Have you seen actor and comedian Jim Carrey’s recent commencement address? It was very inspiring. Jim tells a story about his father who like Jim, was gifted with the ability to make others laugh. But the difference between them was that his father didn’t have the courage to pursue his dream as a professional comedian. Instead, he chose to take what he considered a safe job as an accountant. And when Jim was just an eleven-year-old boy, his father lost his safe job, and that was a devastating blow to his father.
In his commencement address, Jim then draws the lesson from his father’s experience that “you can fail at what you don’t want to do, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
I agree Jim.
I spent the most recent eleven years of my life in the safe job of running my family’s office supplies business in the Imperial Valley. In many ways I really enjoyed it. I held the prestigious position of CEO of the business. I had a nice office, an assistant, and a team of employees whom I enjoyed working with. And I got a lot of joy out of leading a company whose mission it was to make its customers happy.
But there was a downside for me. The traditional office supplies industry was an industry on the decline as new technologies were rapidly rendering many of our core products obsolete. While it was possible to continue to make a profit in the industry, the struggle to do so as a small, independent dealer made me feel as if I were pushing a huge boulder uphill day in and day out. Furthermore, I wasn’t even personally that interested in the products that we sold.
In July 2013 I had made a decision to get healthy. Over the next twelve months I lost 113 pounds! I was very proud of that achievement. And with that weight loss came the nagging – and unanticipated — feeling that I wasn’t pursuing the right career for myself. I knew deep down that what I really wanted to do was to help other business professionals live more balanced, fulfilled lives, just as I had learned to do after many years of struggle. As a result, in July 2014 I made the difficult decision to retire from my position as CEO of my company and take a new career path as a coach for the optimal health company Take Shape for Life.
This was a difficult decision because I had based my whole professional identity over the past eleven years on being the face of my office supplies business. Furthermore, I didn’t have any sort of nest egg to fall back on. It would be sink or swim for my family and for me. But I felt in my heart that I had to follow a career path that I was passionate about. I could no longer remain in my comfort zone, my safe job. Life is much too short to settle for a career that doesn’t inspire you to wake up each morning with enthusiasm. Or to repeat the lesson Jim Carrey learned from his father’s experience, “You can fail at what you don’t want to do so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”