Stories of WYWM: My Chaotic Career Path (Michael Roach)

WithYouWithMe - October 27, 2021
A Story of Doubt, Self-sabotage and Renewed Hope 

I was asked if I might like to write a brief article explaining how WithYouWithMe (WYWM) helped me. How I got here is embarrassing and convoluted. But I’ve been inspired by the transparency I’ve witnessed within the WYWM community, so here’s my story. 

In May of 1995, I was on top of the world. I earned a Bachelor of Engineering in Engineering Physics from the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC). I was a young and motivated Aerospace Engineering Officer Cadet in the Canadian Armed Forces, ready to take on the world. 

In February 2021, around 26 years later, I found myself unemployed, lost and depressed. 

What the hell happened? It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. 

A Very Promising Future 

Growing up, I was focused. I was always an above-average student. I was athletic and I spent my teenage years in army cadets, preparing for a career in the military. I was eager and excited. 

When I entered RMC in 1991, Canada had not really been at war in a very long time. After a couple of years there, it felt like our military had become heavily bloated with bureaucrat-types who didn’t know what to do with their time, other than sit at their desks and write up policy memos. (Looking back, perhaps this wouldn’t have been such a bad gig…) 

It also felt like Canadians didn’t particularly respect their military, especially after the scandal in Somalia in March 1993, with the beating to death of a Somali teenager at the hands of two Canadian soldiers participating in humanitarian efforts. These troubles weren’t just outside our borders either, as there were many scuffles even in my town that year, resulting in one of my classmates being set in a body cast for a few weeks, his spine healing from a severe beating. We were warned to be vigilant whenever we left the campus. It was a weird time. 

Then came the government program later that same year -- the Forces Reduction Program (FRP). We were told that the military was too big and needed to be cut. The FRP went on for a few years and I figured this was my sign to leave. I opted into the program and was released shortly after finishing all my training to become a commissioned Aerospace Engineering Officer. 

I still question this decision 25 years later. I could be retiring already with a full pension, or following in the footsteps of many of my wildly successful classmates from RMC. 

Nonetheless, I did manage to craft a rather successful early career for myself as a young aircraft structural engineer, and accomplished many things that I can still be proud of today. 

In late 2005, I also started a freelance copywriting (writing sales copy) side gigEven being lucky enough to have some early success. I worked hard at it and got a website up in 2006, while continuing to work as an engineer. I was generating many good leads, and life was good. 

Let’s Just Abandon This Whole Career Path, Shall We? 

Things were going swimmingly for several years until I began my journey of self-sabotage, disguised as positive thinking. I was destined to become a wildly successfully freelance writer and travel the world with the wealth that was inevitably going to flow my way. I needed to burn my bridges and go all-in. 

With 3 young children (born in 2003, 2005 & 2007), I took out a massive line of credit on our new house (that saw a very nice rise in value when house prices rose sharply in Calgary after we bought it in 2004) and used it to bankroll books, courses, memberships and conferences (not to mention all the travel costs involved). In 2008, I quit my job to focus on my freelance business full time. Even with a little bit of initial momentum, without a proper plan, it was a very irresponsible decision. 

Even with all the positive thinking that I had immersed myself into, self-doubt found its way in. “I’m still not making anywhere near what I thought I’d be making… Ugh, look at all that money I spent…” etc. It didn’t take long before I was focusing on the failures. Who was I to think I could be successful on my own? I allowed myself to slide into complete self-sabotage mode – turning down work, not being available, making excuses. When I exhausted our credit in 2011, I turned to a job in the booming, but volatile, oil and gas industry in Alberta. I was too embarrassed to beg for my old job back. 

Oil prices tanked in 2015 and I was laid off. For 2 years, I tried very hard to get another job. Constant rejections took a serious toll on my confidence. Our savings were depleted, and our credit was maxed out. Fortunately, drilling picked up again and I was back working in March 2017, just before I would have had to declare bankruptcy. 

Oil prices crashed again 3 years later in April 2020, and once again I was out of work – this time desperate to try and course-correct back to a stable career path. I applied everywhere and networked to the best of my ability. I even re-studied all of my previous structural engineering material. 

Out of countless applications, I only managed to get an interview with one company, Lockheed Martin, in October 2020. I worked for them previously, overseas in the Middle East. I had accomplished a lot thereonly leaving because their contract with the Egyptian Air Force ended and I closed up their office in the summer of 2003. Unfortunately, they had no more work at the time, so I had to move on. I felt very good about this current opportunity. I moved on to a 2nd interview in Novembereagerly awaiting their decision. 

Silence. 2 months later, I finally gave up hope that I would hear from them. I couldn’t believe that I had been ghosted. The emotions flooded in. I was a complete failure. I couldn’t beat myself up enough for ruining everything, for failing my family. I retreated into a very dark place. 

Enter WithYouWithMe 

On Feb 23rd, 2021, A concerned friend forwarded me a post on LinkedIn. It was for an online event the next day, with some company called WithYouWithMe. It was titled “WYWM Product Update… We are hiring come check out what we do!”. I really had no desire (or money) to check out some company’s products… but hey, they were hiring – so I signed up. I figured it would be just another hiring event, with hundreds of others competing, where my sad resume would probably never actually make it to someone’s desk. 

I signed in the next day to listen to this big Aussie man, Tom, begin to ramble on. It didn’t take long before I perked up, as everything he was saying was resonating with me. Potential over experience. This is what I was so desperately trying to sell, on deaf ears. “I’m at a point in my life where I can do great things for a company, because I’m capable and I’m motivated to do so!” – I just failed to sell that to the people posting job opportunities. I hung on every word. Man, this guy gets me! 

Before the presentation was done, I had already signed up for an account on their website and started browsing the course material. I loved it. These were all very interesting subjects – courses I would have never considered taking at this point in my life, assuming it was just too late. How could I pull off a job interview with no experience? I knew damn well I had the ability to learn this stuff and the potential to excel at it, if given the chance. And Tom here is telling me that I can. My hope was restored. I could finally start climbing out of this dark and lonely hole I had dug myself. 

I’ve been plugging away at courses ever since. My confidence has slowly resurfaced. I know with certainty that I’m capable of learning pretty much anything and using the potential I always knew existed. The renewed confidence is manifesting in other ways. Old friendships are being renewed and new friendships are being made. I now feel the energy to improve other areas of my life, especially my physical and mental health. 

I owe a lot of gratitude to Tom and the ever-helpful staff at WYWM. I can’t imagine where I’d be right now if I hadn’t received that invite. I shudder at the thought. 

I’d rather not think about it. It’s now time to focus on a brighter future. 

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