I’ll never forget the day I walked into my first corporate job out of college. I had just finished earning a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, meaning I had been in school for quite some time in preparation for landing the exact job I was about to begin. The world was at my fingertips, or so I thought. Instead, as I turned the corner into my first cubicle, I could literally feel my soul leave me through my toes.
Before I had even sat down in my chair, I had already heard a voice in my head. It shrieked, “I’ve got to get out of here.” Talk about not giving something a chance!
Well, I did give the “dream job” a chance. I fought for five years, and despite those years giving me opportunities most could only dream of (think: top-secret military flight test engineering in top-secret locations and working for people I can never tell a soul about), I spent most of that time trying to figure out how to get myself out of corporate America and into the real world.
I ended up walking out of my corporate engineering job, leaving all the math and spreadsheets behind to become an entrepreneur. It was especially entertaining to tell fellow engineers I was starting a real estate investing company—something top-secret flight engineers don’t tend to do.
Looking back, I had no choice but to leave that job. Here’s why:
A Soul Should Really Stay In Tact
Did I mention I felt my soul leave me through my toes when I turned the corner of my first cubicle? I thought maybe at first my soul was just in shock and needed to take a minute, but then it continued to fade away. I even tried changing up job titles and pursuing what seemed like fun challenges within the company, but that didn’t seem to reel my soul back in either.
It really bodes the question—if the things you’re doing in life are literally soul-sucking, what’s the point? Not to try to strike a “what’s the meaning of life?” question here, but really, what are we here for? Even if we don’t know the answer to that, I think we can all agree that the answer isn’t to be miserable.
For me to regain my soul and get it pumping again, I had to pursue some purpose. At the time, I didn’t know what that purpose was, but I knew it wasn’t in a cubicle, in having bosses constantly telling me what to do, or in having to go into an office on Monday mornings.
My soul needed freedom and independence.
Working to Your Strengths Gets You a Lot Further
We all grew up being told we should strengthen our weaknesses. Isn’t that a heart-warming thought—to think of every single person working on themselves in order to become exactly like every other person on the earth? Not! No, there’s a reason we all have certain strengths and certain weaknesses. If we were all at the same levels with every skill, how would the world function?
Think of something you love and are naturally skilled at, and think of spending time trying to get better at that thing. Now think of something you aren’t fond of and aren’t naturally skilled at, and think of spending time trying to get better at that thing. Which one are you going to excel more at?
In a corporate setting, I could only do so much to play to my strengths. I purposefully sought out different work tasks that I knew were in my natural grain, but much more of my corporate life was focused on things I either hated or just wasn’t very good at.
If I was ever going to truly excel at being me, and everything that comes with me, I had to get out from the corporate layers that were preventing me from doing so.
Challenges Build Character
Learning to overcome challenges is a learned skill; a skill that can only be learned by experiencing challenges. Very often, it’s easy to become content and complacent when you’re “working for the man”, and you are never tested. Maybe not everyone thrives on facing challenges head-on like I do, but I can honestly say that my true character has been found and built through overcoming challenges.
I wasn’t challenged in my corporate engineering job; I was too bored. Entrepreneurship on the other hand? Hang onto your shorts and grab a helmet!
How could I have really expanded if I were trapped under layers of management and government rules? Even if it wasn’t going to be a challenge that built my character, it certainly wasn’t going to be anything that happened under bureaucracy and a lack of vacation hours.
Business Casual Clothes are Terribly Uncomfortable
Maybe you thrive being able to dress up every day, but I easily could’ve been given an award for Worst-Dressed employee. I hate wearing shoes, I hate wearing bras, and my fashion sense is so bad I actually ended up on a makeover reality show a few years after I quit my job.
It’s not about whether you like business casual clothes or not, it’s about what is true for you and being true to that. I hated business casual clothes. Not only were they physically uncomfortable, but I hated everything they represented: I was following other people’s rules, I was answering to other people, I had to fake my persona, and the people around me cared what I wore.
Now, as a successful entrepreneur, I wear pajamas most days. Pajamas represent freedom for me, and their physical comfort is insurmountable.
I didn’t have a choice but to leave my corporate job. Sure, I could’ve stayed in it, but I would’ve completely detached from myself. Even when the entrepreneur life feels rocky, which is often, I know without a doubt I’m where I’m supposed to be. I feel purposeful, I am constantly working towards my strengths, and you’ll be glad to know my soul is resting comfortably in her original home.