THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Fulfillment finder: Just picture yourself with million

The difference between a millionaire and a working stiff is that the worker uses his job as an excuse for why he's not living his dreams, and a millionaire doesn't have that luxury. So if you want to feel like a millionaire, start asking yourself the million-dollar question: What would make me feel fulfilled? 

A few years ago, Microsoft ended the stock option program that made an estimated 10,000 employees millionaires. While this compensation change signaled the end of an era of money, history should prove this change to be the beginning of an era of soul-searching. 

Typically, Microsoft millionaires cashed out and bought big-ticket items. But after a year of shopping and travel, most people grew bored. Few had planned to be so rich so early in their career. Most people planned to work their whole lives. Without the need to work, they had to ask themselves some questions: What is my life about? What makes me tick? 

In fact, these millionaires had to figure out their priorities. What we can learn from this era of options is that everyone can have the life of a millionaire if you soul-search as seriously as the Microsofties did. Soul-searching is difficult, but it's free to those who can endure the challenge. 

So ask yourself, what would you do if you were a millionaire? Then figure out how to do it now, when you don't have millions. Because it turns out that very few answers to that question really require you to stop working and live among piles of money.

I realized this truth when I cashed out of one company and started another and found myself making a salary larger than I ever imagined. To my surprise, not much changed except my bank statement and the restaurants I went to. Sure, I loved my career, but I would have done the same job for less than half the salary.

Once I saw that money didn't change my life, I felt a lot more freedom to make career choices that were financially risky. Later, when I left corporate life in order to write, I did not create a financial windfall– in fact, you could say the change had the opposite effect. But I would write this column even if I were a millionaire. 

There are two kinds of jobs: fulfilling and enabling.

Fulfilling: If you have a fulfilling job, then you're doing exactly what you want to be doing and it doesn't matter if you're a millionaire. You are lucky. (Though not alone: Microsoft has a large contingency of millionaires– "volunteers"– who continue working even though they don't need the money.)

Enabling: An enabling job is what you do if your fulfillment comes from something that doesn't pay. This kind of job takes the most discipline; if you work and work and never get to the exciting thing you're going to do on the side, then the only thing you enable is shopping.

And don't say you have no energy. If you had an appointment with the President of the United States after work, even if you dislike him, you'd have enough energy to make it to the meeting. People who are too tired after work are people who don't know what they want to do.


We might not all make millions from our job, but we are all equals in the effort to find a fulfilling life. So stop telling yourself that your life would be really different if you had a million dollars. For most of us, the only difference would be a bigger bank account. And the restaurants.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more. She penned this column several years ago, but she's busy with new things–- too busy to write new things.