Fear will only get you so far….

So…I’ll be the first to admit – I’ve spent the majority of my life living in fear.

Fear that I won’t succeed. Fear that I WILL succeed and then people will expect that of me all the time. Fear that I wouldn’t live up to expectations. Fear that at some point people would realize I’m winging it. Fear that I’ll disappoint the people who believe in me….

And that fear has driven me to do some pretty great things, get into pretty great schools and companies. A healthy dose of fear is what helps us survive, so I’m not advocating for it to be banished completely.

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There’s a word for this?!?

But at some point, in the last couple of years after finishing b-school. I started to realize that I was climbing the proverbial ladder to some distant nebulous goal of ‘success’ I hadn’t really defined myself. Despite my ‘accomplishments’ (the names on my resume, the schools I’d gone to, the companies I’d worked at – all the things that generally people would point to and say I’d ‘succeeded” in life), I wasn’t really striving towards MY version of happy.

And then I realized I had no idea what actually made me happy. So I started wondering what exactly was driving me to choose the jobs, relationships, and lifestyle that I was pushing myself towards.

 

The more I read, talked to people, (even went on a silent meditation retreat to find that inner voice)…the more I realized that the decisions I was making weren’t based on the biggest, best, possible future I could imagine…it was me subconsciously running from some terrible yet-to-occur possible future where I was socially shunned, broke and a complete failure. Or, it was me being paralyzed by the idea that I’d been given so much that if I didn’t do something GREAT and worthy of all of these blessings (i.e. you got into HBS – you HAVE to go run some Fortune 500 company or start a non-profit to help a million people or else you should have let someone else who wanted to be a game-changer have that spot!), I’d be wasting my life.

Which, lets be honest – isn’t cute. It’s not very ‘game-changer’-ish to admit to yourself that you’re not living on purpose…you’re just scared of messing up.

I took pretty drastic measures to try and figure out my happy – I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that for everyone. But what I would say is it’s probably not a bad idea for ANYone considering Bschool…or who’s finished Bschool and are on that ‘real life career path’ now to stop for a minute and question your own motives.

Fear is healthy to a certain point. But Fear will only get you so far. And then…you kind of have to say F it and start listening to that little voice inside that was there all along that you’ve been ignoring that’s been trying to tell you to go left when the rest of the world is telling you everyone is going right and that you should follow the crowd because it’s safe over there.

 

I think us MBA-types sometimes lose respect for our intuition. We over-rationalize our way into the roles that “make sense”. But sense is usually based on the life we THINK we’re SUPPOSED to lead, not on the life that would allow us to be the biggest version of ourselves.

I’m not saying quit your job tomorrow because it doesn’t wake you up jumping out of bed for joy every morning. And I’m not saying don’t apply to the highest-ranked most prestigious b-school you can because you know they don’t have a major in what you want to do for your life purpose.

There are choices we make because we have responsibilities in life and the need to pay the bills is real. But. Some of the happiest people I know are happy because they took the plunge, got real about what THEIR happy looks like, despite what the “successful MBA life” looks like, and found a way to handle responsibilities their own way.

Be original

Close your eyes and rebel against your everyday version of success. Think about what decisions you’d make (what school you’d apply to, what job you’d take, what relationships you’d choose) if you weren’t afraid, if you were focused on YOUR version of happy. Think about what YOUR happy really is.

Who knows. You might surprise yourself.

19 thoughts on “Fear will only get you so far….

  1. I’m 23 and just quit my first job. I’m considering doing my MBA. or not. Either way this was a pretty reassuring. So thank you.

  2. This post is so good – and I’ve read it 3 times. At 32 yrs I’ve climbed the corporate ladder and find myself dismissing my intuition. Steve Jobs said best 3) “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown 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.”

  3. I am going to publish your article with in on of the project called the Graduate Dilemma, may you give me your full name, for full credit of your work.
    Thank you!!
    I am more than inspired

  4. I’ve read a couple of your posts. Thanks for your honesty; it’s refreshing and very different from so many who are truly afraid of saying that ‘life’ is frightening at times. I’m 41 years old, getting my MBA (I already have a History Masters degree as well) and question my decision as well at times. Will it really make a difference as I try to switch careers (19 years in the Army) with helping me get a job in the business world, or was my military experience plenty to help me get a foot in a door? I don’t know, but it’s been a goal for a very long time, and I’m having fun being back in school. But, it’s hard on my wife and 3 kids, who don’t get to see me as much as they deserve. I don’t know much about anyone out there, but I can tell you that the difference for ‘what does life mean’ for me has been Jesus Christ. Perhaps that sounds hokey or silly to all of you, but I have lived a lot of life and he has done nothing but change mine in so many amazing ways that I thought I should share that with you. He is not the god (small g) that so many of us want him to be; he demands our whole hearts and our whole lives and further demands that we recognize that we need his death on the cross as an atonement for our sins, but Jesus is the answer to every question, not a degree, my family, patriotism (I’m saying this as an Army guy), having fun, making money, or anything else we try to put in place of him. I wish you all the best as you continue to search for your happiness and I urge you to try out someone like Tim Keller (he has free podcasts on iTunes) if you are interested in searching out if Jesus might have anything to do with what you are seeking.

  5. Hello,
    Thanks a lot for your information. It is really useful. Actually, I am going to do Internship in Hospitality Management from April and I was really worried about it, how and what its going to be in my life during the Internship. But, this info made me feel calm down and feel more confident.
    I wish Good Luck to Everyone!!!!

  6. I think fear always stay with us like our shadow. But we should take it positive way, then no one can stop us. I like the way use “fear” word to explain your article.

  7. Graduated in 1998 with my BA in Graphic Design, took me years to finally fall into the MBA program and graduated in September 2015 with an MBA in Healthcare Administration. Now I am recruiting for a college. I have been in a state of not forging ahead in a particular area for years. Fear was always a factor for all the reasons you’ve already stated. At least we’re not alone. Seems like many folks have the same issues in front of them. Here’s to charging forward in life. Excelsior!
    Good read! Thanks for the post.

  8. I stumbled across your blog post “10 Things I Wish I Knew Before My MBA” while I was google-searching the question “what can I do with an MBA”. I’ve been out of college for 2 years now, working at a pretty large, well recognized pharmaceutical company. I graduated from college with a B.S. in Biology, but for the past 2 years I’ve been struggling trying to figure out what type of job I would like to pursue since I can now begin my transition of moving away from entry-level positions to ones with more experience required. I know that I want a new job (probably in the pharmaceutical realm because that’s the only experience that I have) but I’m conflicted about leaving my current role because my company will cover 100% of the cost of a Master’s degree, if I chose to do so. I am coming to terms with the fact that science/bio is not my passion, but I’m struggling to figure out what is my passion and/or dream job. I didn’t get very far into my google search because your blog was the first link I clicked, but I felt like your post was very relatable for me at this time. Basically, I’m just wondering if you have any advice/opinions on my situation. While it makes sense for me to pursue a science degree, I started looking into the MBA because I felt like it was somewhat general and might give me more options for different careers that are actually interesting to me, or at least would help me move into a different role in the pharmaceutical industry (Pharma Sales is something I have considered, but I don’t have any experience in sales or business). Any specific advice or thoughts to share?

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