As I was leaving Manchester after a two-year hiatus from the workforce to join a new bank in a new continent, I got what was probably the best piece of advice and the biggest lesson of my MBA. It came from the former CEO of Dow Chemical, a man I have come to know better and admire over the course of the short time I have interacted with him. During my farewell call to him, he wished me luck on my move and in my new "adventures," but more importantly asked me to keep one thing in mind. He said, "No matter what you do, always remember one thing: Your personal life, your family and you are the most important thing; numero uno! You will make a lot of money in your life, but in doing so, you must not forget that it is all about you. And that you must come first. Don't ignore that part of your life, ever." Good advice from a man who has achieved a fair bit in his life and knows a thing or two about success, to put it simply.
My first few weeks in to this new "adventure" has made me wonder as to what extent I can actually heed that advice. Having spent two years away from the workforce, with a huge educational expense to bear and no supplementing income, I almost had to head in the opposite direction of that advice and take up a job that I have to admit wasn't my first choice. If anything, having spent six years and then a summer in investment banking, I had made up my mind that the lifestyle and the type of work were not for me. As good as the money is (was?) it just doesn't feel like me. I cannot, and possibly do not, have the patience to sit and wait around while a VP or another senior officer makes what he/she deems to be value added comments to a document. In my mind, a change from "&" to "and" or "USD" to "US $" would not win or lose you the business, let alone changing the color of a chart, but yet I have found myself doing that on a number of occasions in the short span of this new position. It is good to know however that the investment bankers' behavior is as consistent as a McDonald's burger no matter where you are in the world. Following my dream? Thinking about myself?!
It makes me wonder as to whether that is even possible in this day and age of competition, high pressure and great expectations. Are we just stuck in this vicious cycle where pursuing your dream is just that, a dream? My first thought always is, how can I justify being out of the workforce and spending all the money for two years and then spending another several pursuing a dream or a vision that may or may not get me anywhere? What about a family? What about me? What about my future? What about a safety net? Not that I didn't try to pursue that dream a bit, but it seems like where I want to go, there is no money in the early years, and you need several years of "experience" to be taken even remotely seriously (artificial barriers to protect those in power already?). Having a connection and someone that can help you break-in are of course helpful too; I tried that with little luck as well. In the end, I did what I needed to do for a short-term gain.
My goal and long-term dream is not only about me, but also about wanting to do something significant, something important for this world, for my country. As someone posted to me on Facebook, "... You are one those people who can change this world, so be it!" I want to be that person, and I don't believe sitting in the office till 10:30 in the evening, waiting for a VP's comments on a presentation is how I am going to make that change happen. Until then, to make ends meet, I must bide my time and do what's necessary.
I just wonder, how many other people feel the same and are not living up to their dream, but instead feel like they are fulfilling someone else's!