As early as preschool, I set my sights on achieving big things.
When I got into a tiff over some building blocks with another child, a teacher reprimanded me, saying
“You should be nice to Billy. Who knows, he might be President of the United States one day!”
I apparently turned to the teacher and gravely informed her
“I might be President of the United States one day.”
Yes, that’s actually me in preschool.
My parents thought the exchange was adorable. Little did they realize they were raising an overachiever.
I went from high school Valedictorian to the Air Force Academy, then later earned a PhD in biochemistry in just 3 years, half the time most students take. I was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and named one of the top scientists in the Air Force. In my spare time, I ran marathons and wrote poetry. My first collection won the Steel Toe Books poetry prize and was featured three different times by Garrison Keillor on his radio program, A Writer’s Almanac. By my mid-thirties, I was named the Assistant Chief Scientist of the Human Performance Wing of the Air Force Research Laboratory, the youngest person to serve in that role and one of very few women. Our mission was to transform ordinary human performance into the extraordinary, applying everything we knew from the fields of biology, psychology, and technology. I sat at the table with Generals and rock star researchers, giving advice and helping to direct a $100 million research and development portfolio.
Heady stuff. But at some point, my life didn’t feel nearly as good as it looked.
I had everything I was supposed to want, both personally and professionally, but behind all that was a growing restlessness. As much as I loved the idea of what I was doing, I still lived for the weekends and my vacations. My boss was (and still is) one of my most significant mentors and role models, but it soon became clear to me that I didn’t have the fire in the belly to follow in his footsteps. It was a depressing, and yet liberating, moment. All the compliments, awards, and expectations of greatness I had received over the years had encouraged me to pursue someone else’s vision of success.
But what I really wanted was to live my life on my own terms.
My name is Jen Gresham and my Myers-Briggs personality type is INFJ. I grew up on five acres of pine and saw palmetto in one of the few rural areas of Tampa, Florida. I am a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, where I was nick-named Cadet Happy Camper. I now live in Seattle, WA with my family and our two gorgeously fat cats. I left the Air Force (and science) to reinvent myself as a writer. I started this blog, and was surprised to discover I was far from alone in my desire to lead a more purposeful and personally meaningful life. Although I wish I’d had the clarity and courage to pursue a more meaningful career earlier in life, my time as a scientist was not wasted. I loved science for the illumination it provides on the world around us. I also understand that life is a series of experiments in which we are (or should be) enormously invested in the outcome. I am thankful I spent time learning how to analyze human performance and interpret results, a discipline that’s benefited the 10,000+ monthly readers of this blog who turn to me for advice and guidance as they embark on life changes of their own.
Today, I live the life I once dreamt of having. It is a privilege to help others achieve extraordinary personal and professional success through my one-on-one coaching and my No Regrets Career Academy (teaching people my system for finding a career they love). I wake up everyday excited and energized by my work. Not only am I inspired by my incredible clients, but I am part of a worldwide community of bloggers and entrepreneurs that challenge me to hold myself to a higher standard. And yes, I am successful. I can say that without pretense or boasting, because I don’t measure it by the number of readers here, my flourishing coaching practice, or program sales.
No less important is the time I devote to my health, my family, and my friends. One thing I wasn’t prepared for was how difficult it would be to hold my existing workaholism in check once I was doing work I loved. But it turned out that prioritizing my own health and well-being only propelled my business. Now I get more done and have more fun. As I tell my clients;
It’s not really success if it doesn’t make you feel good
With the family in Cornwall, one of our favorite places on Earth
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