No matter what you do, you’ll never make everyone happy.

For the people pleasers in us, this can be a daunting statement. You may not want to admit it, but the opinions of society or those that matter to you may disproportionately influence your decisions, including life-changing ones such as your career.

Those who prioritize having a stable job over honoring their natural talents are a dime a dozen. Or those who believe they‘re only meant for entry-level jobs because of their educational credentials or lack of connections. We tend to find comfort in conforming to what the rest of the world finds acceptable.

But what’s acceptable for you?

The reality is that you can never make everyone happy. That fact should liberate you – because if you can’t please everyone, you might as well please yourself. You are both the driver and passenger in your career journey. Make this a meaningful and fulfilling one by staying true to who you are.

How I Defined What Matters

woman looking at post itsBack in 2002, I decided to quit medical school after only two weeks at the Georgetown School of Medicine in Washington, DC. To those who knew me in my childhood years, this would come as a shock.

I was one of those kids who grew up wanting to become a doctor. At the age of five, I bumped my head and had to get stitches. I still remember being so impressed by the doctor who fixed me up. From that moment on, I set my intention on becoming a doctor myself one day, something I spoke about in my TEDx Talk in 2014. Everyone around me knew this including my family and friends. While I was naturally interested in the sciences and the way the human body worked, I’ll admit that the prospect of being the first doctor in our family also drew me to medicine. Finally, being a physician seemed like an admirable profession that could garner respect from those around me.

The problem was that all of these reasons were externally driven. Deep down, I wasn’t being true to myself and my values. This became very clear to me during the first days of medical school because I was constantly struggling and feeling absolutely miserable. I felt out of sync with my classmates, uncomfortable with gross anatomy, and disillusioned by each day. I remember my roommates at the time telling me I looked visibly unhappy.

Only after I left medical school did I begin to figure out why I was so bothered by the experience. I started seeing a counselor specializing in careers who helped me realize three of my fundamental values were not being served by a career in medicine: having time for relationships, maintaining work-life balance, and pursuing entrepreneurial ideas. Getting clear on this ultimately informed my next move to pursue a career in business and marketing, a fulfilling experience for many years.

Your Personal Brand Values

woman reflecting sunset viewI’m sharing this story to illustrate the importance of being true to your values. Going back to my days marketing consumer products, great brands have strong brand values. These can come in the form of the mission or belief statements, or as a set of guiding principles. So when you think about yourself for your personal brand, you also have certain values – standards of behavior, what you judge to be important to have in life, or something worth pursuing. For me, I value relationships, work-life balance, and entrepreneurship. For you, it might be freedom, control, intellectual stimulation, or connection.

There’s no right or wrong answer – what’s important is being self-aware of what you value in the first place.  If you’ve ever had a moment in life where you felt like you were at your very best, there’s a good chance you were doing something that aligned with your values. On the flip side, if you’re really feeling frustrated or uninspired to do something – like I was pursuing medicine – there’s a good chance what you’re doing is in conflict with at least one of your values. Clarifying your values enables you to evaluate which actions and decisions serve those values, which in turn drives happiness and fulfillment in life.

As Jim Carrey so eloquently said during his 2014 commencement speech at the Maharishi Institute of Management:

“You can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

Honor What Matters Most to You

woman thinking writingSo if you’re in the middle of making a big career decision and you’re not sure what to do, think about which move will allow you to honor what truly matters to you. Start by clarifying three to five values that matter most to you. Once you figure out what’s important to you, you can then decide if the career choices you’re making are allowing you to be the person you want to be.

Remember, you can’t make everyone happy. You can fool yourself for a while, just like I did. But at some point, what you really want and who you really are will catch up with you. If you give yourself permission to pursue what you really want, you can be more at peace with yourself and your career path.

Hear more about this topic as I discuss “Understanding Your Values” in more detail on Career Relaunch® podcast episode 2 with marketer turned app founder Aniefre Essien.


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About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.

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