Last year I met a neighbor, who has since become my faithful morning walking partner. She’s not your typical Texan as she was born and raised in India, and came to the U.S. for grad school. Even more interesting is she’s been married 27 years through an arranged marriage. Over the year she’s obliged my curiosity with answering all of my questions and filling in the gaps as I always end the stories with, “I just can’t imagine.”
Several weeks ago, as I was preparing for a podcast interview, I thought about my own career journey and reflected on how I ended up where I am today. Far from my old Kentucky home roots and far from the life that was planned for me. Then it hit me, while I didn’t have an arranged marriage, I did have an arranged career.
You see I was the first person on both sides of my family to go to college. To say it was a big deal is an understatement. My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents began grooming me from an early age that this was my path. I was going to be the family superstar. It was as though they had a crystal ball and could see the methodical path that was to be my fate.
I would go to college, land an amazing job in a well-respected and recognized corporation, start climbing my way up the ladder, and get that coveted corner office with windows.
It sounded wonderful and I never questioned it because that was the only plan ever discussed.
I’ve often been asked, “what would you have done instead? Truthfully, I have no idea because it never occurred to me that there were other options. I followed the rules, didn’t buck the system, and said yes to the plan. For 11 years.
At the 8-year mark of working the plan I landed my dream job that brought me into the corporate headquarters and I thought I had hit the jackpot. My first management position with lots of eyes on me, leading a team, making a difference, and an opportunity to change the world … at least my small piece of the world.
This was it. The plan my parents worked so hard to put together was unfolding before their very eyes and I was achieving the success that I was supposed to achieve. They were happy. I was happy.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Oh wait, this isn’t a Disney story. No that’s not exactly how it went. Four years later I was miserable!
There’s no other way to put it. My work had become my life. Not intentionally but over time, little by little, minute by minute, the handcuffs became tighter and tighter until I found myself taking Advil every day just to get through. My hobbies became work and travel for work while I tried to squeeze in a dinner with friends as I landed in airports across the country. I was burned out and not sure how to make things better. I mustered up the courage and had a conversation with my boss about pulling back on travel and easing my load. His words, “there is no NO!”
He was right, there was no NO. In 11 years, I had become a burned-out corporate yes girl and I hated myself, and my life. I lived for the weekends and vacations and felt queasy on Sunday night as I prepared to do battle again on Monday morning. It wasn’t living, but merely existing.
What happens when your dream plan turns into an escape plan? I wasn’t prepared, I didn’t know how, and the worst part was how to deal with crushing my parent’s dream? They’d worked so hard putting it together and here I was screwing it up.
What was wrong with me? I had what other people wanted. I was successful. I had the corporate job. I was climbing the ladder, but I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning.
I decided to enlist the help of a coach and spent the next three months reconnecting with who I was and rewriting my plan to move forward. The most challenging part was realizing that I had to let go of the dream that was created for me, and start envisioning a dream that felt true to who I was, and who I wanted to be in the future.
That year I started my first consulting company, CEO Learning Systems, and have been an entrepreneur for the last two decades. I wouldn’t change a thing.
If you’re being held hostage by a degree, diploma or a dream that you meticulously crafted when you were 22 years old maybe it’s time to do a little work and reconnect with the you living in 2020.
Change is inevitable and a part of life so embrace it. You are not the same person you were 20 years ago. You’re better, smarter, wiser, and amazing so let’s start with accepting those things first.
There are no awards given in life for sticking with a career you hate because you’re trying to get a return on your investment from what the (xx) cost you. You’ll end your career, and life, with more regret than it’s worth.
When you’re ready to do the work, we’ll help you reconnect to the person you are today and rewrite an amazing ending to that masterpiece that’s been taking shape all of these years.
Until next time be present, be strong, be you!