• Sebastian Janus

Why I left my corporate job to travel the globe…

I have more than 12 years of experience as a leader & executive in fashion + ecommerce at the top European sports retailers. During that time I have been successful in selling my company two times and in leading two merger & acquisitions as a CFO. I have spent the last four years in a corporate environment in a leader role. Am I sucessful? I guess, most of the people would say: “What a career, I admire you.“ Others could say: “How about your family? What are your other dreams beside work?”

Whenever I spoke with people over my professional career since 2005, it felt like we speak two different languages. Part of the “career iceberg” is immediately visible above the waterline with only a small part of its mass, while most of it is hidden under water. It can be exhausting to get this point across.

It is not surprising that the understanding of a sucessful career is so different, considerung how much the work world has changed, even just in the past few years.

My motivation in the early days of my career were always the focus on having fun in the office, somehow a little bit financial security and the perspective of being my own boss. But can that be enough for me?

In 2013 I sold my fast-growing start-up to a company, listed at the New York stock exchange, so I became for the first time in my life an executive in an Corporate environment. With this change I was able to gather a lot of corporate experience over the last 4 years.

I would have never imagined that the daily business in the office can change so much from one to the other day. For myself my gut feeling always made clear: “Sebastian, this is not your world.” I understand totally why people follow the comfortable way to work at a corporate. I also found an answer why people exactly end there. I could also have continued on this road seemingly forever.

I decided for myself that I do not want to stay in my corporate chair, being a politician and thinking more often, „How did I get here?“.

For myself I felt this is not the life I envisioned. Normally I should be thankful for the job I had and the career opportunities I was presented with. Don’t understand me wrong, I am thankful for every minute, which I worked for these companies in the last years due to the fact they developed myself to the leader and guy I am today.

Some months ago on a sunny day on Ibiza island in Spain, it was my vacation day with my girl-friend, I needed to attend suddenly a telephone conference with our headquarter. While I was drinking some glasses of wine in the port of Ibiza, I got an email that there is an important open topic to discuss. So, I moved myself into the rental car (the port was too noisy) and dialed in into the telephone conference. 10 minutes later I went out of it and only thought: “What the hell are you doing?”. The conversation only included politic and strategy how you can make yourself not open to attack from other internal people.

This was the day my eyes opened and my gut feeling made clear that there is something else than climbing the career ladder. Something that will give me a whole new perspective on my life, my values and everything I believe is important. Some days later I resigned my well-paid job.

I’ve heard people talking about how brave a resignation is and how unfortunate it is that I risk my talent. I could definitely have stayed at my job, even though I knew I didn’t like it. I knew I wasn’t thriving in my work and I even doubted I was doing a good job. To be honest, there was the money and the expectations. It was this kind of comfort zone, of which I was convinced I will never end in.

When I realized that in this key moment of my life, this convinced me to resign my job. In my opinion personal growth and comfortzone never exist at the same time. You have to decide for one of both. So, I did.

Within a few days I decided to explore the world for one year and to do as many as possible volunteer work in foreign countries.

There are so many projects and opportunities in the world to take and to master. Travellling the globe and doing volunteer work will demand the very best of me. For the first time in my life I won’t plan everything in detail — I will be curious and see what opportunities and challenges life foresees for me. It will be the next big adventure in my life.

That is my personal kick-off to become a more responsible adult and contribute to society instead of getting the next yearly bonus or buying myself the next prestige object.

The world has never been so VUCA (volatil, uncertain, complex, ambigous). A lot of people define themselves about having so much to do, that they could work 24 hours and plenty of jobs, we know today, will look totally different in 10 years.

I see myself as a leader of tomorrow. But to really become this guy, I have to possess new and improve exisiting skills, like braveness, open-hearted, passion etc…

Do we really learn this in some corporate jobs with ten hierarchy levels between the CEO and ourselves? Where we don’t really understand what we are doing and why? In order to really boost our impact on society, we must embrace the things we understand and that are within our grasp — the things which give us purpose.

I was never so happy in my life, as I am today. Instead of planning the company budget process of next year in the coming weeks, I will work with elephants in the jungle of Cambodia, attend a Yoga retreat in Vietnam and give English reading lessons in Laos.

PS: While I am writing this article, I am sitting at the beach in Thailand. How does your corporate chair feel like? :-)

I’m always interested in hearing from business owners, entrepreneurs, as well as economic development professionals. Please contact me via InMail on my LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sebjanus/