Latest news, thoughts, resources & interviews on all aspects of
leadership, team and organizational development

February 15th, 2022

I was in my mid-twenties and no longer recognized myself.  I found myself stuck in a corporate job that was completely out of alignment with my values, purpose and even my own sense of self.  I dreaded going to work so much, I couldn’t muster the will to get out of bed in the mornings, repeatedly hitting the alarm snooze button. This was so unlike me.

I was always the overachiever.  The first kid in my class to learn to tie her shoelaces (this proud achievement is even commemorated in my professional bio); learned English in just months when my family immigrated to the United States; skipped eighth grade soon after; and graduated college early with multiple majors. But now I was miserable, feeling like I was climbing the proverbial ladder, only to look down and realize it’s leaning up against the wrong tree.  But what was my tree, I no longer knew.

One day I attended a coworker’s dinner party and found myself in a deep, meaningful conversation with his friend Doug. After a while, Doug looked at me quizzically and asked “Are you a coach?”  “I don’t do sports”, I said confused.  He laughed, “Well, you sound just like my sister Deborah, who is an executive coach. You should call her.”

When we talked, Deborah illuminated to me that all the things I’ve done and loved my whole life – listening, asking questions and helping people – was what she got paid for. She loved what she was doing and exuded joy, positive energy and deep desire for supporting and uplifting others.  Every word and sentiment she shared resonated so profoundly for me, I felt like a huge heavy door just swung open.  It turned out there was a world out there where I can be valued and paid just for being me.  Just like that, Doug and Deborah changed my life.

Without a second thought, I signed up for a coach training program that further validated what I was clearly meant to do with my life.  There were only two problems with deciding to do it as a business full-time.  One, I was significantly younger than other coaches in my class and feared I was too young to succussed, despite quickly attaining a good number of clients.  Two, everything in my immigrant upbringing told me I should have a secure, stable job like a lawyer, engineer or corporate executive.  My parents and their Russian friends couldn’t quite understand what I was doing and how anyone could make a living at it.  Their fears mirrored my own terror of taking the leap into the unknown, so I kept crawling to my soul-crushing day job in the mornings, and bouncing home in the evenings to blissfully coach my clients, not sure how to break the cycle.

It turned out that a painful sprained ankle (read this Atlantic article for the story) along with my coach Heather’s relentless support and accountability, propelled me to make the leap.  With her encouragement, I put a date on my calendar when I would leave my day job and launch my dream.  The date was February 14, 2002 – Valentine’s Day.  I didn’t have a romantic partner to share this amazing triumph with but it didn’t matter.  I was ecstatic and knew that as long as I stayed in business, V-day (as I came to think of it) was always going to be a special day.

I couldn’t have possibly predicted then where this exhilarating, challenging, topsy-turvy journey would lead.  But here I am today, exactly 20 years later, waking up every morning at dawn, excited for the day ahead.  I love my work more than ever, helping leaders, teams and organization thrive and make a positive impact in the world. There are no words in any of my three languages that can fully capture how magically this feels – it’s something like a fusion of overjoyed, honored, privileged, graced, expanded, proud, humbled, wonderous, astounded, grateful and blessed.

And this February 14, 2022, while everyone celebrates Valentine’s Day, my wonderful life partner and I still celebrate my V-Day, commemorating 20 years of a daily dream come true.

This post is dedicated to Doug, Deborah, Heather and all the amazing supporters in my life who have helped to illuminate, shape and transform my path.


If you enjoyed this post, please share it with friends
– thank you so much!

Leave a Comment

Incite International