That is a moment in my life that will remain etched in my memory.
It was a late evening, and I found myself in my tiny home office. Simba, my faithful companion, lay beside my keyboard as I diligently worked on our annual presentation and market recap. I cherished my role at the wealth management company where I worked; I was proud of the quality and the honesty of our services and had nice colleagues. I felt some pride to offer my best to contribute to the success of the company and also to be entrusted with the responsibility to organize our annual conferences for our clients, the biggest annual event of our organization.
Yet, this year was truly special.
For the very first time, we had the privilege of hosting a guest speaker, a talented pilot and photographer. We had invited him to present his remarkable book featuring breathtaking photographs captured from the cockpit of a cargo plane soaring at heights so incredible that glimpses of space were visible. His work was awe-inspiring, and I was determined to excel and pay tribute to his exceptional achievement.
My objective was to identify common threads and create a presentation that seamlessly blended our unique talents. I aimed to showcase the parallels between our respective professions, both laden with discipline and responsibilities that hinged on effective teamwork and the integration of each other’s creative talents. Even if this sounds somewhat challenging, this was—for me—the easy part. Being a relentless reader, I seem to have developed the talent of combining, synthesizing, finding common ground and combining it.
However, I found myself in a quandary.
“Something’s not quite right here,” I mused, absent-mindedly stroking Simba’s soft fur, which immediately elicited a soothing purr from him.
Time was ticking away relentlessly. I gazed out into the night, my frustration mounting as the city’s bright lights obscured the starry sky. Across the way, a light flickered in an adjacent flat building, and I couldn’t help but wonder if this person too was burning the midnight oil, or if it was just insomnia that had them awake.
And then, it struck me—a realization so profound that it brought tears to my eyes. As tears streamed down my cheeks, Simba, always the comforting presence, nuzzled his head against mine, silently reassuring me that everything was still alright. Well, for a cat, life always seems to be just that, doesn’t it?
I was overcome by a profound sense of ennui that I couldn’t contain. As I looked at the seemingly “standard” presentation I had crafted, filled with bullet points, figures, and tables neatly aligned with the necessary content, alongside those valuable photographs…it felt like an affront to the photographer’s work and creativity. While it might have met conventional standards, to me, it was a testament to sheer boredom.
With just one day remaining until the big event, I was faced with a daunting question: What should I do?
My answer to that question was: I need a different presentation tool! A programme that lets our visitors travel with him through the astonishing pictures of his photographs and discover, now and then, the necessary figures of our wealth management work. No more bullet points, no more text-heavy slides, and certainly no tables. I was determined to create an experience that flowed effortlessly and was genuinely enjoyable—an absolute synergy of visuals and information.
This realization spurred me into immediate action. I began researching whether such a tool existed, its cost, compatibility with various computers and networks, and the possibility of working without requiring a file with its traditional compatibility issues when sent and used on a different device. After dedicating 2–3 hours to research and testing, I successfully achieved my goal. I found the tool that I would be perfectly comfortable with and engaged into 7 days of free trial phase after having to pay. Without delay, I embarked on transforming my mundane, linear presentation into a virtual journey, allowing our clients to explore the skies beyond the Earth’s atmosphere while delving into the performance of their portfolios and the financial markets.
Excitement coursed through me, and I hardly noticed the breaking dawn.
I had been working all night long, but the excitement about my discovery was stronger than my tiredness. Still some details to do. “Well, I might be late for work today, but who cares? This is worth it! It’s certainly more important than punctuality.” I thought to myself. I continued working until my presentation was complete, and when it was done, I couldn’t help but watch it over and over again. This was it—this was nothing short of amazing, and I was immensely proud of what I had accomplished.
At that moment, I took a bold action that would make any risk manager or cautious individual recoil in horror.
To ensure that I wouldn’t succumb to the temptation of using the “standard” presentation in a moment of weakness, I deleted it. To leave no room for doubt, I also emptied the computer’s trash bin. It was a definitive move. With just one day remaining before the big presentation, there was no turning back. The overwhelming sense of exhilaration was almost too much to bear. Despite the awareness that my audacious move could potentially cost me my job, I didn’t care. I thought to myself: “If they decide to let me go because of this choice, then they don’t deserve me.”
When I arrived at the office, I was practically brimming with enthusiasm. However, the reception I received was a mixed bag, to say the least. Reactions ranged from shared excitement to sheer horror—though the (understandable) dread primarily stemmed from the risk I was ready to take and not the aesthetics of what I had created. I had departed from the well-trodden path by switching from a “file”-based presentation to a web-based one, and there was hardly any time for thorough testing by our risk managers and IT team. Unsurprisingly, our CEO (who is really a super nice guy and much more open than many of his fellow CEOs) was far from pleased with the fact that I had left us with no alternative but to accept my overnight, lonely decision. I told myself, “I’ll address this issue later; for now, let’s focus on the task at hand.” In that critical moment, the last thing I needed was someone undermining my self-confidence, so I chose to set aside his anger, hoping it could be dealt with later. It was at that moment that I understood why I had deleted my bullet-point nightmare—because it was the very moment when I could have reverted to obedience and submission.
The presentation turned out to be a resounding success.
Just as I had hoped, our guests were thoroughly impressed, and during our post-presentation dinner and drinks, they enthusiastically expressed their appreciation for this unconventional approach to presenting. And, of course, I was forgiven by our CEO, after having endured the reprimand for the risk I had taken for a company that was not mine. Which, at the time, hurt, as for me, it was a certification of a lack of trust in me and my capabilities.
This experience, even though it was subconscious, planted a seed of realization in me.
Although I couldn’t fully comprehend its significance at the time, it would take another three years for it to fully bloom: There was nothing wrong with the company, nor with our CEO, who had the responsibility to reprimand me but also the greatness to congratulate me for what had become a shared success.
I was simply in the wrong place. I wasn’t an employee; I was a person who thrived on embracing new ideas, testing them, and implementing them if they proved to be valuable or discarding them if they didn’t. I was willing to shoulder the entire burden of risk for my decisions, fully aware that even with thorough testing (and certainly not being reckless), unforeseen complications could still arise.
If you find yourself repeatedly in situations like these, causing frustration for both you and your employer, it might be worth considering whether you’re on the “wrong side” of the workforce equation. Sometimes, recognizing that your skills and mindset are better suited for a different role or even entrepreneurial endeavours can be a profound revelation.
For me, it has become essential to align my professional path with my natural inclinations and values to find true fulfilment.