“Be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” ~ Judy Garland
The year 2001 was a very memorable year for all Americans but it was especially eventful for me…
I dared to change my life big time! It all seemed to happen simultaneously. I decided, after much pain and deliberation, to separate from my husband of many years. I moved out of the house that I loved and rented a small apartment near my job in NYC. Then, I applied and got accepted to five business schools, and ultimately chose to study business administration at one of the best business schools in the country! But that’s not all: I finally decided to quit my cushy corporate job and stand on my own. Just thinking about all these changes that I made within five months during the spring of 2001 makes my head spin, but at the time I was just following my gut instinct for better or worse… Below, I share with you a brief story of my journey away from corporate America and toward becoming a rebel-preneur.
How do you feel about having a J.O.B.? If you ask me, I don’t think that having a Job is wrong or demeaning. You must pay the bills and act responsibly with your financial decisions. However, having a corporate job was not the best option for me. I used to work for major Wall Street companies in NYC for a very long time. I was quickly advancing in my corporate career – changing my positions from a software developer to a team leader, to a project manager and a vice president. I was also changing companies, had a comfortable six-figure salary, and worked on different projects. Yet, I didn’t feel content. Since my background is in science, I have a very “structured”, “if… then…” way of thinking. That was the reason why everybody (family, friends, colleagues) was sure that I was “in a right place at the right time” because I was good at what I did. They even managed to convince me of that because I didn’t have a clear and assertive answer to a simple question “Why? Why do you want to change your life?”…
Do you know what happens when you don’t have your own, clearly defined answer to a very simple yet essential question : “Why” ? You don’t live an authentic life! You often make decisions based on Fear, Need, and Obligation as opposed to Love, Courage, and Purpose. Your answer to “WHY” could be very revealing once you decide to be honest with yourself… In fact, it can be so revealing that most people prefer not to question their life decisions and choices because it may complicate matter. And our lives have enough complications already… It’s easier to follow “the crowd” than to carve your own Unique Path.
Like most women, I had so many “should”s and “have to”s to consider. When I had a thought that I must change something because “it’s just not working for me”, I would immediately self-sabotage with my logical reasoning – “you would jeopardize your family’s financial stability, challenge your daughter’s future, your husband hopes, your boss’s expectations”, etc. I didn’t realize at that time that I was constantly running this self-sabotaging “yes, but…” dialog in my head that became a “catch 22”. I was functioning well on the surface (at least I hoped so) but inside I was simply surviving – taking care of errands, my job and family demands. I was also scared of changes and the uncertainties that the change usually entails. I was unclear about what I could do to feel better, to become excited about my life again. It was as if Fear of Change, Anxiety about Uncertainty that may follow the change, and the Obligation to comfort and serve others were choking my life.
Needless to say, my physical health started to decline as well since our body is inextricably connected to our mind and emotions. It just so happened that one day I fainted and was unconscious for some time. It happened again a couple more times. After spending some time in the hospital where doctors were trying to figure out whether I had a brain tumor or something, my entire existence was shaken to the core. I realized that my life might be much shorter than I could ever imagine… I wanted to feel “alive” again – feel love and be loved, enjoy my work and feel at peace with myself.
Suddenly, the notion of Self-Love – respect for my own needs, physical and emotional health – came into focus. I realized that I must Honor my intuition (my inner voice, gut instinct, female intuition – whatever you like to call it), Respect my own needs as a woman, and Trust the wisdom of life itself. I realized that sometimes Less is More, that I am not defined but what I do, that climbing the corporate ladder was not “my cup of tea”. I was craving to simply be Me and live an authentic life. Can you relate?
I started walking or jogging alone every morning, meditating and practicing yoga. I Decided to Change my Life in spite of my fear and anxiety, in spite of other people opinions, in spite of “comfortable and familiar” life I had thus far. Although I was an employee all my life, I’ve always secretly wanted to be an entrepreneur. While still working for corporations, I had few attempts to form business partnerships but I was not ready and it didn’t come to pass. I was lacking Confidence, Clarity, and Self-Reliance.
