Ethan’s Story: Capacity to Engage

Family PhotoI got tricked into counseling. First by my wife, then by a God ordained meeting. My wife politely forced me to join a marriage class at the City Church in Seattle, WA focused on relationships, communication and attachment theory. I began learning about self-awareness and EQ. During 2013, my work life began to suffer as other colleagues and I began suffering from frequent anxiety attacks and a loss of drive/passion/focus due to a debilitating and stifling organizational culture. I had moved my entire family from Montana out to Everett to pursue a new career in aerospace that was supposed to be incredibly exciting and lucrative.

My wife and I quickly realized that Seattle is expensive and it takes time to climb the ladder and we both began wondering what we were doing and why we were there. We had two young children and had just learned that my wife was pregnant. I began looking for new jobs but didn’t know how to marry my passions, skill set and experience. We were also concerned about our daughter changing schools, moving a third time and figuring out the logistics of life with a new job, house, three kids, etc. During this time, my wife briefly and very randomly met Jon DeWaal at a local park during a kids play date with one of her friends from church. While our kids played together, my wife and her friend chatted with Jon briefly and he told them about the work he did. My wife relayed this story to me later and I blew it off as counseling sounded too messy and embarrassing. A few months later, during a particularly hard week at work, my wife’s friend encouraged me to call Jon. However, I had lost his number and didnt know anything about where he worked. So I began using google to find pictures of counselors in the greater Edmonds area and I texted and emailed the photos to my wife and her friend. After 5-10 attempts, they identified Jon’s face and within a week I was sitting in his office for our first session.

The first memorable moment was when I realized that vulnerability and transparency could be the hallmark and legacy of a man of influence instead of pride and rugged individualism. The second moment was when I realized I had a deep yearning and desire for relational connection in marriage, friendship and in my career. I had spent most of my life pursuing masochistic solo adventures that left me feeling empty and alone and the more I engaged with others, asked questions and sought understanding, the more rich life became.
I discovered that I had a capacity to engage, connect and seek understanding that my family narrative had never taught me, shown me, or told me was appropriate. I discovered that the greatest attribute of a leader is not always their ability to strategize, plan a budget or give a speech, but to simply connect and seeking understanding from another human.
Advice…dive in, do the hard work, lean into the hard conversations, write as much down as you can along the way, stay organized and be patient with your progress. And no matter how much it costs, its worth it, I promise.

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