Question everything, act often.

This is the first post in a series of posts about career lessons.  If you like what you read, please join me and career expert/author Nicole Williams for a #CareerChat on setting and developing your career goals for 2014 sponsored by Secret Deodorant on January 15, 2014 to keep the conversation going.

The year was 2008. I worked from 8:30-5 supporting a commercial lending team at a bank. I wore a suit to work every day and I had nothing to strive for within my organization or my field. Later that year, I experienced a nasty and painful episode involving my boyfriend at the time. In hindsight, that episode was a divine intervention. Life was undoubtedly trying to teach me something that would change the rest of my life forever, both personally and professionally.

After the ugly episode, a woman named Joanne came into my life.  Joanne always had a shit ton of questions for me when we talked.  If I answered one question, she’d follow up with another and another. Most of these questions were ones I had never thought about or asked myself, let alone answered.

After hanging out with Joanne for a while, I realized that I had been living a life sans questions. Whether it was my major in school, my inherited world views, the guys I dated or the company I worked for, I fell into one situation after another without questioning anything.   If I had questioned things earlier and acted on the answers to those questions, would I have experienced “the episode”?

Living a life without questioning things is a sure way to wake up five years from now saying, “WTF happened to me.” It’s the surest way to stay in a field that doesn’t suit you and to donate years of your life to a company that you don’t care about. On a personal level, living a life without asking questions is a guaranteed way to waste years dating the wrong person then wish you could take those years back. It’s a way to accept the status quo. It’s a way to never even try new things. It’s also the reason many people find themselves overweight or unable to escape bad habits year after year.

If I could buy back the years of living my life without questions, I would.

As I write this post, it’s January 2nd and the Internet is being invaded with shitty listicles encouraging people to write down their goals down and eat kale. Rather than set those New Year’s resolutions, this year I encourage you to live by the mantra, ”question everything, act often.” You’ll accomplish way more than you can even imagine right now.  Your rose-colored glasses will come off and you’ll slowly change the trajectory of your entire life.

Once I started asking questions in 2008, my life started to change. I’d even go as far as saying I was re-born after I met Joanne. First, I admitted that my career path at the time was not enough for me. Without knowing what WAS right for me, I started a blog so that at least I had something to be passionate about. I joined Twitter and used it to meet amazing people who were smarter than me. I read a LOT of books and took classes about this new thing I truly believed would change the world: social media. I threw away some of my beliefs and I shed toxic people. I lived alone for the first time and learned the importance of being with myself. I met my now-husband. I left commercial banking to work at a startup. I overcame my fear of public speaking.  I kept my head high after going through a movie-like lay-off. I started my own business without a plan or an extra dollar in my bank account. I became an adjunct professor. I got to the bottom of my spending problem and paid off my pile of credit card debt. I fiercely pursued my dream of working at an agency and fell madly in love with it.  The relationships I keep are healthy and rewarding.

All this started with a few questions.

Many of you are living the life I was in 2008. You don’t even know what you want or where to start, but one thing’s for sure: you know this isn’t it. Perhaps you’re one of the millions who reads those New Year’s resolutions articles as a way of distracting yourself from your reality. Instead, pay attention to your gut and start asking yourself lots of questions. Or, elect a trusted friend to start the questioning. Once you answer some of those initial questions, ask more and more, do something about it and repeat.  Make 2014 a year you will be grateful for later. Question everything and act often in 2014.

Nicole Emerick

Nicole Emerick founded Ms. Career Girl in 2008 to help other ambitious young professional women thrive in a career they love. Ironically, growing MsCareerGirl helped Nicole transition her own career from commercial banker to digital marketer. Today Nicole leads the social media team at a large advertising agency in Chicago. Nicole also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she helped develop the careers of PR, Advertising and Communications students. Tweet with Nicole @_NicoleEmerick.