Susan Dunlop: Lead Believe Create

Feather Brick Truck: Oh, Duck!

Susan shares a personal story of the Feather Brick Truck: Oh, duck!! Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way. She first shared it on September 23rd, 2020, during Covid-19 times as many people would have related to the message. That was in the first few months of her Coffee and Contemplation with Susan Dunlop Podcast show.

The Feather Brick and the Truck is Susan’s story about the messages the universe sends us in all areas of life.

In this instance, Susan shared an example of each message in relation to one major business upheaval she experienced and, thankfully, survived! The lessons learned, massive changes, determined focus on the desired outcome, and growth are the upside of this particular set of Feathers, Bricks and Trucks.

You’ll very likely have some of your own messages come to mind as you listen to this story.

Susan Dunlop (transcript): Hello. I’m Susan Dunlop. I’m a life coach, and today I would like to talk to you about a concept called the feather, the brick, and the truck. It’s about the universe constantly sending us messages to help us stay on our journey and make our lives easier.

The idea of the feather, the brick and the truck is it’s the way in which the universe delivers some of these messages to us.

As I go through this, you’ll probably realise you will relate to some of the feathers, some of the bricks, and hopefully not too many of the tracks. I first learned about this analogy at a business course I was at in Fiji, and I thought, oh, that’s really interesting.

At the time, I was all pumped. The business was really going well. It was just booming, organic growth, word-of-mouth referrals, and we never advertised. Everything seemed to be ticking over just beautifully as we’d finally thrown ourselves through some of the ceilings that we’d been working towards for so long to take the business up to the next level.

When I came back from the course, everything continued as it was. The sales were smooth and stable, and they were staying at that really high rate, and we really felt, it was all just being the whole feeling of success. It was a nursing agency. I supplied nurses ad hoc to hospitals and nursing homes all across Queensland.

One day, though, I had a nurse friend call me.

She said a friend of hers, a registered nurse at the local public hospital, a Queensland Health Hospital, said that the nurses were being let off at the hospital.

I said, what? No nurses get let off. There’s always a shortage of nurses.

A new government had just come into the state government in Queensland, and they were making changes—massive changes. It was really a first, it was just so out there. I didn’t really take it in as something that was going to impact me, and so I went on with my day.

That would be the feather in this story.

The feather is the first message we get. It’s the gentle reminder or the nudge or a push in a particular direction.

Another example of a feather might be two or three people telling you about the same book, or a course, and then you see it in a magazine, and everything seems to be clicking together, and you think, oh, I should read that, or I should go along to that. It could be otherwise someone popping up in your mind, you hear that a lot, someone says, oh, I was just thinking about you and I decided I need to give you a call.

Or it could be a new change to one customer or what was happening to me, and it catches your attention, but you don’t act. Ideally, you might act, but if you don’t, that’s an example of the universe sending you a message as a feather.

If we don’t listen to the feather, then we get hit with a brick.

In the story, I’m telling you, as weeks went by, the outfall of nurses grew from not being just one, but all of Queensland Health Hospitals escalated! The nurses were really shocked that they were being put off and that they needed jobs. I was the place that employed nurses mostly and always had demand for nurses, so they came knocking on my door.

Unfortunately, as a supplier to Queensland Health, it wouldn’t have been right in my contract to resupply their ex-nurses. The second problem was that Queensland Health decided, at the same time as these layoffs, that they would not book any agency staff across Queensland.

So I pretty much lost my massive service line at that time. I had to apologise to the nurses who wanted to join my books. I had a pool of really loyal nurses who I needed to make sure would still get a pay packet. They were also starting to panic a little bit, worrying that maybe the agency wasn’t going to be the right thing for them now!

So my mind was all about… it’s going to be all right, we just need to try and get this stable and let’s see where we go one step after the other.

It was the brick.

The brick is a not-so-gentle reminder.

Examples of a brick might also be:

  • A significant change in your workplace.
  • A new manager coming on that you’ll struggle to get along with or a restructure in the business. And you might end up in a job you’re unhappy with.
  • It could be COVID 19 and all its impact.
  • It could be health-related, and suddenly, you’re off work for three weeks with a stress-related illness.
And if you’re not paying attention to that brick at that time, that’s when we get hit with a truck.

In my case, it was like SMACK!

Sales halved in one week. Our pre-booked rosters were being cancelled by the private hospitals now. Then all the aged care facilities I supplied were inundated with those ex-Queensland health nurses and they cancelled their bookings. The aged care managers were blown away because they could never get enough staff. That’s why they used me in the first place. Those prebookings were up to three months of full rosters across many sites!

Now, the whole industry had all their rosters filled, and they didn’t need my service anymore.

I don’t know why I didn’t see it coming.

I think, looking back at those time, because everything had been going up, I had an inflated sense of, it’s okay, whatever happens, we can always shore it up. We can always take it up to the next level again, but the fall was massive and continued to fall.

