Updated: Dec 20, 2019
A few years ago, I sold my startup.
At first, there was a huge sense of relief and excitement. But quite quickly this turned into fear and doubt. I realized my entire life, I identified myself as my job or my title. I believe many of us do this. In events and conferences introducing myself was easy – I was “Ilana the VP of…”, “Ilana the founder & CEO”. Now I was just Ilana. If the question of ‘What do you do’ came up, I would cringe. What should I say? That I have absolutely no clue where I am heading? Then, to make this, even more, confusing a few amazing job opportunities did come. One in big venture capital and one as an executive in a huge public company. A few years prior, I would have jumped on these opportunities without blinking. Society expected me to jump on them. Everyone I talked to thought I just must. As I was seriously considering these opportunities, I realized that instead of feeling the excitement I felt depressed. In the venture capital firm, as they told me, each partner would be investing in 1-2 companies a year. That’s it. All the rest of the time you say 'no' to hundreds of amazing founders. The venture will expect me to stay around 10+ years so … this is the last decision of my career. It suddenly felt like a huge weight keeping me underwater not letting me breathe. I wanted to get so much more done! I want much more impact than that! The executive role in the public company meant that I will go back to being on the plane almost every week. As I heard that, I looked at my kids: This was the first time I was really with them after years. No planes, No early morning calls and No long nights. I finally got my life back; do I really want to go back to see them only on weekends? The truth was that I simply didn’t want that. I was ashamed of my shift in priorities. As someone who was always a workaholic, even admitting to the need for work-life balance seemed like a weakness. Giving up on a dream-job for balance sounded completely irrational. But the truth is, that our life has phases. Priorities shift: Sometimes all you want out of your career is a good salary. Sometimes its growth: opportunities, responsibility, reputation, title. Sometimes its impact: the feeling that you move the needle – whether it's in your company, society or the world. And… sometimes its balance: you need more time with your kids, family, health, travel, hobbies, etc. No job, unfortunately, will give you all four! Each job will give you two of these. So, which are the must-haves for you today and in the next year or two? For me, for the first time in forever – it was Impact & Balance. Only when I admitted this priority shift to myself, I could see that taking on these other opportunities is simply not a fit. It wouldn’t make me happy. So as much as everyone expects me to go for it, I’ll need to simply ignore them and listen to my own voice. If Impact & Balance is how I define success for myself in the next couple of years – this should be my focus. I am so glad I did!! There isn’t a day that passes that I am not grateful for this decision. When you stay loyal to your must-haves, this is when you become the best version of yourself and will be the most empowering for you. What are YOUR two Must-Haves? Let me know in the comments!
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