"You might not be the 'boss' at work, but you can definitely be the leader of your own life." - Naomi Simson
Being the leader of your own life... It's something that's always appealed to me but in recent times, what it has meant in terms of my career has changed enormously.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Journalism, I landed a dream job in Communications where I spent five years learning, achieving and completing everything I did with real passion. Eventually though, I felt as though I wasn't growing and yearned to be challenged on a different level.
Once again, I landed what I thought was a dream job that came with a much higher pay packet and for a few months, it was great. I was far more relaxed, I did what I was told and hey, what else could I want out of a job?
A few months into that role, I felt completely empty and hollow inside. Wake up, do my hours, come up with some words, go back home, eat dinner, go to sleep and hit re-set the next day.
I spent a couple of months in what I call 'professional limbo' where I was living out each day like a zombie but as soon as my head hit that pillow at night, all that came to mind were questions such as:
What's wrong with you? You've worked so hard to get where you are so why are you still unhappy?
Why isn't having 'everything' you've ever wanted enough?
What am I doing with my life?
You left a solid position where you had great friends for this job. Why do you feel so trapped?
I could lie to everyone around me but I couldn't lie to myself. What I was doing wasn't enough. I wasn't happy. The extra money that came along with a job I was more than capable of fulfilling didn't mean anything to me.
Those around me probably weren't aware of it but I was tormenting myself. I was the furthest I'd been from contentment in my life and thanks to my first job, I knew what passion was. I knew what it was like to feel so determined that you're willing to throw everything you have into excelling.
It was around this time that I found myself at a Business Chicks breakfast in Melbourne. I'd been asked to go along by a friend and there's no doubt that doing so was a life-changing decision.
Naomi Simson, Founding Director of RedBalloon and the woman responsible for one of Australia's major tech success stories was speaking. For a while, I'd been reading up about female entrepreneurship and Naomi was one of the first names that would consistently pop-up on the type of websites I was reading. Not to mention, I'd found myself hooked on her blogs and LinkedIn stream.
Entrepreneur, speaker, director, mother, author, blogger, innovator, TV personality - Naomi dons many hats and the chance to hear her speak in person was just too good to pass up.
I still remember the day very clearly - It was a Thursday morning and Naomi began her speech at the back of the room, which is something she admits to doing often.
In the space of about an hour, her story, her words, her delivery... Everything she said reiterated the seeds that had already been planted in my head: It was time to look fear in the eye, quit my job and start living a life I could love.
Naomi's message was clear and simple: If you're not living an authentic life, you're not being true to yourself.
Those simple words really got the cogs turning in my head:
What if I died tomorrow?
What if I never get the chance to feel passionate about what I'm doing again?
I'm lying to everyone around me. What if they knew how I really feel?
Honestly, I felt as though everyone else in that room that morning had disappeared and that Naomi had made direct eye contact with me, challenging me as to what my next move would be. It was a surreal but eye-opening experience.
I let myself stew on the decision for the rest of the week but on the following Monday morning, I handed in my resignation letter and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life.
I still remember the level of energy that surged through me at the time. It was so strong and so powerful that I plucked up the courage to send Naomi a message and to my surprise, she replied! It was a moment that only served to re-assure me that regardless of how tough it was going to be (and I knew it would be), this was the right decision.
These days, when I wake up in the morning, I'm not dreading what's ahead... I'm not counting down the hours to the end of the day... I am my own boss now!
Not only did I walk away from that Business Chicks breakfast with a new future, I also scored a copy of Naomi's book, Live What You Love.
I'll be honest: I often start books and struggle to finish them because they lose me along the way. But Naomi's book proved to be made-up of nothing but compelling reading. Actually, not just reading - I loved that this book is rather confrontational and forced me to answer questions and complete tasks such as:
• What drives you?
• Prioritise your passions
• Face up to your non-strengths
• Are you a workaholic?
It's also filled with words of wisdom made all the more significant when you take into account Naomi started RedBalloon fourteen years ago now.
Having confidence in yourself is the key. Believe deeply in what's possible.
Live What You Love is a must-read for not just entrepreneurs, but anyone who wants to live a truly fulfilling life (and who doesn't?).
If there was another quote in the book that truly spoke to me, it has to be this classic from Benjamin Franklin:
Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.
I may not have turned thirty yet, but I've had enough life experience to know money isn't what drives me and my future.
A month after making that decision to quit my full-time job for the unknown, I can truly say I'm living what I love every day. And for me, that alone is my success story.