My Story – Who I Was to Who I Am Now

Written by Darren Kanthal

October 27, 2020

Most stories start out with some wise words, and mine is no different. A wise man once told me, “consider all your failures and that’s the value proposition you bring to your work.” Take a minute to really think about that…I mean really think about it. You can take it to mean many things based on perspective, right? Maybe it means that, with every failure, we can gain more knowledge. Maybe it means that you’re only as good as your biggest failure. I don’t know, but for me, the quote is interesting because, as an executive, leadership, and career coach, my job is to help others excel not only in their careers, but their lives as well, which means considering a whole lot of failures. So, let’s start by looking at mine!

Talking the talk, not walking the walk

We’ve all heard that a picture is worth one thousand words, so I’m going to paint you one. I am an honorable and self-respecting New Yorker. It’s in my blood to bust people’s chops, be loud, direct, and abrupt. I’ve been told these traits can be pretty obnoxious, but I like to think of them as badges of honor I’ve earned over the years. I was tough! Quick wit and an acid tongue, I could do no wrong. From a young age, I learned I could mask or distract from my insecurities by going on the offense and making myself the loudest person in the room. At my best, I made people laugh. At my worst, an apology followed whatever I said that offended or upset someone. While living in New York, I was surrounded by folks just like me, competing to be the loudest (thus strongest) so it was easy to just be ‘that’ guy and keep any pesky insecurities hidden. Of course, I could hide those insecurities from the external world, but you know who I couldn’t hide them from? That’s right: me. My internal Judge told me I wasn’t good enough, so I was constantly trying to prove that I was worthy: worthy of affection and respect, worthy of my professional position, and even worthy of a promotion. Sure, that’s what I was trying to prove. But what did the world see? Yep – they saw that loud, obnoxious chop-buster who had to be the center of attention.

Believe it or not, being obnoxious to hide my insecurities was actually a strength in my social circles. To the untrained eye, I was fun, I made people laugh, and I had lots of friends. In professional circles, though, those underlying insecurities and unsavory behaviors led others to see me as an accusatory, defensive know-it-all. I thought the more knowledge I had, the more power I had. Now, let’s add something else to that picture of the loud New Yorker: a big head. I had an ego the size of my personality and because I thought I could gain worth by sharing what I knew, there was no shutting me up. My internal Judge had officially made me a person I was not proud to be.

Why me?

Fast forward to age 33 and I was working at my favorite corporate job I’d held to that point. I was making good money and from the outside, I looked pretty darn successful. But, we all know looks can be deceiving, right? My insecurities were hemorrhaging into my actions. At the time, I thought I was engaging and challenging boundaries to promote positive change. That’s what Ithought I was doing. What I looked like to anyone else was argumentative, inflexible, and just a bad colleague. I saw myself as personable and everyone else saw me as loud and obnoxious, or as corporate would say…passionate and enthusiastic.

My actions and outlook eventually led me to be let go by my employer. After that shock, I called my mommy crying. How could they let me go? Why was I fired? Who do I have to pretend to be in order to be successful? The woe-is-me mentality went on and on. I straight up refused to find my big boy pants.

Even worse, this was not an isolated incident! This was a pattern of behavior that wasn’t uncommon for me. Sadly, it was a running joke amongst my friends that I had the same employment cycle that ended in the words, “You’re fired.” What a joke, right? But let’s be perfectly clear, the joke was on me every time.

But this time, this time would be different. I was absolutely hell-bent on waking up. This was my turning point, I was done. I had to stop placing blame on everyone and everything else and I needed to start holding myself accountable. In all my memories of unfairness and wrongdoing, I was the only constant. I could no longer point fingers and place blame. I started to question everything: why do these things keep happening to me? What am I missing? How can my same behavior ignite my social life and destroy my professional life?

Seeing the man in the mirror and positive change

As I dove into books on corporate politics, I read several examples of good and bad employees and how to find success in a career. Reading all the bad examples, it was so obvious what behavior was wrong. As I read, I thought, of course someone shouldn’t act that way! No wonder this mysterious person was shown the door! That’s when it hit me, when I looked at a picture of someone else behaving the exact same way I had, the person in that picture was me. I was the person who was continually shown the door. I was the ‘before’ example in these books and I had absolutely no idea.

That realization (and many since) lead me down the path to who I am today. While I’ve had some hiccups along the way, I’ve never been fired or let go from any employers since discovering that I was living in the “before” example. I’ve learned how to play the game of life in a more effective way. I had to develop the mindset that life truly is a game and I have to play by the rules, rather than thinking that I could make my own rules and get away with it. This one lesson alone was truly revolutionary for me. And yes mom, you were right about this life lesson! If only I had listened sooner.

Fast-forward a bit to my last corporate position. I was playing the game, honoring the rules, and working for one of the greatest bosses of my life. I was so happy. Then one day, a new CEO came in and unceremoniously pushed my boss right out the door. Their predecessor turned out to be the worst boss of all time. I could have fallen into old patterns, reverted to old behaviors, and yelled “Why me?!” from the rooftops for all to hear. But this time, it was different; I was different. Thinking on my feet, I negotiated an exit and took the game of life into my own hands. I started my own company, and the rest is history.

Steps to success and hopefully yours, too

My corporate experience in human resources and recruiting offers me the ability to provide you with firsthand experiences and insights while guiding you towards your best career-life balance. As the wise man once said, my perceived failures are actually my unique gifts! I use my experience of getting knocked down, brushing myself off, and growing as a human to guide you in avoiding the same mistakes I made. I use my candor, humor, New York charm, and the corporate ‘compassion and enthusiasm’ to your advantage.

Now, at 45, I get to live life according to my rules (within the guardrails of life’s general rules of course) as a person I am proud of, and who is using failures and gifts to help others. These were my steps to success and with my experiences, they can be yours too, albeit with fewer hiccups along the way.

I have over 20 years of experience developing leaders, and most importantly, I have the passion to match. Let me help you become the leader you have always dreamed of at The Kanthal Group.

Darren Kanthal

Darren Kanthal, Founder of The Kanthal Group, is a values-driven leadership and career coach with over 20 years of experience in HR and Talent Acquisition. Darren is intensely passionate about helping mid-career leaders cut through the BS, do the foundational work, and achieve their greatness.

How To Make Tough Career Decisions: A 5-Step Process

Feeling overwhelmed by a big career decision? Download my FREE GUIDE to help you make an informed decision that steers you down the right path to reach your goals.

Success! Check your inbox for your PDF. Don't see it? Please also check your spam folder, in case it landed there....