By any objective measure, I’ve had a successful corporate career.
I got my first “real job” in 1998, and over the following 20 years I regularly got promoted, changed roles, changed companies, even changed ‘careers’ a couple of times.
I worked long hours in pursuit of success. I pushed myself, often trying to go beyond what was expected of me. I took on extra responsibility whenever I could. At times I travelled a lot.
I also sacrificed time with family & friends in favour of work.
I remember back in the early days, my friends from university would often invite me out to meet them for a drink on a Friday night after work, and just as often I would not show up because I was still at work until 10pm or later. After a while they stopped inviting me.
In the mid-2000s I got married and had two children. My wife - an accomplished lawyer - stepped away from her own career to take on the bulk of the parenting duties, while I continued to push on with mine.
In my mind, I was the “provider”.
I was earning good money, by all accounts I was performing well, and I kept telling myself I was happy and fulfilled.
But I wasn’t.
The Problem... And The Moment I Realised It
I was working too hard, yes, but that was only part of the problem.
The real issue was much deeper than that, and it took me a long time to figure it out.
In fact I didn’t fully understand it until 2018, after years of avoidance (I’m fairly quick when it comes to logic… not so much when it comes to self-reflection).
In mid-2018 I’d been with my current employer for almost 3 years, and it was time to move on. I had interviewed for a couple of promising roles, and then on a Friday morning one of the interviewing companies called and asked me to come into their office late that afternoon.
When I got there, one of the guys looked me in the eye and said, “we’d like to offer you the job!”. He then gave me a formal letter laying out a generous offer. They were all smiles and congratulations.
I smiled too, and said thanks… but in the pit of my stomach I felt queasy.
I got the impression that they expected me to sign the papers and accept on the spot, but I couldn’t. Instead I told them that I would think about it over the weekend.
It was during that weekend, after reflecting on it and talking it over with my wife, that it finally clicked into place for me.
I remember lying on my back on the grass in our back yard, eyes closed, feeling the sun beating down on my face… and I had a moment of clarity.
About why I didn’t accept the job immediately. About why I felt queasy instead.
I realised that I was doing it for the wrong reasons.
I realised that I wanted the promotions, the seniority, the salary… because I wanted to impress other people. I wanted to be the guy that people looked at and said things like, “he’s impressive” and “he’s done well for himself”.
I realised that I was working super hard in roles that I didn’t really enjoy, sacrificing time with my family and filling the pockets of the people who employed me… to “be impressive”.
That realisation hit me pretty hard.
Here I was about to turn 45 years old, admitting to myself that I had spent 20 years in the corporate world subconsciously pursuing a ‘result’ that I’d only just then been able to articulate… and wasn’t worth pursuing at all.
The truth is that in my heart I had known it for a long time, but until that moment I had never been ready to fully admit it or face up to it.
At that moment, I decided to change my path completely.
A New Direction
On the Monday I called the company that had made me the offer and said, “thanks but no thanks”.
I’d be lying if I said I knew right then what my new goal was.
I still had to pay the bills, so I went and got what I considered a “temporary job”. Part time, not a “career role”, but earning enough while I figured out where I really wanted to go.
It took me a while to get there… but now I am clear on what I want to do.
And it is this: to achieve financial freedom, and live my life on my terms.
What does that mean?
To me, financial freedom means generating enough independent income to live the lifestyle I want to live.
It doesn’t necessarily mean making millions. I don’t need that much money. It doesn’t even necessarily mean earning as much as I earned in my corporate career. It means earning enough so that I don’t need a job to fund the lifestyle I want to live.
And yes, I have defined it as a very precise monetary amount.
I know that it will take a lot of hard work and effort to reach that point of “financial freedom”. It’s already taken a lot to get this far, and I know there is plenty more to come.
It will also present me with a choice. I could choose to double down and grow it into a LOT of money. Or I could choose to pull back and work just enough to maintain my income, and spend the rest of my time doing something else.
Which direction I decide to go doesn’t matter. What’s important to me is having the choice.
That’s choosing to live my life on my terms.
I know I’m taking a path that some people - even some close to me - no doubt think is crazy. I know I’m “ruining” a resume that looked fairly impressive up until 2018, and that other people would have loved to have if they could. The thing is…
… for the first time in my life, I honestly don’t care what they think.
Does any of my story resonate with you? If so, let me know in the comments!