believe it, we can’t create it. Don’t be afraid of taking a risk. Even though making the leap might feel like a scary risk, ask yourself: might it not be an even scarier risk if you don’t leap?”
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”-Mark Twain
Want to connect with Jackie?
(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)