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This is a guest submission by Kathy from WorkingForWonka.com

To the outside world my career was glamorous. I traveled the world; dinner in Paris, lunch in Buenos Aires. I interacted with interesting people; I met with Hollywood studios, I read scripts years before the film release date. I once attended a week long meeting held on a 120 foot yacht.

Reading that, I can see how it might have seemed appealing to those around me. And if I squint my memory’s eye, I guess I could make it into something glamorous in my head. But once the memories are in focus, I remember the truth.

I lived on planes; once traveling to meetings in five countries in four days. Scripts were read in windowless rooms while being watched by studio security. And meetings on yachts? While we had every imaginable comfort (including an onboard chef preparing everything down to homemade chocolate covered potato chips), we had this because we were so busy, in such crank-it-out-now mode, that we couldn’t leave the ship.

We didn’t step foot on dry land for six straight days. We could have just as easily been in a Sheraton in Anytown, USA.  (That is, if you could find a Sheraton serving homemade, chocolate-dipped potato chips!)

In my old career I worked with entrepreneurs launching companies and brands. And my old career defined me.

Being defined by your job can be a good thing, if that job brings you satisfaction. My job didn’t. My job brought me stress. It brought me wrinkles. It brought me a dwindling circle of friends that I never got to see. It brought me a very big psychiatry bill.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes To The Grind Stone

To be very cliché, launching a product or company is like giving birth. That doesn’t mean that it’s like planning a nursery, and taking Lamaze classes, and learning how to swaddle, and everything else that goes into the long process of planning and prepping for a new arrival.

Launching a product or company is like the actual act of giving birth. It’s an all-consuming, sweat filled, pain fest that requires mind-numbing focus and energy. Not to mention extreme amounts of stress.

Of course there’s initial excitement at the prospect of what is being produced. But like a soon-to-be second time mom, with selective amnesia regarding labor pains, it’s not until you’re deep in it that you remember the truth. “Oh crap, that’s right. This is gonna hurt.”

For many years I excelled in that environment. I reveled in the chaos. I would rise to any challenge placed in front of me, no matter what the sacrifice.

But I wasn’t happy.

Blinded by the Light

blinded

You see, you don’t have to be one of the grey drones in the famous 80’s Macintosh ad to be in a job that isn’t fulfilling. When Barbara Streisand stopped performing, she left what– to the outside world–seemed like a dream career. She walked away from throngs of adoring fans and seven-figure paychecks and doing something that came naturally to her.

But performing made her uncomfortable. She didn’t enjoy the stage freight. She grew tired of the grind. So she stopped doing it.

Which is what I did.

It wasn’t an easy transition. I started by leaving my W-2 job with the entrepreneur-of-the-moment, and began consulting. I was now working from home, determining my own schedule and only taking on only the projects that I wanted to work on.

But it didn’t take long for me realize that if I only took on projects that I really wanted to work on….I wouldn’t take on any projects.

The truth finally hit me. The work I was doing was all about making someone else’s dream come true; bringing someone else’s product to life, building someone else’s future. Not my own.

Losing the Shades

Somehow in my career path I had gotten lost in the task at hand. I had been blinded by the all that came with my job. I had defined myself by a job, not realizing that the definition had been written by someone else.

The real sacrifice had never been that I was harried and stressed. The real sacrifice was that I wasn’t living my own dream.

Any job that isn’t satisfying you is the wrong job.

On Oprah’s final episode she said that we are all called to do something. And that our real job in life is to figure out what our calling is, and to get about the business of doing it.

I have figured out my calling and I’m making it into something that works for me. I’m taking what I’ve learned about working for entrepreneurs, and about launching products and companies and I’m educating others through my blog, speaking engagements and an upcoming book.

It’s difficult sometimes. I went from constant stimulus to working alone out of my house.

When I look back at my old career there are some things that I miss. I miss being needed in that urgent, do-or-die way. I miss the adrenaline, probably in the same way that an addict misses their drug of choice. I miss the stories that I would tell my friends after whatever crazy adventure had happened.

But I don’t miss living the stories. I don’t miss the pace, and the insane stress is almost a distant memory.

It has been replaced by slow, steady, but most importantly, fulfilling work.

But, I will say this: those chocolate-covered potato chips? Now that’s a memory that just might stay with me forever.

Kathy Ver Eecke is a 20 year marketing veteran who now works as writer, blogger and public speaker. She spends her days explaining the method behind the madness of the entrepreneurial boss, and helping those struggling to survive in a startup company. You can find her at WorkingForWonka and @WorkingForWonka

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