The EC: Existential Confusion or Easy Coasting?

I thought the EC was supposed to be stress-free. I thought it would be a walk in the park after the trials and tribulations of last year. I was prepared for an interesting, exciting and (okay, I’ll admit it) easy year.

No, no, no. That’s not at all how it’s turning out. I forgot to add one key dimension to the stress equation: figuring out what to do with my life. And I don’t just mean the job hunt.

When I decided to apply to business school, I had a general idea of what I wanted to do afterwards (as I stated so convincingly in my application).

I had always had the job of CEO burning like a light in the distance, the be-all-end-all goal to attain. I didn’t think about if I’d like being a CEO or even if I’d be good at it. I’d just been so achievement-oriented, I assumed that leading my own company would be the culmination and reward of all my hard work. The top. To eventually achieve that goal, I wanted to get a job in strategy or brand management after school, work my way up, maybe start my own company and then run it.

Well, let me tell you, that whole plan now swims with the fishies.

What happened? I’ve taken the blinders off. I’ve altered the tunnel vision that allowed me to see only my goal in front of me and just go, go, go. I’ve paused to check out the surrounding environments. I’ve decided to see what else is out there. I’ve tried to think about a world in which I didn’t have to manage an organization to feel accomplished. And honestly, it looks a lot better.

I won’t go into my underlying motivations for achievement. Any amateur psychologist could deduce that the fact that both my dad and grandfather founded and were CEOs of very successful businesses probably has something to do with it. But I will tell you that I never for a second doubted my ultimate ambitions. Yes, I waffled on the best way to eventually get there, but my goal was laid in front of me like the gold Oscar statuette gleaming on the podium.

No longer. I’ve started to analyze what I really want out of life. And boy, is that a scary proposition. What do I want to do for the rest of my life?

How on earth should I know? I can’t even decide whether to go to the Priscilla Ball this year! This is a much bigger question than which jobs to pluck off the very sparse vine of opportunity for next year. This is more philosophical. What does it all mean, what ultimately makes me happy, how do I want to live my life and where does my career fit into that.

No one told me this would be a required part of the curriculum this year. I don’t have time for existential dilemmas; I have to read my cases for goodness sake! There’s TGIF to attend!

I sure don’t have any answers. But I guess I’m glad I’m asking the questions now instead of twenty years down the road, having perhaps achieved my CEO goal and realizing I didn’t accomplish what I really wanted to. Because even in my couple weeks of intense self-reflection, my desires have become much more clear to me (although still hazy) and they have absolutely nothing to do with leading an organization. (Even my results on the Career Leader self-assessment tool have changed drastically since May 2001!)

So on we go. ECs. Less school work? Maybe. Fewer agonizing life decisions? Not a chance. To my classmates in the search for the right career, I say go forth and conquer. As for me? I’ll just keep asking the questions. Eventually I’ll arrive at the answers.