The Break — Part 1

Hard Work = Success, Right?

Growing up, I was the kid you might refer to as a “teacher’s pet”. I got straight A’s, never skipped class, dabbled in extracurriculars…you get the picture.

I took this work ethic with me into college, since always trying my best was something I prided myself on. I lived by the formula that working hard would get me far in life. Get good grades in high school = get into a good college with scholarship money; get good grades in college = land a great job and excel in the business world.

Washington DECA State Championship, 2009

I first stumbled upon my interest in business (which would ultimately be my major) early on in high school, thanks to a business/marketing program called DECA. At the ripe old age of 17, I wrote a full-length business plan for a children’s party planning business, as well as a marketing plan for a promotional event at the women’s boutique I worked at. I presented both at the DECA state competition that winter and won 1st place.

Through my rewarding experience in the DECA program, I started envisioning what my future self would look like — a successful, career-driven woman working her way to a leadership position in a reputable company.

One fateful day in 2012, I stumbled upon Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness. Tony taught me how business could be used for good, and that it could have a greater purpose beyond making money. This book not only ignited my passion for company culture, but also validated my interest in pursuing a business major. I felt like my desire to be a CMO one day no longer seemed apathetic towards bettering our society. I didn’t have to be in the Peace Corps or work in a non-profit to make a difference in the world. I could drive positive change through leading a business!

Part of Tony Hsieh’s happiness framework (from “Delivering Happiness”)

Success ≠ Fulfillment

Flash forward almost 5 years (3+ years into my post-college career), and my feelings about culture and business remain the same. However, what I didn’t expect to change were my feelings about my career.

I didn’t expect that, despite working hard and slowly chugging along in my career path, I would feel unfulfilled. I simply thought that working hard was enough, but I’ve quickly learned it doesn’t bring me the same sense of satisfaction in the “real world”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m damn proud of how far I’ve come in my career so far, and I’m also extremely grateful to live in a country where I can make my own path.

But, between you and me, the thought of working 9–5, 5 days a week, for the next 30–40 years sounds…depressing. How can I make it count? How can I find that career that allows me to drive progressive change in business and/or culture, while living a balanced life and feeling fulfilled?

The Break

Enter today — a random (very rainy) Tuesday in November. Here I am sitting in a coffee shop writing this post rather than sitting behind a desk in an office.

How did I get here? The first step to my fulfillment journey was finding a job that made me happy, since I was becoming increasingly unhappy in my previous job (more on that in a later post). After job hunting for the past 10 months (that might be another post) and finally landing a dream gig, I was faced with a few choices:

  1. Give less than 2 weeks’ notice to current company and start new job at end of October
  2. Stay at current company and start new job in early December
  3. Give 2 weeks’ notice to current company, start new job in early December and take advantage of the break in between

After much deliberation, I chose number three. My Type A personality initially ruled out #3 as an option. “Oh my god, how can I not work for a full month? What am I going to do with myself? Won’t I be bored?”

These were just some of the thoughts that crossed my mind. The fear that I wouldn’t know what to do myself is what ultimately drove me to pursue this option. Here in America, we live in a society where one’s purpose is work. I definitely succumbed to this societal pressure, having thought that I’d graduate college, get a job, and continue to move up the career ladder. The thought of not working, even if only for a month, seemed crazy to me. (Note: I am financially able to take a month off, but I advise against this if you’re living paycheck to paycheck.)

So, all the signs told me to go for it. I figured I can start to figure out what makes me feel fulfilled if given the option to do whatever I want each day, rather than planning my activities around a job.

I’ve wanted to start, and continuously operate, a blog for several years now. I also thought that journaling my thoughts down would be an effective way to reflect and learn about myself, especially during this transition period (thanks for the tip, Dad).

So, while I’m not taking six months off to travel the world or starting my own business or making some other drastic move, I am taking time for me. Time to reflect, time to write (something I rarely do), time to relax, time to work out, time to organize, time to clean, time to travel, time to read, time to spend with loved ones.

Ultimately, I hope this break, this time for me, will bring me one step closer to fulfillment.

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