Like many (85% of the world’s workers according to Gallup), I was not happy at work, and like many, I found my professional life empty and meaningless, but like very few, I knew and decided that it was time to change.
Believe me, nothing could be as empty as working in hedge funds in search of more, more performance, more investors, more fees, more profits…
A documentary about doctors fighting the aids epidemic and desperately seeking funds to carry out their mission was the catalyst. It was few years ago. On a rainy evening, in May. A sleepless night followed, replaying my life on a loop. The next day, I left my comfortable, well-paying job to take a year off and decide what course I wanted my life to take.
Some might consider my decision irresponsible and foolish. The fact is, I couldn’t sit in an office one more minute and live a life that I didn’t feel I belonged in.
Let me tell you why, despite the difficulties I had to overcome, the many moments of doubt and despair I experienced, I do not regret having made this decision. As crazy as it may seem.
I have learned more in just three years than I have in 18 years of working in finance. And I don’t count my years in college.
I learned what they never teach you in school or in business, namely resilience, perseverance (I didn’t say stubbornness, which is something else), I learned to take the blows.
I learned the importance of having faith in what you do and to put all your heart and energy into it, and to accept to constantly question myself, I learned that nothing is carved in stone and that anything can happen (not without reason as said below).
I have learned to recognize my mistakes and learn from them to better bounce back.
I learned that failure is only in the mind and that we create our own limits. I also learned that happiness is a choice, not the result of success, and that having an open, positive mind is the key, or at least one of the keys, to a fulfilling life.
Doing what I love and loving what I do
Knowing that more than 85% of the world’s workers are unhappy at work is just plain scary. And sad. 85%! How can you spend most of your time doing a job you don’t like? Some will say that not everyone is lucky enough to have a job they love, that it’s just the way it is, and that it’s part of life. Really? So work is something we have to endure? Something to which it would be impossible to give a meaning or even a glimmer of joy and happiness?
I don’t know about you, but for me, life, everything you experience, the people you meet, the struggles you go through, and the work you do, all have meaning. To say it doesn’t make sense is easy. It’s also an excuse to do nothing.
Being able to give meaning to my life by doing something useful, is the second thing that makes me never regret my decision. Believe me, waking up with the feeling that you are doing something you love and helping to change people’s lives is very, very satisfying.
Living my life, not someone else’s
Steve Jobs said in his commencement speech at Stanford “don’t live someone else’s life”, to which Oscar Wilde would have added “because it is already taken”.
From an early age, most of us are conditioned to live a life that is not necessarily the one our deepest self aspires to live.
Without any bad intention, our parents have always recommended us to follow a well-defined path, without ever forcing us to reflect on the meaning we could give to our life, on our deepest aspirations. Was it because we were too young to understand?
Yet we had them when we were children, didn’t we? Some of us wanted to be actors, others doctors (that was my case), others artists, or bakers. The thing is that grades at school, circumstances, made our first vocation fade away over time to then, and often brutally resurface as we are so unhappy doing what we do. Why is this? What are we so afraid of? Have we lost faith in ourselves? Do we really think that we are incapable of doing anything other than what we have been prepared to do?
What’s wrong here??
This is the third reason why I have never regretted changing my life. It may seem obvious to most of you, but nothing is better than being yourself. As Confucius put it, “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”