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Life after Google

I just posted these pictures of me on Facebook.

#ladyofleisure #endlessgratitude

These hashtags pretty much sum up my current state, my life after Google.  It’s been 7 weeks since I left. An instant change from going a million miles an hour to living life slowly. From tight deadlines and “always on” to doing whatever I feel like, on my terms, in my own time. Almost too good to be true.

I was nervous about the transition.

How much of my identity would be tied up in being a Googler?  What would I do with my days when everyone else is at work? How would I handle the unknown?

The same day I left Google, I boarded a plane to Costa Rica. It was a spur of the moment decision. I am not sure if I wanted to be somewhere special to mark the occasion, or if I wasn’t ready to face the unknown within my familiar environment. Probably a bit of both. As soon as I arrived in Costa Rica, I felt free. I noticed a big exhale somewhere deep down inside of me. Finally, I was on a break from the constant pattern of strategizing, planning, testing, and implementing. Even though my job at Google was quite creative, the constant pressure of quarterly goals had taken its toll. Part of me is a big achiever and I couldn’t help falling into the trap of giving it my all in order to get my gold star at the end of each performance cycle. The sheer beauty of Costa Rica brought me into a state of almost instant deep relaxation.

I wonder if or how I could have found access to more of that kind of inner peace in the middle of Google life. The meditator in me thinks it’s easy – just breathe, let go of the need to achieve and be in the moment. The inner critic in me says I could have tried harder to make it work and stay.

In my gut I feel it was the right decision. Time will tell.

So – how much of my identity was really tied up in being a Googler?  

For 12 years, whenever I was asked what I was doing for a living, all I needed to say was “I work for Google”, no other explanation needed.  Yet, it was surprisingly easy to let go of that. Now, when people ask me, I have answers like “I’m on sabbatical”, “I’m starting my own business”, or “I’m temporarily retired”. I’ve been having fun playing around with that and watching people’s reactions. I expected to go through an intense long grieving process. I know that working at Google was an absolute privilege, and it initially felt like stepping out of some kind of elite club. Surprisingly, I got over the loss quite quickly (unless I’m in denial).  Yet, I will be forever grateful for everything I have learnt at Google, all the amazing people I’ve collaborated with, and how many doors have opened for me. Now I know why they tell you to leave on a high!

It’s funny how worried I was about not knowing what to do with my time.

While I craved doing nothing with every fiber of my body, my system clearly was conditioned to be productive around the clock. I even wrote a long to do list for myself before I left.  I have yet to get it out of my drawer. Instead, I decided to go with the flow and be as present as I could be – listening to what wants to unfold rather than trying to make things happen. I think this is the biggest shift in me – a big part of me is super efficient, organized, a bit of a control freak really. Now, I’m very intentional about doing what comes naturally, one step after the next without much planning. I guess this luxury will only last as long as my funds, but for now it’s an interesting experiment. And going with the flow doesn’t mean I am just sitting by the beach. Even though I admit that I spent a lot of time on the beach lately. I’ve also had big waves of creativity and productivity – I drafted my website, formed an LLC, met with potential clients, hung out with friends, did a lot of physical exercise, and – biggest surprise of all – found joy in gardening and cooking. I finally get to read the books that had been piling up. And the best thing is – I hardly ever feel tired. I didn’t realize how chronically exhausted I was. I feel like a different person now. A lot more fluid and alive.

The last few weeks have been an interesting learning process about stepping into the unknown.

Why is it that most of us experience the fear of letting go so much stronger than the excitement of starting something new? And what is the leadership lesson in that? The brain wants to prepare us for all eventualities and keep us safe – but the reality is that we are usually well resourced and the worst case scenario hardly ever happens.

I’m well aware it’s only been seven weeks and I don’t have a profitable business yet. So time will tell how things unfold and what I can make happen. What I have experienced in the past few months is that when you take a big risk, there is no failsafe strategy. You have to take the scary first step. Work on your very own vision that’s aligned with your purpose and values. As soon as the longing to bring this vision to life takes over, stepping into the unknown doesn’t feel so scary. It’s liberating and exhilarating. The ground will hold you. And even if the road ahead is bumpy at times, one step leads to the next, on a journey that takes you to where you wanted to go all along. You will realize that you are much stronger than you think, and that you are not on your own.

I’m excited about what the future will hold.

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