“If it cost you your peace, it’s too expensive.”
On August 8, 2018, I chose my peace when I decided to risk it all and quit my job at PwC. To most, this decision seemed like more of an ascend of naivety than a leap of faith. Leaving PwC to go where? Do you have a plan?
Well originally, I had developed the perfect exit strategy that would allow me to leave by December or June 2019. But that went out the window when I realized that in life there will never be a perfect time to begin walking in your purpose. However, there will be confirmations/signs that tell you when it’s time to make a move. So deciding to live by faith and not by fear, I lept.
The past few months of “working from home” built up to this moment. During this time I had the opportunity to slow down from the fast NYC pace and perform a self-assessment. With the change of pace, I got a better understanding of what’s important to me. It became clear that although I was progressing in my career, I was moving away from my purpose.
I let the money distract me. Growing up I had the hustler/entrepreneurial spirit and knew my destiny was to be a business owner. But when I got to college and found out how much people made in finance/consulting I said, Corporate America is the new hustle. I figured I’d pay my dues, learn how to run a business, then somewhere down the line I’d start my own. I didn’t see myself leaving the workforce so soon but I could only deny myself for so long. It was time.
And although I don’t have it all figured out and there is a lot of uncertainty about how the chips may fall, I can honestly say that I’m at more peace than I’ve ever been. I know this journey will be difficult, and I anticipate some pain and suffering. However, to me picking sanity over security is worth it.
Purpose vs Potential
“There is no paycheck that can equal the feeling of contentment that comes from being the person you are meant to be.” — Oprah Winfrey
Our society is obsessed with potential. We hear rappers all the time say, “I could have been a lawyer or a doctor”. And although it may be true, it’s irrelevant if you were called to be a rapper. Yes, I can work for PwC or another firm and have a successful career. However, the amount of success I can achieve in a field is immaterial if it is not my calling/purpose in life.
It’s extremely difficult to distinguish between what I can do vs what I’m called to do. However, despite the uncertainty with my own life, I’m often guilty of having opinions of what others should do. For example, despite Dave East being a successful rapper part of me wishes he stuck with basketball and went to the NBA. Like come on, you’ve been gifted with a height of 6’5’’ and a unique ability to put the ball in the hoop. Go to the NBA! But who am I to say basketball is his calling and not music.
My insecurities make me vulnerable in these situations. Since ball is not life and I don’t have the slightest chance of making it to the NBA when I see someone who has the “potential” and doesn’t use it, I get upset. Saying phrases like “Dave East is a waste of height” or “give me that height and I’ll be in the League”.
“Good is the enemy of great... Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” — James Collins
In accordance with James Collins, I would say potential is the enemy of purpose. Few people achieve their life’s purpose because it is just so easy to settle for our potential.
My potential is what the world sees for me, but my purpose is often connected to what I see for myself. During my 24 years of life, I’ve progressed from the world seeing me as Lindsey’s little brother to Most Likely to be President to Mr. PwC As you can see in each stage of my life, the world's perception of my potential changed. For example, it still amazes some people that I’m a writer because they endured the pain of reading or editing my college papers. Moreover, as I’ve said before, peoples opinions are inconsistent and constantly changing so it makes sense to please at least myself by choosing my purpose not what others see as my potential.
Caution! Be aware, going for your purpose is more challenging. Living in my potential I never had to take the time to explore myself. I never had to ask who is Nathan? Rather, I was skating through life. Purpose, in the words of Jada Pinkett-Smith, is a commitment to self-mastery, which requires the challenge of facing all your demons, insecurities, and traumas.
“A lion is fully capable of capturing, killing, and eating a field mouse. But it turns out that the energy required to do so exceeds the caloric content of the mouse itself. So a lion that spent its day hunting and eating field mice would slowly starve to death. A lion can’t live on field mice. A lion needs antelope…”
Moving to fast?
“He told me don't rush to get grown, drive slow, homie, drive slow...You need to pump your brakes and drive slow, homie.” — Drive Slow — Old Kanye
The change in pace over the past few months of being on the bench/working from home led up to this moment. The personal growth I experienced at a moderate speed was exponential. It reminded me that the old Aesop fable was right, slow and steady does win the race. For the first time in a while, I had the opportunity to think. I know it sounds cliche, but don’t underestimate its power.
Scientists discovered that our decision-making power depletes during the course of the day. This is probably why the late Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day, or like Tim Ferriss who eats the same breakfast every morning. They didn’t wasting decision making power on the menial tasks like do I wear the red or blue tie, rather saved it for the more important decisions like the direction of their company.
