Why I gave it up, to get it all.

Giving up the perfect resume, to get the perfect life.

Today, I turned down the position as Creative Director for a global brand, along with any sort of prestige that goes with it.

The decision to walk away was tough, but at the same time the best choice I could’ve made.

Had I accepted the job offer, it might’ve meant the chance to build a creative team at a global level, the opportunity to work with world renowned brands, and a fancy looking job title. The connections to be made–incredible. The shining resumé–indescribable. The reasons why I turned it down–irrefutable.

The Stories We Tell

Everything about the opportunity was shiny. It’s the linear trajectory of a career. It’s the reason your mom and pop tell you go to college, it’s what all your friends envision while in college, and it’s the ultimate goal after college. But there’s a difference between real life, and the stories we tell.

Had I accepted the job offer, it would be the story I tell in most social settings–family dinners, baseball games with friends, meeting someone for the first time. Global big shot, doing big shot shit…But really, does anybody truly care? The short answer is no.

It’s funny, the thing we usually ask people when we first meet them is “What do you do?,” as opposed to “Who are you?” There’s a big difference. When it comes to a career, what you do, shouldn’t always define who you are. And to some degree, what you do shouldn’t contradict the life you want outside of it.

The Real Story

The cliche of the job was that it had all the things I wanted in a career, but nothing of what I wanted in life. It was a contradiction. It required me to move literally across the country–away from everyone I know, in a city I didn’t belong.

By the way, you don’t always have to do something that scares you. You should have a good mix of being brave, exploring the world, while also, appreciating your roots. I leaned toward the latter, 100% because of family.

After a long consideration, I turned down the big job, for big reasons:

  • I wanted freedom. That can’t be found in a cubicle.
  • I wanted to chase my own dreams. 9 to 5s make it hard.
  • I wanted to make my own career. Not a packaged one, prescribed from a global brand.
  • I chose myself. This might be the scariest thing for most people, but if you put in the work, read every day, and develop your skill set–you’ll find invisible walls breaking all the time. What we traditionally think of about jobs, or even life–really aren’t all that traditional.

Had I accepted the job, it would mean more meetings, more time on the road, more rebuilding, and more traveling to events. And above all, less time to work on myself. Grandiose and prestige, shine so bright, that it’s easy to overlook their ugly side–the price you pay to get it. How much will you bleed to have a recognized logo on your resume?

Work on Your Fortune

The late Jim Rohn has this amazing quote that altered my perspective:

Work harder on your fortune than you do on your job.

Working on your fortune, means working on yourself. You can work a 100 hour work week at the job, and still fail with the same pay. If you work on yourself, you still might fail, but you’ll know exactly why, and even more important, you’ll control your destiny by deciding what to do next.

When you work on your fortune, you have near infinite control. When you work on your job–there is a plateau, a script, and you’re never really the navigator of that ship. You don’t pick your coworkers, you don’t command your pay, you don’t decide who’s your boss, and “safe,” never really is.

When I turned down the offer, I made a few moves, realized a few things…and strangely, these things happened:

  • The obligations and expectations evaporated into the air. Sometimes, big time jobs are only big in social constructs–life is so short, are you doing things for you, or for the thoughts of others? The glory? It will all soon be forgotten to history. I think of this quote from Marcus Aurelius:
How their minds work, the things they long for and fear. Events like piles of sand, drift upon drift — each one soon hidden by the next.
  • Every great kingdom since the beginning of time becomes sand. Remember, this is your time, own it. You will never get it back, ever. No one else will look back on it with the same fondness you will.
  • I finally understood that it’s okay to say “no” to the “big fish.” If you believe in yourself, you can build those opportunities wherever you are. If you’re worthy enough for a bigger role, you’re definitely made of the stuff to be choosey. What do you need to say “no” to?
  • I realized that it’s not a title that makes you happy, it’s what’s right in front of you–family and friends. Is there something you prize above all else, and why?
  • I scored a better job as a remote employee. Freeing time for friends, my girl, my family, and my son. There is a point of differentiation that I should note here, and again, it is this–work on your fortune, and work on yourself. Yes, I got lucky with this opportunity, but opportunity is when skill meets luck. Put in the work. Build every day.
  • With the bonus time, I can now pursue more creative endeavors. When you’re a manager that’s hard to do. It took this offer to realign my views on being a creative person, versus the time being a leader. I’ve come to understand that fish swim, birds fly, and I create. Life comes in seasons. My season of leadership is over for now, and so begins the season of creating. Ask yourself, what season are you in?

Letting Go, to Reach for More

In the end, I’m learning to let things go, because maybe, the hardest part isn’t what happens after, but the actual “letting go.” Because once you let go, you’re free to reach for more.

I turned down the shiny–the silver and the gold, because what I really wanted was the smiles, the hugs, the shoulders to lean on, and the chance to trek my own path. Silver and gold can be heavy to carry, while a friend can carry you down the paths you wanna go. The path I’m taking now is unknown, but the real beauty is the freedom to choose where I go next. I don’t need someone else’s map–I’ve got my own. I get to draw the peaks, the valleys, the rivers, the miles, the views, and the adventures to take. Know what you treasure, make your own map, and that’s where you’ll find the real gold.

Remember, this is your one and only life. Your time is your greatest commodity, and the most valuable capital you have. Be selective with who or what you let influence it. Use your time to follow your dreams, and be wary of the mirage of status and money. The great philosopher Seneca warned us all:

Slavery resides under marble and gold.
–Seneca