Episode 2 Janelle Bruland
Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Pressing on and understanding real success in the midst of incredible personal hardship,
An interview with Janelle Bruland.
Interview: Nathan Conant
Photos/Video: Ben Bender
Growing up in Whatcom County
I was fortunate to have a really great childhood. I grew up on a dairy farm in Lynden and that was a wonderful way to grow up. My dad had a farm and we had Holstein cows, we had chickens. Nothing scared me as a child. I was so active that my mom actually worried that there was something wrong with me because I was just “so busy”, as she called it, that she took me to the doctor and said, “Janelle is on the go all the time, has all these ideas in her head and is never calm.” And the doctor said, “No, no, she's fine.” It’s pretty funny when she tells me that story.
I was active as a child, pretty daring. When I got older, my parents instilled a great work ethic in me. My first job was picking strawberries. That was great for a while. I got to be with my friends and ride the bus to the farm, until it rained one morning and I didn't want to go, and mom brought the rain clothes out and said, “Oh no, you're still going. You still get to pick the strawberries in the rain or the shine.” We'd crawl around in the mud that day in the rain and we would pick strawberries. That was my first job.
Management Services Northwest
MSNW is my facility management company that I started in my home almost 25 years ago now. It was a time in the business where it was growing exponentially, and my business life was very full. I was putting in a lot of hours taking care of the clients and my husband was caring for the children at home, and my two youngest were four and seven at the time. I had had a really busy work day. It was that typical Monday and you look at the clock and you can't believe that, “Wow, it's time to get home for dinner.”
I drove home and drove into my driveway and walked into the house and thought that the house was unusually quiet and didn't really think much of it and found my two little girls playing out in the backyard on the swing set and they were by themselves. I was puzzled by that, and I asked the girls, “Girls, where's your daddy?” And they looked at each other and then they looked at me and said, “Daddy is not here. He left with a suitcase.”
I will never forget for the rest of my life that day because it was such a shock, just the night before, my husband and I had been on a walk together and talking about the week ahead and planning our next vacation. He had struggled for many, many years with an addiction, and I was used to the back and forth and him disappearing for days sometimes at a time. It was a difficult life but was normal for me living with an addict, but I never dreamed that he would actually leave the girls. It was just such a shock.
Somewhere I think in the back of my mind, I always thought that maybe it was going to happen someday. As I think back on it now those last few months, it was almost like I could feel he was slipping through my fingers and I was trying so hard to hold it all together. But coming home that day and having him leave, and unfortunately he had told the girls that he had just gone to visit a friend, but he'd left me the Dear John note that said I'm leaving and I'm not coming back, and don't try to contact me.
It was tough. It was a very tough day. I tried to pretend. I'd gotten pretty good of keeping my private life inside, and I tried to pretend, I think, in the beginning part of the evening, making dinner, and getting the kids ready for bed, and going through the normal routine. I know that I was in shock at the time. After the girls' baths were done and their teeth were brushed and I was getting them ready for bed, the littlest one, Paige, was four at the time, looked up at me and said, “Mommy, when is daddy coming home?” And she was just so distressed. Both of the girls, the look in their faces and the million questions going around in their little heads, I knew that I couldn't lie to them too. I pulled them to me to tell them the truth, and I said, “Girls, your daddy is gone, and I don't think he's coming back.”
Pressing on through personal hardship
That started the next chapter of my life and a really difficult one for the next several years as I had to go on and put my life back together, pick up the pieces of my life that had crashed all around me. We all go through challenges. And I'm sure those that are listening, I mean, we all have stuff that we go through and life is not easy. It's really about… for myself, it was about the perspective I was going to choose.
Even though it was such an incredibly difficult time of my life, I had two choices. I could either just be angry and bitter and feel sorry for myself and let everyone know how rough my life was, or I could choose to move forward and learn what I could from the situation that had happened and mend my family and move on, and just be better for it.
But that's not easy. It's absolutely a choice. And that was a choice.
I was at work and my daughter's preschool called and they said, “Paige just had a little meltdown here at school. We had a fire drill and she got really, really upset and we haven't been able to calm her down, and she's shaking and crying. And can you please come get her?” I said, “Of course. I'll leave the office right away.”
I packed up my stuff and drove to the school and it took about 20 minutes to get there. I got to the school and went to the classroom, and I saw her and her little face and she was white as a ghost and she was still shaking. I remember just running to her and throwing my arms around her. I had to grit my teeth not to have my own meltdown in front of the teachers. That was such a hard day. I got home that day and went up to my room, and I was so upset because there's nothing worse if you have kids, there's nothing worse than seeing your kids go through something that you can't fix for them. To see that pain, you feel their pain 10 times over. If you could wish it away, you would do anything to take that from them. I couldn't do anything to fix that.
