I was just quickly stopping by a small concept store in the middle of Koreatown, hoping to buy a particular present for a friend. However, the supposedly 15- minutes visit turned out way longer than I planned.
Tim was one of the friendliest retail associates I’ve met. He knew well what the store was about: the background, the owners, the vision, and the products. You could feel his passion and energy simply from listening to him talk. Most importantly, he cared.
After a couple of get-to-know-each-other questions, the “where are you from?” and “what do you do?”, he asked me what my future career plan is. As a college student who often gets asked about my hopes and plans after graduation, I was prepared for this question. I have memorized a conventional, well-crafted answer which I’ve used on several occasions. I simply followed my script and told him that I wanted to work in the biotech field. However, Tim’s response wasn’t one that I used to hear. He asked me, “do you see yourself happy working in that field?” Taken aback by his response, I contemplated my answer. Saying “yes” would make me a liar, but saying “no” wasn’t an option either.
I think Tim knew that I was a confused and naïve sophomore. He began telling me about his journey, how he ended up working at this small boutique store. Tim dropped out of college in New York and began working in retails in New York City. Working in a huge retail company, he felt like he was losing the “human touch”. So he took a huge leap of faith, packed his bags and moved to Los Angeles. He landed a job at a large fashion retail store and enjoyed the perks and prestige of the job, but he wasn’t exactly satisfied. He felt unhappy and tired most of the time, and didn’t feel like he was contributing much to the store’s operation. So again, Tim made a bold move and switched jobs. This time, his salary was half the amount of what he was earning. But Tim was happy. He was passionate about his job and he was finally doing what he loved. He said, “it’s not how you earn or spend your money. At one point, you reach a plateau and your income is just whatever. Millionaires or middle class, if you hate your job you face the same your issues.”
I’ve heard the story “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” a bunch of times, but hearing it from Tim reaffirmed my goal to create my own job based on my passions. He inspired me to do good in what I love and not what pays best. Because at the end of the day, we’re not defined by our net worth, possessions or assets, but our experiences and actions we choose to take.