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My cousin Cindy is a rare blend of cheerleader and truth-teller that I’ve come to call “champion.” More than a friend, different from a coach, a champion sees you in a higher place, a place you can’t always envision for yourself. Without my champions, I can too easily forget that “Actually, I can.” Cindy and I were chatting by phone the other day… I was lamenting a broken heart and without missing a beat she acknowledged my sorrow then deftly redirected my attention towards the future, where she painted a picture of infinite possibility.

What To Look For In A Champion

Do you have someone in your life like that? A champion who doesn’t pull any punches but doesn’t let you linger? Who helps you see all your potential, all your greatness, then gives the nudge you need to go after it? For the longest time that person was my mother. She wasn’t nearly as gentle as Cindy (her nudges were more like swift kicks) but when she helped someone stop and think bigger, no one did it better.
I will never forget the day I called her to tell her I had been fired. Not laid-off, not down-sized, not given a package or a parachute – I was shown the door.

Calling On My Champion

A young homeowner with a newly minted MBA in my back pocket, I took a job that was admittedly a stretch for me. Perhaps with a good supervisor, with a little leadership and guidance, I would have rose to the occasion. But my boss… well the phrase that comes to mind is “cuckoo for coco puffs.” I didn’t know her for very long, a scant 90 days to be exact… and she may have been having an off quarter herself, but the 100% turnover rate in our department tells another story.

Either way, there I was… mortgage due, student loans looming, and jobless. Filled with shame, humiliation, and fear, I cried my way home and called my mom. Through choking sobs I told her what happened and then I braced for the fall out; her response, however, was far from what I expected:

“Good! I’m glad!” { Wait what? }

“That job was ridiculous! That lady was CRAZY! She worked you like a dog. And you… you are SO stubborn! And proud! You don’t listen… I tried to tell you… you would have never left that job… this is the best thing that could have happened…” and on she went.

And me? I was doing that snot-sob-laugh-snort thing… you know the one you do when you’re crying and laughing at the same time? My mom kept talking, reminding me of all that I had accomplished, casting her vote of confidence in my future, and daring me to dream big.

When she passed a few years ago I didn’t think I’d ever find anyone who could be my champion quite like her; in fact I was convinced of it. But what I have discovered is that when I make space for someone to fill that role in my life, people rise to the occasion.

Like Cindy. I was a little weepy when I called her, but by the time I hung up the phone I was smiling…

Now It’s Your Turn To Find Your Champions

Go find your champions. Find the people who won’t let you off the hook, who will hold you accountable for being your best self, for living life to the fullest. And keep them close.