So that’s a truck.

The truck is about a massive shift in life as we know it, our normal life.

Another example of a truck might be loss:

  • You would lose your job completely.
  • That Sunday night, Dancing With the Stars was interrupted by the Prime Minister telling you that due to COVID-19, you could not keep your restaurant open beginning the next day.

The impact on every other area of your life would be massive.

  • Loss of a relationship and loss of a loved one.
  • You get a very serious announcement from your doctor that you have taken your health issue, maybe from the brick phase, to the next level.

Now it’s going to be very difficult to turn it around.

So, all of a sudden, we’re forced to make massive changes in our lives.

Back to my story.

Our sales halved for six months, before dropping to about a quarter. I went through a massive amount of what I would call dropping into dark thoughts. That alternated with an ice-cold fear, totally freaking out that the bank was going to shut me down. I couldn’t stay there and be in that dark place though I had to do something! But What?

I had a coach, Ley-Ann, in Canada, and I remember her telling me, Susan, stop for a minute. When you’re submerged, and you know that you’re only two inches from the surface, two inches from the next breath, you’re going to try and do anything to claw your way to the top, aren’t you?

Me: Yeah?

So she said, you know you’ve got choices here, Susan.

She would always coach me that you always have at least five choices. And I totally believe that as well. I coach the same principle now, from all the wealth of experience she passed on to me.

So we sat and we mindmapped all my choices.

That was as simple as beginning with how important it is to you to make the business turn around to stay open.

What’s it going to take to turn it around?

Are we going to remodel it, reposition, pivot, or go into another avenue of employment besides nurses? We could go into another industry altogether. If I close the doors, what does that mean?

That was really looking like a big possibility to us, and there were plenty of other bigger agencies crumbling to the ground in the city. I wouldn’t presume that I had some magic power to keep us open. The banking industry was aware our industry had been hit hard.

In my heart and mind, I knew that I would turn it around.

I took it very seriously, as a leader, that it was something I had seen that I hadn’t picked up on. It was my responsibility to restore the business to its former strength.

I made massive changes and really hard decisions.

Unfortunately, we chose to sell our house at a loss rather than let the mortgage impact the business—that broke my heart! Thankfully, the bank trusted I could do what I said I would. We sold our vehicles and everything we could and shut down business expenses that were not absolutely necessary.

We had to drop all our staff in the office and it became pretty much just the four of us out of twenty. Somehow, I found a deep resolve in me to make this thing turnaround. You know those moments when it’s like silence surrounds you? You can’t listen to words that waste your time and thoughts. You’ve got the calm, the clarity, the determination. Everything seems crystal clear. I was asking questions of myself and then speaking with every client in a way I’d never done before.

People were saying, Oh, what have you done? Why is all this happening to you? I thought, no, each part of it is just one thing. I just need to deal with one thing today. And I’ll deal with another thing after that. And I’ll deal with another thing after that.

Life was going on around me, too. My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer at this time. He was very close to me and had six months to live. He did pass away during all of this happening. Between his diagnosis and passing, we had the devastating loss of one of the most beautiful young men in our extended family. Gone. Never to be found. All we had was a memorial service with his framed photo. That was it. A life lived short. Another ‘truck’ message for many of us who loved him.

I had no chance to grieve beyond the week of both those losses.

In my case, the truck was pretty close to catastrophic.

So I suppose, from experience, just listening to the messages you get from the universe is all I can recommend.

In particular, listen to the feather. and then you won’t have to worry about the brick or the truck.

From the darkness comes light.

From that darkness, I became a much stronger, more aware leader of the business as I returned it to its former glory over the next few years and to the value I wanted to sell it for. My choices included selling it. I knew I would get that price. I had all the tactics and strategy in place, so I looked very much like something a competitor would like to buy.

And that’s what we did. We sold to a national competitor.

I did have to stay on; that was probably another truck moment! I said yes to staying on for two more years as an earn out. That was a little bit reactive to the excitement that I was selling. However, it was also their requirement in the purchases they were making at the time. After that, I freed myself up to go and find who else I was beyond my title of that company.

In my coaching, I’ve drawn on my experiences of life and business.

This means I can be a more authentic, realistic, conscious, and trusted advisor as a coach, trainer, and mentor to my clients. Nothing is beyond a good, nonjudgmental conversation about choices and making decisions. I’ve been through the good, the bad, and the very bad and survived it!

I also set myself free when I knew it was time for me to go find what else there was for me to learn and grow from in the world.

For self-leadership coaching, workplace and personal empowerment programs and coaching, Susan now delivers the 3 Vital Questions or TED* facilitated training, workshops and eLearning programs throughout Australasia. It’s meaningful content that every human being benefits from.

Consider booking an Intro Discovery Call with Susan via this link:

You can also follow Susan on Instagram and Facebook.

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