Written for Dave Kerpen for LinkedIn on August 7, 2013
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. - Steve Jobs
"If you're not happy, just quit. Like, today!" said a good friend to me one day in late 1999.
There's one job that I don't have on my LinkedIn profile, or on any resume, or in any book I've written to date, and that's because it didn't last long, and I hated it. In 1999, for six months I was a life insurance salesperson. I had just graduated from Boston University, and had made a good living and a name for myself as a Crunch n Munch sales person at the Boston Garden while in school. I had been recruited by a small affiliate of a major global insurance company, who had painted a picture for me that I'd be helping lots of people achieve their financial goals, and make a fortune doing so.
I got the appropriate licenses to work in the industry, and began my first professional job out of college. I hated it from the start. I was asked to make a list of basically everyone I knew, and then try to sell them whole life insurance. I tried to inject passion into my work, but I just couldn't love it. Moreover, I felt like the organization wasn't growing, and wasn't supporting me professionally.
The day I realized these things, with the help of a friend, I decided to quit. Even though I was making good money, and even though I had no other job lined up, I quit the next day.
I knew what I didn't love, but I didn't know what exactly what I'd love yet. So I turned to the best-selling career book of all time, a book I've written about before because it changed my life. I read What Color Is Your Parachute and it helped me identify not only what I've love to do, but the organizations I'd love to work for. While I was reading and self-exploring, I took a job delivering pizzas to help pay the bills. (So, I guess there are actually two jobs not on my LinkedIn profile.)
A few months later, I began a job in sales and marketing at Radio Disney, and I began an amazing career that has so far brought me immense satisfaction, enjoyment, fulfillment and wealth. I've had a variety of jobs and businesses in my career so far, but they've all had two things in common: I've done what I loved at organizations where I could grow.
There's personal growth and professional growth - ideally, since you spend more waking hours at your job than anywhere else, you get both - but in order to have an amazing career, you absolutely need at least one form of growth. Each time I stopped loving what I was doing, or stopped growing, or the organization I was working for stopped growing, I knew it was time for change. This way, I was always passionate about what I was doing, and growing in every job I had, which in turn contributed to organizations, and helped to build a great career.
In the last few years, I've had the opportunity to interview dozens if not hundreds of leaders for the books and articles I've written, and from talking to many successful, happy professionals, I've learned the following:
The simple secret to an amazing career is to do what you love at organizations where you can grow.
Some people love many things, and have more opportunities than others. Some people can't find organizations where they can grow, so they start their own! Some people, like Jack Dorsey, pictured above with me, aren't satisfied running one organization they love where they can grow, so they run two at once!
Are you doing what you love? Are you at an organization where you can grow?
The bottom line is, as I've learned from many mentors, friends, interviewees and leaders:
If you're not working at a place where you love what you do and can grow, then quit today. It doesn't matter whether you're 22, 42 or 62. Life is too short to waste, as Steve Jobs reminded us above.
If you're not sure of the answers to these two questions, then read What Color is Your Parachute, and/or talk to your boss, CEO, or HR group, to better learn the answers to those two questions.
Then you can have an amazing career too.
By the way, the last time I checked, my boss at the first insurance agency where I worked was doing time in federal prison. So I guess quitting that job worked out pretty well after all.