In my former life, I was an FBI Special Agent. You read that correctly- before starting my coaching business, I was an FBI Counterterrorism Agent. I investigated groups and people with ties to Al Qaeda, Hizballah, and Hamas.
And after 5 years of being a “G-Man,” I left it all behind.
You may be wondering why. I don’t blame you - most people react with concerned curiosity when I tell them that I left the FBI to go into coaching. Just the other day, a woman asked me why I "quit."
Believe me, I didn't quit.
For me, being an FBI Agent wasn’t what I was meant to do. In fact, after a few years on the job, each day that went by was more and more unfulfilling. Something just didn’t feel right.
Now don’t get me wrong- being an FBI Agent was fast paced, exciting, sometimes dangerous, sometimes stressful, and often challenging. When I reflect on my days as an Agent, it really was an incredible ride. I conducted high-speed surveillance operations, arrested bad guys (some of them girls), conducted search warrants, interviewed hundreds of people, and investigated crime scenes. Aside from the paperwork, it's pretty much everything you see in the movies.
Do I regret my time in the FBI? Absolutely not! I wouldn't be the person I am today had I not experienced all of that. While I wasn't exactly living my life's purpose, I learned a lot about the world and got to experience things of which most folks will never come close. No one can ever take that away from me.
So if you are in a job that isn't doing it for you, don't let that time be wasted. Or, if you are in college right now, don't worry about making the wrong choice!
(We'll get to that a bit later).
Back to my story.......So, I had every reason to be happy, right? The thing is - I wasn't. Deep down inside, in the depths of my being, I knew it wasn't what I was born to do.
As you might imagine, telling people what I did for a living raised a lot of eyebrows at cocktail parties - people were immediately fascinated when they found themselves in the presence of a living, breathing FBI Agent. But revealing my occupation to people outside of work became an increasingly tedious affair. It got to the point that whenever a conversation turned to the topic of work, I would sometimes tell people I sold carpet for a living. Folks aren't much fascinated by carpet, so the conversation quickly changed from work to something else.
It’s not that I didn’t want to talk about my job with new acquaintances. It’s just that I didn’t feel like my job defined me as a person. The last thing I wanted to do outside of work was, well, talk about work.
But that seemed weird to me. I would often find myself thinking, “Shouldn’t I be excited about what I do and want to share my enthusiasm about it with others? Shouldn’t I wake up excited to go to work? Shouldn’t I look forward to Mondays instead of dreading them?” These are all questions of which I didn’t have the answers.
So as I said, as time went by, each day felt more and more unsettling. Being an FBI Agent just didn’t feel like it was my calling. I was ashamed to admit that to people. So much of my life’s worth was tethered to being an FBI Agent, so admitting to the world that I was unfulfilled with the job was accompanied by a feeling of unease.
Simply put: I didn’t feel like I was living my life’s purpose. Even scarier- I didn’t know what my life’s purpose WAS. Gulp.
I had every reason to be happy with my job. It was exciting, highly revered, and the pay was decent (After 5 years on the job, I was making just over $125,000 a year- more than enough to keep the lights on). On top of that, as an FBI Agent working national security matters, I was helping keep my country safe from those who would wish to do us harm. But I had done that in my previous job, too, where I was a Naval Flight Officer- I conducted counter-drug missions in Central America, tracked terrorists over North Africa, and provided overland surveillance support to ground troops in Iraq. If serving my country was a prerequisite for being a good citizen, I’d say I paid my dues.
And it’s not that I couldn’t do the job of an FBI Agent- I actually did it quite well. In fact, on paper, I looked great. I received outstanding reviews. I could go on about that, but I’ll spare you the self congratulatory details. Trust me when I say that I wasn’t unhappy because I couldn’t perform.
But as each day went by, a little piece of my soul would evaporate with it. I knew that every passing day was one that I wouldn’t get back, and that gave me the blues. It made me a bit angry, too. I'd often lament, "I’m a smart guy- why can’t I figure this out?"
Things got worse before they got better. It got to the point where I was complaining so loudly to my wife about being unfulfilled with my job that she suggested I see a therapist.
I winced at her suggestion.
Was something w-r-o-n-g with me? Yes, I felt out of balance, but I didn’t feel like I had some sort of dysfunction. I agreed that something had to be done; I just didn’t think therapy or counseling was the solution for me.
But I gave in - I looked into therapy. After browsing through a number of therapist’s websites, I stumbled onto the world of coaching. Right from the beginning, the concept intrigued me - while therapy was all about taking someone from dysfunctional to functional, coaching was focused on taking someone from functional (where I was) to optimal (where I wanted to be). Without hesitation, I contacted a coach who seemed like a good fit, and we quickly got to work.
