From Corporate Life to Van Life: 3 Takeaways

1) Gratitude.

I walked through the Safeway after eating cliff bars for lunch and dinner the day before, and the feeling hit me like a wave. Here was this brightly lit store with all the possible food options I could ever imagination. A coffee shop in the corner, a deli on the side, premade food, ripe fruit, beef jerky, and warm cookies. And I was fortunate enough to buy whatever I wanted. If I was born 100 years ago, this would have been a place out of heaven. Just 1 month ago, going to this place was a chore. I could hardly believe how badly I had poisoned my own brain and it filled me with great joy to have broken the spell.

But I am not alone. Standing in line for three minutes to buy a week or two of food is so cumbersome that people are ecstatic for Amazon Go. For those who are even more time sensitive, you can always just shop for your groceries on an app. Technology is beautiful in that it removes inefficiencies, but it also directly removes you from the process entirely. You didn’t have to raise chickens to get those eggs or butcher a cow. You didn’t have to witness the transportation logistics or the stocking. You had to hit a button on an app. So, your appreciation of the process is also lost.

Remember the process and human history. Showers are hot water rushing over your body. AMAZING. Brushing your teeth? What a gift! Grocery stores? Straight out of heaven.

2) People are not Transactions. Transient experiences are beautiful.

The energy you put into the world is the energy that you will receive back. Your daily interactions are dictated by you! A boss who feels stressed and responds to his team with anxiety, will perpetuate those very feelings of anxiety with them. They will respond to you and others with stress as well and the vicious cycle is born. But the cycle need not be vicious. When you are stressed, but espouse calmness and generosity, people will respond in turn and the cycle turns virtuous.

You can and should extend this practice to the people you meet in daily situations. You and your mechanic and your barista and your Uber driver will benefit immensely by treating the interaction as an experience vs. a transaction. Each of these people have beautiful stories and though you have no shared history, you also have no shared history. By this, I mean that while this person can never connect with you as your best friend or mom does, they can connect to you in that exact moment as the person you are right now. They don’t know who you have been or what you will be, but they can connect with your most current and present self. These make the interactions more enjoyable for everyone and you may even end up with some free mechanical advice or free meals. I know from personal experience!

3) Keys to fulfilling work: Purpose. Impact. Connections.

Raise your hand if you have been told to follow your passion? I bet everyone raises their hand. It is cliché, and while it holds many truths, I always struggled with this. My one passion growing up was basketball, but as I hustled my way to an internship at ESPN after my Junior year of college, I found a profound feeling of disillusionment. I had felt much better after my summer of teaching 5th grade math and working at Microsoft than I did working at my what I had thought was my dream company. Only on this trip did I discover why.

Working on your passion is not a ticket to fulfillment nor is necessarily sustainable. A job can kill your passions in the same way it can enrich them. This is not to say that you shouldn’t pursue the things you care about. On the contrary, you should! But that passion has to be rooted in a purpose. My friend Robert deduced that while his passion was music, his purpose is to connect people through art and music. We have many things that we feel are purposeful and thus we have many more fulfilling paths than we probably realize. Create personal mission statements of areas you care about them, find ways to work on achieving these missions.

Once you find a job that is rooted in something that feels purposeful to you, make sure you feel like you are making an impact. Whether you are reaching 3M people daily or 1 person deeply, impact is the mileage number you measure your journey by. Without impact, you may have purpose, but you are sitting in neutral.

And most of all, connections. Does your boss value you? Do your coworkers inspire you? Do you like the people you spend time with? The answer should be yes. And to point #2, you have more control over that than you think.