I have had dozens of conversations over the last few weeks with friends, colleagues, mentors and others who are curious about my decision to quit my full-time job after getting two degrees from an Ivy League university and getting a job at the same institution with awesome benefits, free tuition, and travel opportunities. Why did you do it? When did you know it was time?
I decided to quit my job in August of 2011. I had thought about it for a while after deciding to start my event planning business in the summer of 2010 (I’ll explain that story later.) I knew that if I was really serious about being an entrepreneur, at some point I would have to take the plunge and go all the way. Having been educated amidst pragmatic, logical, A-type thinkers, I, of course, knew that this couldn’t happen until certain things were aligned. You know: bills paid, money saved, dents in loans, capital, investors, etc. So that became the plan; I’d work a pretty good full-time job with great benefits until I had things all set up to make a cushy transition into the entrepreneur’s realm. This all changed when I went to L.A.
A good of friend of mine who works in the music industry G-chats me on the afternoon of Monday, August 23rd inviting me to the Video Music Awards taking place that Sunday evening. Yep, the MTV Video Music Awards– where Beyonce announces her pregnancy. I, having never attended such a big red carpet affair freaked out… naturally. There isn’t enough time! How could I afford this? What would I wear? What would I say? I should share that less than two weeks before this invitation, I’d made a promise to myself that I would no longer stick to doing what was comfortable; I would start taking risks in the name of personal growth and development. In light of this, I told myself that if I could find a flight under $300 on such short notice, I’d go. (A nice little combo of spontaneity and pragmatism). By Wednesday, I hadn’t found anything under $600 so I felt ok about deciding not to go; at least I tried.
Thursday morning, I receive an email from my good friend in Maryland. She had spotted a last-minute deal for a flight flying out of DC to Orange County and sent me the information. The flight was $250… Change of plans. I’m going to the $*@!&% VMA’s.
The VMA’s in short: I could go on and on about how awesome the VMA’s were but in light of the purpose of the post, I’ll sum it up as an aspiring event planner’s dream: a spectacular well-timed and well-executed show; a beautiful set, beautiful people, overall, a striking production. I felt great; I looked great. I attended a few high-profile events. I met celebrities and high-level executives and above all, I had a blast. The point during the trip that changed my life, however, was at a VMA after-party at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.
There were lots of “industry people” around (celebrity and non) and after having several underwhelming conversations, it hit me: everyone there was just a regular person. I know, I know- profound. But seriously, this was one of the most defining moments in my career. For some reason, I expected to be blown away by amazing talent, striking brilliance, unmatched charm, extraordinary intelligence. This was not the case. I did have great conversations; I met really friendly (along with not-so-friendly) people. But what struck me was that I fit in. Not because of anything that makes me special but because of everything that makes me normal; everyone at the top is just as insecure, self-conscious, worried, awkward, pseudo-confident and regular as I was! If these regular folks were making millions (or a heck of a lot more than me) for simply making a decision to go after a dream and sticking to it, what was stopping me?
And that was it.
A good friend of mine, who is a singer, challenged my hesitancy that weekend; she, who also dropped everything to chase after her dreams, asked me a pivotal question: so when are you going to quit making excuses and make it happen? I started that night. On August 29, 2011 in Beverly Hills at one of the most awkward “fancy” events I’d ever attended, I decided to stop creating stories that said people at the top are somehow different than me. I told my friend that I would no longer play it safe or be “reasonable.” By January of 2012, I would quit my job, move to New York and go after what I wanted simply because… I can.