I turned down a job the other day that would have solved a lot of my problems.
Great company, great job responsibility, great team, healthy budgets to work with, good compensation, a working visa and they wanted me to start immediately. It sounded almost too good to be true, particularly in the closing months to Christmas.
Many thought I’d be mad to turn it down; “you’re not going to do any better” they said. “Better for whom?”, I asked.
Then came the single condition that was a deal breaker.
You need to live near our office. No you cannot commute from SF. This is not negotiable. It’s for your success.
My success or their success? This meant moving away from my wonderful friends, my awesome flatmate, my rowing, my music, San Francisco and the life I wished to live.
They (and others) argued that Mountain View was much closer to SF than Brisbane, Australia and I could see my friends every other week. As for rowing and music – well I could make millions of dollars and then spend all the time in the world doing those. They failed to see the connection between who I am and the decisions that I make.
I asked them why they wanted me so badly and they told me they liked my creativity and energy. They had few words when I explained that these were as a result of my friends, my rowing and my music.
I didn’t appreciate the subsequent lecture I received from them on ‘sacrifice and priorities’.
So why did I turn it down?
My friends, my rowing, my music, my city represented more than lifestyle. They stood for support, fitness, diet, creativity, expression and fulfilment. I learned the hard way what it meant to sacrifice these things to pursue the green back – despite needing an income like anyone.
As I politely declined and I knew in my heart I had done the right thing, my mind still asked me what the hell I was thinking. My heart was in my mouth but I just had to believe that by remaining true to who I am, the ‘universe’ would ensure I was in the right place – whether that was SF or anywhere else.
It’s been a journey I’ve needed to take and so to elaborate on my thinking process, I thought I’d articulate it for your reading pleasure.
I toiled with the idea that some tasks are considered less important than others when producing results. Because they aren’t seen to have an immediate impact, they are often rendered pointless. Much like insulation. You don’t see it even though you paid for it but roll around hot summers and cold winters and you’re glad you bought it.
So you have a job; a career. It pays the bills, gives you some extra money to get out and about and there’s room to grow. It’s for you, your family; your future.
Most mornings, you’re in a rush so you don’t eat breakfast. By 10am, you’re starving so you say ‘yes’ to the coffee run and you devour a pastry and a protein bar. It has a picture of a buff looking guy on the wrapper so it must be good for you. That smooth caffeine gives your body the boost it needs and everyone in the office knows that you can’t function without it.
Roll around lunch time, you pay $10 and eat whatever is in close proximity. You can’t be too long because you have all this work to do. Typically it’s something that you feel like eating and not necessarily something that’s good for you. You eat it quickly. Some days you just miss lunch altogether.
3pm hits and you’re getting the slumpys again. You shake down another coffee, eat some chocolate from the resourceful girl in accounts. You still have that 5pm deadline and you have just enough time to sneak in a cigarette (for all that stress).
Home time rolls around and you walk through the front door exhausted. The idea of cooking is about as appealing as dog poo on your shoe so you either cook begrudgingly, eat out, get take out or just don’t eat. You justify whatever path because ‘you worked so hard today.’ You pour yourself a glass of something to take off the edge.
You plonk yourself on the sofa, laugh at some TV, update your Facebook about how hard you work then go to sleep about four hours later than you expected. Damn YouTube. You wake up after 6 hours of broken sleep and repeat the process.
Some days you work late and get just a few hours of shut-eye. It’s considered noble to do an ‘all-nighter’; it means you really want to win. Besides, you can catch up on sleep on the weekends right? (learn about Sleep Debt)
As you get into your nice car every morning, you forget the drudgery and crank your music on the way to work. It’s the small things that distract you enough to keep you walking the line.
Summer rolls around and you bemoan your flabby and pasty body. You don’t have time to spend 20 minutes a day in the sun to maintain a healthy complexion so you book into the solarium. Nothing like 10 minutes in the hooker-cooker to bring you up to speed.
You decide on a crash diet and get motivated for about a day and fifteen minutes before sneaking in a quick packet of M&Ms. Running up a small flight of stairs to a meeting, you run out of breath. You’re 24 years old and you’re out of breath.
You laugh it off but inside you give yourself a quick slap on the face. You know it’s not good for you but joke that you’re “old enough to know better, young enough not to care.”
You get a pay rise and your campaign goes off beautifully. The celebration drinks get a bit out of control and the following day you insist that you’ll never drink again. Probably because you forgot to properly hydrate not only before you went to bed, but for about 20 of your 24 years.
You’re 24 years old and you believe you are making some sound life choices. Career is blossoming, friends to party with, you want to take over the world and your peers say that you’re ‘crushing it’.
You drink to that. Besides, it’s your 20’s and you’re just a baby!
On your 28th birthday, you stare in the mirror and wondered where those new wrinkles came from. That bit of flab you’d work off next month after this project looks settled in. Grey hairs?! You take the elevator nowadays so you’ve solved the breathless problem.
You’re feeling somewhat happy but you’re tired. You joke that sleep is one of your favourite past times now. You’re making good money now and you’re about to buy a house because it’s the dream! Nothing like locking in this lifestyle for another 25 years.
You’re still missing breakfast.
You go to the beach and you’re too ashamed to take off your shirt. There are hot boys and girls there but you have no idea how to approach them. Maybe you can show them your cool car you bought? Damn, they’re not interested; may as well check your emails then.
It’s ok though. You’ll eventually find a boy or girl who’ll love you and you’l justify that you settled for the ordinary one because they love you. You won’t admit that you didn’t have the courage, time or know-how to speak with the amazing one who could love you just as much; maybe even more. You’re adamant that amazing people don’t have hearts or time for you anyway. It’s mainly because you just suck at maintaining relationships.
You’ll pop out a couple of kids and life is feeling cruisy. Just 20 more years on the mortgage and you’ll be free!
On your 40th birthday, you echo Kevin Spacey’s words from American Beauty: “I have lost something. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I know I didn’t always feel this… sedated.”
You buy a bigger TV to make yourself feel better. You have a heart attack at 45; it turns out that the guy on the Protein Bar wrapper was a paid model after all…
Taking the time to sleep, eat properly, think critically, read and articulate, learn, interact and understand the world around you isn’t an optional accessory to life.
If you believe that sacrificing the human elements of your life is the path to success, I would question your judgement.
It’s one thing to sacrifice a holiday, a new car, even some time you’d prefer to be sleeping or watching tv. It’s another to sacrifice your mind, body and soul – the irreplaceable and vulnerable components to your whole being.
It doesn’t take much to work out, to eat properly, to make time for your friends. It doesn’t require any money to be disciplined to go to bed on time. In fact it saves money to drink less, buy less and placate your existence with ‘things’.
It’s not easy to turn your back on what seems ‘reasonable’ and ‘obvious’.
It takes considerable courage and a dogged sense of self belief to reject the easy road. It will keep you awake at times and have you questioning your judgement. But I urge you to stick to your guns because whilst they might insist it’s for ‘your success’, only you know what your version of success looks like.
This week I was offered two great positions that would give me the same great work and remuneration but with the quality of life I want to maintain.
Someone told me this morning that I was ‘so lucky’ and I just laughed. If only they knew the game face I kept whilst doubting myself. To partially quote Gary Player, “I’ve found that the more I remain true to myself, the luckier I get.”
You see, it’s one thing to write and talk about chasing your dreams; it’s another to swallow your own medicine. If I can do this, so can you. Please summon the courage too. I’m with you.