Re-Framing Failure: How a Broken Hand Led Me to a Career that I Love.
10. December 2020 • By Natalia Schmid
Ten years ago, my dad fell down a flight of stairs and broke his left hand.
This would have not been the end of the world had my dad been a regular guy. However, my dad wasn’t a regular guy. He was a dentist, and our family’s livelihood depended on his ability to use his hands.
Back then, the world had only started to recover from the 2008 financial crisis. Even though my family was doing OK, things weren’t exactly abundant, so closing the practice for the full 6 weeks of his recovery simply wasn’t an option.
As an ironic twist of fate, this all happened a week after I finished dental school. Therefore, feeling under-prepared for the task, I rolled up my sleeves and volunteered to take over a fully booked dental practice for the rest of the summer.
This was one of the wildest, most stressful times of my life.
In dental school, I had seen 5 to 6 patients per week and had always had a university professor nearby ready to take over if I got stuck. Now, I was seeing 10 to 15 patients per day and performing all kinds of dental treatments for which I had very little formal training. Moreover, as a student, I had been extremely cautious and never taken unnecessary risks with my patients. Now, taking responsibility for so many people’s lives felt like a burden I had not been prepared to carry.
For the first time in my professional career, I was being pushed out of my comfort zone (too much for my taste) and forced to step up to a titanic challenge: Keeping the family finances afloat while not accidentally killing someone.
It was scary. It was stressful. I cried (multiple times) and nearly walked out on a patient mid-treatment (once).
Miraculously, somehow we all made it through that summer in one piece (my patients included). And, even though I would never put myself through it again, the life lessons I learned live with me to this day.
I learned that human beings are resilient and capable of facing virtually any curve ball life throws at them. I learned that life’s challenges can be either a punishment or an opportunity for growth, depending on how you look at them. Finally, I discovered that when you step up to life’s challenges with an attitude of openness and curiosity, life rewards you immensely.
I had never planned to take over a fully-booked practice a week after finishing dental school. But, because I did, life rewarded me with an eye-opening truth: I didn’t want to be a dentist after all.
I had seen it all and done it all, even treatments I thought would take me 10 years of experience to do well. At the end of it, I was left feeling strangely indifferent to the profession. I wanted to help people lead better lives, but not from a dental office. I wanted to explore and create and discover new avenues that dentistry simply couldn’t open for me.
After a couple of years, the time had finally come to quit dentistry and follow my heart’s true desires. My journey led me out of the dental practice and into the corporate world, the non-profit sector, and finally, the entrepreneurial world, where I found and fell in love with my true calling: Helping people create better lives and careers by embracing who they really are.
Today, I am leading a professional life that I would have never thought possible as a young dentist struggling to cope with a full practice. It amazes me to think that, had my dad not broken his left hand that summer, I would maybe still be a dentist struggling to understand where I had gone wrong in my career to feel so unfulfilled. But because he did, and because I stepped up to the challenge, life gifted me with a 10-year head start to create the life and career I truly want.
Often, we are compelled to run away from our challenges because we don’t believe that they will shape us positively. However, our challenges are often the best opportunities we have to create true meaning and impact in our lives and careers.
Today, many of you are dealing with the unexpected job challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis. Unemployment, the sudden redundancy of certain professions, and the changing circumstances of our workplaces have taken us out of our comfort zone and challenged many of the things we took for granted in the world of work.
And I get it; the challenge is real. It’s scary. It’s stressful. We might cry and want to walk away from the challenge half-way through.
However, from times of great crisis come great opportunities. Could this perhaps be the perfect opportunity to change careers? Or to start a company based on your own ideas? Or even to step back from the world of work and spend more time with your family?
If career change could indeed be for you, I invite you to join The Career Change Masterclass. Starting March 5th, 2021, join me and other career changers on a 5-week journey to professional joy and freedom. It would be my honor and pleasure to guide you on this journey. Find out more here.