Not long into our coaching relationship, we got to work on figuring out WHO I was - something I had never really taken the time to do. Through all of my introspection and reflection with my coach, I learned that my career choices had been influenced by what I thought would make my family proud, in addition to earning the respect of my friends and strangers alike. Serving my country was very much important to me, but I knew that the challenge of earning the title of FBI Special Agent was very much a factor. It wasn’t 100% for me, which sounds selfish as I type this. I came to realize that if something isn’t 100% for you, you will never feel truly fulfilled.
And here is the first secret of being fulfilled in your career: If your career doesn't embrace your values, those things that you revere as most important in life, it is likely you won't be fulfilled.
This was my first "ah-ha" moment. I realized that a value like "justice" would have to be a prerequisite to be fully satisfied by a career in law enforcement. While I believe justice is important for a society to function properly, it wasn't something that was a 9 or a 10 on my list of values. Are you with me?
Many people think that they must prove their worth to the world in order to feel like they've accomplished something. We come down with a case of the “Hey, look what I achieved!” syndrome. Or, similarly, we may choose professions like law or accounting or medicine because we think that is what we should pursue – whether it’s because of family pressures or for financial security or because of anything else that is tied to external factors.
In the coaching world, there is a term called “limiting beliefs”- these are the things we believe about the world or ourselves that limit us in some way- my limiting belief was that “I’m not good enough.” So to counter that, I pursued type-A careers that would prove everybody wrong. But if a limiting belief is supposed to limit you- wasn’t my limiting belief actually serving me? Well, sort of. In one respect, I used it as a means to accomplish things, but it also prevented me from pursuing things that were FOR ME; pursuits that were grounded in my own values. Get it?
Maybe your limiting belief is similar to my “I’m not good enough,” but maybe it’s holding you back from leaving your job and pursuing something deep in your heart you know you were always wanted to do, but for some reason, your fear of failure is too much to overcome. Maybe your limiting belief is more nuanced than that, something like: “You can’t make a living as an artist” or “Women can’t become race car drivers” or “There’s no money in teaching” or “90% of new businesses fail” or “Liberal arts degrees are a waste of money” or “I’m too old to switch careers,” and so on.
These are the stories we make up to protect ourselves from getting hurt. If we take a chance and fail, the limiting belief affirms our belief. So in a way, limiting beliefs actually do serve us, but ultimately, they prevent us from becoming the people we ought to become. Are you with me?
On the subject of starting a small business, of course it is a risky endeavor. But if you believed in your ability to push through obstacles, persist in the face of adversity, adapt to changing circumstances, and resolve not to fail, then really, where is the risk?
Let’s get back to the subject of pursuing work that is for you and you alone. Now don’t get me wrong- just because you pursue a career that is 100% for you, it doesn’t mean you can’t help people or society or make the world a better place. In fact, I would argue that if it were 100% for you, you would assuredly be making the world a better place because you will pour your soul into your work. Do that, and everyone benefits.
But discovering who you are and what type of career embraces your values won't happen overnight. You have to reconnect with yourself.
You have to figure out what you’re good at and when you are at your best. You have to think about the times in your life when you’ve truly felt alive. You have to identify those things in your life which are most important - your values.
I love the book “Strengths Finder 2.0.” I’m also a big fan of “Do What You Are.” But if you want a more focused approach, consider giving a life coach a go. Your coach will be laser focused on helping you get to the core of who you are. After you discover that, finding a career that suits you is often the easy part.
So I did a LOT of brainstorming with my coach. I usually flinch at the concept of brainstorming, but this type of brainstorming was fun. My coach had me do an exercise called “100 things.” She told me to write down 100 things that I could ever want in my life.
Everything was fair game here- so I started by listing 25 possible careers. I didn’t hold back. If it seemed like it would be fun and fulfilling, no matter what “experience” or talent was required for the job, I wrote it down. I put down occupations that included college professor, radio host, standup comic, actor, counselor, writer, and golf professional. As tedious as this exercise seemed at first, I was beginning to see the forest for the trees. There was something to this.
Next, I wrote down my wish list for an ideal work environment. Because I found the work environment at the FBI highly distracting and chaotic, this was an especially enjoyable exercise for me. Little did I know, but I was slowly figuring out who I wanted to be and how I wanted to work.
After that, I listed 25 recreation/pleasure things that I wanted to have in my life or do at some point in the future. I dreamed big- but at the end of at all, none of the things I listed were so grandiose that I didn’t think they were possible. In all reality, they were possible. - I’d just never given myself the gift of taking the time to write them down before. I learned that when all of life’s encumbrances are removed, it’s amazing what you can allow yourself to dream.
For the last 25 of my wishes, I made it a miscellaneous list- Some of them included giving a TED Talk one day, taking a creative writing class, opening a charter school. While nothing seemed connected on any of my lists, at the end of it all, I was amazed at what I had discovered about who I was.
