“It takes six million grains of pollen to seed one peony, and salmon need a lifetime of swimming to find their way home, so we mustn’t be alarmed or discouraged when it takes us years to find love or years to understand our calling in life.”
I’m 46 years old. This means I’ve had ~25 years to be a working professional. During this time, I have worked in a variety of sales and marketing roles for 8 different corporations – private, public, domestic, international. I’ve also started 8 different companies some successful, but most failures. My industry experience has also run the gamut from commodity trading, hospitality, consulting, software, ebusiness, retail, wholesale, media/entertainment, digital publishing and mobile apps.
My dad held one sales job out of college before quickly going into the Advertising business. He spent the next 35 years of his career going from junior grunt to the Chief Executive Officer running the 9th largest agency in the world.
Suffice to say, my only frame of reference for success (for a very long time) was my dad. By all apparent professional standards, he killed it. On top of this, he was a cool dude, so I set out to be like him – or at the very least build a financial legacy like the one he left behind. This is how I thought success should look.
Looking back on it, I realize my career path was a minefield for disappointment and was subsequently fraught with fear and anxiety. How could it not, I was naively pursuing his measure of success. He didn’t stoke this fire. I did. It’s no wonder I hopped from job to job, convincing myself the next offer would hold more promise, offer more upside, and secure more credibility. And then I got my MBA - because surely that would be the ticket. And from there, what else…. start not one but six different companies.
Over these years, I earned plenty of money, but I had not achieved success and I was the farthest thing from happy or satisfied. By the ripe old age of 43, I had achieved only two things comparable to my dad: a propensity to consume voluminous amounts of booze and an undeniable mid-life crisis.
The pendulum has swung immeasurably since then and I am in a far better mind-space, but that’s not the point of this story. The relevance is about our own respective ‘journey’ and where we sit on the continuum.
It seems our tendency is to shape and steer our lives – to cause, even force, a desired outcome. Ironically, this often leads to frustration and disappointment. Truth is, we are no different than the peony or the salmon. The only distinction is our waning perspective on how life is designed to unfold, our awareness of personal thought patterns, and our gratitude for the power of experiential learning.