Questions like “what’s my purpose?” are too deep to explore after a long day of work when all my thinking power is gone. In fact, some days I prohibited doing anything that required thinking after work hours. But with a newfound emotional maturity, combined with the time to think, it became clear that although I had known I was unhappy at PwC, I was allowing my insecurities to dictate why I was unhappy.
When you don’t know who you are, your insecurities pull the strings of your life. I was insecure about my compensation, so I spent time chasing opportunities that would pay more. I was insecure about the prestige of my company so I chased opportunities at more prestigious firms. I was insecure about people who seemed to be progressing in their career faster than me, so I did more to reassure myself that I was better than them. My insecurities were pulling me in 100 different directions, leaving me with a net gain of zero progress.
I’m reminded that life is a marathon and not a sprint when I take the time to compare how my writing journey has progressed vs. my career. Over the past year and a half, having the discipline to write an article every month has slowly enhanced my writing skills. It was a slow process but when you compare my first article to my latest it seems like two different people wrote them. Growth is in the discipline. And unfortunately, you can’t rush discipline. It takes constant repetition over an extended period of time.
Nonetheless, slowing down and giving myself time to explore how I feel and where I am emotionally is key. Life doesn’t pass us by, we run through it. And I’ll be damned if I get to the finish line and realize that I’ve been running the wrong race.
Part 2 - Telling The Village
The decision to leave PwC required more than overcoming my fear of the unknown. The biggest challenge was not knowing the level of impact my decision would have on my loved ones. My family over the past 2 years had gotten accustomed to me having a job. Knowing that my ability to be a source of funds would stop and that there was no clear date of when it would resume was difficult. I felt selfish.
Initially, my empathy for my family was too high; failing to remember that I had to first pour into myself before I could pour into others, I had lost sight of my own personal empathy. Choosing myself, although it appeared selfish in the short-term, will pay dividends in the long-term.
- Parental Empathy: Regardless of my age, accomplishments, or geographical distance I had to recognize that I am still someone's child. That someone in this world puts my own interest above their own and for that reason, it’s important to respect and attempt to understand their perspective. Unfortunately, many of us including myself forget that although we are in the adult stage of our life that we are still someone’s child. Whether that be your parents, village, or a mentor, someone(s) puts you before themselves so honor and respect that by giving them the courtesy of listening to their opinion.
- Personal Empathy: It’s my life and I only have one. On my journey through life, remembering not to lose sight of my own aspirations, interests, and dreams is important. Unfortunately, some people forget that although they are someone’s child, they are also in the adult stage of there life which means making their OWN decisions. A lack of personal empathy leads to a life filled with regret and resentment.
Heading to NYC to work for PwC, after having a great experience at GWU, expectations were high. I planned on working for a few years, then going back to get my MBA from a Top 20 Business School. Having expressed my plan to my parents and relatives, I will admit that I sold everyone a dream. And like any good dream, they bought it and fell in love with it. So, I was not surprised that I was met with resistance when I first said I have a new plan and I’m leaving PwC.
Unfortunately, they bought the dream of someone who was still dreaming, someone who was still figuring out who they were and what they wanted. Since graduating 2 years ago, my life plan has changed a dozen times. I’ve explored multiple industries and opportunities hoping to find what was right for me. But this year I forced myself to dig a bit deeper to better understand what I really want and to answer why I’m not pursuing it. As discussed in the F.E.A.R article, this exploration led me to realize that I was operating out of fear and not faith. I cared more about the opinions of others than my own happiness.
Understanding that I played a role in people having these expectations of what I would do allowed me to have enough parental empathy to listen and consider their concerns. But more importantly, I recognized that staying at PwC to make them happy was not an option as it would undercut my own personal empathy.
Naturally, parents want to protect their kids. Unfortunately, sometimes parental protection escalates to parental projection of fears. And if you are not cautious their fears have the potential to scare you out of opportunities. My first semester of college I got a job with Kid Power working two days a week for a total of 8 hrs. Since school had just started and I was still getting acquainted with the college lifestyle, I had originally wanted to work one day a week. Later that day I told my mom the news and she said, “Nathan are you sure you can handle that? You just started school, maybe you should find another job.” That conversation turned my initial hesitation into a complete doubt. I wondered was I being overly ambitious working two days a week? To my surprise, it worked out beautifully and as I matriculated through college, I progressed to working upwards of 25 hours a week.
The spring semester, a similar situation emerged. In the fall I became the Freshmen Rep for a student org on campus. That spring the VP of Finance role became available and the President gave me the “promotion”. The week of my promotion I called my mom and told her the good news. But to my surprise, my excitement was met with resistance. “Nathan are you sure? It’s only your freshman year can you handle that?”
