Two years ago, I was privileged to meet a British driver in London named Nate.
During the time he picked me up at the London Heathrow airport and the 1 hour, 15 minute ride to my company’s headquarters at the time, he altered my view on work and life forever.
Fit and dressed in a black suit, Nate struck me immediately with his incredible politeness and professionalism (okay, and his accent!).
I was puzzled, because Nate was a highly intelligent intellectual, probably in his early 60′s, and here he was working a car service in London for a living.
Why wasn’t he working a “better” job, I wondered?
Not trying to pass judgement (oops, too late), I struck up conversation to understand him better.
Me: “So, how long have you been driving?”
Nate: (Proudly lighting up) “Oh, about 25 years!”
Me: “25 years!? No kidding! Good for you!”
I paused and let that sink in.
He continued, proclaiming that he absolutely loved his job, that it never got boring because he always had different customers to drive, and that he was fortunate to drive in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (London).
I instantly liked him. What a refreshing perspective on cab driving!
Me: “Do you have a family?”
Nate: “Oh, yes. I’ve got a wife and two kids.”
My curiosity got the better of me (it always does), and I kept asking questions, determined to understand Nate more, and how he got to be a 25-year veteran of driving.
Nate willingly participated in my “interview,” and told me that prior to this job, he finished up his studies in mechanical engineering, and landed a killer job with a reputable company.
Nate’s Story & Path
He quickly established rapport, and was promoted to the head of the engineering department.
When his company landed an opportunity to design and build a bridge in town, Nate was naturally in charge of the project. It was a great opportunity, and awarded him respect, recognition and prestige.
As the project got underway, it turned out to be a much larger scope than they had imagined. Nate was on site during the day and several nights a week, making sure things went smooth.
His time commitment and stress got worse.
Spending his nights there for months on end, he worked diligently to get the bridge project complete.
Not only was he hugely stressed at work and not sleeping much, he had major stress at home from the big wedge his job drove between he and his family.
His health started to decline, and without going into too much detail, Nate said that he FINALLY quit. In his opinion, though, he should have quit two years before that….
At this point, his tone went from very upbeat to nostalgic, with a little regret and sadness mixed in. He bounced back quickly, though, not showing too much vulnerability, displaying his resilient, radiant attitude and passion for life.
After leaving his company, Nate found odd jobs here and there, and dabbled in owning his own small business. It didn’t quite work out, so he continued searching for something to provide for his family.
He came across an ad in the paper, calling for a professional driver with no prior experience.
Sparking his interest, he called and got the job.
And 25 years later, he’s still loving it.
No, he doesn’t have the sexiest job in the world, but he’s happy, healthy, drives in one of the best cities in the world, gets to spend time with his family, and doesn’t have his soul sucked into the stress of working a corporate job.
At the time I met Nate, I was working a corporate job with a company I loved, but was downright stressed out, working 60+ hours each week (including weekends), and unhappy in my position.
On top of that, I had just moved to Europe, was planning a wedding, and came down with gastritis (inflammation of the stomach).
Talk about a freak-out of changes affecting my health (that’s another story, another day).
Let’s also add my chronic perfectionism and never-ending quest to better myself, my position… forever and ever.
When was I going to allow myself to be happy??
A Life Changer: Redefining Success
Needless to say, whether fate or not, this conversation struck a chord in me, stuck with me, and inspired me.
It never occurred to me that my job could be toxic to my health. And my relationships.
It never occurred to me that there were intelligent, happy individuals working “ordinary” jobs with passion.
The seed was planted, and months later, I, too, had enough and bittersweetingly (new Wikipedia word!?) left my company.
Have I looked back? Perhaps.
For the most part, though, not so much.
I’ve been able to travel Europe, bond with my new hubby, spend more time with family and friends than I ever could have imagined, work on developing my passions, manage my stress, and reclaim my health.
This totally turned my world upside down, and redefined my definition of “success.”
What Is Success, Anyway?
I once heard it defined as the total amount of sacrifices en route to an achievement.
Isn’t that so true? If “success” involves sacrificing health, well-being, relationships, and happiness, is it really success?
As we head into 2013, I’m not advocating that you necessarily quit your job, but that you pursue what is healthy and meaningful in your life, and that you do it with PASSION.
Because if all you have to show for it are precious sacrifices, surely you will look back and regret those intangibles you missed out on; those things that truly define a full life.
Here’s to a New Year and to redefining success in your life!
P.S. And here’s to never underestimating the wisdom of cab drivers!