My Success Looks Different than Yours

A big part of being a senior in college is career preparation. In our final quarters we are required to take a portfolio class, a capstone class, and in some cases we have to prepare a senior project. All of these things are required by the University in efforts to prepare us for “the real world”.

Earlier this week, in my COM 475 class, our professor invited a guest speaker, a CWU alumni who has 8 successful years of work with Microsoft under his belt. He was brought into our class as a way for us to not only network, but also learn from a “successful” professional in our field.

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Students asked our guest what he did in college to get where he is today. As you could probably guess, he said all the usual things. He got involved in multiple clubs, got good grades, worked part time in a related field, and networked. No surprises there.

Lucky for our guest, he networked with the right people, and was able to use his connections (and his hard work) to land a job with Microsoft before he had even graduated. From there he was continually promoted, climbing his way up the chain of commands.

There were two specific questions that he discussed that day which really stuck me. One being “How many hours do you put in?” and the other being, “How do you maintain a work – life balance?” His answers to these questions shocked me, and really made me realize that my idea of success will always look different from others in my field.

What Work – Life Balance?

Our guest speaker explained to us that he puts in anywhere from 80 – 100 hours a week. EIGHTY to ONE HUNDRED hours PER WEEK!!! He explained to us that he gets up every day before the sun has risen and is almost always one of the first to arrive to the office, showing up around 6:00 or 6:30. He makes work related phone calls while he is commuting, works from home in the evenings, and answers his emails while putting his baby down to bed.

When discussing how he maintains a work – life balance, I think the most fitting answer he could have given would be “what is a work – life balance?” However, this wasn’t his answer at all. While I don’t remember his exact answer, I remember him telling us that he just recently got back from vacation, where he spent time sitting on the balcony… WORKING!!

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All of these things that he does seem extreme to me, but these sacrifices and long hours he has put in are what have allowed him to climb the ladder in a big time company like Microsoft. These are what have made him “successful“.

Not My Kind of Success

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that there are hundreds of thousands of people who would kill for a job with Microsoft. I also realize that promotions within a company like Microsoft is a huge accomplishment which takes an enormous amount of dedication.

With that being said, I am sorry, the life of our guest speaker sounds like absolute living hell to me. Do I love my job? Yes! I absolutely love my job, and I feel lucky every day to be working at the very organization I have had my eyes set on since sophomore year. Not only am I working in my field, but I am also working towards a cause that is important to me.

However, If I were asked to put in 80-100 hour weeks on a regular basis, no matter how much I love my job, and no matter how much money I was offered I wouldn’t do it. Here is why…

Life is short, life is unexpected, and it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye. My purpose on this earth is not to work my body into exhaustion. Do I want to provide for my family and make a comfortable living? Of course I do! However, I also want to have free time to spend with my friends and family, enjoying life.

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For me, success is not an 80-100 hour work week, where my career cuts into my family time. For me, success is not working myself to exhaustion in order to climb the ladder and get a pay raise. Do I work hard? You bet your entitled ass I work hard! However, when I leave the office at 5 or 6, I leave my work there!

For me, success is not living in the city, spending hours of my day sitting in traffic, and working my fingers to the bone for some big fortune 500 company like Microsoft or Google.

For me, success is working in a small town, for a grassroots nonprofit, where I can give back to my community. Where I can go home at the end of the day and focus on my family. Where my commute is 15 minutes, not 1 hour and 15 minutes. For me, success is right where I am, right now, living a slow pace, small town, nonprofit life. And for that I feel blessed every single day.

Here is a little quote to sum up the point I am trying to make… don’t be so concerned about being “successful” that you compromise your happiness.

Sunset chaser

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