Successful, Yet Unhappy and Bored
Q: I am a national sales manager of a
medium-sized company. I rose from the ranks, overcoming every
obstacle to attain my success. Yet my success is empty. I make a
wonderful salary, am respected by my peers, and enjoy a fine
reputation in my industry. My next step would be to try to become
president of the company or a major officer. This is something I
definitely don't want to do. I am 35 years old and absolutely bored.
Close friends and family members laugh, and they say they wish they
had my problems. What mountains are left for me?
A: It sounds as though you enjoy
climbing the mountain a lot more than the view from the top.
Frankly, that's not unusual. Many people experience a sense of “Is
this all there is?” once they've accomplished what they set out to
do. Your ennui is a signal that you need to find another challenge.
Begin by pinpointing exactly why your
career was exciting in the past. Is it because you overcame
incredible odds? Produced order from chaos? Introduced a new product
line? Penetrated a new market? Built a winning team? If you can
determine the basis for your motivation, you're more likely to
reproduce a situation where you can use it again.
Give your company the first shot at your
new sense of purpose. Propose a stimulating project that carries
only a small amount of financial risk. Your enthusiasm (backed by
your reputation and track record) may prove contagious with higher
If your organization doesn't share your
excitement after several months of gentle persuasion, look to your
industry. No doubt many of your company's competitors would be
interested to hear your ideas.
My guess is that you feel stale when you
see no new challenges on the horizon. If you don't want to take your
ideas across the street, you have two other alternatives:
- Continue to find new projects as
a sales manager.
- Start your own company and keep
it relatively small and close to your customers.
By staying put, you're likely to slip
into the same malaise that is common among managers who have
forgotten that work can be more than just a way to fill time and