Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Passion Barometer

"If I had all the money in the world, I would be doing exactly what I'm doing right now."

Can you say that about your job? Your life? Well that is exactly what Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan was quoted as saying in her interview with the CNN Small Business Blog. Simonetti-Bryan transitioned from a career in finance to achieve a coveted Master of Wine certification. Below are some details of her story with the full article available here.

Simonetti-Bryan had an existential crisis that many young professionals face: Working nights and weekends, staring at models on a computer screen, she felt bored and unsatisfied. Only 10 more years, a colleague told her, and she'd make managing director.

A few weeks after that, a fateful business lunch set the analyst on a new course. While giving a presentation in the corporate dining room of Citicorp's London office, Simonetti-Bryan was served an herb-crusted salmon paired with a Sancerre, a crisp white wine from France's Loire Valley. The way the acid in the wine cut right through the oil from the fish sparked her curiosity. She began taking classes in wine appreciation, and in the wake of Citi's merger with Smith Barney in 1998, she took the plunge, abandoning her six-figure salary for a wine shop job, then becoming brand manager for Cakebread Cellars and Domaine Carneros while collecting industry certifications.

One of those was the Master of Wine designation, the industry's highest honor. After passing a four-day exam that involves identifying 36 wines, applicants must write an original piece of research that furthers the industry. Simonetti-Bryan studied six hours daily on top of a full workday, sometimes suffering from "palate fatigue." "There were some days," she says, "where I was like, 'I don't want to look at a glass of wine. I don't even want to think about a glass of wine,' and then you get that one glass of wine and you go, 'Ah, this is why I'm doing this.'" In 2008 she became only the fourth woman in the U.S., and one of 289 people worldwide, to obtain the coveted title.

Although I enjoy a good glass of wine (or bad…..I must admit I cannot always tell the difference), wine is not what drew me to this article. What drew me in was someone going through a transition that is integrated in both their work and life. I am a big proponent of work life integration versus work life balance so stories like Jennifer's always appeal to me. Her quote above is a quote that serves as the barometer for how she is living her life. She loves what she does and wouldn’t change a thing about it. This wasn’t always the case for her which allowed her to recognize what she had once she got there.

I am going through a work/life change as I transition out of the Air Force this summer. Although I can’t say that I wouldn’t change anything if I had all the money in the world, I really do love my life. The only part of my life that wasn’t as fulfilling as it needs to be for successful work life integration is the work part. Although I am good at what I do and I enjoy it…sometimes, my heart is not fully invested in my current career path. Being a sports guy, I know what is possible when you are truly passionate about something. I need to find that something again.

Coming out of the service is tough because I don’t necessarily know what I want to be when I grow up yet. There are a few different avenues in business that interest me but as far as a specific job title goes I haven’t narrowed that down yet. I may just have to steal the quote from her to use it as my own passion barometer in determining what I want to do moving forward.

Perhaps I am an idealist. Perhaps I am just na├»ve. Who knows. All I know is that Simonetti-Bryan has what I want. She has a life and a career that are successfully integrated and she truly loves what she is doing. I am a little nervous but very excited to be breaking into the great wide open (hat tip Tom Petty), but I will trust my gut, work hard, and see if I can’t land my dream job too.

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