“Mommy, I know what I want to be when I grow-up?”
Her brown eyes grew wide, and she asked “What's that Michelle?”
“A politician,” I joyously cried out.
“Oh, you want to be President?”
“No Mommy, I want to be a politician.”
With her eyebrow raised and giving me her best “I don't want to discourage my daughter” voice she asked, “Why do you want to be a politician?”
“Because they help people.”
That's when she put me into therapy. She didn't, but she knew this politician dream was all her fault.
At 5 years-old, I loved JFK.I saw that he had a voice. He helped people and could change the world. My mom often talked of Martin Luther King's “I have a dream” speech making the world better for people of all races. In my head politicians helped people – they used their voice to change the world.
After getting the trounced in the 2nd grade student council election, I quickly saw politics as a code word for popularity contest. I still longed to help people, but politics was not my bag.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I ask that question, very few people answer with what they are doing currently. Truthfully, being a fairy princess is just not a growth industry, but the world needs accountants. It doesn't matter what you are currently doing as long as you are true to that first instinctual mission you had.
I believe you can find the why behind what you want to do when you think about your five year old self, running home from school, full of joy knowing that plan. If you wanted to be an astronaut, did you want to do it for the adventure, the exploration or the science?
My why from five years old has been helping people find their voice so they can help others.
Truth – I've not been living my why
When I was a professor, I LOVED teaching. I loved helping my students achieve at their highest levels. I was a tough prof, but I had a following of devoted students, and I was equally devoted to helping them reach their goals and dreams. Nothing brought me more joy then seeing my students excel.
When I left academia, I abandoned my why like rusted-out Geo Metro on the side of the highway. I didn't even know I was doing it at the time.
I went into market research because having a Ph.D. means you're a damn good researcher and that's marketable! For five years, I traded my why, my passion and my enthusiasm for money, security and a hefty dose of boredom.
Confession: While I've been running this blog and taking clients, I've still been a full-time market researcher.
I'm good at my day job, and on occasion I get to help my co-workers. This makes me feel fantastic and sick at the same time. It reminds me that I am NOT helping people every day. The ripple effect is NOT happening. The world is not changing in incremental ways every day that I sit in my cubicle and rot away.
It makes my stomach churn. I feel like a fraud for pretending at my “career” for so long.
Today is my 40th Birthday…
Where the hell did 40 years go? Why did I waste 5 years doing market research?
It's time to get back to my why. It's time to do this business for real. It's time to help others find their voice in business so their message can ripple out and change the world. My gut is like “hell, yes” but…
I'm freaking terrified!
I might fail.
I might look like a complete moron.
I might declare bankruptcy.
I might lose everything.
I might never have another client again.
I might even end up “living in a van down by the river!” (I'd have to buy a van first.)
What scares me more is turning 41, and ignoring my why, my passion, my reason for being for a second more.
Leaving the 40-hour a week safety net, no security (well I do have a great man backing me up) – just hustle, moxie and my why are along for the ride.
Happy Birthday, my lovely why. Glad, you waited for me while I grew-up, grew a pair, and remember the girl who wanted to be a politician so she could help people.
What's your why? Your drive? Are you living it everyday? If not, when will you start?
*Post written under the influence of Simon Sinek, coffee, and the aftermath of a whisky fueled late-night chat with one of my closest friends, Omar Rivas.