How self-belief changed one executive’s career – and life

When Joan Cameron stepped away from the security of a job title and a salary, she confronted her own limiting beliefs about the possibilities ahead. In discovering how to change those beliefs, she found a new career and a new way of life. 

Cameron, now a principal of a Melbourne-based leadership consulting group called KBA, spent 20 years as an executive with the American technology company Hewlett-Packard.

Cameron’s business development and marketing roles at HP took her around the world and delivered two decades of excitement and professional challenges. Cameron, an American, says, “I worked in the printing division and it was at the beginning of digital technology. It was the unknown, and we were creating and bringing new technology to the world.”

Leaving the corporate “family” 

She loved the status and sense of purpose her job entailed. “I was so defined by the work I did and company I worked for. HP was like a family; there was really a magnificent culture and value set. You wore your jeans to work and we were all trying to get things done.”

But by 2005, HP had run into financial headwinds and was facing job cuts.

Cameron realised she was worn out and unsure of her next move. Her health was troubling her, as was the unpleasant prospect of delivering redundancy notices to her staff. “I had all these stomach problems. I was getting ready to help other people leave the company because of the workforce reduction. Then, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought: I will make myself redundant!”

Cameron left HP in 2005.

Job title and identity

For the next six months, however, Cameron defined herself by her former role. She answered the “so what do you do” question with a spiel about what she used to do at HP. “I feared losing my identity,” she says, thinking back on that time. “Also our value in society is so much measured by what we do.”

But one day Cameron suddenly replied to the question with more accuracy. “Nothing,” she said.

It was both a shocking and liberating moment. “I knew I was not ‘nothing’, not a ‘nobody’… but when I said ‘nothing’, it was extremely liberating. I had left behind a part of me – a part that says I can do anything, I am who I am – that I had when I was 18.

“I had a feeling of – oh my gosh! I can regain that youthfulness and I can define what I am. It was quite liberating after the initial stunned feeling. I could keep all the good and leave behind what I didn’t like about my life.”

Renewal in the fast lane

As she set about redefining and renewing her life and career, Cameron observed how her own beliefs limited her thinking about the possibilities ahead of her.

Reading a book by Dr Bruce H. Lipton, The Biology of Belief, profoundly influenced her. She was getting ready for a knee operation – she had had several and the doctor had predicted she would need another. But, by carefully looking after her knees and challenging her own beliefs, Cameron avoided the operation. “I changed my limiting beliefs about my knees and avoided the operation. It was a big epiphany.”

Most experts say change is a slow process, but Cameron says the techniques she uses work fast. Listening with new awareness to the problems of friends and colleagues, Cameron decided to train as a practitioner in the process and pass it on to others.

Starting in Portland, Ohio, where she lives, Cameron found a particularly receptive market in corporate leaders who were trying to drive and achieve long-term change. “There are a lot of self-help books, with affirmations and positive thinking, but most didn’t offer a way to rapidly change people. Everyone is stuck in some part of their life. This was a big opportunity because I saw how rapidly-changing subconscious self-beliefs helped people.”

She began travelling the world with this technique. Denis Kilroy, a participant in a Melbourne workshop and the founder of KBA Consulting, approached Cameron about working together, and later invited her to become a principal.

Together they are finding many senior leaders looking to get the best from themselves. “In seven years, I have taught workshops to thousands of people or worked one on one, and now that has really coalesced into working with top corporate leaders.”

Sustainable change 

It’s a different life for Cameron today. “I don’t work as hard. I abandoned the belief that to be successful you have to work hard; you have to work joyfully and efficiently. I do the work on myself, my mindset and beliefs, and that is how I run my business and my life. I look at problems as opportunities. It is a self-reflective lifestyle.”

In Denis, she found a man with a similar mission and a market of top-level executives who are ready to do what it takes to grow their businesses and create the capability for sustainable change.

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