Don’t Be An Unhappy Success

I was on the path to unhappy success.  I thought about this the other day when I had a career counseling session with a thirty something New Haven business executive who I’ll call “Ivonne”.  I normally do not self-reference during meetings.  But Ivonne had read my background and thought it was important to hear my story so that she would a role model she could follow. 

Like me in my days as a Washington DC attorney, Ivonne had the trappings of external success but was feeling unfulfilled. In my case, I could have continued billing many hours, traveling too much, and feeling the stress of law firm pressure.  I wouldn’t have been as good a father, husband, son, or friend.  I could have continued doing work that was intellectually interesting but not of any emotional interest.  I likely would have been unhappy or at least definitely less happy than I am today.  But I would have been viewed as a success. 

Ivonne laughed when I finished and in a twist of the Jerry McGuire line said “you had me at I wouldn’t have been as good a father”.  She continued: “I want to be as good a mother and wife as possible. But I need to make money…” 

Of course! Being a provider for children is important.  But we talked about what she could do without in order to be a good mother, namely the prestige of her job and, fortunately, in her case, a salary that was about 30% lower.  

We got to work to ensure that 2017 brings career and life happiness for Ivonne and for you.