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Climbing the Corporate Ladder vs. Doing Your Own Thing

When then CNET editor-at-large Michael Kanellos first asked me to do a blog, he said something that really got me thinking. "Climbing the [corporate] ladder sucks and everyone is obsessed with it, yet few speak out on it."

"Ain't that the truth," I thought.

You see, I had spent a good part of my life obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder. I almost lost my marriage over it. And for what? For the money? For the pats on the back? For the knowledge that I'd done something with my life that makes a difference?

You know, I never wanted to admit this, but I don't think I did it for any of those reasons. I think I did it because I was programmed to do it. My dad grew up in the Depression and drilled into me that nothing was more important than a successful career. He succeeded at that.

Then, after 23 years, I was done. Just like that, put a fork in me, I'm done. That was five years ago. Now I consult and write.

I can't say I never look back. When opportunities arise, I check them out. I think about jumping back into "the life." Especially now, with the economy in the tank, it would be nice to have a steady paycheck. But so far, I've stayed the course.

There are tradeoffs, to be sure.

What do I miss most about corporate life? The people, the camaraderie, and the respect of position and title (yes, I really am that shallow). And of course, an executive's compensation package with all the perks. No, I was never one of those exorbitantly paid execs, but I did okay. And I'd be lying if I didn't say it would be nice to have that now.

What don't I miss? Getting up early, commuting, nearly 3 million miles of air travel, company politics, the stress, working with a-holes (and being one myself, more often than I'd like to admit), and of course, meetings.

What's the biggest unforeseen problem? Well, since I work at home, I've invaded my wife's space. I know, we should be able to set boundaries, but somehow, it's not that simple. Anyway, we're still working on it.

What's the biggest unforeseen benefit? Besides the obvious freedom, it's the opportunity to be as successful with my own business as I was in helping companies with theirs. It's like starting over again. It's scary sometimes. But it makes me feel young again in a way that's surprisingly invigorating.

Will I ever go back? Honestly, I don't know. Would you?

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