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Getting unstuck during a pandemic

Over the last two years, I had worked my hardest to launch and grow a nonprofit startup incubator in Northern Michigan. It was an absolute grind, but we finally broke through and established a community center that would be sustained well into the foreseeable future. And right when everything was working spectacularly well, I realized I was no longer the right person to take the organization to the next level, so I stepped aside to make room for the next leader. I entered the year 2020 with no job and no plan for what was next.

After the leadership handoff, I took some time to relax, then I started having coffee meetings with the various people in my network. I was hoping to surface new ideas, maybe a new startup opportunity. But then COVID hit, and the meetings – as well as the exploration process – came to a halt. I had a few business ideas, but I would eventually need to ask friends and family for help to make them successful, so I wanted to make sure that the path I pursued was the right one. Without other people to help validate (or reject) any of my thoughts or ideas, I got stuck in my own head, unable to move forward. I needed to be jolted out.

It was at that time when I stumbled across the Career Design Fellowship. I was intrigued by the idea of a comprehensive program that could help check my current thinking, strengthen my ideas, hone in on a single career direction, or maybe find a new path I hadn’t considered. I needed something like an organized program to help me commit to action.

In short, the Fellowship was just what I needed. It provide a level of structure with frameworks to help remove distractions and shine a light on the path forward, breaking tasks down into small steps and showing that inaction is truly inexcusable.

What I did not expect, however, was the value of the peer group. From week to week, my team really got to know each other, and we all became invested in each other’s success. We began recognizing and calling out each other’s “limiting beliefs” as they emerged, forcing each other to take an honest look in the mirror. There was no judgement; it happened to all of us. It was fascinating to see. My team gave me the validation and confidence I needed to finally decide on my path forward, and I left the program feeling the sense of direction and momentum I was hoping for.

After the Fellowship, I decided to combine by passion for coaching with my experience in entrepreneurship and strategy consulting. I started an executive coaching business – where I develop the skills of rising talent in corporations and entrepreneurs while co-leading their projects alongside them. The engagements so far have been incredibly rewarding, and – importantly – I am really enjoying the process of mastering my craft and becoming a better coach every day.

Andy Cole is an engineer, entrepreneur, consultant, and – above all – a coach. As a management consultant, he led strategic projects with Fortune 500 companies, high-growth startups, and various nonprofits. Andy also co-founded two Boston businesses specializing in innovation programming, and he founded an award-winning startup incubator in Northern Michigan. He now runs Mainspring Consulting in his hometown of Traverse City, Michigan, where he coaches corporate leaders and entrepreneurs by co-leading projects alongside them.

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