Right or wrong, I felt that I needed formal business education in order to have credentials as a bbusinesswoman I finally decided to gradually transition to self-employment – study business, work part-time, search for my niche. I started saving more and researching business opportunities and business schools. But timing was also important to me – I had a teenager at home and didn’t want to “rock her world” before she headed to college, so I waited to make major changes until my daughter left the house for college. I believe that it’s important to be smart about the timing for all actions. Patience is often helpful and pays off in the end. What do you think?
I must say, however, that once I Decided to Act, I started to feel more hopeful, more positive and energized. I was in my early forties at that time but going back to school didn’t scare me one bit. Leaving my marriage was harder than anything else but having my Why as clear and bold as possible helped overcome doubts and fears. As I mentioned above, I attempted to arrange a part-time work at my corporate job while I was going to school, however it didn’t work out. Part-time arrangements are not common with Fortune 100 companies. This time period was very challenging for me financially but I was resolute. I had to finance my way through the graduate school and lived off my savings. Scary? Of course. Doable? Absolutely! One of the keys here is having a strong Why – your reason for changing your life, your deep rooted conviction. Knowing your Why is like having a compass while going through the wild forest – it helps to get through.
While going through my studies at the ivy league business school, I took time to re-assess my Why and my priorities. It became more and more clear to me that although going back to corporate America would be easier with this prestigious MBA degree, it was not what I wanted to do with my life. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, be my own boss; Be Free to decide “When, Where, and What” I want to do; Have a Freedom to work on the projects that are aligned with my values and interests. I admit – I am a Freedom Fun-atic. Thus, after the graduation I had to make yet another decision – to get back to a “comfortable” and familiar corporate career or “bite the bullet” and follow my dream of becoming an entrepreneur… I chose not to come back. Within a few months I opened a service company in the real estate field.
Although there were many challenges – with finances, employees, systems, and protocols – there were many learning opportunities as well. It took me several years to establish it at the level that I felt comfortable with and now I do have the Freedom to decide “When, Where, and What”. Was it easy? Not really. Was it worth the efforts and sacrifices? You bet! During my personal and business building journey, I met some amazing people, had “real life” business education and became much more patient, flexible, and confident. You really don’t know what you are capable of until you are put in a situation when you must decide what is really important to you and what you are willing to do and face for your values. I must also say that being deeply grounded in spiritual principals helps me to navigate through occasional “deep waters”, which every rebel-preneur goes through from time-to-time.
In fact, now, after several personal transformations – in my health, personal life, and, of course career, I decided to share with other women the insights and revelations that helped me live an authentic life. I used to be very private and even shy about my successes. Not anymore! Because I am passionate and truly inspired to guide, support, and empower other women to feel “worthy”, loved, confident, and capable. I want to help you Celebrate your Uniqueness, Unlock your Authentic Talents, Believe in your own Power and Abilities, and Follow your Distinctive Path to a Life filled with Love, Joy, and Peace. Once you feel that way, your business, your finances, and personal dreams and goals will all fall in place. As for my goals, I continue on my Path of Personal Transformation because I like to Lead from inside out and believe in Heart-to-Heart Connections.
“A nod, a bow, and a tip of the lid to the person who coulda and shoulda and did!” ~ Robert Brault
To Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness,
Millen is a Wealth architect and Financial Independence Coach, entrepreneur, and a bestselling author. Being a Possibilities' Catalyst, she uses her intuition, business, and investment expertise to support entrepreneurial women (like you) who want to master their money, live their purpose achieve financial prosperity and freedom. With her physics and business education, corporate and entrepreneurial experience, money management know-how, mindfulness practices and transformational coaching skills, Millen has a unique ability to guide and support clients in achieving extraordinary success in their lives.