If you are not enjoying the ride - Then get off the Bus!

IF you find yourself stuck in a job you hate, and if wealth and fame look like distant dreams, you should hear the story of a woman called Gail Kelly. It’s quite a fascinating story.

Gail is a 54-year old South African who has risen to become the CEO of Australia’s largest Bank – Westpac.  She is one of the wealthiest people in Australia today. But it wasn’t always like this.

Born in 1956, Gail had an ordinary upbringing, culminating in a degree in Arts. At 21, she got married to her college sweetheart, and when his work took him away to Zimbabwe, she moved too. They came back a year later and Gail took up a job as a teacher in a government school.

All she remembers from those days was the bunch of difficult students she had to manage. She vividly recalls getting angry with a kid who had left his jersey inside a sports room she had just locked up. “I felt ashamed of myself for screaming at the little kid.  I was allowing my unhappiness to affect who I was!”

Next day, as she sat in the school bus, she wished the school didn’t exist. She hated the thought of going back to school. She decided she must do something. And she did.

She got off the bus
And that was the turning point in her life. She applied for and got a job as a teller in a bank. She did well, and soon got promoted into a role in HR. Some years later, at age 30, and pregnant with her first child, she enrolled for an MBA. After completing that, she went back to work for the same bank, and her career continued to zoom. She was soon pregnant again – and was surprised to discover that she was carrying triplets. Five months after the birth of her threesome, she was back at work. Back to doing what she enjoyed doing.

To provide for a better future for their children, Gail and her husband decided to migrate to Australia – at the age of  41. She went to work for a bank there. And the rest as they say is history.

Gail credits her success in life to a lot of things: Passion. Hard work. Her MBA degree. A supportive husband. Fabulous teams. But most of all, she knows that none of this would have been possible if she had not decided to quit her teaching job and ‘get off the bus’ that fateful day in South Africa.  Gail’s story could be yours too. Even a school teacher can become the CEO of the country’s largest bank. Just do what you enjoy. Work hard. Believe in yourself. And don’t allow excuses (no MBA, need to bring up kids, moving locations) to interfere with your progress.

So what’s Gail’s message for her employees – and for all of us? It’s simple. If you are not enjoying the ride – get off the bus. There might be more fulfilling careers waiting for you.

Too many of us spend all our lives in jobs we hate. We hate every minute of it, we complain, we show our bitterness, it affects our performance – and yet we don’t do anything to change things. We lack the courage to call it quits. We hesitate to get off the bus.

Life is too short to be wasted doing things you don’t enjoy. Doing what you enjoy offers you your best chance of success. It also gives you the strength to overcome all odds – like it did with Gail. And it’s never, never too late to get off the bus!

So if you are not enjoying what you are doing, do a Gail Kelly. Take the first step.

Get off the bus!

Prakash Iyer is MD, Kimberly-Clark Lever and Executive Coach.

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