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Bad timing, baby

Ed poses with his son, Graham, in the Brandcenter basement

Ed Keithly (Strategy, 2024)

I couldn’t have picked a worse time to go to the Brandcenter.

Prior to starting my sixty weeks, I worked in nonprofit leadership recruitment for a decade. I made good money. I knew what I was doing. I was comfortable.

In spring 2021, when I returned to the office from Covid-induced remote work, I felt like I had stolen a stranger’s chair. After what should have been an encouraging conversation with my boss, I realized I was more afraid of being promoted than being fired. It was time to go.

I took inventory of the parts of my job I still loved—creativity, variety, making things that make people laugh, cry, or change their minds—and I looked for places where I could do more of that. Creative strategy at the Brandcenter emerged as the clear answer.

Great. I’d figured it out. Then came my fear-based excuses:

I’m too old. I can’t afford this. Maybe the money I’m making is worth being unhappy forever. Are golden handcuffs even really handcuffs? They are gold, after all. It’s not a good time.

Half a year of therapy taught me that whether I’m asking someone to treat me better, enrolling in the best graduate program on Earth, or having a kid, there will never be a “good time” to do what matters to me.

Did I mention that my wife and I were expecting our first child?

My wife gave birth to Graham, the most perfect baby to ever live, on January 26, 2023—two weeks into my second semester at the Brandcenter.

Like I said, bad timing.

I’m tired all the time. Sometimes I’m late to meetings because Graham spits up on me as I’m kissing him goodbye.

But I was tired before Brandcenter and Graham, too.

There’s a difference between the kind of tired I feel from spending my days in the wrong chair versus spending them exactly where I’m supposed to be. It’s as big as the difference between spending hours pushing against a locked door and finishing a marathon.

I used to have a lot of big talk about what this program was equipping me to do next, but I’m not worrying about that right now. Because the main thing the Brandcenter equipped me with is courage. Courage to know I can do hard things at the wrong time. Courage to know I can hold the attention of 40 people while talking about lightbulbs (literally).

Courage to know I can dig past the boring, easy sell to find the electrifying truth. Courage to know that I’ll be able to figure out what’s next when it’s time … because we’ve come this far, baby.

There’s never been a worse time to be at Brandcenter, and there will never be a better one. Either way, I’ve never been happier.