And Then Life Happened

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Meet Martin Genner, an African-American professional, who thought he had it all, until that MAC truck called life came hurtling towards him.

Martin Genner had an Ivy League Education and solid connections.He appeared to be a likable leader from his time as captain of the college basketball team "back in the day."

His family had been supportive and always very proud of him. His Kansas City roots were evident. Each time he returned to the mid-west he would assume his place in the church choir to belt out one for the Lord.

His wholesome quality was remarkable to the trendy New York City crowd; it made him quite an attractive novelty—like a breath of fresh air! He was black, handsome, fit and hard working. Immediately after undergraduate school Martin was invited to join a top investment bank in New York.

Life was good for this budding business man. His exposure to theatre, fine dining, golfing and the "right" people did not hurt his ascent to VP. He was still without a sponsor although he had a few mentors. At that time he actually did not recognize the difference.

It had not occurred to him that the mentor explained how the chess pieces might be moved and a sponsor was a champion who actually moved the pieces; big distinction.

Nevertheless, he received a substantial check every two weeks which he divided carefully to pay school debts, help his siblings', add to savings and take care of living expenses and small pleasures.

Up the ranks he rose over almost 20 years of work as an investment banker. He never made it to the million dollar "big time" but his total compensation leveled off between 300K and 500K a year. His apartment overlooked the water. The view at night was a flood of a million lights in the distance.

His Mercedes was kept in pristine condition and the pool in the building was his first stop each morning. He did not occupy the pent house but life was not too shabby!

Eventually he married. and when the time clock seemed to run out they adopted a son. Over the course of his career he was deployed around the country to assume various work assignments.

His wife Marie along with Morris his son relocated with him each time.

Marie had her mind set on being a "lady who lunched" so she never quite gained professional traction. She dusted off her degree from Sarah Lawrence every now and again and pulled her weight in child rearing value. Once or twice she attempted to work outside the home but found everyone everywhere to be quite disagreeable.

Martin was 48 when he became my client. That was nine years ago. At the time he was not sure that he required a performance coach, an executive coach, a communication coach or a career coach. He simply wanted to get a resume written because he was sensing that he needed to make a few BIG changes.

The coaching engagement was strictly about "packaging."  In other words he required a brilliant resume and career story with the appropriate words and music.

How could he translate his value proposition in the career world and make his value jump off the page. How could he compel a new boss in a new industry to hire him; with an attractive offer. That was our mission—or so we thought.

Although, now, things were going reasonably well on several fronts, adversity was not foreign to Martin.

His parents had divorced when he was young, his only sister died when he was 10 and life at the Ivy League institution had been lonely at first and very intellectually challenging given his local public school preparation.

But now Martin faced the career inflection point of his life during the storm of his life. He felt as if an 18 wheeler was headed dead at him. Rumors of a downsizing were floating around the office. He had lost himself, his friends and his life compass in a bad marriage.

It was time to admit failure in his marriage and move on. Although money was drying up when he weighed the option of being poor and free against remaining with Marie and enjoying an affluent lifestyle the choice was clear. Poverty never looked so good.

Editors note: Stay tuned for the next installment of the travails of Martin Genner.

About the Author:
Ms. Hayling Price is President of EXCEED LLC - a talent development business. She leverages over 20 years of corporate experience in business development, marketing, leadership development, and communications.  Patricia took her leap of passion from the executive ranks at IBM to her current practice. Her insight and expertise as a speaker have been well received at numerous forums, like the Forbes Women in Leadership Conference. She can be reached at


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