The Dip

Not settling

TZ wrote to me today. Here’s his story about quitting and then becoming the best in the world:

I rose up the ranks in [name of bank] Bank Financial Group to become a Program Manager in Operations…specifically Change Management.

According to how my parents used to define success: I was a superstar. A 29 year old with a senior level position at a huge company with a safe salary, crazy benefits and a religious adherence to a 9-5 order.

The first 2 years were fueled with idealistic notions of changing the world: I entered my cubicle with enthusiasm every morning and left every day, hoping that next day would be different.

In the beginning, it didn’t even bother me that I wasn’t following my passion (music!), because I had a business card with my name, a fancy title (which was longer than the list of my accomplishments) and the beautiful logo of a major corporation.

I could sit at Starbucks with other bankers on company time and we could laugh about "fooling the man".

As time went on, I began to realize that I’m the one being fooled. With every promise of a longer title and bigger salary, I would salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs and automatically go along with whatever needed to be done to get that bigger office.

I realized that advancement was less about changing for better and more about maintaining the status quo. In big corporations, senior management always seeks out ideas from idealistic middle managers to give them a sense of hope and a promise of a better tomorrow that keeps the drones at least half alive.

So I continued to create fancy power point slides with generic expressions like:

"well positioned for growth"  – translation: we’re not saying we WILL grow…we’re just sayin….we might.

"adding value" – question: WTF did everyone think they were getting paid for? Not adding value? Why does it have to be on every slide?!

"leveraging" , – comment: i asked everyone on my team not to use those words. the frequency of use of words like "leverage" is inversely proportionate to the amount of original thought. the more you say "leverage", the less you’ve probably thought about what you’re saying.

Because I used the language of my audience, my presentations were always a big smash! As much as a presentations that "encourage change with minimal change" can be.

In short, I became resentful toward the corporation for setting up a hampster wheel and resentful toward myself for staying in that very wheel, in exchange for cash, titles and security.

So I left.

My wife and I moved to a cheaper place, I got rid of my BMW and we began to try to live on 30K a year.

From a huge corporation, I went to a music production house with 10 people.

I started at less than half my bank salary and I worked the longest hours I’ve ever worked. Good thing all the stores were closed when I’d leave the studio, that way I wouldn’t spend the money.

This was 6 months ago.

Today my salary has jumped, in direct proportion to my contributions, to almost what I made at the bank.

I have no clearly defined responsibilities….my title is whatever I want it to be….the only mandate is: do the things that make us the top production house in the city.

I’m having the time of my life and in less than 6 months, I have accomplished more in a small business with minimal budgets than I have in 5 years in a huge bank with billion dollar revenues.