31 Days, 31 People

I snagged this photo from Stephan’s Facebook page. Carla Reich & Stephan Schier. Photo credit: W Alexander Long

I worked remotely as Director of User Experience for a company called Black Pixel for almost two years. It was a great job and even though remote, you do get to become really good friends with the folks you work with. The people I worked with there were amazing people, every one of them. The person I worked with most directly on an almost day-to-day basis was Stephan (Steh-FAHN). So I got to know him maybe a little bit better than everyone else.

When I think of words to describe Stephan, I think, wise, fun, silly, cultured, and genuine-hearted.

Sometimes when you find yourself in life’s darkest moments, the simplest words from a kind person can change the course of your direction. Sometimes those words etch a place in your heart or in your mind and remind you what this crazy thing we call life, is all about. For me, Stephan is one of those people.

A good many months after I lost my dad I found myself spiraling downward into a total career burnout. The burnout seemed inevitable, I tried really hard to work through it, to think my way out of it… for whatever reason, my path needed to change directions so this burnout loomed. Any shift would have to start with simply lifting my head up out of some really painful and dark stuff. It was a conversation I had with Stephan that really helped me keep moving. I don’t think Stephan really intended for this one particular sentence to stand out, his words often carry some sort of wise component to them, but these words penetrated my soul and inspired me to dig deeply, to find and trust that I know exactly who I am and what I want from this life.

“It’s not about what’s next, it’s about what’s important.”

It seems so simple and maybe even obvious, but the gravity of these words is so easy to overlook. I felt like I’d always followed my heart, so burnout really felt confusing and dark. These words from Stephan caused me to really examine everything. To ask myself tons of questions. What really is the biggest concern I have? How bad is the worst case scenario? What IS important to me and how can I use the skills I have to support those things? That’s where I went with the whole thing. And I’m happy to say I’ve come through the dark and painful side pretty well. I’ve redirected my path a bit by using everything I know and learned from the 15 years prior to burnout and folding it into new skills and continual learning. I’m carving out a new direction for myself. So far, so good.

Stephan, thank you for your friendship, insight and wisdom. Thank you for being honest and open, welcoming and kind. Thank you for being true to who you are. And thank you for keeping things fun and light even when things feel pretty damn heavy.



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