Nine months ago, I walked away from my job…
Nine months later, it is still very hard for me to say it in such a direct manner. I worked for a great Fortune 500 company with global operations. I had received multiple promotions throughout my tenure and achieved one of the highest designated levels within the firm. I had a wealth of responsibilities that were both client and internal facing. I had teams of people I was responsible for. I ran a national organization. I was an executive sponsor to many programs across the firm. I had the ability to travel anywhere I wanted within the United States. I was well compensated and able to provide my family with the things that they needed and some of the things that they wanted. Ultimately, most of the problems I had were “first world” problems to say the least. Sounds good, right?
I also had two other things that are worth mentioning: I had a never-ending sense of unhappiness and I had successfully lost myself in the pursuit of gaining all of the things above. My job and “what I did” had become such a big part of who I was that somewhere in the mix, I lost who I truly was, my true identity. My job was not what I did, it was who I was. My own personal sense of success or failure was so closely tied to my professional successes and failures that there in effect was no separation of the two. Furthermore, the authentic fun loving, joking, lighthearted guy that I enjoyed being (and hopefully that others enjoyed being around) was not there. I felt nothing but pressure, stress, anxiety, and even fear. The few times I was transparent with close confidants about my experiences I would receive statements such as “man, we never felt any of that, you always seem like you were having a good time and enjoying life”. That too was a bit unnerving as I had learned how to successfully “present the mask” that was required at the time. While that mask wasn’t necessarily “false”, it was not 100 % transparent which cut against the core of who I’d like to be as a person. This full realization was both dangerous and a bit scarier than I was prepared to realize.
One of the true differentiators we are able to bring to any situation is our unique self and identity. This is the one thing that is totally unique to any situation we ever face and it’s also the single largest differentiator that sets us apart from all other people on the planet. As I’ve heard it said before, “no one can beat me at being me.” This is more than just skill, capability or knowledge. It’s the unique approach and perspective you bring to a situation that no one else does. It’s the unwritten, unexplainable set of characteristics that draw people to you as well as you to others, the “secret sauce” so to speak. It’s the “why” behind the “what” we do.
It is also the thing that many organizations say that they want, however they want it within the construct and context of their system. That in and of itself is understandable, but it also is a reason why your personal differentiator must be guarded and protected at all times. I’m starting to realize that what happened to me was that I was so caught up in “what I was supposed to do” that I lost the “why am I doing this” factor. Said a different way, I allowed circumstances and situations I was put into to force me to think about the “what” so much that I lost my own personal “why”. I would carry around the fact that I was busy and all over the place geographically as a badge of honor and even worse, I would use it as a rationale for why I had not connected with people whom I said were close to me. Many people around me would applaud me and say that I was giving, charitable with time and a host of other accolades. While I’m hopeful that those things were true, the fact that I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror was a bit startling. I found the concept of “losing of self” to be dangerous and the realization that I had lost a portion of myself was ultimately scary. Even more sobering was the full realization that these outcomes were in no way the company’s fault. I was 100% responsible for what had happened.
Nine months ago, I walked away from my job in search of recapturing my true identity…
I’ve done a lot of things in the past nine months, with an emphasis on really enjoying the moment for the moment’s sake, recognizing that this moment will never come again, and ultimately attempting to live out Psalm 118:24. I have…
- Enjoyed taking my daughter to her day care most weekday mornings and taking her to the park some of the afternoons after.
- Read more books and articles in the past year than I’ve probably read in the past 5 years combined (Halftime, Start With Why, and Pursuing the Seasons of God are all awesome).
- Built out my personal Flipboard magazine.
- Started working out, and stopped, then I started again, and stopped, and 2 days ago I started again with my wife.
- Enjoyed connecting with specific family and friends in a more robust way.
- Delved into new genres of music that I’ve always wanted to. While Christian, Gospel and Jazz were already in the rotation, classical and old school rock had to be introduced.
- Started doing Spanish on Rosetta Stone, but then stopped when I had to get a new computer and I never set it up on the new one.
- Listened to podcasts that had been on my list for years (Your Move with Andy Stanley, How I Built This, Up First, and The Moth are in heavy rotation now)…
- Celebrated my 40th birthday by doing NOTHING and oh, it was GREAT!
- Visited libraries, restaurants and coffee shops in my neighborhood that I didn’t even know existed a year ago.
- Started a blog (obviously).
Oh, and I’ve started looking for a job. I may be living the dream, but I still need to make a living and blog posts don’t pay the mortgage…yet…HA HA HA.
None of these items are earth shattering in any right, nor will any of them change the world. Furthermore, most of the items listed above were things I was doing prior to walking away; but the manner in which I did them was much different. Previously they were “task list” items, something to complete and then get to the next thing. In some cases, I didn’t enjoy the experience and in most cases I didn’t take the time to be present in the experience and allow it to become a tangible part of my life and experience set. I try to partake in these events in a different way now, ensuring that I am present during them and allowing the experiences and learnings to go with me after the physical experience itself is over. Specifically, I’m looking to enjoy the relationship based, culturally enriching, lifelong learning aspects of each of these experiences. This list is not holistic as there are still many things that I want to do, the largest associated with my oldest daughter and some things we need to work on. Ultimately, I’m doing my best to stay true to my “why” and allow that to drive my “what.”
Looking back on the walk thus far I have no regrets. I had countless enjoyable moments coupled with tons of lessons learned (including some of the contents of this blog post). I worked for a great employer and if I had the opportunity I would do it again. The only difference being that I would choose to experience those activities via my current mindset vs. my former mindset. That is surely what I will be doing going forward.
Nine months ago, I walked away from my job in search of recapturing my true identity and I happened to walk into the first day of the rest of my life.
A few years ago on a warm spring day while in my back yard I looked up and saw this amazing looking flower growing amidst a ton of backyard “madness and insanity”. I thought about how this flower had no issues just “standing tall” in the midst of everything around it. While it was surrounded by things that it couldn’t quite control it had no issue with staying strong and being what it truly was, a flower. Maybe that’s the lesson I’m learning; how to be comfortable being me in the midst of everything around me…grasping my “true identity” of sorts.