When are you happiest?
This is a question I’ve been giving some thought to over the past couple of months. As I’ve been getting a business off the ground, I’ve bounced ideas around on what exactly I want to do for the next 25 years. When I graduated from college I took a position with a retail company because it gave me an opportunity to relocate to Seattle.
I’d like to say that most job changes came about because I saw a bigger opportunity or a new challenge. But that’s wouldn’t be true. With the exception of one job, I job hopped for a bigger paycheck. I’ve viewed myself as a free agent, offering my technical services to the highest bidder giving little thought to much else.
I should have learned my lesson as a missionary serving in Germany. I spent my first year trying to make others happy. I followed their rules and let them dictate what I did and when I did it. I experienced little happiness and no success until the second year when I decided to use my brain. I stopped trying to live up to the unreachable expectations of people I didn’t care for anyway, and starting being the kind of missionary that I felt comfortable being. Not surprising, this is when I began to have success.
I feel I’ve managed my career in the same manner. I’ve spent nearly 20 years trying to reach a bar set by others. Settle in to a safe and comfortable corporate job. Don’t rock the boat. Make your boss look good even if all he does is watch MSNBC all day.
What makes me happy is being able to select whom to work with. That means saying, “no” which isn’t easy when the business is young. But it’s critical.
I’ve also enjoyed pushing myself into new areas and out of my comfort zone. I’ve had to expand my network and ask for assistance instead of do everything on my own. I’ve had to build a foundation of trust with my business partner and figure out how our differing skills can best serve our clients. In a corporate environment, I’m often pitted against my peers in a race for the largest year-end bonus. I had little incentive to help my follow coworkers look good. But that has no place in a partnership and I’m consistently amazed at how much two people can accomplish when working towards the same goal.
I wish I had a home office, but I’m currently sharing one with four children, a dog and occasionally the neighbor’s Tonka trucks. There are times when I need to get away and clear my mind. Other times, I blow off work until everyone has gone to bed. I’m still figuring things out.
But last Friday, I sat in our van with my youngest son while we waited for the bus to take him to school. He was describing Scooby Doo or Dora or whatever. I only understood bits and pieces. I pulled his hoodie up over his head and adjusted his backpack.
The bus arrived and I took him by the hand and crossed the street. We walked up the bus stairs and towards the back of the bus. I picked him up and placed him in an open seat. I strapped him in and kissed him on the cheek.
I stood next to the van as I watched his bus pull away.
And I thought, this is when I’m happiest. Right now, standing in the street wearing slippers and my University of Utah hat.
Whatever my career holds next, I need to ensure that I don’t miss too many of these moments.