But because this report is about you and not me, I will save my life’s purpose for the end and tell you that there were many other exercises I did to discover my true calling in life, and how I came closer to discovering who I truly was.
Finding out what you are meant to do in life takes time and effort. If you think about it, it is one of the best investments you can make.
We’ve only scratched the surface here. But this report does serve as a launch pad for finding out why you are unfulfilled, discovering who you really are, and what your purpose is in life.
If you’ve done the 100 things exercise, here are some great things to then ask yourself:
*Who are you, and what do you want history to remember you for?
*What if you had all the money you would ever need- what would you get out of still get out bed for? [Going to the beach or watching television DOES NOT COUNT!]
*What are your values?
*When are you at your best?
*When do you feel “on” or “in the zone.”?
*What are your gifts and talents? What makes you different than most people?
*Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
You should answer the questions above for yourself. But I’ll say this about introversion and extroversion - this one was big for me.
Being an introvert, I get my energy by being alone with my thoughts, away from people and the distractions of life. On the flip side, I am drained after a couple of hours being around people and immersed in hectic environments. Introverts are usually content to let you do most of the talking. It’s not that we’re shy; it’s just that most of us are internal processers, as opposed to external processors.
Conversely, extroverts are energized through their interactions with other people. They are usually external processors, and usually do a lot of talking. They become drained when they spend large amounts of time by themselves without any human interaction.
Embracing my introversion was a big factor in determining my new career. If your work environment isn’t in alignment with your introversion/extroversion, this could serve as a basis of frustration for you. Why is this so important?
Consider this- if being an introvert causes you to make independence and privacy a top priority, you will be in considerable state of conflict if you are in a profession that requires you to be in team situations and highly collaborative situations. These things are often coupled with constant interruption. Likewise, if you thrive on a group dynamic and like being around people, you will feel frustrated in a job where you are forced to be frequently on your own.
Life is short. At times it may seem long, but trust me, it goes by fast. Don’t be the old man in the rocking chair who looks back on his life with regret.
Warren Buffett, often referred to as the “Oracle of Omaha,” once said:
“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on a resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?”
And as Tim Ferriss says, you do not have to resign yourself to the “deferred life plan.” You can choose to be happy now.
I decided to make coaching my career. I know this may be a bit of a paradox, but you see, I am at my best when I am helping people realize all of the gifts they are able to offer this world. I am a connector and I relate well with people one-on-one. I am “on” when I am helping people cut through all the B.S. and really get to the heart of what is really going on. I pull those things out of people. I help people see the possibilities in life.
MY LIFE’S PURPOSE: TO HEAR, SEE, FEEL AND KNOW THAT I EXIST TO EMBODY POSSIBILITY, HOPE AND OPTIMIZATION, TO ENJOY DEEP CONNECTIONS WITH OTHERS AND HELP BRING OUT THEIR BEST, AND TO CREATE A BETTER WORLD FOR MYSELF AND OTHERS.
You should notice that I don't define myself through my profession. I embody my life's purpose in all I do. If my life's purpose was to be a life coach, then what meaning would my life have outside of work? So I embody my life's purpose in ALL I do.
I want you to be able to express your life's purpose in everything YOU do - to live your life to it's full potential.
And what would happen if I were to lose my voice? Or if no one ever hired me again? Does that mean that my life would have no meaning? Absolutely not! So because I don't define my life's purpose through my career, I can live my purpose in all facets of life - in conjunction with my profession.
On the subject of career, I am now expressing my purpose through my career. I specialize in working young professionals ages 25-40 who feel trapped in careers that aren't serving them and that they no longer find fulfilling. I can help you reinvent yourself and, if necessary, discover your life purpose - so you can ultimately create a career (and life) that fulfills you.
Some of the people I coach go on to become entrepreneurs and small business owners. Some switch sectors entirely, but continue on as employees of companies both large and small. It's all about what makes the most sense for them.
Coaching is often confused with consulting and therapy - consultants usually have an agenda and give their clients tools and answers to help them achieve their goals. Coaching is quite different. As a coach, I create a safe environment where we figure out what you want, why you want it, and then we work together to implement a plan to achieve your goal. In this sense, the answers come from you, not me.
Finally, we don't dwell on the past like therapy typically does. We focus on taking you from "functional" to "optimal" so you can get the most out of life.
If you are ready to take action and suck out all the marrow of life, contact me for a 45-minute consultation. If you are frustrated and unfulfilled with your current job, lets work together to discover your calling in life. I can help you reinvent yourself and if necessary, help you discover your life’s purpose. We will then design a plan and take ACTION to ultimately create a career and life of fulfillment.
If you think this might be for you, I challenge you to take the first step in becoming the person you were always meant to be. And the best part is, 90% of my coaching is done over the phone. So if you have a phone, I can be your coach.
I hope that I have given you some actionable ideas to think about as you move forward.
Here's to a life of fulfillment and meaning.