It’s been 2 months since I’ve moved back to D.C. from San Francisco and I wanted to reflect on what I have learned.
I have lived in the D.C. area my entire life. I decided to move from D.C. to San Francisco in June 2015 because I was intrigued at the tech mecca’s new ways of doing things in HR and wanted to learn how to foster better company cultures & happier people in the workplace.
The experiences I’ve had, especially in the past few years, served as stepping stones to start CultivatePeople, a total rewards consulting firm to help companies and people thrive.
Money doesn’t bring happiness
When I was growing up, my parents owned a small business in the heart of Washington, D.C.
Unfortunately, after more than 15 years of doing business, due to larger businesses popping up, their business and many other small “mom and pop” businesses couldn’t flourish and were forced to shut down.
Ever since then, I worked my ass off. I’ve had a job since I was 15 and 9 months old (when I could start driving). In college, I didn’t make any friends because I went straight to work from class (lather, rinse, repeat). I just wanted to finish school to “check the box off” so I could go climb the corporate ladder.
After graduating, I continued to be in “check off the box” mode. I climbed the proverbial corporate ladder and was eventually promoted to Senior Director level within an organization. But, that’s when I paused and realized, I wasn’t fulfilled. It wasn’t what I had imagined it to be. The reward for good work seemed to be just more work (and more stressful work).
I no longer felt like I was growing and thriving, or playing to my strengths. I felt like a number. It was time for me to go explore what made me feel more alive.
So, I decided to sell or give away 75% of my shit, took a pay cut, and moved across the country, where I didn’t know anyone. It was scary, but the best experience I have ever had.
I discovered what made me feel most alive.
What makes me feel most alive
I figured out what my strengths were, and realized I don’t have to be successful by copying other successful people. And that I can define my own “success” and utilize my strengths to make my career and life more fulfilling.
I realized I thrive in an environment where I’m able to look at the challenges and issues and be encouraged to think outside the box to solve them. I was bringing not only solutions to the table but encouraged to identify problems. Best practice is just what every other company does. I worked at a place where I was supported to implement a ‘purple cow‘ – how cool is that!
I realize now, I can do work that doesn’t even make it feel like work. Not only that, but I also learned to chill the fug out (stop being so serious and intense!). And to be in the present and experience shit…’cause life is about experiences.
Chill the f*ck out and experience shit
In SF I became more fluffy. I did more “woo woo” and “crunchy” things like seeing a psychic, participating in a Shaman circle to find my spiritual animal (I know you east coast friends are thinking wtf :-)), got more into meditation and got a life coach. I worked out more and made time for experiences and meeting people to learn from them. In turn, I just became a sponge.
People in SF brought me out of my shell, liked me for my quirks, made me enjoy life more, gave me great advice (personal and career-related), and introduced me to others that have become amazing friends and clients.
I weeded out people who have no value or were “cancerous” to my soul. I realized I don’t have to work with that jerk client if I don’t want to, nor make time for that person that doesn’t respect me or my time. Working at a company where the motto was “we don’t hire assholes”, I saw how it actually helped create an awesome company culture. Working with genuinely kind people was amazing.
Learned what not to do
I used to have a boss who was the most critical and abrasive person I’ve ever known. Every day, he’d pick apart my work and basically tell his employees we weren’t good enough. He made people cry…daily. His famous words to his employees after tearing them apart was, “This isn’t personal, it’s just business”.
On my last day, I went into his office to resign (full of various emotions), and I said to him, “This isn’t business, it’s personal.”
I don’t regret working for him though, because I learned what not to do as a good leader. I’ve gained good experience from it. I also learned to not be on the grind all the time, but to take time to relax and be present. For example, now, I’m enjoying the process involved in growing my business…and not worried about checking a box.
Everything happens for a reason
Not everything was rainbows and butterflies in SF, but each experience helped me grow.
A colleague of mine (and also my first friend in SF who got me into SoulCycle), unfortunately, passed away. It was a reminder that I need to let those around me who I value know that I care, and life can be short, so make it fuggin’ good.
I learned and experienced how to live the life that I’ve imagined. I can now describe what it feels like to feel alive…even physically.
I worked for the best company I’ve ever worked for, I met some of the brightest and most caring people I’ve ever met and worked with an awesome team who I laughed with every day.
So, why did I leave San Francisco?
It just felt like the right time to do what I’ve always wanted to do – start my own business, and also my gut said I needed to be back to D.C.
I can’t wait to see what’s to come. I’ll let my gut and intuition guide me; it hasn’t failed me yet.
Thank you to those special people in my life who have supported me and believed in me, especially over the past couple years.