Advertiser Disclosure: rich & REGULAR is a member of affiliate marketing programs and may receive commission in exchange for promoting products and services.
There is no story more impactful, more relevant or influential to your life than the one we tell ourselves about ourselves. Whether you’re a big city girl or a small town country boy, you’ll see the world through the lens of that Metropolis or dusty backroad. That lens is important because it shapes your capacity to learn from your experiences.
As a kid in Brooklyn, I would go across the street to my friend Dwayne’s house to play basketball in his backyard. One day, we were playing with some kids we’d just met and Dwayne was on the opposing team. To prepare them, I overheard him saying, “watch out for him …he’s quick” as he pointed at me.
At the time, I knew I was crafty and had pretty good ball-handling skills but never thought of myself as ‘quick’ until that moment. Though it wasn’t a compliment per se, his observation of my abilities disrupted the story I’d been telling myself about my game.
Just the other day, I was reminded again of this powerful notion while watching a clip of Venus Williams as her father interrupted a journalist during an interview. When asked whether she believed she could beat her opponent, Venus answered quickly and confidently “I know I can beat her“.
The eager journalist, probing for a snippet and apparently questioning her abilities decided to push…and push until finally Venus’ father [Richard] steps in and checks his a$$ for trying to tamper with the confidence of his then 14 year old daughter. Here it is, if you haven’t seen it.
When I first saw this clip, I recall thinking that her father was over-protective and a tad on the obsessive side. Today, as a father, husband and having been through several obstacles in my own life, I wholly agree with Richard’s tone and objection to the journalist. Not only was he right for protecting his baby girl, he was well within his right for reinforcing her self esteem. In that moment, he wanted to ensure that the story he carefully carved into her heart and Venus’ belief in herself wasn’t suddenly made vulnerable by this journalist’s petty prodding.
For the rest of us who can’t have a Richard Williams standing over our shoulder ready to protect us at a moments notice, we have to fend for ourselves. Furthermore, we have to make sure the story we’re telling ourselves about our lives, our future and the world around us is serving us in a productive way. Otherwise, we’ll allow a broken or flawed narrative to limit our potential. This is also incredibly important when it comes to your career.
Over years, I perfected the narrative of my career journey and could drop different versions of it on a moments notice to anyone who wanted to hear.
“I’m a twenty year veteran of the hospitality industry, both of my parents worked in this business, I studied abroad here, worked for world-class brands there, it’s in my blood blah blah blah.”
I would say this to myself and others to illustrate my reason for being there was connected to a deeper purpose. For years, this was true but a few years ago, as we started on our journey to financial independence, I realized the story I was telling myself was too small for my ballooning imagination. It just didn’t fit anymore and I began to fall out of love with “the old” and deeper in love with what I believed was possible.
Mrs. r&R has her own version of this. Her story was filled with North Carolina Tarhell references, a long list of growth experiences and success stories in Operations, Sales and Marketing— all underpinned by a work ethic and honed by her time spent in retail.
Along our journey, we’ve spoken with dozens of people who all have their versions of this and like us, they struggle with divorcing themselves from the narrative they’ve been telling themselves about their careers. Without fail, we hear some version of
“this is what I went to school for”
“I’ve come this far, there’s no point in changing now”,
“my parents did this so I have to be…” or
“I can’t leave now because....”.
This is problematic because it assumes the variables in your life remain constant. The truth is, the job, the company, the payscale, your manager, your health, your family, the job market and more all change over time. This is why it’s critical for us to regularly take a moment to review your current state and assess it against the narrative you’ve been telling yourself. Do you still want to be [insert title here] after all these years? Is [insert benefit here] still important to you?
How much of your identity is tied to your association with this group of people, this profession, that company or title?
Just because you went to an expensive school for education, your Mom and/or Dad were teachers and you’ve worked in education your entire career does not mean that you have to stay in education; especially if it makes you miserable. The same is true for anyone else in any other field. The writer and educator Taylor Mali once brilliantly said “changing your mind is one of the best ways of figuring out whether or not you still have one”.
More importantly, your identity doesn’t have to be so heavily weighted by your career and the progress you’ve made in it…at least not forever. It’s ok if you’ve been grinding for years and have made considerable progress up a mountain that many people would kill to have the opportunity of climbing. Assuming you’ve spent your time wisely, it can be beneficial…until it isn’t anymore.
Just because your career helped to get you where you are does not mean you have to stay on that course. If that sounds like relationship advice and not-career advice, it’s because the degree of emotional connection we have with our careers is a deeply intimate one.
It’s ok to break a promise you made to yourself years before you had all the variables you have today. There’s no way you could’ve known to factor in your health to the degree you’re factoring it in now. Besides, whoever you piss off because of your decision to put yourself first will get over it in time. And oh, by the way…your job will replace you in 3-6 weeks sooo, there’s that.