I got a call the other day from a friend who had worked with me many years ago. We had both come up through the ranks of our companies and felt that we were doing our best…and I think we were. At some point in our careers, we took a different fork in the road. I decided to walk away from Corporate America because I needed to do something on my own and my friend decided to stay where he was, put in his time and continue the steady climb up the corporate ladder.
I decided to continue to challenge authority because it was in my character to do so. I wasn’t looking for success, alone, because I knew that success came with hard work and I was willing to do that. I realized that what I really wanted was independence. I could continue to challenge authority even if that “authority” was me. It was a formula that worked for our family for over 3 generations.
When my friend called, I was pleased to hear from him and to see how he had made out after all of this time. He was approximately my age, give or take a couple of years, was still married to his wife after all of these years and he had three children, all graduated and all gone from home. And, unfortunately, he also had just lost his job and was in that state of limbo that people go through when something shocking happens to you. “What now? Why? What went wrong?”
He had worked for the same company for over 25 years. He had worked his way up on a steady climb and when he hit Senior Vice President, he felt that he had finally made it after all these years. And two years after that, his CEO told him that the company “…needed to “pivot” and was looking at fresh blood with fresh ideas and strategies”. He got a neat package that would guarantee him security for one year and then all 25 odd years were packed in 4 large boxes that were delivered to his home 3 days after he walked out of his office for the last time.
If I look back at both of our professional careers, I can honestly say that we both were successful. He achieved everything he ever wanted to achieve and I experienced everything that I thought was out there, professionally. He struggled with the day to day issues of an executive with all of the pitfalls and politics that exist. I, on the other hand, struggled with myself, continuously question my moves and striving to offer the best to my customers.
Where are we today? He is home, playing golf, still wondering if he had just done one thing differently, would he still be working where he was while I am still banging away at the monsters, wondering what it would be like to play golf whenever I wanted to.