Help from God and family
I remember going up to my room and shutting the door and crying out to God, “God, how do I do this? How do I hold my family together? How do I keep moving my company forward? How do I do this?” He met me. He met me that day in my bedroom, and I knew that God was going to give me the strength and that He was there, and that He was going to get me through it and He was going to get the girls through it. My job was to get up and put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
I decided that I was going to choose to be grateful for the things that I did have. That was the perspective that I talked about earlier. I had a wonderful family, parents I talked about who are precious, and loved me and supported me. I had an incredible team, a company that was growing and doing well, and a team that was supportive of me, and work that challenged me and sustained me, and then those beautiful girls who needed me.
I decided to live for that, and that was a choice that I was going to make every single day. I was going to get up and I was going to be everything that they needed me to be, and I was going to be the best boss that I could be for my company. I was going to be the best parent. That's what I did. And I just kept moving forward and life went on. My life got put back together and life moved on.
As we went through this experience together, one of the blessings that came out of it is my girls and I have a bond because we went through that very, very challenging situation together that we never would have had had that not have happened because we were our own little Team Bruland as people called us, and we just were together. They have talked to me about the strength that I had for them that they saw when they were growing up, that they never saw the mom that cried herself to sleep some nights after putting them to bed, they just saw the strength that was there, and they were able to lean on that and the love they felt.
They've already blessed me with those words, and they blessed me with their love, and the bond, and the relationship that we have. We are not just mother/daughter, they're dear friends now as adults, and I couldn't be more blessed by them, for sure.
A family legacy
Then Terell,... in her second year or third year of college, reached out to me and said that she wanted to come after college and work in the business full time and have that be her career. I wasn't sure if that would be best because I always thought it'd be good for her to go work somewhere else first and get some outside career experience. But the timing with me needing someone to come in, I was doing all of the sales and she had a business degree with an emphasis in marketing, and she said, “Mom, you need to have a new website, and I can help you with that and all of your marketing.” So she came fresh out of college and we began working together.
After the first six months where there was a few eye rolls and things that I had to put in place, because working with family (for those out there listening that are part of a family business), it comes with its challenges and its rewards. Once we got past that and learned to respect our positions at work, she gained wonderful experience and credibility. I just put her in the role of president this last year. She's thriving now, running the day-to-day operations of the company.
Writing The Success Lie
The reason that I wrote the book The Success Lie is I found myself in a place where I was always striving for more and more. And it was a natural tendency, I think, for me. I love learning. I always want to see how I can be a better version of myself, how I can do something better tomorrow than I did yesterday. And I think that that's a good thing. But I found, especially in this day and age of technology, and we're just in this fast-paced world that we live in, that we don't realize that we get caught up in it, and we get caught up in the doing more and more and having to work longer and harder. And it's a pervasive lie. It's the success lie.
And I found myself caught up in that and the fact that I was doing well, I was achieving a lot. I had success in a lot of areas of my life. But at the same time, I realized that there were some things missing and I actually had sacrificed my own health because I wasn't paying attention to it. I wasn't taking care of myself. I was taking care of everybody else and everything else, and I was forgetting to take care of me. So that was a lesson that I learned, and now I want to help others do the same.
It's really a good thing to set goals. But what can happen is if we aren't on track of what our prior real priorities are and we know what's most important to us, we can set these goals and the success that achieving those goals, the happiness that brings is just not sustainable. It just doesn't last. You go after this big goal, you get the goal, and you're elated for a while and then that passes, and you think, “Okay, what's next?”
That happens over and over again. I believe it happens most of the time where it's just not going to be satisfying is if you haven't aligned what your goals are with what your values are, and making sure that you're on track for where you really want to put your fingerprints on this planet? What do you want people to say about you when you look at the end of your life? Think about yourself as your 100-year-old self and looking back at your life, and what is in your life that you've accomplished that is worthwhile and is valuable, what do you want people to say about you, what do you want that legacy to be, and start living that now.
When you do that and you're setting goals to achieve that legacy and to move that forward, then it does last. And that's really what true success is, at least to me, and I think success can be different for all of us.
The Lie of Success
One of the lies we buy into is we think we have to do other people's version of success versus ourselves, and we buy into society's version of success. What I believe true success is, is when you know so deeply what your own values are and what's most important to you, and then you build your priorities in your life around that. Then that's true success. That brings true fulfillment and joy. It has for me. That's why I wrote the book. I didn't write it for myself because I made this discovery and now I want to shout it from the rooftops.
I don't want to see people that are having maybe tremendous financial success but they've blown up their marriage or they've blown up their health and they're really just unhappy deep within, or they're missing something; there's an emptiness that just doesn't need to be there. So I'm just really passionate about it.
Learn more about Janelle and Legacy Leader
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