Come next year on 3 January, I would have clocked three years into my current company. Unknown to many, this would be my longest ever unbroken stint at any organisation (apart from the one I started).
For most of you out there, staying at one company for many years is a given. But for me when I graduated, “jumping ship” (switching companies) was something of a norm, a necessary rite of passage in order to get a significant pay raise or moving up the corporate ladder.
Indeed, my perceptions towards career progression and life overall in general had changed dramatically over the last 17 years. I had moved (or evolved) from being a relatively young desktop grunt, crunching numbers and producing eye-catching powerpoint presentations at breakneck speed, into a mid-senior management role, where I am called upon to show up at meetings either because I am a subject matter expert in a particular area, or simply because the ratio of grey hairs to black hairs on my head is higher than average (I like to think that it is due to the former).
They say you can only appreciate most of the learnings in life once you have clocked sufficient mileage. I’ve had my share of experiences, both the good ones and the bad ones. I have pulled all-nighters at work, got promoted at work, take part in at least one billion-dollar transaction, sat and moderated a number of interesting M&A negotiations, seen corporate re-organisations resulting in teams being shuttered, getting laid off, laying people off, watching people get laid off, etc. I'm not particularly proud of some of the things I've done, including sacrificing a lot of my personal time for work, but for good or for bad, it has made me the person I am today.
When I was younger in my career, I had looked towards those who were older (presumably have clocked more mileage than me) for a professional role model - both the positive and negative examples. I learned that there isn’t one perfect epitome of a successful person.
I have had colleagues who leave the office promptly at 6pm, pulling off a sustainable work-life balance (defined here as getting off work on time). And then there are also those who are religiously back at the office every weekends regardless of family.
I have had seniors who were extremely competent in execution but suck terribly at management. Some were nice people but couldn’t execute. Some use looks to get by. Some put in the gruelling hours to prove their worth.
Each of their characteristics were unique in a homogeneous and somewhat brutal environment, which makes understanding them both interesting and complex at the same time. And people being complex creatures, are what makes them interesting. But then again, at the end of the day, who decides if they should be deemed successful?
As I grew older, I realised that these hallmarks in which we define how well we do in life increasingly deviates from the professional workplace and quantifying the material possessions. But to say this assumes that we have been lucky to be able to earn well - well enough to get by in life comfortably, keeping the lights on, and putting food on the table.
There are many other aspects that we consistently take for granted such as a happy family, your parents, your siblings, kids, friends you can rely on, good health, and for some, the ability to travel overseas at whim, and perhaps quite importantly, the peace of mind.
No amount of money can buy any of these.
But life will occasionally throw you a wrench to test how far you would stray from the path to give up on any of these, and if you had subconsciously forgotten the most important things around you.
You can listen to anyone's experience and draw conclusions on how you should live your life and solve your problems. But at the end of the day, in reality, everyone’s position is different, and you bear the consequences of the decisions you make solely by yourself.
Because what works for one person may not work for another.
Many of life’s lessons and takeaways don’t need to be drawn from the advice and anecdotes of other people. It just comes from a position of inner peace and self-realisation.