You will never guess what I’m thankful for

Most people are thankful for the good stuff.

The blessings, the good fortune, the windfalls.

I’m not.

I’m grateful for adversity.

You know those great bosses who really invest in you? Who are mentors, who support and guide you? Teach you, train you, help you to be your best self?

This is not about them.

Because I worked for some truly terrible people.

There were the Brits with the pinstriped suits and too much cologne who thought they were City (read: Wall Street) men, but who were, essentially, soccer hooligans.

Sexist, racist, xenophobic.

Selling big retainers for services that they gleefully failed to deliver.

And thought that the best way to end a company dinner was with a lap dance.

For me too.

Imagine colored strobe lights swirling overhead through a pulsating beat.

Envision my gay co-worker and I, exchanging incredulous glances as scantily clad women shake their tatas in our faces.

Picture me, endeavoring to gracefully start a conversation: So! How did you get into this line of work?

Yes, that happened.

There was my last boss in NYC, a woman I still have nightmares about.

She interpreted every one of her employee’s successes as a personal attack on her, more so if the employee were female.

Immediately after promoting me to be the Director of Client Relations, she began to vigorously work against me.

She disparaged me in front of my clients, and grilled them on exactly why they had signed a contract, to ensure that I didn’t get a penny unearned.

She took the largest accounts I brought in and reassigned them to her clueless daughter.

She rewrote my contract three times in the course of one year trying to reduce my commissions. And finally, outmaneuvered herself: in attempting to trim my cut from 10% to 5%, she actually marked it to up to 50%.

Yes, I worked for that genius.

And then there were the Frenchmen. 

I had packed up my entire life and moved myself to Madrid to open the Spanish office of a French consulting company (my spy days).

Only to find out when I got there that they had lied about, well, everything.

They had no clients, no leads, or contacts in Spain.  They had no clue about the market or how to approach it.  And they had no work visa for me.  Oh my.

My primary focus was landing new clients.  Me, an American, getting Spanish clients for a tiny French company.  A company that no one had ever heard of, with no real company website, in an industry that was brand new and completely unfamiliar in Spain.

In Spanish, did I mention that?

For extra fun, I discovered that the company was so protective of its clients’ privacy that I was forbidden to reveal company names, regardless of how massive and impressive. You know, as references.

So that my potential clients knew that I was not just a big faker when I asked them to sign on for the 164,000€ project.  Drat.

And it didn’t stop there.

I figured out the market all by myself, marched out into it, and brought back inked contracts from the largest Spanish energy multinationals on the strength of nothing but, well, me.

The Paris office rewarded this remarkable feat by absolutely failing on the production end.  So that I had to halt all sales efforts in order to personally supply the services that my clients were trusting (and had paid) us to provide.

And, finally, after the hundreds of thousands of euros I had brought them from delighted repeat clients, the Frenchies kept insisting that there was a problem.

The thing was, they explained: I needed to understand that much more important than client development, successful delivery of services, profitability, or anything else was proper interoffice protocol.

Straw:  meet camel’s back.

And I decided that I had had quite enough of working for other people.

Why on earth would I say that I am thankful for any of this?

Working for clowns made me realize that being a successful business person isn’t as hard as you think, ’cause idiots are pulling it off.

Having my boss actively campaign against me gave me the confidence to imagine just how very prosperous I could be if I didn’t have an adversary sabotaging me.

Being completely dropped on my ass in every possible way by my Parisian overlords made me question:  wait, why do I need them again?  They’re all burden and no benefit.

Prevailing despite being underestimated, unappreciated, and undermined by every boss I ever had allowed me to recognize that I really, REALLY didn’t need them at all. 

And just like that (POOF!), I was an entrepreneur.

So, in this week of giving thanks for blessings, I know it may feel that you have nothing to be grateful for.

And I’d like to tell you this.

Whatever you are struggling with at the moment.

Whatever villain has you tied to the tracks.

Whatever disastrous situation you are having to endure.  It’s teaching you something important.

About your resilience.

About what you are capable of.

About who you are.

Because good fortune may make you happy, but it is adversity that makes you strong.

And you? What are YOU thankful for?


  1. wendy tells all

    Yes, in fact, I am Jamie Wakefield’s whatever. I am doing this because this is MY job. And I love it. And I do like to think I know some stuff, thanks!

  2. Patti Pokorchak

    You and me both Wendy! I”ve had the bosses from HELL too!! That’s what made me finally bite the bullet and become an entrepreneur.

    Spent 5 months working for a large IT company (like a German IBM) I was the only sales person and still didn’t have my official target/quota but it was in the millions of $$ and impossible to reach as the only client i had hated my company. They threw in an extra $1mil of training as the training manager was leaving after having sold $10K in 5 months……

    Life is TOO short to work for a**holes!! And there’s so many out there. Do whatever you have to but don’t put up with that crap.

    • wendy tells all

      Nice! Totally agree. And the Euro version of horrible bosses is even more *special* And I am with you-don’t put up with crap!

  3. Laura García-Courrau

    BRAVO! I’ve had crappy bosses as well, which I’m super grateful as well! My thought process is… if a sex offender with a coke problem and no follow-through can get a management job with a 6-fig salary, I can do better! I so agree with you, and they sure do make for awesome stories around the bonfire. 😉

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • wendy tells all

      Holy crap! And you can clearly do better! And have! 🙂

  4. Audrey Groeschel

    I have had great and bad bosses and I am thankful for every single one of them. I learned and grew from each one. As you said, more from the bad. And boy were some a smack in the face! Thanks for pointing it out, it is so important to be grateful, especially grateful, for all the shit you took. Stronger, smarter, better, and any more ‘er’s you can come up with. They rock.

    I also thought of the awful things that happened this year non-work related. It was a rough year. The funny thing is, the moment I began being grateful for the crap, it all began to change. Slowly but surely. And now? 180 degrees.

    And good on you, you are worth more than all of them combined.

  5. Patti Pokorchak

    Wendy, you and I have so much in common including the arsehole bosses.

    I worked for one of world’s biggest computer companies – Siemens – and didn’t have a fixed sales target for the 5 horrible months that I lasted there. I only knew it was in the mega millions and I had zero chances of getting even to 10% of it due to the rest of the company hating our one client! Oh what fun and that final corporate experience is what made me an entrepreneur – almost 24 years ago! HURRAY! Life isn’t always smooth sailing but getting over the mountain makes life so worthwhile!

    I”m thankful for your clubhouse to keep me somewhat accountable…….. 😀

    • wendy tells all

      Patti! Sorry for my delayed response-this went to my spam for some reason. We are well shod of them. Congrats on 24 years of being intrepid. And I am so happy you are in the clubhouse!

  6. Amy T Milavsky

    What a brilliant piece of writing! Inspiring, snappy, creative. Way to go, Wendy!

    • Wendy White

      Thank you so much Amy!!! I’m curious about what you’re thankful for? Adversity? Not so much?


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