“Rich, the first time you get shot at in combat, you won’t be scared. You’ll be angry that someone had the nerve to shoot at you and your crew,” said a senior leader to me prior to our squadron’s deployment to Afghanistan in 2012.
He was right.
Through all the events we endured from the air as an attack helicopter crew, I cannot recall a single time I was afraid. Instead, we were instantly investigative, responsive, and ready to support ground units who were relying on us to cover them.
Fast forward to 2018. I had successfully retired from the Marine Corps and had earned my MBA. I now had 18-month-old daughter and was working at Earth’s most well known company: Amazon.
I had it all.
Well, not quite.
I was enormously unfulfilled in my occupation, was losing my connection with my wife, and had almost no relationship with my daughter whom I hardly ever saw. The only way I knew how to cope with it all was by intentionally distracting myself and acting out of character. This only exacerbated my guilt of not being present enough for my family and ultimately put further strain on my relationships.
You see, I wasn’t unfulfilled because I was incapable. In fact, I was operating at a very high level. Yet, my “opportunities” were many and I didn’t fit the mold. And, rightfully so. I was uneasy, restless, and unpredictable. All of this because I was unhappy. I constantly wondered how long I could continue not being me.
I dedicated myself to imparting as many of the leadership practices and principles I had honed from my military career onto my direct reports. I helped my young and ineffective leaders grow quickly, my talented managers break through their final barriers, and created a culture that was second to none. While observing this progression made the situation more tenable, I knew my enthusiasm was finite.
So, now what? You can’t just quit because you don’t like something. Right? “You have to go along to get along” a mentor said to me. Ironically, this was the first time they ever said something that I had to seriously question. I didn’t want to go alonganymore. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I wanted to march to the beat of my own drum. I wanted to be in the driver’s seat of my own life.
At 38 years old, and against the advice of my financial advisor, I quit and didn’t look for another job. My wife, my daughter, my dog and I moved out of our enormous Texas home and moved into the basement of my in-laws’ house in rural Virginia. Just like Afghanistan, I knew conceptually that there were plenty of things I should be afraid of. This level of unpredictability could certainly yield many unpleasant outcomes. But once again, I wasn’t scared. I dismissed overthinking all the potential scenarios that could transpire as a byproduct of this decision.
Doing the right things for the right reasons creates a sense of confidence and can restore the faith to trust yourself again. This will be my journey. A journey into leaving it all, to have it all.