A New Kind of Hero for a New Kind of World, Career Hero #10

(This post is part of a pact I made. Click here for the full story.)

Meet Henry*.

A man with a mind that’s sharp as a diamond and the endurance of a tri-athlete. If you ever meet him face-to-face, you’ll notice that he speaks at a million words a minute – just imagine the speed of his thoughts. Henry is also quite impatient and demanding – but mostly with himself.

Yet as bright, talented and disciplined as Henry is, it was only until his mid-thirties, after moving up the ladder in the Australian financial sector, then test-driving a string of jobs in the sporting industry, and in between starting & stopping two university degrees (Business and Psychology) that he feels he has finally found his career Nirvana in the healthcare sector.

Today, Henry is a fifth year medical student in Newcastle – a town a few hours outside of Sydney, Australia. In his own words: “I am not a working doctor yet but I am around the hospital a lot, both as a student and in my part-time job in an emergency department, where I have worked for nearly two years. I feel far more at home in the (medical) field than I did in finance…Medicine offers me things that finance and sales can’t – ever.” When I spoke with him a few weeks ago, he told me that he’s considering specializing in anesthesiology or intensive care.

Sure, with such a checkered path, riddled with stop & go’s, it’s tempting to pin him down as a quitter. Also it’s hard to wonder if this time he’ll stick around long-term.

Yet I decided to give him a chance. And found that his actions are more in line with someone who’s determined to find his reason for being at any cost. I also found that he fits more the profile of a superhuman. Intensity is his modus operandi – not quitting.

Note to self: Give yourself time to search where your passion lies. That time is an investment in yourself, not a waste.

Then why did Henry go through so much trial-and-error before finding his career Nirvana?

Simply put, Henry suffers from having too many choices – mostly because he’s great at many things. In his words: “I guess the pattern here was quitting not because I was not doing…well but because I had other things to do! …In some ways, having too many choices is a burden. It can make it hard to choose something!…”

Henry’s search started at 16 when after attending an air-show, he became passionate about flying. Soon after, he enrolled in flying school and through part-time work as a bank-teller, he paid for his flying license. In his words: “At the end of childhood I probably saw myself being a professional pilot, either military or commercial.”

That changed when he wound up in the futures division at one of Australia’s major finance corporations, Macquarie Bank. This was a case of Henry being too smart for his own good. While looking for work after high-school, to continue to pay for his pilot’s license, he applied for a bank-teller job. After testing and interviewing exceptionally well, instead he was offered a much better (and higher paying) role in the futures division. From there he worked his way up to the metals trading floor, trading a principal book. In his words:”It was a sought after job, in a big money making division in the bank, and it was an exciting time.”

During the decade that he worked in the financial industry, Henry was making enough money to live comfortably in Sydney – one of the world’s most expensive cities. He was also able to fund an eight-year stint competing in triathlons, which included completing three Ironman distance races.

Reading how he describes this time in his life makes my legs cramp-up. “On paper, it is an insane thing to do, and looking back I don’t know how I did all the training – up to 25 hours a week on top of about a 45 to 50 hour job. But it was very important to my self-confidence, starting a new sport at age 20 and then finding out I was reasonably good at it and then doing races that most people look at and think just aren’t achievable. Big confidence booster for me.” I believe him. I once met one of his training buddies – an outstanding athlete himself. He told me that Henry is one of those gifted athletes who’s effortlessly great at what he does. At least to an outisder, it looks that way.

Note to self: Have healthy self-esteem, will succeed. Have you performed a health-check on your self-esteem lately?

In spite of his financial success and achievements in the financial sector, something did not feel quite right for Henry. He describes it as being in a ‘career crisis’. In his words: “(At one point)…I got really depressed, which is when I KNEW there was no way I could stay in finance. I knew I was in the wrong place for several reasons. I looked up the ladder and didn’t see a lot to inspire me….The work didn’t inspire me. I got a little way on ability alone, but there comes a point when you really need to work hard and have your heart in what you are doing, to get anywhere – and clearly I didn’t.”

At that point Henry knew that he had to change, if only he could work out what to do next. In search for answers, he worked in a string of jobs that for the most part were related to one his passions – sports. This was also when he started (and stopped) a Psychology degree.

Note to self: Be open to trying different things. After all isn’t it insane to expect different outcomes while doing the same thing over and over and over again?!

His career ‘aha moment’ came quite randomly after he convinced a group of friends to buy a painting for another friend as a surprise for her birthday. As he wrote to me: ”She had no idea until we gave it to her…When she opened it she burst into tears of gratitude. It was a really powerful experience and it made me think a lot. Being able to make a difference in people’s lives is a really special thing, and tremendously gratifying.” In his typical snappy way he continues: “I am not silly enough to think that moments like that will happen every day. In fact, a lot of people you run into in health are not remotely grateful. But when you do something well and help somebody in a lot of pain, or otherwise unwell, it is a great way to be able to spend your days.”

This is all well and good on paper, but in practice how was Henry able to find the courage to take the leap and embark in a five year degree – in a career where it will take him close to 20 years to match his pay check in the financial industry?

In his words: “The thought of going back to university (a.k.a uni in Aussie-speak) for five years was a big draw back, but for some reason, it seemed easier the longer my ‘career crisis’ went on. My dad’s partner is a doctor and she also started in her 30s, so that was inspiring.”

Note to self: What would you rather endure? The steps to get where you want to? Or your current misery?

As determined as he is, he admits that he spent too much time bumming around and waiting for something to happen. In his words: “It doesn’t just happen. I drifted along for a very long time, taking the path of least resistance. “

Note to self: What are you waiting for? A pie to fall from the sky?

*Name changed for privacy reasons.

Photo credit: www.socius.or.kr

3 thoughts on “A New Kind of Hero for a New Kind of World, Career Hero #10

  1. Hello Silvana,
    I love your blog, thanks for sharing your experience and inspiring thoughts.
    Reading this post reminded me of this book, you may find interesting: Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, Harper Collins Ed.
    One of the main ideas of this book is how difficult may be to find our way through many choices and that, very often, having too many opportunities makes us do suboptimal decisions.
    I wonder why sometimes realizing what we really are made for is so difficult and takes so much time and effort…

  2. Thank you Federica,

    I’ve a huge smile on my face from reading your comment! Thanks for the name of the book – I’ll look it up. And in answer to your wondering, I’ve come to realize that there are no shortcuts in life – that is for the most important things. If we knew from day 1 what we were meant to do, we would not accumulate the lessons and insights that we do along the way – that we gain from searching, questioning, trying. And it is those lessons and insights that allow us to carry out our reason for being. Without them, we would be unprepared for our unique task at hand. Knowing this, living it with my own skin, is what gives me the peace of mind that every single moment, experience, and what have you, in my life has a reason for being…I’m certain that if you pay close attention, you will find the same. Everything happens for a (bigger) reason…

    Stay in touch,

  3. I’m truly glad there are people in this world that still believe in every human creature’s inner power and potential.
    I’m going through a “chancing my path moment” finally seeing the road sign of the one I really love, so these reflections help me to let all the fears go and trust myself more.
    I also read the post about Jo the doctor-actor that became a mentor, finding it brilliant.
    You’re right: the most of the time is the fear of the “what’s coming then?” that restrains us from taking the right decision. But going on with a life with a constant regret in your chest is not really living so thank you for showing us that through hard work and dedication making “it” is possible… Surely because of a “bigger” reason but also because we do want it and work for it.

    Ciao, Federica

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