Wednesday, May 2, 2012

can you be fulfilled in your professional life?

Today I read an article about Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx, who was recently on the Forbes Billionaires cover. She is the youngest self made female billionaire but there was a time she was selling fax machines door to door.

Want to know some of the crappy things that happened in her life?

  • At 16, she watched her best friend get run over by a car and die.
  • Her parents split a little after that.
  • Both her prom dates died a little after that.
  • She took the LSAT twice and did horribly both times, ending her law career before it began.
  • She worked at Disney World. She was too short to be the part she wanted and spent her days snapping people's seat belts on before they got on the ride.
  • Not finding anything better, she began her career as a door-to-door fax machines salesperson.
  • She had to do this while wearing pantyhose in Florida's hot summers.

It was this last crappy thing that led her to creating Spanx, which would become her billion dollar empire. After she would come home from her day job, she would work on a product to replace the pantyhose she hated wearing. She did this for two years and invested all her savings ($5,000) into her new product. Spanx made four million in its first year and ten million in its second. Today, it is valued at over a billion dollars. She is married and has a son. Spanx is getting bigger each year. Life is pretty good.

I have so many friends who hate their jobs and what they are doing with their life. Keep going to your job. Keep giving it your all. But also think of what yo want to do with your life. Do you want to make a lot of money? Do you want to impact the lives of women who are victims of domestic violence? Do you want to create? Figure out what gets you excited. Think of something you do or engage in that doesn't feel like work and research what types of jobs and careers are associated with that. They may not pay six or seven figures and you have to decide if that is a sacrifice you are willing to make. Are you willing to give 200% of your time and energy to something that doesn't offer huge profits? If yes, that is a great sign that is what you should be doing with your life. 

Now, wake up an hour or two earlier than you did before. Or set aside two hours in the evening and start working towards your goal. If you have children, find a way to share responsibility with your partner so you are able to have this time to yourself. Or pay a baby-sitter $20-$30 a day to make uninterrupted time. Invest in yourself.

If your schedule is already packed, think about working on your goal during your lunch break or think of cutting something out like tv watching or blog reading time so you can focus on your goal. It is possible to get to a place in your professional life where you are happy and fulfilled but to get there you have to be honest with yourself about what your goals are (not the goals that society will applaud you for having), you have to make a plan to achieve those goals and then you have to work, work and work some more until you get there. 

Sara had an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age and when you read her full story, it is easy to see why she ended up on the path she did. I hope you find your path and it leads you to a life that makes you happier than you thought possible.

(Today I am grateful for the man who plays his violin at Wisconsin and M. Every day on my walk home I pause my iPod as I pass him so I can hear his amazing talent.)

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