Book Review: Full Circle: A memoir of leaning in too far and the journey back by Erin Callan Montella

“Knowing your story means living a considered life. Socrates had it right. An unexamined life is not really worth living. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but without self-reflection, we never learn from our mistakes, condemned to repeat the same pattern over and over.”

This book has been on my reading list for some time. I was drawn to it again when I was searching for books related to my own journey: women seeking to understand their world, taking a break from the work treadmill to reflect on their purpose in life.

Erin Callan Montella’s decision to take time off from work was not fully her own. She was the chief financial officer at Lehman Brothers in 2008 just before it spectacularly collapsed and played a part in kicking off the Global Financial Crisis.

This memoir recounts her journey from a young girl to one of the highest ranking people on Wall Street and how her career became her life.

Erin is an incredibly intelligent, brilliant and driven woman. Her ambition led her to take well thought out risks, to reach a position that no (few?) other women had achieved. While the cracks were already appearing before her resignation (sacking?) from Lehman Brothers it was this event and its aftermath that forced Erin to reflect on her life.

“…. a successful professional athlete who referred to the sport he played as his platform, not his purpose. A jumping off point to accomplish bigger and better things. The things that mattered more in life. The simple idea that a career could be a platform, not a purpose, was like a slap across the face. The good kind. A wake-up call. I had done the opposite, making a successful career my purpose, not a platform for something more meaningful.”

While reading Full Circle I wondered what would have happened if this situation had not been forced upon Erin. Would she have had the self awareness to recognise and acknowledge the pathway she was on was not the meaningful purpose she was seeking?

Needless to say she found her career in tatters, her emotional well-being reaching the darkest imaginable. She needed time to reflect and readjust to a new life and a new way of doing things.

Erin only briefly writes about her new life as a wife and mother, which makes me wonder where this journey has taken her? What is she doing now (she mentions at the start of the book that she is retired) and more importantly what lessons has she taken into her new life? Did she find the balance that was so lacking in her old life? Or has she simply pursued the exact opposite pathway?

While I am a long way from a high ranking career woman and never want to be, I still gained much from Erin’s memoir. To take time for self reflection. To consider what is meaningful to me. Many of her words inspire me as I reflect on my life, it’s purpose and what I am going to do next.

“Because figuring out what really matters to you and how it dictates the direction of your time, your energy, your passion is always at the heart of the matter.”

Full Circle: A Memoir of Leaning in Too Far and the Journey Back, Eing Callan Montella, Sanibel, Florida, 2016, Kindle Edition, ISBN 978-0-9973821-2-9 (e-book)


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