So, I Wrote a Book.

So, I released my first book. On my 50th birthday. It's a book that's been in the works for a number of years. I believe I started writing a sentence here, jotting down an idea there, dating back to 2016. It originally started out as an autobiography, which I thought was ridiculous given I haven't achieved even a modicum of what I want to achieve. It then turned into a tell-all, because, let's just say, I've been through some shit as a top-performing Executive Assistant in some pretty influential C-suites. But I'm not really a tell-all type of guy. I finally settled on a book that recounted many of the experiences I had in my 27-year career as an EA that influenced or shaped my career, ethos, work ethic, and beliefs. That way I could give an honest opinion from the perspective of someone who has seen or been in almost every situation imaginable in business and who most simply saw as someone they paid to help make them successful, though rarely returning the favor.

I reveal a lot in the back half of the book. Many will see it as sour grapes and come to their own conclusions about me and cast aspersions. Other EAs will make popcorn, pour wine, and scream "Yaaaaassss!" and "PREACH!" as the proudly read a book written by one of them. Others will just be confused AF as to what kind of book it is, but be ensconced just the same. My goal was to tell my story, in explicit detail at times, in an effort to incite conversation. That's it. I believe that by revealing your truth you can help others validate their truth.

I've always been an open book, so I have no soliloquy to offer about vulnerability or the process or how anything I've written is intent on saving the world. What I do have is an opinion derived from sitting in a chair just outside the CEO's door for 27 years and watching them and their Leadership Teams like a hawk. I've watched business evolve over almost three decades in numerous industries with very different executives and teams. My personal wealth and well-being were often tied to the roles I had supporting top executives. I've suffered verbal, psychological, and physical abuses at the hands of some marginal human beings because I had bills to pay. I was forced into bankruptcy thanks to a market crash and an abusive encounter with an executive that landed me in the hospital for what was thought to be a stress-induced heart attack. I've also had my name in the mouths of some maverick CEOs like Jack Dorsey, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Jerry Yang, Brian Chesky, and Eric Schmidt.

It's strange, but I consider myself fortunate. Sure, I've had misfortunes throughout my life and career, but I see them all as learning experiences. I've made some bonehead decisions because I'm a hard-headed, insanely curious weirdo who learns lessons by doing vs. being told. And that curiosity and fearlessness have created a career that has taken me from a typing pool to sitting at the table with legends, even if I was taking their notes or ordering their Uber. My goal from day one was to always take the chance everyone else was afraid to take and just see what happens. I've always lived by this simple motto:

God will never give you more than you can handle. Otherwise, you'd be dead.

While I hope you purchase and read the book, I'll give you a couple of takeaways to chew on:

Be Brave.

It's weird, but social media has created this concept of fake bravado. The "Fake it 'til you make it," bullshit. Selfies standing in front of rented exotic cars. "Envy my wonderful life," photos and videos to one-up their friends or perceived competitors. Yet many are overcompensating for mental health issues, financial problems, and a tacit lack of self-awareness. Many in the EA community are suffering the same abuses I suffered at the hands of non-self-aware executives weaponizing their authority and hierarchy. Sadly, many feel their only option is to take it because they're newly divorced, their kid is in Montessori, and feel they have neither the money or energy to find a better situation.

One lesson I hope resonates in the book is that you must be brave. For you, and no one else. Abuse of any kind is unacceptable. Especially in a corporate setting. I've seen it and experienced it to some degree for 27 years. After the last hospitalization for stress, I made a promise to myself to never allow another human being to lay hands on me in an abusive manner. I also set a new bar for the treatment I would accept from anyone, especially an executive I supported professionally who wasn't a family member. Shit, I even put family members on notice about how they were to communicate with me and actually ex-communicated a few from my life. That's bravery. Setting a bar for yourself, establishing rules of engagement, and holding people to them, regardless of title, takes immense courage. But once you do it enough times and build the muscle you will have no issue checking or nexting anyone who operates outside the lines you've set as acceptable behavior when dealing with you. How they treat other people is none of your business unless you sign their paychecks.

How you're being treated is how you're being perceived.

I will say this until I am blue in the face. If you're being treated like shit by the people in your life, you're being perceived as lesser than. Period. If you are allowing people to treat you like shit and making excuses for them to justify their behavior in your own head, you're an idiot. Officially. If you're feeling like people don't respect you, listen to you, value your opinion, or offer you a seat at the table, then it's time to get a clue. They don't. And won't. So next their asses and move on. Most importantly, take accountability for your part in that dynamic and institute some new rules of engagement the next time that empower you, not subordinate you. Don't allow abuse into your life and normalize it. It's not normal.

Surround yourself with people who challenge you.

A CEO once told me: "Your success is often dependent on whom you surround yourself with. If you're surrounded by whiners, haters, slackers, and people who always have an opinion but ain't doing shit about it, you'll never get ahead. They are a distraction. Always been in the room with people smarter than you, richer than you, more successful than you, or better at your job than you. Watch them all like a hawk, listen, and take tons of notes. Then, you'll understand what it takes to be a success and you will be, too."

A couple of the execs in my book really provided all of the watching and notes I needed to get where I am today. One, in particular, understood me better than any executive I've ever supported and gave me the latitude and tutelage to spread my wings as far and wide as I could spread them. That one role truly made me an entrepreneur. More importantly, it exposed me to my own capabilities and superpowers.

Surround yourself with people who are making moves, preferably with integrity. Start kicking the idiots in your life to the curb. They are a drag on your energy, focus, joy, and time. If they don't deserve your attention and aren't reciprocating it, next their asses. Life is too short to shackle yourself with people who see you as lesser than themselves or are jealous, envious, or who duplicitously want to see you fail due to their own ineptitudes. And you know who they are. LET. THEM. GO. It hurts for a few days, but you won't even look back once. As my girl, Lisa Vanderpump says, "Play with pigs and you get dirty. And the pigs like it." Unpack that. Jam it in there. Move on.

In Conclusion

Life is short, man. Seriously. We put up with so much bullshit on a daily basis just walking in the building at the places we work. We often deal with even more in our personal lives. My goal over the next few years is to really shake people back into full consciousness and self-awareness. Challenge yourself to be better. More present. More self-loving. More selfish, at times. And definitely more aware of what you will and will not accept as treatment by another human being. No one on this planet is any better than anyone else when you break it down to the cells. What differentiates us is our mindset and the choices we make. That's it. Rich people aren't better than poor people. White people aren't better than Black people and vice versa. Politicians aren't better than convicts...especially when many are or have been both. We need to realize that everything we do, the choices we make, the people we invite into our lives, the companies we choose to join, the affairs we choose to have, the 20 miles per hour over the speed limit we choose to drive, the text we send below the window line while driving yet casting aspersions of others doing the same more conspicuously, all wind back to us...as a choice that we make for our lives. Your life is no one's fault but yours. Own that. And make better choices.

Phoenix Normand