Friday, September 16, 2011

When Change Involves a Higher Calling

Here is a real ‘change story’ from a very close friend of mine. Richard J. Colonna

I've known you for ten years now...and while I've known you as a performer, you always had that 'real job' on the side. Tell me a little about what you were doing and how long you did it.
Well in 1985, I decided to make a career change, left the world of retail management/merchandising, and entered into the telecommunications field. For 26 years I did everything from work in a customer center call center for residential users to design fiber optic disaster proof voice/data networks. The last 7 of the 26 years I designed, created, launched and managed a new hire sales training program which evolved to become a sales university company wide.

I know you were a victim of the "Corp Downsizing" machine. How did the thought of it make you feel?  
It completely tore down my self esteem. Downsizing didn't just hover over my head during my last job - it followed me throughout the 26 years. I remember having to lay off an entire customer service department of 30+ people. And I was always looking over my own shoulder waiting for the downsizing knife to strike. In the 26 years of being in telecommunications I went through 10 mergers and acquisitions. 

So the exciting part...share what new path you have embarked on.  
Well, I've always been a spiritual person... not necessarily glued to any particular religion. Though I grew up as a Roman Catholic, I consider myself Christian and currently am a member of the Episcopal church. Particularly one that is very inclusive of all shapes and sizes of people...straight, gay, transgender, questioning, old, young, people of color, you name it. However, I have always been intrigued and accepting of all faiths since as far back as I can remember...which is why this new venture as an interfaith Minister seems so perfect for me. That combined with me just being a person who lives for getting to know others, giving advice, wanting to comfort people during difficult times, being a great listener and just overall wanting global happiness, seemed to also lead me down this new road. 

Was this something you've always wanted to do or was it an extension of your faith as well as your years performing?  
I would say a combination of both. As a young boy, I prayed a great deal. I was brutally bullied throughout my younger years and prayer was a way to keep me strong and to help me get through each day. Somehow I evolved to become the person who everyone went to as a confidant, or to get advice. In my younger years, I did think about becoming a priest, but with no disrespect to the Catholic Church, it was for all the wrong reasons. Has performing helped me? You bet. I was able to shine, become someone else, and safely explore my emotions or those of other characters. And theater spilled over into my professional life when I would travel and deliver huge presentations in front of hundreds of people. Being in front of the head of a mega-billion dollar corporation was a theatrical experience for me that allowed me to identify and connect with the individuals.  

Starting your own company must be daunting. Is there a mentor or someone assisting you?  
Yes, there is a mentor. Reverend John Graff Jr. has been the most inspiring, kind, caring, patient, generous human being that I've met in a long time. I cannot begin to express how fortunate and grateful I am to have been brought under his wing. He has given me this opportunity of a lifetime and it is and will change my life for the better.

I know this has just begun for you - but can you already get a sense of it being life changing or do you see yourself back in Corp America again?  
Honestly, if I never have to be in Corporate America again, it won't be too soon. It was a long run and one that had its life expectancy. It's time for a change. I feel it in the core of my being and I'm not even afraid...I'm excited like a little boy on his way to Disney World. If we take a hard look at past moments in our lives when we've gotten though periods that we thought we'd never get through, and not only did we get through them but became stronger, healthier and wiser individuals - we'd see that there is nothing we can't accomplish.

What do you say to people who are thinking of starting their own business (whatever that may be)?  
I'm taking a risk just like anyone would; investing my time to be strategic, grow it and expand my client base (if you will). But I've also given myself a deadline and some goals for 6 months and a year. Right now the glass needs to be overflowing and I need to be confident that I can make this work. Also, let me throw in there, that supportive family and friends help a great deal. I have the most incredible group of people standing behind me, ready to lift me up, cheer me on and wipe my forehead when I get weary. What else could I ask for?


  1. Yep! That's my uncle Rick! He's one of the most amazing people ON THE PLANET.

  2. Beautiful- Richard has such a positive outlook on life- no question that he'll be successful at this!