All Hail the Queen of the Pivot

A long time ago my husband, Trevor, lovingly responded to someone’s surprise at my diverse work experience with this simple sentence – “Julie is a ‘Jack of All Trades and a Master of None.’” I clearly remember making a mental note – I should keep that phrase in my pocket because I’d never heard such a simple explanation for my ‘problem’ before and I liked it. I really appreciated the lighthearted almost whimsical image it created for the painfully clear ‘fucked-upness’ of my ability to ‘adult’ the right way.

I’ve used the term dozens of times since that day. For those concerned people (mostly well intentioned) who question the reasons for my ever evolving career path. As I’ve wandered from caregiver and educator to photographer to bartender to paint shaker to leadership development facilitator to polo salesman (btw the list continues to grow), I’ve used the Jack of All Trades – Master of None label over and over to make other people feel comfortable with the course I’ve chosen. What made them comfortable was me owning my wrongness. So I used self-deprecating humor to assume all responsibility for making other people’s perspective – my perspective – and bowed to their notions what a life’s work should look like. Because we all know what success looks like, don’t we? Success means choosing a passion when you’re 18 and finding a career when you’re 23 and sticking with it for 32 years and retiring. It’s simple really – the path is clear and straight and is easy for people to follow. That’s the right path.

So for years, I’ve been putting my story in tiny black box with a label and handing it to others for easy storage in their lives. Toss that on the shelf marked F for Fucked Up. My path is crooked and curved with dead ends and detours. People get lost just thinking about my path so it must mean there is something wrong with my path. Which means there is something wrong with me, the Master of No Trades….

But wait … what if I’m the Queen of the Pivot? Maybe instead of never mastering a trade, I’ve mastered a critical skill for continuous improvement. The ability to PIVOT – to stay grounded while turning in all directions to find opportunities I couldn’t see from my original perspective. Because with every pivot, I’ve grown and built on the foundation of my natural strengths. My job and life experiences have given me unique and valuable vantage points for facing problems and challenges. I’ve learned to communicate in a variety of settings with diverse audiences. I’ve seen leaders across multiple spectrums and learned from each of them. I’ve contributed to small business, corporate America, healthcare and education. I’ve been a scared boss and an inspiring leader with no title at all. Maybe I should stop shitting on my skills, ability and power with a whimsical phrase and start owning the energy, work, and time I’ve put in to building life’s work that matters to me. Perhaps I let you stand on my throne and take the black box off the F shelf and destroy it. One little box isn’t fit for a Queen…also, I envision the Queen of the Pivot’s throne to be a barber’s chair.

Being able to pivot requires you to have some kind of stable spot to swivel from. I look back now and credit one of the first personal development trainings I went to for helping me find that stable spot long before I was aware of its power. Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People helped me develop a personal mission statement that became a touchstone for me. That personal mission statement work – without fully understanding it all yet – helped me to do enough heart work to give me a solid place to begin pivoting from. Spoiler alert: we are going to walk you through some of this heart work in the coming weeks.

By order of the Queen: learning and growth are the new currency for a rich and impactful life here in The Compound. No more are we using terms like good/bad, success/fail…instead let’s remember our ability to use continuous improvement as a measure of accomplishment. We put a Head, Heart, Hands process together – we are calling it the PIVOT process:

• Start by doing the heart work. Wake it up. Study your emotions and feelings. Focus on your communities and learn from your Game Changers. Uncover what motivates you to be courageous and take brave steps. Dig into your values and figure out your purpose and learn what you really want to accomplish.

• Next, get that head of yours developing a plan of improvement and success measures to help you elevate your life. Use the heart work as a guide and the facts of your real-life daily grind to create something meaningful for you. Your continuous improvement plan has to be something you can DO. Because action without a plan is waste, and plans without consistent effort is just hope.

• Now use those hands and get to creating the life you want. It’s gonna be hard and you will be tired – those need to be a given. There will be times you don’t see the energy paying off, but over time it will. Stay the course.

• And finally, the most important step – when your plan doesn’t feel quite right – PIVOT! Don’t scrap it or stop working as hard, and don’t for a second think you need to make others comfortable by labeling yourself or your life in comparison to their comfort or beliefs.

In those moments, plant your foot back in the heart work and pivot. Change your perspective to find opportunities off the beaten path to build the skills and collect the tools that will help you.

Signing off with a quote from Jenny Fleiss: “Embrace failure. Missteps and roadblocks are inevitable but are ultimately an opportunity to learn, pivot, and go after your goals with new perspective.”


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Julie Stephenson

Julie is one of the founders of Compounding Courage, a company that provides personal growth and leadership development programs. CLICK HERE to learn more.