A few weeks ago, I decided to accept the invitation from my friend to do some consulting work for a potential advertising campaign for a medical clinic in New York. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working away at this project here and there, and I was genuinely excited at the idea of this being a sort of pilot project, a trial run, a first building block into what might become my future “job” – owning my own business working as an advertising consultant. On paper, there are a lot of advantages to this future path for me: it’s a job I could do remotely from Costa Rica, it directly applies my career expertise, and, this specific case, I’d also get to work alongside a dear friend. What’s not to like? 

As I was getting ready for my upcoming meeting with the client, though, I could sense something was off. I was just not feeling as motivated and as enthusiastic about the work as I had been when I was employed, selling ad space for a local TV news station. When I was an employee, I was very self-directed. I knew how to do the job and I set my own pace: a relentless, fervent pace. Now, though, I was dragging my feet, procrastinating simple tasks to move the proposal forward, tasks I know how to do so well I could almost do them in my sleep.

I pondered this quandary on a hike on a trail around my neighborhood, and it came to me: now that I have temporarily removed the desire for money from the equation (sabbatical) and am able to just look at the work for what it is, it no longer suits me. It does not align with what I value. I do not want to be a contributor to more advertising noise. Deep down, I believe advertising is something the world needs less of.

It’s hard to walk away from work like this, because, all things considered, it’s relatively easy for me. I have years of experience in it. I don’t have to struggle through any learning curves. I can just apply my expertise, get stuff done, and get paid. In other words, it would be “easy money.”

But the more I do that, the more I spend my time falling back on my old patterns for the ease and convenience of it, the farther away I get from doing things I actually care about and value. The longer it will take to make direct contact with my inner wisdom and put its insights into practice. It’s painful to shirk 15 years of experience and expertise, but my values and listening to my true nature outweigh that sunk cost. The buck stops here. 

I suppose that’s what pilot projects are for; they are a way to test things out. So in a way, this test has been a success, because I have reached a conclusion. I’m going to see this project through to its completion, but I know this isn’t a direction I want to continue to pursue. I still have no idea where I am headed, but at least now I know one road I don’t need to walk down any further.