“The life, which is unexamined, is not worth living”. A famous line from Socrates, the true wisdom of which was only driven home to me by a recent subject I completed as part of my executive MBA. The knowledge I have gained at business school has been more profound than learning how to read balance sheets or write marketing plans at work. Let me tell you why…
I recently left my employer after 10 years. Apart from the sheer time I’d spent there, I had plenty of other ‘strings attached’ to this firm. I was in an executive management position, received regular and out-of-cycle pay increases and bonuses, and always had opportunities for growth and development.
But was I content doing what I was doing? No, not really. But I had convinced myself that the ultra-long hours and constant fire fighting were normal parts of the job. I used any twinges of stress to drive myself harder. I felt that my daily hurdles were important in propelling me to more senior roles, better remuneration and ultimately, a more enjoyable life.
I would come home every day, exhausted, but with a sense of satisfaction that I had survived another day at work. I lived by the mantra “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
My MBA eureka moment
About 18 months ago, while still at my old employer, I started my postgraduate studies. Amid the various layers of learning that an MBA offers, it was the “managing people” subject that changed the destiny of my career path.
As clichéd as it sounds, I had something close to an epiphany sitting in class one day and learning about why any job, project or task can feel much more challenging when your personal values are not aligned with those of your manager and the organisation you work for. It was suddenly clear that I was in a role and company which didn’t match my values.
That’s it, I quit
Earlier this year, with a huge leap of faith, I left my job and took a short-term break before starting my next role.
So what is the moral of my experience? Is it the value of furthering your education? No, not really. While my studies certainly helped in my case, I would advise anybody that is experiencing challenges in their job to take time to think about what your true personal values are.
Most of us work in an incredibly fast-paced environment and have little time to reflect on what’s going on. We forget who we are and what we truly believe in. In getting re-orientated with my personal values, I understood that I was not growing or learning in my job, even though I had previously felt I was. It was not in a bad organisation, it was just not right for me.
The author worked for a financial institution in Asia Pacific.