How Self-Centeredness Made My Work Less Fulfilling

Work is fulfilling; then suddenly it isn’t.

Before that time, everything is clear. You know what you are doing. You are getting results. You are successful. You are about to reach the prize, get the gold ring.

Then just as you are reaching for it, you realize it doesn’t matter. You’ll just have to do it again because the first time didn’t bring fulfillment.

I Wanted More

I wanted fulfillment to last. I wanted work to complete me. It didn’t. The choice was to stop believing or do it again. I thought the next time would be different, but it wasn’t. Now what? If not this, then what?

My answer was to to pursue meaning differently. Invest in others who wanted to achieve their prize. When they reached that moment and grabbed the gold ring, there would be great fulfillment. Fulfillment which would last.

I Caused My Failure

So I became an angel investor. I realized my purpose was no longer leading companies but helping others achieve their dream of starting and leading their own companies.

Helping others succeed and trusting them with my investment was extraordinarily difficult for me. In my early startup investments, I was so involved I was more a co-CEO than an investor.

This caused the failure of my first and second investments. Through these failures, I realized I was not being true to my new purpose of angel investor. I had to change. I had to trust the entrepreneurs. My job was to invest and advise. The entrepreneur’s job was to make decisions and execute.

I Gave Up Control

The meaning would come only after releasing my grip. Giving up control. Helping others achieve success. Encouraging and watching, but not doing. If it was going to be, it couldn’t be up to me.

The only way I could get there was to rely more and more on God. Through the daily practice of prayer and submission, I began to grow in my relationship with Jesus.

Some companies failed, but some also succeeded. In every case, relationships were forged, and God was glorified. This is where I found meaning.

Dinner with a Friend

I was out to dinner recently with Robert, the founder of one of my most successful investments, Tax Partners. At his urging, we exited this company in 2006. We are still friends, and he is building on what he learned from our experience together.

He started a new company called TaxConnect using some of his proceeds from the sale. It is a great success for him and his family.

At the end of our dinner, Robert said, “I learned so much from you while building Tax Partners. It changed my life in so many ways. Thank you for your help and friendship.”

Why Meaning Eluded Me

Meaning was elusive because I was self-centered. It was one thing to say I was serving God by serving others and quite another to have the heart for serving others.

Meaning was only found when I became authentic. And this change in heart was only realized when I obeyed God and trusted him for the outcome. Thanks to Robert and the other entrepreneurs in my life, I found meaning.

Thank you, Robert.

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2 thoughts on “How Self-Centeredness Made My Work Less Fulfilling

  1. Charlie,

    Thank you – once again – for sharing. You lead by example. My take aways:
    1. Blog for my clients.
    2. Pray, read scripture in the a.m.
    3. Trust and rely on God.
    4. Serve others by helping them succeed at their gifts.


    • “Giving up control” is key for the entrepreneur as well. A common refrain you hear among successful entrepreneurs is, “I got lucky.” That does’t diminish the entrepreneur’s intellect, resilience, adaptability and all the other personal/management traits it takes to succeed.

      But it does show that there is a point on most any road to success (or even failure) where after stumbling, pivoting, stumbling again and finally getting just about everything right… the entrepreneur must “abandon” him or herself to forces well beyond his/her control.

      This then marks the onset of humility.

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