In late 2008, I made a life-changing decision. I walked away from an excellent and promising career at WPP/GREY; I risked a healthy 6-figure salary, benefits and bonus plan; and left behind an amazing team of people. All in pursuit of freedom and happiness, with a plan to go after my bucket list dream to travel to India and ride elephants at dusk; and a longer-term decision to start my own business. Little did I know that just a few months later the stock market would crash and the U.S. would enter a recession. My trip to India was postponed due to the shootings in Bombay, so I was officially on sabbatical for about 6 months. Too short, as I recall it but yes, free, free at last, to do what I wanted to do.
Fast forward to today nearly 10 years later, what have I learned from the freedom experience? I believe I can sum this up in just a few, yet important lessons learned.
- Freedom has a price but the rewards are priceless. As an independent professional, you can choose what to do today, who to work with and how much you want to put into whatever venture you embark on. Yes, sometimes you have to give in but only if you choose to.
- What you seed is what you sow. That amazing team I left behind continues to be a source of inspiration and support. I am thankful for their friendship, humbled by their loyalty and proud of their own accomplishments.
- You are less significant to others when you don’t have a huge corporation and clients behind you. You are more significant to those who can benefit from your experiences. Recognize this, embrace it and choose your associates wisely.
- You can do what you love to do, but invest your time productively. Freedom is not a license for idleness; it’s an opportunity to elevate your outputs to a new level.
- Don’t stay still; always evolve. While life is better at the beach, the ebb and tide always remind us of constant motion. Reinvent yourself if you may and take a leap into your passions.
- Always have a purpose, a dream to pursue and the discipline to apply what you know. Purpose is not just a buzz word. It’s recognizing what you have the power to do for others and embedding it in everything you do.
- It’s important to give back, especially now that we have more time. Think of what brought you to where you are today and make sure you take steps to help others achieve their goals and aspirations.
- Whatever happens, you are only accountable to yourself. If it doesn’t work, identify what went wrong, learn from it and go forward; always forward.
By the way, India never happened. Instead, I found the love of my life and am happily married now in Florida after 18 years living in New York City. Marketing and communications continue to drive my professional life as consultant to brands on strategy and content creation, with a clear purpose to do my share to bring quality work opportunities for young creators in my home-island of Puerto Rico.
Life has its twists and turns but important things happen when you are free to choose. Above all, be content.
This is the best summary of life after the corporate world. Having now spent exactly 15 years after walking away from a regional CEO job, I can endorse every one of Jackie’s points. Well done.
Thank you Eric Rosenkranz! Looking forward to the next 15, right?