On a Sunday evening in July 2006, I boarded a red-eye flight to Boston, where the following day I would officially begin work for the Microsoft Financing program. There was no better way to start than jumping in with both feet at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, with some 15k-ish partners and Microsoft employees in attendance.
At the time I was employed by De Lage Landen, the most highly rated privately held bank in the world. I worked exclusively for the Microsoft Financing (MSF) program and saw success quickly.
Fast forward a few years and Microsoft switched bank providers but kept me with the program, employed through CIT Tech and then with PNC Financial Services.
During this time I took on first, expanded responsibilities and then, new roles – and in the midst of it, my husband and I had our first child, a baby girl.
That changed things.
After five intense years in Seattle it was time to go home to Idaho, to raise our daughter surrounded by family and childhood friends.
And guess what? I got to keep my job and began working remote, from home, in Idaho.
Technology is a wonderful thing.
So were my managers, co-workers and customers.
Life was good.
And then our son joined us.
Which made things even better! (But also busier.)
It was spring of 2013. Work could not have been going any better. After Kyle was born I negotiated an even more flexible schedule, with Fridays off. I traveled a bit, on occasion taking Kyle and his nanny with me.
But then I started to realize something was missing. My job gave me everything I thought I wanted – a fantastic paycheck, flexibility, work-life balance and a fun, smart team of colleagues and partners.
But did my work really matter?
So I started blogging at BizFarmer. That was a fun, meaningful way to help a group of people I’d become really passionate about. Small business owners. The life blood of America.
And then, it came.
The opportunity I never thought would come to fruition.
The chance to work on Microsoft’s payroll, leading the business development work for financing for North America.
How could I not pursue that?
So again, I jumped in with both feet –gave it all I had – and nailed it.
It was awesome. A ton of work for sure but lots of opportunities to create strategies, market offerings, and land programs.
I still got to work remote, from home. The benefits were incredible. The paycheck was something that in college I hadn’t even dreamed of making.
(Note to college: inspire bigger dreams)
My manager? Also amazing. Hands off, let me do things my way but there if I needed him. In nearly every 1:1 he’d ask me, “Are you happy?” Whatever it took, I knew he had my back.
My team was fantastic too. Some of them I’d worked with so long we became good friends. Like the kind you can talk religion and politics with.
Get the picture?
It was perfect.
Well, ok, there was a bit more travel than I expected. And there were long days and late hours. But compared to what my friends, family and in general your average worker was putting in…
It was my dream job.
And last week, I resigned.
Yeah, so were my colleagues.
There were two problems, but it took me quite a while to recognize that there were any problems. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t pinpoint what. It took a few months of reflection, prayer and discussion with my husband and trusted friends.
Lesson: don’t be like the frog that gets boiled alive. Insist upon space, margin, quiet, to pay attention to what’s going on in your life. How you feel. And why. I love what Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, says:
What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?
I can’t do it all. Mom, wife, friend, employee, volunteer, business-builder…I’m not one to go too deep into philosophy but I kind of think we’ve all bought into a pile of garbage.
You can’t do it all.
So what’s your priority?
You get one priority. Only one thing can be the “very first thing.” #essentialism….more on that here.
My priority is my family. Being present mentally and physically. Way more than I was able to be.
Ever heard of anyone on their death bed wishing they’d worked more? Me neither.
Wife first, mom second, worker, next.
My manager’s eyes lit up when I explained this. “So what do we need to do?” he asked, eager to solve the problem.
Ah….but remember, there are TWO problems.
Dan Pink, in his excellent Ted Talk, explains how for many people, financial incentives don’t matter. In fact, in many cases, they are a detriment to performance.
Instead, people find intrinsic motivation through autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Doing work that really matters.
And that is a problem my manager can’t solve.
Financing is important…umm…not really. At all. In fact, I’d rather pay cash!
I need to do something that matters. That makes a positive impact in people’s lives. That makes the world a better place.
And I want to be present in and enjoy my life while I’m at it.
It’s about living intentionally.
(Oh. By the way. Lest you think this is an easy leap because I’m independently wealthy or my hubby is my sugar-daddy…you couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a huge financial risk. But it doesn’t matter. If we end up having to sell everything and live in a van down by the river, we’ll do it so that we can live a (fun) life that matters.)
So what’s next?
My last day at Microsoft is March 20. And although I’m starting on this already, after that date I’ll be more effective at living life and managing priorities in this order:
- Family and fun. Focusing on enjoying life together.
- Building my husband’s business. Because it’s time he gets a turn to shine at what he does best.
- Making the BizFarmer into a business so I can make a greater impact in people’s lives and business.
What does this look like? Right now, I’m planning to…
- Offer a few 1:1 consulting packages
- Host some live workshops to help the friends/clients I’ve gotten to know locally
- Develop a way to scale and serve more of you with some digital products… courses or programs. (stay tuned!)
Author Greg McKeown defines essentialism as,
A systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matter.
I’m excited for this journey! And I encourage you to also take the time to think about what is essential, in your life. We’re not here long enough to waste time on the nonessential.
To enjoying life and making a difference…
Thanks for reading my story! My posts aren’t typically this long and usually focus on marketing strategies, business development tips and productivity hacks. To get a flavor for what I’m writing about on that front, you might enjoy some of these posts: How to Give Your 60 Second Pitch Without Feeling Sick, Stupid or Salesy; Six Steps to an Effective Marketing Plan; Your Most Valuable Asset; or Time for a Brian Dump.
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