Stress and anxiety defined my world. But on the surface, no one suspected that.
I was a Vice President at a Fortune 300 Silicon Valley tech giant, about to celebrate my ninth anniversary there. I had arrived there after a successful start-up stint, and before that, an MBA from Stanford and a few years at a Wall Street bulge-bracket firm.
My career appeared to be progressing right on schedule. So what was there to worry about?
As Chris likes to point out: When what we think is out of alignment with what we do, anxiety thrives.
And that’s where I was: on a career trajectory that I believed to be woefully not relevant to the future I saw coming.
Outside of the office, I had spent years learning about the numerous unsustainable macro trends warned about in the Crash Course and related materials. The bursting of the tech bubble, the larger housing bubble, and then the Great Contraction of 2008 added clear validity (in my eyes) to these warnings.
I felt a strong compulsion to position my family – and others, if possible – prudently in advance of the full force of these macro trends arriving.
Yet there I was, toiling away in unsustainable Silicon Valley suburbia on initiatives that took none of these concerns into account. The work demanded long hours, at a desk under artificial lighting, with people whose faith in technology to overcome all problems felt naively dogmatic. I felt trapped and extremely vulnerable.
Both my emotional and physical health, as well as the relationships I valued, were paying an increasing price as these pressures built. But I had a tremendously hard time giving up on the status quo, because the uncertainty of taking a new path – especially when I had no idea what that path would be – seemed too great a risk for my ‘provider instinct' to tolerate.
But finally, the fear of continued inaction eclipsed my fear of uncertainty. The toll of living a life so far out of alignment with my priorities had brought me to a point where I realized it was destroying the very things I was trying to protect.
And so, I took the very bold (for me) step of giving notice at work without a clue what I’d do next.
For such a big risk, I knew I needed to stack the odds for success as much in my favor as possible; so I began recruiting experts to assist me.
I spent a lot of time studying the science of career management. I took more personality, motivator, and aptitude tests than I care to remember. And I engaged with a platoon of professional consultants and executive coaches.
Through this research, I learned that there are indeed time-honored practices that can statistically and materially improve your chances for identifying work that matches your aptitudes and passions AND for finding gainful employment in this new field.
And this realization gave me an important sense of hope and optimism that things just might turn out all right.
I began working one-on-one with a career coach whose style and approach fit me well. She helped me to articulate the fundamental elements that make me who I am; these are the fixed truths that any future job would need to be in alignment with. To that, we created a detailed set of requirements and a model vision for what my future work would look like. Together, these gave me compass points to steer by as I began exploring job industries and functions.
These insights helped me identify an important passion: building awareness of the macro trends most likely to impact our future and helping people take prudent action in advance. I wasn't exactly sure yet how I could best do that, but at least it gave me clear territory to go explore.
As I narrowed my focus around this core passion and the kind of work that could express it, my thoughts kept coming back to the economic blogs I read on a daily basis. There was a small cadre of thinkers who had emerged with the Internet that "got it" much better than any other mainstream information source, in my opinion.
I thought: If I could help improve and amplify that message using my finance background and expertise in digital consumer media, that's a pretty great fit.
So, I created a little serendipity for myself. I organized a speaking event on my corporate campus during the last month of the transition I had worked out with my employer after I gave notice. I invited several of the economic bloggers I followed, and asked Chris Martenson to be the keynote speaker (you can watch the event here). Afterwards, I took Chris and the other bloggers out for dinner.
I still remember coming home to my wife that night and saying This was the first perfect day I've had in years. I took that as a sign that if I could find an opportunity to break into this space, I'd better grab it with both hands.
After the event, I received a phone call from Chris. He had enjoyed the day, too, and wanted to know what my plans for the future were. Pretty soon, we were brainstorming what could be done to evolve his business, and he asked me if I'd consider possibly of working together with him. That might just be a perfect match, I recall replying.
We started with a several-month trial period that produced results we were both pleased with. Within six months, we were founding the company that eventually produced PeakProsperity.com.
It’s Now 2013
I’m approaching the 3-year anniversary of the best job I’ve ever had (by a long shot) as the co-founder of PeakProsperity.com
My days are filled with purpose. The work I do is the work I want to do. I feel like my energies and abilities are being put to their best use. And, from the feedback we receive from our customers, it seems that we’re having good success in our mission to help people improve their quality of life.
And funnily enough, while there’s a lot more business risk in this entrepreneurial venture compared to my previous corporate roles, I sleep much better at night. That’s because my actions are now much more aligned with my priorities.
My wife and I moved our family to a rural community with deep agricultural roots, a community that prizes resilience and local resources. We both have careers we’re fully passionate about, and we are our own employers – so there’s no worry of waking up in the morning to learn of surprise layoffs. We have much more time to spend with our children and get involved in the community. We finally feel we’re living the life we were meant to live.
If there’s one thing I’d highlight for someone reading this who, like I was, is yearning to change their professional destiny, it’s this: Success is possible. Probable, even. It just takes a commitment to see the work through.
Your authentic work is out there waiting. Now go find it.
For those interested in learning about the details of the career transition methodology I used in the process described above, it's documented in the book Finding Your Way to Your Authentic Career