I have a strong belief in the concept of paying it forward.  One of the ways I exercise my belief is by providing pro bono advice to a wide range of professionals – from graduate students and early careerists, to leaders who want a perspective check and to those making career transitions.

The first question I always try to ask is this:  Are you doing what you really love?  Are you really passionate about being a CEO, COO or VP of Operations or Marketing, or are you in a job because it just happened – career progression by happenstance?

You might be surprised at the number of executives who are trapped in jobs they really do not like, with people they do not respect, because of the financial trap – they are making too much money and have decided that changing a financial lifestyle is far more traumatic than suffering through a job they do not love.

When I ask that first question, the dead giveaway of major problems in the caller’s career is the torture index rating of their answer – they try so hard to be passionate, confident and professional, when all the time you know you are hearing the artful dodge, or their struggles to believe something they believe they should say.

Unless you are five years or less from retirement and have no intention of every working again, you need to know that it is OK not to punish yourself any longer.  Really, it is never too late to follow your dreams, to pursue your real passions in work and life.  Do not find yourself in the place of the bright young law partner I met several years ago.  He was making more money than he could spend, but he was obviously so painfully dissatisfied with his job and his life.  “I only have to do this for 20 more years, and then I can retire.”

That answer blew the top off my torture index rating.

© 2012 John Gregory Self