Friday, April 3rd was my last day at work here in Chicago. As crazy as it sounds, I quit my job. I'm leaving a great job and an extremely comfortable lifestyle in a city that often feels as if it's been custom made for me (half off night at the Tin Lizzie, I shall miss you). So what am I going after? An ideal. A feeling. It's kind of a deep down intuition of what I'm supposed to do. A search for something that's been missing.
I'll be going after two lifelong dreams: living in India and starting my own public speaking consulting firm.
I can't describe the feeling I've had the last few weeks. It's been unbelievable and surreal even at its low points. To think about things for so long and to have so many conversations with people about them is one thing but that moment of clarity when I decided to quit and go for it is hard to describe. After my trip to India (which was a month ago but feels like it was a year ago), I reflected a lot about what success means to me.
It's always been difficult for me to accept the way we try to create a common ideal for defining what success looks like. When we do this, it's hard not to simplify things into metrics. We evaluate each other based on schools attended, lifestyles led, salaries earned, etc. We strive to someday get a piece of society's success pie. You want whip cream on that? But I'm starting to realize how insane and unhappy that makes us.
How can a group try to define something so abstract as the meaning of success? We all have different desires, likes, dislikes and aspirations in our everyday lives. So shouldn't our individual notion of what success means be just as unique as we are? I felt a lot better about life when I thought about it like this: Sit and think about what a few friends want to do with their lives. How they specifically live their lives now and how they would like their lives to be in the future. More often than not, we're not vying for slices of the same pie. We should be in line to order our very own personalized pie (I don't even really like pie, I hope the world hasn't run out of cupcakes).
I used to get kind of distressed when I heard about peoples' accomplishments. I would get really happy for the person but then start questioning myself. I asked myself, "Why is so-so and making shit happen and I'm not? When am I gonna do what I've always wanted to do? Why is Mark in China playing with Pandas and I'm sitting at work?" There were no answers to these questions because they have no actionable response. I'm not sure why, but one day the questions changed. "What makes me happy? What am I passionate about? What wouldn't I mind dedicating more of my time to outside of work? What would be the most fulfilling job? (whattup Dr. Phil) I answered the questions honestly and as crappy as the answers were sometimes, they forced me to be real with myself. And the result? I stopped thinking that maybe I should be doing what others were doing. You're a doctor? Awesome. You work at Google/Facebook? Sweet. You sell drugs? Questionable. I totally stopped thinking about alternative professions and paths for myself. All because the questions changed. That realization has given me all the confidence to take this crazy leap of faith.
The point of all this is that we should strive to define our own success pie. You might want to be the dynamic mom/dad you've always wanted to be or become the public service leader you've always wanted to become. The pie is ours to create and each definition of success is not limited to any one thing. You can mix toppings my friend. I won't tell. And we shouldn't feel bad when people don't understand our passion because as long as we're being honest with ourselves, success should mean something different to each of us.
Knowing that I'm going to be leaving Chicago and then leaving the Bay (again) has also made me think about the people in my life a lot. Like I wrote to my friends here in Chicago, I've always believed that I'm the collective reflection of the people and experiences I've come across in my life, so I can't thank the people around me enough for adding so much to that. Whether I'm here in Chicago or on the other side of the world, I'll always have those experiences to draw from. I get so much energy from people. I feed off them (I'm not literally eating them, seafood only for this guy). A friend came out to visit a while back and said how he couldn't wait to see what crazy thing I had planned to make the trip memorable. That meant a lot because I think that should be a big part of life. Being with people and experiencing new things. Tasting things you've never tasted and seeing things you've never seen and feeling a way you've never felt. That intangible that makes moments memorable. I'm lucky enough to have people in my life that are continually doing that for me.
A dinner conversation the other night kind of sums the last month. A doctor buddy and I finish dinner and here's how the conversation went.
Buddy: "Okay, we should probably head home. Early morning for me. I'm drilling into someone's skull tomorrow. Glad we had dinner. It's really admirable what you're doing."
Me: "Hey thanks that means a lot. Wait what, you're drilling into a live person's skull?"
Buddy: "Yeah. (makes drill motion) Right into their skull. So yeah, I would not have the balls to do what you're doing."
Me: "Dude, are you fucking serious? Wait, what if you hit their brain? What's the allowable margin of error on something like that?"
Buddy: "Really really microscopic. No worries though. Anyway, maybe it's my profession but I'm much too risk averse to take a leap the way you are."
But not too risk averse to drill into a human skull! Obviously he's got his pie and I've got mine.
If you're in Chicago.... it's been a ridiculous two years. It's going down tomorrow. Look sharp.
If you're in the Bay.... fire up the BBQ - dust off the beach chairs. I'm coming home for a bit.
And if you're in India.... get ready. I'll be there soon.
So to all of you out there trying to make shit happen: props to your success and continual effort towards new success. Thanks for the inspiration. I think I'm ready to define and try to reach my own.