I Quit My Successful Wall Street Job. Here's What I Learned

Editor's note: The photograph above shows the author at yoga teacher training, just before she quit her job.

Six years ago to the day, I woke up fairly blurry eyed and I showered, dressed and hopped into a cab to work, reading on my blackberry. I wasn’t reading the news or my emails however, but notes I had written for myself on what I was going to say when I quit.

That was the scariest day of my life. When I decided I was leaving my job as VP on the trading floor of Morgan Stanley, I felt like I was going to vomit. My voice was shaking during the entire meeting with my bosses, and my hands were sweaty waterworks under the table as I explained that after seven years, I was parting ways to start my own wellness lifestyle business — I.AM.YOU.

It took a few hours, since they didn't seem to believe I was actually leaving the firm and kept enticing me to stay. But ultimately, I left my badge on my desk with the six computer screens and walked out of the building — toting half a dozen high heels and a few workout outfits from under my desk — with a massive smile smothering my face.

In honor of my six year anniversary of quitting my job on Wall Street, I am sharing the six most important lessons I have learned from venturing on this new path — one that has been more rewarding and challenging, than I ever could have imagined. Hopefully it inspires you to chase your dreams, too!

1. It is not meant to be easy.

Hollywood and famed bloggers, seem to portray that quitting a job is this unbelievably easy, joyous experience. But in reality, this is not always the case!

I had a seven year career, a recent promotion, a solid salary, benefits, and years of prior intense education and future career growth on the line. Leaving all that behind for the vast unknown was gut wrenching. And it had every reason to be! Do not feel weak or guilty if quitting a job to follow your dreams feels daunting ... it means you are believing in yourself, everything you have created in the past, and everything you hope to engender in the future.

2. You need to have a plan.

Nine times out of ten, people come to me for business coaching, inspired by my story and wanting to quit their jobs. This is great ... but when I ask what their plan is, they don't always have one, which is dangerous. If you quit without a plan life is going to be very, very challenging for you.

I knew exactly what it was that I wanted to create: an all-encompassing lifestyle brand and new lens for wellness based on yoga, nourishment, mindset and music.

Before I quit I mapped out my entire business plan, designed my brand, had a logo, flushed out the target market, did some preliminary web design, and modeled potential revenues and profits. Things have of course changed along the way, but having a plan allowed me to achieve my goals much faster and ensured that I stay on course.

3. Every industry has its own quirks.

Wall Street is its own world. If you say a trade is "done," it is done, and there is absolutely no going back on it. Suddenly I entered the wellness world, where everything is much more grey, often wishy washy, which initially drove me bonkers! But that was only until I realized that each industry has its own way of doing business.

You need to observe, learn, and adapt to their ways. Otherwise you will go crazy and quite frankly, not succeed. For me that meant learning the ins and outs of how the yoga world operates, educating myself in nutrition, going to events and becoming digital media savvy, to name a few. Figure out the playing field, get your team together, and go play ball.

4. Do not feel guilty about downtime.

This one is still so hard for me. When I first quit I started to fill my days the same way I filled my Wall Street days. 12-18 hours of work, be it teaching, writing, general business stuff, instant email responses, or other projects. It was only recently that I stopped feeling guilty when I had downtime, even if it was just an hour.

Now I embrace these moments as time to foster my creativity and engender new thoughts and developments for my business, which has helped my new career reach whole new levels. Downtime is OK!

5. The highs are really high, and the lows are pretty damn low.

No matter what you do when you decide to quit, there will be good days and bad days. But the chances are, because you will be outside the structure of what you had before, these ups and downs will feel extreme.

I have cried more in my six years of entrepreneurship than my I did my entire seven years on the Wall Street trading floor. Life outside the box is no joke!

Just remember that whatever it is, good or bad, it will pass. Then put it in the context of the big picture, take a deep breath, and focus on the next thing. That way, the lows will not seem as dooming and the highs will not steer you off course.

6. You control your destiny.

You are the only person who will determine your success or failure; you are the only person who can shape your future.

It is up to you and you alone, which is awesome and also daunting. I take a moment every day to say thank you to life for everything it has given me, and then hit the pavement running.

You can, and will, create your ideal self and career in your ideal world, just remember to be patient, think about the big picture and never stop hustling.

Photo courtesy of Walt Lindveld

Lauren Imparato
Lauren Imparato
Lauren Imparato — author of RETOX and one of the "100 Women in Wellness to Watch" and Elle’s "This...
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