HBO's Carla Moore On the Car Crash That Changed Her Life: CCW Nashville Keynote
After a near-fatal accident, Moore discovered her life's purpose
“It’s a dawn/It’s a new day/It’s a new life/For me/And I’m feeling good.” - Nina Simone, Feeling Good
HBO’s VP of sales strategy Carla Moore opens her keynote at CCW Nashville by breaking into a rendition of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good.’ Not the usual icebreaker for a headlining speaker at a contact center conference, but it’s fitting given Moore’s career transformation from call center agent to life coach and speaker after a near-fatal car accident changed her life.
On a September afternoon 11 years ago, Moore landed at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport following one of many business trips as a senior manager at HBO, training sales reps at call centers on how to sell the network’s cable, telco and satellite services.
She got into her car and headed home on 294 South. Cruising along the highway, her thoughts began to wander. Accustomed to traveling 3-4 days per week, she had three months’ worth of backlogged expense reports she hadn’t submitted, and receipts were piling up.
“I was looking straight ahead but not seeing,” Moore recalled. “And then: Boom! Within minutes of leaving the airport I’d lost control of my car and crashed head-on into a concrete medium.” She was pushing 55 mph in a convertible without her seatbelt on.
“I thought it was over, literally. I thought it was a wrap.”
As she lay on a gurney in the emergency room, a doctor came over and said: “Ms. Moore, I’m reading your EMT’s report and it says your car was totaled. Most people don’t make it out of a crash like that.”
That’s when Moore realized she’d narrowly avoided death. “I remember the magnitude of that moment - I remember it like it was yesterday,” she said. “I looked up at her and said, ‘Oh my gosh, if I would’ve died today, I would’ve died not living the life I’d imagined.’”
Fresh out of college, Moore landed a job as a call center agent for Sprint near Hickory Hollow. As a young professional, paying the bills was foremost on her mind; it hadn’t ever occurred to probe into what her passions were. The first ten years of her career were “steady, but not particularly meaningful.” “I got caught up in the corporate rate race; an endless, mindless, self-defeating pursuit of promotions.”
Outside of work, she wasn’t happy either. Moore was “morbidly obese” at over 350 lbs, single and verging on her 40th birthday.
“Here I was at HBO making big, bold decisions by day and coming home consuming volumes of food and in tears every night.”
The morning after the accident, she was sitting on her sofa, legs in bandages, the refrigerator empty, her totaled car gone. “I said to myself, Girl, what are you doing? Better yet, What are you going to do next?”
Within a few moments, she hobbled up, grabbed a sheet of paper and scrawled down the things she wanted most in life. The four things she’d most wanted since college came to mind instantaneously: 1) Lose 100 lbs; 2) Run a 5K; 3) Reactivate her community service and civic and church duties; 4) See Rome.
A few months later, when she stood on the cobblestoned street in front of the Colosseum during a two-week solo vacation to Italy, she realized that for 20 years she had ached for those four things, and within one year she’d achieved them all. “That’s when I got it,” she said.
“We already possess the power to change our very own lives. Living the life you’ve imagined is about choosing it.”
This epiphany shifted her leadership. As a life coach, speaker and author on what she calls “enlightened leadership,” Moore believes that the effectiveness of a leader is commensurate with their self-awareness, clarity and personal enlightenment.
“Enlightened leaders are more open to new thoughts and ideas from others,” she said. “When leaders are calm and relaxed in their own lives, it’s easier to allow freedom and creativity from other team members. It makes it easier to share the spotlight.”
But not all leaders are in it to win it. According to a Gallup poll, State of the American Manager, just 35 percent of US managers are engaged in their jobs. “That means between you and the person to your left and right, two of you are already ready for the weekend,” Moore joked. “At one point that was me.”
After the accident, she published her book, Crash! Leading Through the Wreckage: Using Personal Power to Transform Your Leadership, and founded her own speaking and life coaching practice while moving up the ladder at HBO, where she’d started as an entry-level sales trainer 20 years ago. In her current role, she’s charged with redefining HBO’s brand training narrative, discovering new sales strategies and creating continuous education programs for the brand ambassadors who go to call centers and teach agents how to sell HBO services.
She distills the revelation she had while standing at the Colosseum into a neat little equation she tells her clients and audiences: Passion + Purpose = Power.
Moore describes passion this way to the skeptics - or those who’ve simply never contemplated what theirs might be: If you won millions of dollars in the lottery and you didn’t have to go back to work, what parts of your job would you miss? Even if you loathe the core functions of your job, you might miss holding court at team meetings, or the feeling of submitting a finished report you’re proud of.
“These are all clues to the things that really move you.” Moore suggests starting by making a list; themes will eventually emerge.
She’s often asked about the difference between passion and purpose. “Passion is your feelings, your compelling emotions,” she explained. “Purpose is the why behind it all. It’s the reason you do what you do.” You can have many passions but purpose tends to be singularly focused.
Moore notes that younger generations expect passion and purpose in their work, so workplaces that fail to inspire passion risk losing key employees. Conversely, those who don’t search for their passion may find themselves leapfrogging from one unfulfilling role to another.
Power, the final part of the equation, is about overcoming fear to be able to make choices, and choosing, during what Moore calls “crash moments” to let it fuel you up or make you fall down.