It was 2007, the first year of my MBA program. In our statistics textbook, there was a table listing the annual salaries of the highest-paid US executives in 2006.
Atop the list was Richard Fairbank, CEO of Capital One Financial, with $249 million. He was 55 years old.
I remember thinking that he was obviously very successful and had made millions prior to 2006.
How the hell did he find motivation to keep going to work year after year when he was set financially for life?
As soon as I thought that, I realized why I had yet to make my millions. And I still haven’t.
I don’t know Fairbank personally, but I believe he didn’t go to work day in and day out for the money. There had to be something else that inspired him, and the big salary was just one of the positive outcomes of his commitment to being great.
I want to care
Let’s fast forward to a Friday night two months ago. A few coworkers and I were pulling overtime to go over presentation slides with our superiors. It was approaching 9pm.
I was annoyed, upset and just wanted to go home to my family and get the weekend started. The bosses, however, were totally immersed in improving the presentation, and looked ready to stay as late as needed, with zero trace of negativity.
To put it simply: they cared, and I just didn’t.
The contrast was another glaring illustration of why I will never find fulfillment or success doing what I do in the corporate world.
Chasing after the wrong things
When my friends and I get together, it’s typically to talk about each other’s work life. For years, I felt the need to portray an image of a savvy business professional. I exaggerated my accomplishments and inflated my abilities. It all seems so silly now, chasing after things that were never important to me.
My wife makes more money than I do
My need for external validations even extended to comparisons with my wife, the person who cares the least about my accomplishments. The past two years, with the failed entrepreneurship and now working in a less profitable industry, my income has taken a hit, and she has become the primary breadwinner.
She deserves the monetary rewards and success, because she has always performed at her jobs wholeheartedly. I’m grateful and proud of my wife, but I’ll be lying if I don’t find it moderately embarrassing as well. I know it’s my male ego talking, but the concept that a man should “bring home the bacon” is so ingrained in our society and culture.
Fortunately, it has never been an issue for our marriage. I’m secure enough with my abilities and character (which was not always the case), and she understands that I need to develop my career differently and trust that I will do it responsibly and ethically (she had my back right from the very beginning).
I now realized that the underlying reason I wanted to start my own business was to prove to my friends and my wife that I’m just as good at business and making money,
Of course, a paycheck is not the right way to measure one’s success. Many great people contribute to less lucrative professions and they are no less successful.
I understand that, and I'm no longer evaluating my business capability based solely on salary. However, by any other measuring sticks, I’m still quite average. My friends believe I’m being a bit harsh on myself, so please allow me to clarify.
I’m not average, nobody is. However, when I don’t care about something, I tend to do the bare minimum, which is never the formula for greatness.
I want to care about my work just like the way my superiors cared about that presentation. I want to approach my job with the same kind of dedication that my wife had shown.
Health and fitness are clearly my passion, and I believe I will discover inspiration and commitment on my journey to becoming a health coach and helping others live a healthier life.