During my days with JELD-WEN we were required different levels of training. For instance once I was hired I went through an extensive 12 week training program called Millwork University. I didn’t know a thing about windows or doors other than how to open and close them. After Millwork University and you had been performing well in the field you were given the opportunity to attend Millwork Masters. This was a group of individuals that the company had seen potential in and wanted to mix additional millwork training with management training. It was a condensed course but it’s where I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life and one that I applied not only through my management career but also in my personal life.
We watched a motivational speaker named Marcus Buckingham. As with every motivational speaker he was doing everything he could to grab your attention and make his point. I’m not one for motivational speakers but for once this was something that really struck home with me. He initially grabbed me with this question. When you were a child and you came home with a report card with 4 A’s and 1 C which grade did your parents focus on? 95% of you will say the C. And that’s where the problem begins. Everyone wants their child to excel in every subject. They want them to achieve the best education they can so when that C comes home there is an immediate focus on that particular subject. Now think about your own grades and the classes you didn’t get the best grades in despite your best efforts. Was it because you suddenly couldn’t understand things despite the other grades? Not likely. More than likely it was a subject that never sparked an interest with you. It was a labor just to achieve the C. But what do most parents do? Everyday after school you come home and you spend more time on that subject until you improve that grade. Why?? Your child most likely hates the subject and spending all that additional time on something they don’t enjoy doing is taking valuable time away from other subjects that they have shown they can excel at. Why as a society are we so focused on having well rounded people? You have to know something about everything rather than focusing your time and passion to the things you love the most.
I took this same principle and applied it to my management style. First off let me say I never liked the term manager. I preferred the term “coach”. At a certain point in your life you shouldn’t need managed. You may need coaching in one area or another but not managed. As I mentioned earlier the company always had a feel for who the next man up would be when it came time for a promotion. Everyone knew who they were and within their own group everyone knew. But I handled those types of scenarios different than most would. I knew the strengths and weaknesses of every person that reported to me and those that reported to them. So when projects were handed down from above I went to the person that I knew excelled in that particular area. If the guy that is seen as the next promoted and yet he struggles with Microsoft excel why give him a project that is based solely around excel? Chances are it’s not going to be done till the last minute and you will likely find some errors. Why not give it to the guy who is the excel wizard? Just because he isn’t the next in line for promotion doesn’t mean he’s not valuable to your team. Think of it this way. Everyone knows that Kevin Durant led the Warriors to the NBA championship. But there were others around him that all played their role to help the team succeed. On a football field is their 11 QB’s starting on offense? In baseball are their 9 pitchers on the field at once? No. Everyone plays a role and that’s how you achieve success as a group.
Now you are probably wondering how in the world does this apply to my mental health? It’s simple I believe you need a team of people you can rely on that all bring different strengths and weaknesses. A friend who is the one that will be their to listen, one that will be the one you can just call and talk about anything with, the one you can just go out and have a drink with, the one that always knows when its time to check in with you. I believe it’s important to have a group of friends helping you along your journey. It might be a tall task because some of us have a problem trusting one person let alone a group. But let me just make something clear, if you’ve been dealing with a mental health issue for some time then its no secret to anyone so why continue to hide it? You may have pushed friends aside because you never thought you were worth it or didn’t want to be a burden. These are the things we tell ourselves to avoid having the tough conversations. We don’t want to be rejected by those we count on. I’m not telling you to go and do this all at once. I’m just saying that I believe you have to have balance in your circle of trust. Having 5 listeners isn’t going to help when you just want to talk to someone and have a normal conversation about anything other than your mental health. You deserve to be surrounded by the best so don’t sell yourself short on your circle of trust.
When my journey began I found myself shutting everyone out of my life. I didn’t want anyone to know what I was doing or where I was doing it. My super sleuth sister managed to keep finding me. But those who didn’t live near me I closed off. Most of my strongest bonds were with people I worked with at JELD-WEN. But we all lived in different cities and once things reached a certain point I was off limits for people to talk to me. I was like a pariah. I lost my wife and kids and that family that came with it. I was out of my mind at the time and nothing anyone was going to do was going to make things any better for me. This is why I started a pattern of attempts to end my life. When you take away everything a man works for it’s as though he never even existed. But I eventually learned the importance of having that sounding board and others that can help you through various stages of your fight.
And I believe it’s important for those with a mental illness to focus on their own strengths and use it. Just because you have a mental illness does not mean that you can’t have a positive impact on your community or others struggling. If you have knowledge on mental illness share it. If you are versed in talking about mental illness then speak up. If you find yourself getting help from helping others then reach out and help someone. We with a mental illness that have the tools to do those things have a duty and obligation to do them. We must be the voice to the voiceless, we must be the strength for those who are weak and we must be the lighthouse for those who cannot see through the darkness. We carry with us all those who lost their battle and those who suffer in silence on a daily basis. This is a rallying cry. It’s time for those who can do to do.
REMEMBER…. YOU MATTER!