Some may perceive my mom’s comments as not believing in me but in reality, it was just her being a parent and wanting to protect me from suffering. I’m a first-generation college student, so college life and how students are able to balance school work and other activities is not something she has experienced or knows much about. And often what is unknown is feared.
Understanding my mom’s story allowed me to have empathy on why she would prefer me to stay at PwC. Until recently, there was only one way to have a successful career - get an advanced degree and rise to the top of the corporate ladder. The fear that I was committing career suicide is a real concern. Also, the fear that I won’t be able to support myself/no women wants a man with no stability/ a “real job”. All valid concerns, however, I recognize that no one will understand the vision I have for my life because it wasn’t given to them, and I’m ok with that.
I redefined my definition of support. Despite not 100% liking my decision to quit my job and not applauding me for leaving PwC. My parents did allow me to move back home to get my life together. That’s support. Recognizing that people will support me in a variety of ways and that it is my job to see it is something I’ve learned in this BYLU journey.
Too often as millennials, we see support as a follow, but with BYLU I now understand that support is deeper than a like. Support can come in a variety of ways. Learning to accept the type of support people give instead of forcing them to give me the support I want is an area I’ve been growing in. Grasping that it’s impossible to know how much or how little someone supports you I’ve changed my perspective to say, if I know someone genuinely wants the best for me then I’ll assume they are trying their best.
HAVE THE CONVERSATION:
Part of being an adult is having those difficult and uncomfortable conversations. Don’t delay or avoid it! The conversation gives people the opportunity to voice their opinion. Even if you don’t care to hear was they have to say still give them a chance. Recently, I was listening to a podcast on Negotiation and the speaker Chris Voss mentioned that the deal or whatever is being negotiated is often secondary. Rather more importantly people just want to be heard. Applying this same principle to the relationship with my parents, I just let them be heard!
DON’T ASK FOR PERMISSION:
In 9th grade, my parents attempted to hold me back from living my best life. Then one day I got some great advice from Danny. I asked, how do you get your Mom to let you go out all the time? He responded you need to stop asking your parents and start telling them. When you ask, you give them permission to say no. Damn, he was right. Instead of saying, “Mom can I go to this party?”, I progressed to saying, “Mom my friend is having a party this weekend that the fellas and I are going to.” Then I’d list the details and she’d usually respond saying, “okay”. This technique showed me that when you want a yes from someone in a position of power and you give them the option to say no they will usually take it.
Moreover, this principle also served me well during my undergraduate experience. For example, I didn’t ask if I could go abroad for a semester, I applied, got into the program and told my parents I’m going to Paris. I didn’t ask if I could intern in the NYC office, I told them after my transfer from the DC office got accepted. And now as it relates to my career, I didn’t ask before I started the groundwork that allowed me to quit my job. I built up some momentum first then informed them. Recognizing when you need to just take initiative vs. discuss with your parents prior to making the decision is critical.
DIFFERENT: THAT’S HOW I KNEW
A year or so ago in conversation, my little cousin said, I want a Lamborghini! His mom responded, Lamborghinis cost a lot of money so you’re going to need to get a great job to afford one. Till this day, that conversation lingers in the back of my mind.
To her, it made perfect sense to say you need to get a good job to get a Lambo, but I didn’t necessarily agree with the statement. My belief is that you can create a business that will allow you to afford a Lambo. Maybe start selling lemonade, learn about investing, or create a product. Yes, he’s 13, but there are kids his age and younger that have built a business that provides them enough income to afford a Lambo.
In a world where entrepreneurship is so glorified, it’s difficult to distinguish between a millennial with an idea and a purebred entrepreneur. At times leading up to this moment I doubted myself. Am I just a wantrepreneur? However, speaking with people that enjoy their job in Corporate America made me realize that the problem wasn’t Corporate America it was me. That how I think/see the world doesn’t thrive in that environment and it’s ok. It doesn’t make me better or worse than the next person, just different. Accepting my individuality gave me the confidence to say, Nathan, maybe you are built for this entrepreneur lifestyle.
In conclusion, knowing that a lot of the greats I admire went through a similar process of leaping reminds me that I’m in good company. That the step-back is not the end but a transitional point that will provide me with enough space to shoot the game-winner. Life will happen and this journey will be filled with many ups and downs but I’m committed to the process. To stay in tune with my journey check out/subscribe to our podcast. I will be speaking my truth, failures included. Thanks to everyone who has held it down to this moment. Peace and Blessings.