Have you ever said “Yes”, when you really knew you wanted to say “no”?
That question reminds me of my experience as a Systems Engineer Intern at a large Kansas City, MO (United States) company, during the summer of 2010.
A company well known for its intern to full time hire program. An internship that I interviewed for two summers in a row, was declined the first time, and accepted the second.
I was stoked when I was hired the second time around. After a lengthy interview process, four interviews I believe, I was finally hired.
I celebrated. My friends celebrated with me. It was sweet.
I remember how excited I was going through the one week onboarding, and how, in my mind, I was determined to have an offer to work their full time, by the end of the summer.
It was set in stone, for me.
There was no possibility that….
𝗜 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗷𝗼𝗯
𝗜 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗳𝗶𝗴𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗱𝗼
𝗜 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝗱𝗲𝗰𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗻 𝗼𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿
This was my chance to start climbing that ladder. To start working towards the big bucks. To work my way up to CEO, somewhere, at some point in my career.
The first couple of weeks flew by.
Each morning, arriving to the office about an hour prior to everyone else, even with a one hour commute.
I was eager, to say the least.
And I was consistent with completing the work assigned, and then asking for more.
As the summer progressed, and the midway point of the internship had come and gone, while my punctuality and focus on work didn’t change much, my eagerness, my excitement, my confidence in staying in this company was slipping away…
I began to feel….
𝗧𝗿𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝘆 𝗰𝘂𝗯𝗶𝗰𝗹𝗲
𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝗯𝘆 𝗲𝘅𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲
I didn’t think much about it at first, because from everyone I knew to that point in my life, this was the norm. Work is work, and that’s it.
Exciting stuff, huh?
As the summer and internship winded down to the final few weeks, my mind was spinning in circles about..
𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗜 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗯𝗲 𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝗱𝗶𝗼𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗡𝗢𝗧 𝘁𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗮𝗻 𝗼𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗮𝗻𝘆
𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗜 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗡𝗘𝗩𝗘𝗥 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗻 𝗼𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻
𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗺𝘂𝗰𝗵 𝗜 𝗱𝗶𝗱𝗻’𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗷𝗼𝗯
[𝐼𝑛𝑠𝑒𝑟𝑡 𝑖𝑚𝑎𝑔𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑚𝑦 𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑑 𝑝𝑙𝑎𝑦𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡𝑢𝑔-𝑜-𝑤𝑎𝑟 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑖𝑡𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑓]
In my mind, I believed I was suppose to take it. I was suppose to want it.
And I was freaking afraid to think or do otherwise!
Well, the days continued to pass, as they generally do, and I vividly remember driving my one hour commute home, the second to last Friday of the internship.
This conversation playing over and over in my mind. Questions on repeat…
𝗪𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗜 𝘁𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗷𝗼𝗯?
𝗜𝗳 𝗜 𝗻𝗼𝘁, 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗻?
𝗪𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗮𝗻𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗲𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗼𝘆𝗲𝗿 𝗵𝗶𝗿𝗲 𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗱𝘂𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻?
I spent the entire drive home negotiating with myself, with my fear, and with what I knew I wanted.
If I took the job, I told myself.. Then I’m set. After graduation, I have the golden ticket to career success. End of story.
If I didn’t take the job, well, I still had my job at the gas station to help cover costs during the school year, and I had one more year of school to figure out what I really wanted to do for my career.
Truth be told, as in most cases, we can not really predict the future, we can only look at the information that’s directly in front of us, and that is inside of us, and make and educated guess.
The one definite answer I did have..
𝗜 𝗱𝗶𝗱 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗮𝗻𝘆.
That I was certain of, and so it was decided. I decided to quit arguing with myself.
I remember coming in that following Monday feeling refreshed. Feeling as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
I’m pretty sure my posture was even better. I no longer was spinning in the “what to do” circles.
I knew what I was going to do, and it’s a good thing that I had been running a mental marathon all weekend, because my manager asked to see me.
Typically the standard approach for the end of the internship program is an exit interview on your last day that reviews:
Your experience during the program
Feedback from your manager
And if there is an opening within that department, an offer
My manager, for potentially numerous reasons that I’m not going to speculate on, wanted to know my thoughts about continuing on with the company, prior to my exit interview.
Fortunately, she asked me a pointed, close ended question, which didn’t require much explanation.
I was asked, “𝘔𝘢𝘵𝘵 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘶𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘯 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘶𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯?”
My mouth said, “𝘕𝘰”
My mind quickly following with,
“𝘞𝘦𝘭𝘭, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘨𝘰𝘦𝘴 𝘮𝘺 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘬 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢 𝘴𝘶𝘤𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘧𝘶𝘭 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘱𝘢𝘯𝘺”
“𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘥𝘪𝘥 𝘐 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘥𝘰?”
“𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘐 𝘥𝘰 𝘯𝘰𝘸?”
“𝘞𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘐 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘢 𝘳𝘦𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦?”
And… insert more catastrophe oriented thoughts and questions :)
About 30 minutes later… “𝘋𝘢𝘮𝘯! 𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘧𝘦𝘭𝘵 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥”
After the “end of the world” hamster in my mind wore itself out, my logical and honest mind chimed in.
At that point, I felt good. I knew I had made the right choice.
At that point, I felt my confidence sky rocket because I was able to go my direction, and speak it.
Also, at that point, it freed me up to get a bit more creative about what I could do next, where to focus my attention, so that my doomsday scenarios were not proven accurate, which 99% of the time, they are not.
You know, I’ve said “no” many times in my life…
𝗦𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗱𝗲𝗳𝗶𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲
𝗦𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗶𝗴𝗻𝗼𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲
𝗔𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘀𝗲 𝗱𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗼𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗻, 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘁𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝗺𝘆𝘀𝗲𝗹𝗳 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝘀.
Being able to say “no” in that moment was one of the first times I had said “no” for the latter reason. And while I didn’t consciously recognize it at the time, it created a reference point for me to look back on to remind myself that I’ve always found my way, no matter what.
𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗱𝗶𝗱 𝗜 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗻 𝗱𝘂𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲?
#1 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘣𝘺 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵, 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐’𝘮 𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵, 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐’𝘮 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐’𝘮 𝘨𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰
#2 𝘛𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘢𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘶𝘱, 𝘢𝘴 𝘯𝘰 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘦𝘭𝘴𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘥𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘰𝘳 𝘥𝘰 𝘪𝘵 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘮𝘦
#3 𝘛𝘳𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘮𝘺 𝘴𝘬𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘴, 𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘦𝘴, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘭𝘺, 𝘮𝘺 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘮𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦𝘴
#3 𝘋𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘶𝘮𝘱𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 — 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘐 𝘨𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘹𝘪𝘵 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘸, 𝘐 𝘥𝘪𝘥𝘯’𝘵 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘢𝘯 𝘰𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘸𝘢𝘺 :)