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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 management.

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:

  1. Continue to find new projects as a sales manager.
  2. 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 make money.


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