Career “Success” and Your Lonely Victory Party

Aaron McHugh

When my friend turned thirty, he decided to interview older men about their life experiences, regrets and life-lessons garnered during the decade of the thirties. His hunch was that he might possibly avoid some of their mistakes and reorient his life’s compass towards the right stuff.

“What is the One Thing you wish you knew when you were thirty years old?”

He explored this question with a college professor, his grandfather, personal acquaintances, and business titans, men who owned oil rigs and men who lived in humble settings.

Each man had a different tale of health, finances, career and choices. When it came to the topic of relationships with spouses and children, each man told one of two high-stakes gambling stories. Either they risked everything and bet exclusively on their career or as their career unfolded they played their hands wisely and simultaneously choose the people they loved.

The reverberated echo of advice for those who bet on their careers and underinvested in their families, “it wasn’t worth it”.

It’s difficult to maintain intimacy with the people you love when they are consistently prioritized to second place. They know when they aren’t being chosen first. I’ve witnessed a number of career “success” parties where the host is being celebrated for smashing it, crushing it, banking it, and usually depositing a big check.

Most of those victory parties were pretty lonely affairs when you got past the cocktails and big thank you speeches. There was always a beautiful wife and children, but in the edges of her smile were a thousand stories of second place.

I’m motivated to choose the narrow road of betting on my family first and let the cards fall, as they will on my “success”. I’m not sure what the outcome will be, my career may not reach its independent potential.

I’d rather risk betting on love and increase my chances of having a small kick-ass victory party with the people I love.

Read Forbes article about former Charlie Scharf CEO of Visa’s story of stepping down to change his bet on success. “My decision is entirely personal,” Scharf said on a call with investors, noting that he and his wife have “worked hard to spend time with our daughters.”

I’d love to attend Charlie’s career success party and see the smiles of his wife and daughters.

Don’t pursue a career in hopes of your family waiting for you to “succeed”. Your victory party may be pretty lonely. This post is an excerpt from the Field Guide: 99 Ways to Navigate Your Best Life. Download the full guide here.