(This post is part of a pact I made. Click here for the full story.)
Meet Nigel, a high achiever no matter where he finds himself.
In his own words: “You see, I was brought up to believe that to be successful – and you had to be successful – you needed a good education, work hard and go for the money. So, I got a solid education and worked hard for the money…”
In spite of his upbringing, Nigel has not been afraid to create his own definition of success. On several occasions, whenever he has felt that his values have been compromised, he has made changes. That’s how Nigel has paved a way to his career Nirvana.
Note to self: Success is in the eye of the beholder. Only you know what success means. Give yourself a chance to create your own definition.
Like many, Nigel began his career in the corporate world. At that point, he went for money and flashy titles (and lots of toys). During his first job out of college, he excelled as an investment banker in Mexico. Later he jumped to a more tantalizing opportunity with a US multinational in the FMCG sector. After almost two years he wanted to improve his business acumen and completed an MBA at Thunderbird. Out of grad school he landed a dream job with another US multinational and worked his way up the ladder to Marketing Manager. Achievement, timing and luck were on his side as he was transferred to Sydney, Australia as the Marketing Manager of a brand portfolio worth over a quarter of a billion dollars. While at the top of his game in the corporate world, working 60 plus hour weeks, he decided it was time to re-evaluate his priorities and to re-define success.
As he described it to me in an email: “The change catalysts for me were my health, values and reshuffled priorities. Long work weeks (60hrs +) and short sighted senior executives…ate away at my health and pushed me to compromise key values – like respect and wellbeing. I could no longer live unhealthily and according to the shallow values of others.”
He resigned his corporate job looking for a more balanced existence. That’s Nigel’s career Nirvana.
His next move is a paradox. In search for what he calls ‘just being’, when most would’ve been content with lying on the beach and reading all day, he and his wife accepted a position as house parents at the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS). The times when I visited them, they looked that they were far from ‘just being’. Although it looked like he had shed the coat of stress that corporate life tends to brand people with, he remained very active. A major part of the job description of an AIS house parent is to look after the emotional well-being of young athletes who are living away from home pursuing a dream to make it to the Olympics or to become professionals. At times that meant catering for the needs of 70 teenagers. Albeit, by most standards these teenagers were easy to manage since their training demands kept them out of trouble (drugs and alcohol), there’s no real way around the demands of a teen-ager, let alone 70 at a time. Like the need to be driven to sports meets and matches, to have their injuries kept in check, to be entertained and in general a need to be recognized and acknowledged. Still Nigel describes it as something that he did well – and could’ve done with his eyes closed. I believe him. The times that I saw him in action I noticed that all the kids loved and respected him. And Nigel seemed to be loving every minute of it.
After three years of ‘just- being’, Nigel and his wife agreed it was time for a change. Based on his self-knowledge, he decided to move into entrepreneurship. Once he explored several options, he decided that buying a franchise was the logical way for him to transition into business ownership. Following a breach of contract from the franchiser Nigel decided to sell the business.
Today Nigel lives a balanced existence – using his skills in communications, marketing and business at one of the world’s most renowned scientific research and development agencies, CSIRO – and exists in harmony and balance with his pillar values.
Note to self: What matters most is how you do things – not what things you do.
By most standards, Nigel is an analytical person. After all he was trained by some of the world’s top marketing machines; the FMCG sector and an MBA. However, he recognizes that analysis and planning are not what played the biggest roles in his search. He says: “There isn’t a magic formula or one way. I believe that every experience teaches you something about yourself and what you like, dislike and are willing to accept. The beauty of this life of ours is that we have a choice. Choice isn’t the scary part. What keeps us awake at night…is the consequence of that choice. Ground yourself with a simple question: what is the worst that can happen and where does this stack up against my priorities and values? If you see Mr. Death and his sickle on the horizon, maybe you should rethink your plan.”
Note to self: Avoid paralysis by over analysis. If you can handle the foreseeable worse case scenario, go for it.
Nigel also feels that what has worked for him is: ”Recognizing….no, understanding that I have a choice and realizing that I could live happily with the consequences of my decisions…”
Note to self: Decisions have consequences. Today you are the product of past decisions you’ve made. Start with the end in mind. Decide what you want to become – and determine what decisions will get you there.
Looking back he feels that: “Listening at times to that inner voice might have saved me from some big mistakes.”
Note to self: Learn to listen to your inner voice. Trust it.
Nigel leaves us with one final message: “Try not to become too idealistic and remember whatever path you choose will take work and effort.”