Take a Step Backwards to Move Forward

Take a Step Backwards to Move Forward

Sometimes you’ve got to take a step backwards to move forward.  It’s true in life, relationships and of course business.

For more than 10 years, I owned and operated my own digital marketing agency.  I enjoyed the freedom of working for myself and being able to push some creative boundaries.  But after more than a decade of chasing down clients, creating campaigns and growing, I came to a point where I was beginning to get burned out.

I started feeling like every new client was becoming more of a burden than a joy.  Chasing down clients, working on getting payment – always trying to get payment, and constantly going back and forth on creative.  Was all of this frustration worth it?

I had to take a step backwards to move forward.

Eventually, I made the decision to close down shop and try something new.

And I found it.

Something completely new that I had never even dreamed of attempting.

In fact, growing up if someone suggested the job that I moved into a little more than two years ago, I would have laughed in their face.

I was brought into a steel fabrication plant in a small town on the border of North and South Carolina.  It was my responsibility to stack plates according to the beams they were to be welded to.

We’re talking 50, 60, 70 pounds plus.  For 12 hours a day – 5 days a week and sometimes having to work on Saturdays.

It was fucking exhausting.

My feet hurt.  Every muscle in my body ached.  I was mentally and physically exhausted.

But I continued the work and I was quickly taken note of.

Over the next two years, I moved from the lowest level position – slinging plates for hours on end to becoming a machine operator and then into a leadership role as a night shift supervisor.  Over that very limited period of time I negotiated and was positioned to receive six raises.  I had effectively more than doubled my income.

Not too shabby for a guy who never would have even thought about taking such a job had he not examined new possibilities.

But after two years, I had reached the top of where I could possibly go in the shop.  I wasn’t going to learn to weld and a manager position would not have become available for years.

But I knew I was meant for more and if I was going to continue my upward projection, I would have to make a transition.

It just so happened a position in the purchasing department came available.  And I accepted the position.

The upside was that I would now be working side by side with the top executives of the company.  The downside was that, being salary, I would no longer be getting overtime and would be taking a substantial pay cut.

But I had to take a step backwards to move forward.

I’ve had to use this technique in other areas of my life as well.

A few years ago, my life was spinning out of control.

I had lost all sense of control and of who I wanted to be as a man.

I felt trapped, isolated and a prisoner in my own head.

So, I used alcohol to escape the monotony of what had become my life.  And that mechanism eventually turned against me to the point where I lost everything I felt was keeping me stuck.

My life quickly became a whirlwind of self destruction and unpredictability.

I didn’t know, from day to day, whether I would have a job, a place to live or anyone who cared.

It certainly wasn’t the life I wanted for myself.

I was a disappointment to my friends, my family and most importantly myself.

Having become the failure that I was, I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror.

Being in the thick of a self imposed tornado of drama and copious amounts of alcohol, it was impossible to take a step back and examine the life I was creating for myself.  The chaos and never ending feeling of being a failure had just become routine.

Now, I’d like to say I just woke up one day and had an epiphany that I needed to make a change.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The law had one for me.  I went to jail after several chances and failures to get my life back on track.

However, this thirty day stay in the clink gave me the opportunity I needed to take a step back to move forward.

I was able to dry out and examine what I really wanted out of life and what I had done to push myself so far off of the path.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take such a dramatic shift to help me take a step back any more.  I’m able to make those changes more easily today but I had to learn to do so.

The feeling of uneasiness or being stuck is a clear indication that life isn’t heading in the direction you were meant to go.

The more in tune you are when this feeling arises, the easier it will become to make the necessary shifts to get back on track quicker.

For me, it starts with a physical feeling in my body… a tightening in the chest where I have to take several deep breaths to kind of loosen it up.  I’ve heard other men experience tension in their necks, lower backs, head or lower gut.

The point is when something isn’t right it starts as a physical manifestation before the feeling of uneasiness transfers into a mental state.

Become aware of what your body is telling you.

When these physical triggers occur, it’s a good time to stop and ask yourself, “What’s really going on?”

Am I happy with the path my career is heading?

The way my relationship is going?

Is my physical and mental health okay?


It could be any number of things.

Take a few precious moments to consciously do a self check.  I’ve found it not only helps me but everyone around me.  If I’m not doing well, I can’t do well for anyone else.

Take a step back to move forward.

Joshua D. Abel

Men’s Empowerment Network

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