• Darren Kanthal

My Story – Who I Was to Who I Am Now

I have heard that a picture is worth one thousand words, so I am going to try and tell this portion of my story in the same manner. Most stories start out with a quote, or words from someone wise and mine are no different. A wise man once told me, “consider all your failures and that’s the value proposition you bring to your work,” which can mean many things based on perspective - such as, with every failure, we can gain more knowledge. For me, this is an interesting quote because as an Executive, Leadership, and Career Coach, my job is to help others excel not only in their careers, but their lives as well. My story will take us from who I was to who I am now.

Hidden Insecurities

To put my story into perspective, I am an honorable and self-respecting New Yorker. It’s in my blood to bust people’s chops, be loud, direct, and abrupt. These traits can be incredibly obnoxious (or so I have heard and been told). While living in New York, I was surrounded by others that shared the same character traits. This behavior taught me from a young age that I could mask many of my insecurities by going on the offensive; being the loudest and the most obnoxious person in the room. This way you wouldn’t see all my hidden insecurities. It was easier to be seen as ‘that’ guy than for my insecurities to be on display for the world to see. My internal Judge told me I wasn’t good enough, so I was constantly trying to prove that I was worthy. Worthy of affection and respect, worthy of my professional position, and even if I was worthy of a promotion.

Being obnoxious to hide my insecurities was actually a strength in my social circles because to the untrained eye, I was fun, I made people laugh and I had lots of friends. In professional circles, I was liked, but that insecurity led me to be seen as accusatory, defensive, and the type of person that placed blame on others. I was the person that thought the more knowledge I gained, the more power I had. This perspective led to an egotistical thought process that if I felt you were worthy enough then I would be willing to share the knowledge I had gained. It was not right, my Judge made me a person I was not proud of.

Anything But

Fast forward to age 33 and I was working in what had been my favorite corporate job up until that point. I was making good money and by all accounts, I was successful. Yet, my insecurities were bleeding into my actions. Looking back I was entirely blind to how I was behaving and thought I was challenging boundaries to make a positive change. Truthfully, I was just argumentative, inflexible, and not a good colleague. I saw myself as personable and everyone else saw me as loud and obnoxious, or as corporate would say...passionate and enthusiastic.

Those actions eventually led me to being let go by my employer. Thankfully I was coded as re-hireable but make no mistake, my demeanor led me to the path of termination when it was time for the team to downsize. And then, as a 33-year-old man, I called my mommy crying. How could they let me go? Why was I fired? Who do I have to pretend to be in order to be successful? The woe-is-me mentality went on and on.

Even worse, I failed to mention that this was a pattern of behavior that wasn’t uncommon for me. Sadly, it was a running joke amongst my friends that I had the same employment cycle that ended in the words, “You are fired” or “I am sorry, but we are letting you go”.

That was my turning point, I was done. I had to stop placing blame on everyone and everything else and I needed to start holding myself accountable. In all my memories, stories, and events, I was the only constant. I could no longer point fingers and place blame. I started to question everything. Why did these things keep happening to me? What was I missing? How could my behavior give me a fruitful social life and destroy my professional life?

Painful Realization Turned into Positive Change

As I delved deeply into books on corporate politics, there were several examples of good and bad employees and what were the right ways to succeed in your career. Seeing all the examples of what not to do in those books, it was obvious that the behavior was wrong. As I read, I thought, ” Of course someone shouldn’t act that way! No wonder this mysterious person was shown the door”. That is when it hit me, the painful realization that this person that continually was shown the door was me. I was the ‘before’ example in these books and I had no idea.

Those realizations lead me down a path of who I am today. While I’ve had some hiccups along the way, I’ve never been fired or let-go from any employers since I discovered that I was the “before example”. I’ve learned how to play the game of life in a more effective way. I had to have the mindset that life truly is a game and you have to play by the rules, rather than thinking that I’ll make my own rules and get away with it. It was revolutionary.

Fast-forwarding a bit to my last corporate position and it followed a route that you may be familiar with. I was hired and worked for one of the greatest bosses of my life. I could not have been happier, but then a new CEO was hired and he unceremoniously pushed her out. The predecessor turned out to be the worst boss of all time. Thinking on my feet, I negotiated an exit and took the game of life into my own hands. I started my own company, and the rest is history.

Steps to Success and Hopefully Yours Too

My corporate experience in Human Resources and recruiting has given me the ability to provide clients with firsthand experiences and insights while guiding them towards their best career-life balance. My perceived failures are actually my unique gifts. I use the experience of getting knocked down, brushing myself off, and growing as a human being to guide clients to avoid the same mistakes I have made. I use my candor, humor, my New York traits, and the compassion and enthusiasm my old employers said I was not capable of to my advantage.

I now get to live life according to my rules within the guardrails of life’s general rules of course. Not as who I used to be, but the 45-year-old that writes this now. A person I am proud of, who is using failures and gifts to help others. In doing so, I get to live a life that I’m excelling at. These were my steps to success and with my experiences, they can be yours too, albeit with fewer hiccups along the way.

I have a passion for developing leaders with over 20 years of experience. Let me help you become the leader you have always dreamed of at The Kanthal Group.


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