I decided to give myself a promotion this year. I resigned from a position of Vice President of Marketing and decided to go back to being president of CommuniTech.
“You did what? Why?!” I’ve heard this combination of questions more than once after making my decision. And I totally get it. I understand why people thought I flipped my lid. After all, I had a nice job, a competitive salary and benefits package, yadda, yadda, yadda.
So what more could I possibly want, or ask for? Well, a lot (as it turns out). I wasn’t happy, or fulfilled. Now I realize how selfish that sounds. After all, how many people are really happy in their jobs? I mean, really. So when a friend asked me what happened to make me walk away, I struggled with the right words that would make sense. But then, it dawned on me, and I explained it like this: “It felt like I was walking around in a pair of shoes that were two sizes too small.”
When I saw her slightly puzzled face, I went deeper into my explanation: Imagine you’re shopping and you stumbled across an amazing pair of shoes in a store window. I’m not talking about ordinary shoes – I’m talking “These are going to change my life” shoes. So you go into the store and make a beeline for a salesperson. “I’d like to try these on in Size 9, please.” And into the secret backroom she goes.
As you wait patiently for her to come back, you notice she’s carrying two boxes. She explains that they didn’t have your exact size, so she brought a couple of options, both in slightly smaller sizes, just on the off-chance they’ll fit.
Well, let’s be honest. Even before you have the footie on, you knew those shoes were going to fit. Why? Because you loved them. You were already emotionally committed to them. You wanted them. So like one of Cinderella’s stepsisters, you squeeze your size 9s into the size 7s and when the salesperson asks how they feel, you replace a cringe of pain with a big, broad smile and manage to squeak out the words, “Great! I’ll take them.”
So $150 later, you decide to wear them home, convincing yourself they’ll feel better once they’re “broken in”. And you do a damned fine job of pretending you can walk in them without showing that your entire body was about to snap in two.
But that doesn’t matter. Because you are going to get a ton of compliments on your beautiful new shoes and receive accolades for the obviously great decision you made. From the outside, they looked fantastic with everything you wear! But on the inside, your back is breaking, your feet and legs are aching and you even contemplate crawling to your car on all fours.
Now, as I said to my friend, imagine that you wear those shoes every single day for nearly a year.
When I saw her face contort from the mere thought of it, I said, “That’s precisely how this job felt. I wanted to love it, I tried to love it, but no matter what I did or what I told myself, it just didn’t fit and I couldn’t pretend any longer that it did– because it was physically starting to take its toll.”
My friend sat back in her chair and just looked at me for a minute. “Wow, I totally understand and I really admire you.”
“You do? Why? I asked. (Because mostly everyone else tried to talk me out of it).
“Because I know I’d probably still be wearing those shoes. It’s not easy giving up something that everyone else thinks looks perfect.”
And there she had it! The key words in her sentence were, “everyone else”.
You can’t keep doing something that isn’t right for you just because it looks good from the outside. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 52 years on this earth is that you have to answer to yourself first. You can’t be great at anything if it’s not the right fit – for you.
So the morale of the blog? Don’t try to shoehorn your way into loving your job. You have options. Remember that if the shoes don’t fit, then you have to quit. If you don’t, it’s eventually going to wear you down from a stylish Stiletto to a pair of Crocs.
Always go for the Stilettos – but only if they fit.