At 5:00 am, Friday, December 1, 2006, my life changed forever.
For some reason, I woke up with a nagging feeling that something was wrong, terribly wrong.
My job had become increasingly stressful and unrewarding. That was nothing new, and not such a big deal, I thought. I kept on doing the work. I was raised to be strong, to be resilient, and to not be a quitter. I was an Eagle Scout, a husband, a father, a dedicated employee. I always finished what I started. These were the values that directed my life. A good life.
But at 5:00 am that morning, I woke up to new realization. I realized that I was in a career that did not connect to my purpose or passion. Maybe it was a mid-life thing (I was 45 then), but it hit me like a brick to my head. I recognized that I was living the wrong life, or at least working in the wrong job—the wrong career.
After wrestling with the angst of this realization, by myself in the dark of my hotel room, I had an overwhelming feeling of peace and tranquility. I can’t begin to fully explain it. I felt a new sense of energy come into my body, and could breathe more deeply and fully than I could remember. I had a moment, I guess it was an epiphany, where I knew everything was going to be alright. I also knew, at that very moment, that I was going to quit my job.
I was married. We had a mortgage and two car payments. We had two kids in college, and one kid in high school. My wife did not work outside the home, allowing me to focus fully on my career. My career had progressed very well, and I was making good money, had interesting projects, and was on track for more and better. On the outside, everything looked fantastic.
The problem, on the inside, I did not feel connected to my purpose. I was an executive with an automotive parts firm. I spent all day going to meetings, answering emails, preparing and delivering presentations. I would do this over and over and over again. I felt like I was on a treadmill, going faster and faster and faster, but going nowhere at all. Sometimes I’d get a big bonus or stock options that made me a lot of money, but my personal work had little to do with the measures that were used to pay out these bonuses. This was starting to drive me crazy.
There, in the privacy of my thoughts, I realized that my passion is helping people. Simple as that. As I thought back to my young childhood, I remembered that my happiest times were when I was helping people. Before I chose to be an engineer as high school was wrapping up, I first thought about being a teacher. Why? Because I loved helping people. Why did I choose to be an engineer? Because it paid a LOT more than being a teacher. BIG MISTAKE for me—choosing a career because of the money it would make versus working (living) every day doing my passion, my purpose, and connecting to a sense of meaning. Now, please hear me—there’s nothing wrong with being an engineer. It just wasn’t the right career path for me. For others, it is the perfect career path.
After that epiphany on December 1, 2006, I soon left that job, and started on an entrepreneurial journey that has been the joy-ride of my life. Scary, risky, sometimes downright frightening? You bet. Did I think I was foolish and made the wrong decision? Some times. Did others think I was crazy? Almost everyone. Did I learn a lot and grow? Absolutely. Am I making a difference in the lives of others? Every day. Do I like this? I LOVE THIS!!!
Please don’t wait until a mid-life crisis to realize that you are working in a job or a career that does not light your fire—does not match your personal purpose or passion. Don’t let making money become more important than living your dreams. Don’t let other people dictate what your career path should be, and learn to be OK with charting your own course in life, even if it is not the course that your parents, your friends, your society would expect. Life is way too short to live in way not authentic to your unique calling.
Go forth in the world, proudly being the person God created you to be. You’ll be much happier as a result, and the world will benefit as well.
Author of “From Autopilot to Authentic.” Available on Amazon by clicking here.