The Girl With No Title: Why I Walked Away from "Success" to Follow my Purpose
I peeked over the edge of the creaky wooden platform, and started asking all the standard questions that scaredy pants weenies do:
"How secure is this rope REALLY?"
"Has anybody ever fallen to their death doing this?"
The zipline tour guides giggled and convinced me to step onto the ledge. "Just look straight ahead, don't look down!"
I felt the jungle breeze grazing my cheeks. My white knuckles clutched the weathering rope. I exhaled deeply and jumped.
Jumping off that cliff changed my life. At first, I felt nothing but bliss. There were vibrant toucans fluttering in the tree beside me, and the views were dreamlike. But, the more I swung above the Costa Rican foliage, the more somber I became.
My smile turned to tears, and bliss turned to heartache.
Despite constant reminders of how far I had come and my achievements over the past few years, I couldn't remember the last time that I had played or laughed. The last time when it was enough to be just me, not me with a fancy office and prestigious title.
As I hung there, awkwardly sobbing and making everybody that was behind me in line decide against swinging next, I knew that this moment was the beginning of the end of my chapter with the corporate world.
I needed to find a way to live fully and still be that giggling girl swinging in the jungle.
When I came back to the office, I spent a few weeks trying desperately to muffle any thoughts of that moment in Costa Rica. It made it super uncomfortable for my coworkers and friends who tried to make small talk by asking how my trip was.
Long after that experience had passed, I still couldn't casually recount any part of my trip without weeping through the conversation.
Finally, during a moment alone with my CEO, without any hint of hesitation, I spoke the truth that I had been trying to shove down like mental Spanx.
"I'm here, but I'm not here. I should not be on this payroll. This is your dream, but it isn't mine. I wish it was, I've wished so hard I've lost myself in the process. I need to go be Mick now."
Both my CEO and I stared at each other, trying to absorb the significance of it all. We shed a few tears, some of sadness, some of relief. We hugged and made plans for the next steps.
We talk a lot about chasing goals and finding dream jobs. Hell, one of my first articles was about landing my role at Grade A.
But what happens when you achieve everything you thought you wanted, only to get there and realize that it isn't right for you?
Here are 3 lessons that I've learned after making the biggest pivot in my career and letting go of a life that wasn't meant for me.
1. Your Goals are Yours Alone.
Over the past few years, I've crushed many goals that I never thought I would. I've launched my own company, travelled internationally, conquered stage fright publically, and been published on CNBC, Success.com, Inc. and many more.
But as I reached each goal, I realized that I celebrated alone. There was no marching band or confetti for making moves in my career. So I convinced myself that I just needed to make the goals even loftier.
Does this sound familiar?
- "If I just make $_______, then I'll be happy"
- "If I just get that promotion, then everything is going to be perfect."
- "I can't be content until I have that __________."
It's a trap. The secret to success isn't more, it's less. It's auditing your life and asking yourself, "What makes me smile?", not "What SHOULD make me smile?".
For me, the answer became clear. The greatest moments in my career haven't been scoring that hotshot speaking gig or hitting x amount of followers.
It's been the moments that people hold my hand and tell me that my stories have given them hope.
It's been showing others that normal folks like us can create the life we deserve.
It's been meeting humans around the world and realizing that our accents are different, but our challenges are universal.
Whatever your goals may be, make sure that they will bring you true fulfilment, because nobody will ever care about your successes and failures as much as you do.
2. Careers are Relationships, Allow Yourself to Grieve When They End.
I've experienced toxic work environments and also outstanding workplaces like Grade A. Here's the thing, BOTH are sad when they end.
Why? Because to let go, whether you're laid off, fired, or quit, means abandoning a vision of what you thought your career would look like.
That excitement during your interview, the nervousness on your first day? That doesn't just disappear the moment you walk away.
Allow yourself to grieve, regardless of the role or circumstances. Personally, I struggled to talk to any of my coworkers after I left, not because I don't care about them, but because I care about them so much. It was too difficult for me to have conversations with them without feeling overwhelming sadness and hesitation to move forward.
Do what works for you, even if that means finishing off a shopping cart full of tubs of cookies and cream ice cream and pinot grigio (not that I did that or anything!).
3. You are worthy because of who you are, not what you do.
At first, stripping myself of my President title made me feel a dethroned prom queen. I've always been an employee with a title as my security blanket.
Yet, here I was, the unclad girl with no title.
Some folks have disappeared out of my life, sure, but it's been for the best. The relationships that matter are the ones that aren't dependent on where you work, what you do, or whom your parents know.
Sometimes, your identity becomes messily intertwined with your identity, and you may believe that your value is equal to your position. But your worth is not dependent on your work, and the moment that you embrace who truly you are, title or not, is when life unfolds in a way that is truly magical.
The day that I took that leap into the unknown in the Costa Rican jungle transformed everything that I thought I knew about success and happiness.
But despite the flashes of fear, moments where I wonder if I've lost my damn mind, and lack of clarity around what the next year/month/week will look like, for the first time, I'm leading with heart and purpose. If there's just one thing that I've learned after going from penniless to President to purpose-led over the past few years, it's this:
Your life belongs to you. At the end of it all, do you want to to say that you've lived a comfortable life where everybody thought you had it all, or a brave life where you truly do? The choice is always yours.