There Are Some Things $100 Million Can't Buy

Months ago there were a spate of articles in the Wall Street Journal about Mohamed El-Erian leaving his position as CEO of Pimco, one of the world's largest financial companies. I had never heard of him and I had only recently started reading the WSJ so I didn't really know Pimco, either. I do remember being struck by how surprised everyone seemed and how there was obviously something going on behind the scenes. Most people chalked it up to a clash of personalities between El-Erian and Pimco's co-founder Bill Gross and everything seemed to go quiet for a couple months.

A couple weeks ago El-Erian surfaced again and the full picture behind his departure is a little bit clearer:

About a year ago, I asked my daughter several times to do something -- brush her teeth, I think it was -- with no success. I reminded her that it was not so long ago that she would have immediately responded, and I wouldn't have had to ask her multiple times; she would have known from my tone of voice that i was serious.

She asked me to wait a minute, went to her room and came back with a piece of paper. It was a list that she had compiled of her important events and activities that I had missed due to work commitments.

Talk about a wake-up call.

Now he works as an economic adviser with Allianz and work takes up about 50% of his time.

From my perspective, this looks a lot like why many people choose to go into independent work. Granted, El-Erian is not a typical independent worker considering he made roughly $100 million last year. It's obviously easier (if not easier, at least more financially viable) for him to scale back his work hours and spend more time with his family.

On a very simple level, this is great evidence of what deliberate decision-making about work can look like. Regardless of our level in an organization or our income we can choose to think about what matters the most in our lives and then take steps to make decisions that support those values. The beautiful part is that this looks different for everyone. The only similarity that I'm pushing is the commitment to being deliberate about the course of action taken instead of locking into a groove and plowing away, heads down, for 40 years without taking a second to look around or ask some reflective questions.

What's the smallest step you can take to make your work more meaningful?

What's the smallest step you can take to make your work more enjoyable?

We can't all make $100 million a year or be CEOs of huge financial firms but we can all make deliberate decisions - even tiny ones - that better align our work, lives, and values.

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