The year was 1996, and life was good. I had a comfortable career with Procter and Gamble (P&G) working in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. And then came the opportunity that changed my life. P&G offered me an expatriate position in the former Soviet Union.
It was still the early days of modern globalization, and I had never been out of the U.S. In fact, I didn’t even have a passport. I didn’t know the language and all I knew about Russian culture was pretty much vodka and Tolstoy. Virtually everyone I knew thought it would be a bad idea, and too much of a risk to take given my comfortable situation.
I jumped at the opportunity and spent the next 10 years living in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. Turns out, it was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.
It’s not unusual to be unsure about what we want in life and to not know exactly how we define success and happiness for ourselves. This uncertainty makes us less likely to take chances and accept risk in life. But taking chances and accepting risk are often opportunities for personal growth that aren’t otherwise easy to come by.
Fortunately for me, I knew myself well enough to jump on a life-changing opportunity when it was presented. Because I often do 360-degree self-assessments, I understood that I look at life as a series of possibilities for happiness. Certainly, the risk of uprooting my life and moving halfway around the world was great, but I knew myself well enough to know that the reward would be well worth it.
One quote that has always stayed with me is: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” It’s those breathtaking moments that give meaning to my life, and that’s why I knew that heading to Russia was the right choice for me.
In running your business, you too will be faced with major decisions about the future. Knowing your options is important, but so is knowing yourself. You know what makes you successful and happy. Let that be your guide when planning for the future.
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