The Future of Work series is a set of stories & interviews with real people who took a BIG leap and designed the job of their dreams (in the face of fear, doubt, uncertainty, and naysayers!)
Borke Thill courageously quit a great corporate job with Siemens to follow her kitesurfing passion and ended up managing the Sri Lanka Kite School. Though she hadn’t intended to leave the security of her home, she couldn’t resist an opportunity to try something new. Here’s her true story of how she designed her dream life (and career):
How did the journey begin?
Borke: It was completely unexpected. I had planned to take a brief pause from working to travel for 3 months. I wanted to test myself and get over my fears of kitesurfing so I planned to spend 2 months in Sri Lanka – either I was going to improve or I was going to give up!
Where did your passion for Kitesurfing develop?
Borke: I was taking an intensive Spanish language course and saw people kitesurfing in Tarifa and it looked beautiful and fun. I decided to try it for a week and it was the best week ever! I had so much fun learning, failing, falling into the water… I was all alone and I could get angry and yell at the water and nobody cared. I felt so much freedom and excitement. When kitesurfing, you have to focus or you will fall. You must stay in the moment. That was a special feeling for me.
So you were practicing Kitesurfing in Sri Lanka. How did the opportunity to manage the Kitesurfing school come up?
Borke: I was asking a lot of questions about kitesurfing and going out there every day to practice. At some point I started giving advice as new tourists came to try kitesurfing and one day the owner Mike, jokingly, asked me why I don’t just manage the kitesurfing school? And then the next day he asked me again, only this time he wasn’t joking.
What was your reaction?
I have a secure, well-paying job in Switzerland. Why would I give that up? Those were my thoughts in the moment. But then I took a step back and thought, wait a minute.Borke: NO! Am I stupid? I have a secure, well-paying job in Switzerland. Why would I give that up? Those were my thoughts in the moment. But then I took a step back and thought, wait a minute. I’ve always wanted to do something different; I want to test myself in a different environment.
What were your fears in taking the kitesurfing management job in Sri Lanka?
Borke: I was afraid of not having the security and not having money. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find a job again afterwards. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to make money and have enough savings for retirement.
How did you surmount those fears?
Borke: I talked to my coach and she helped me to realize that there are more things in life that give me security than a steady job and a paycheck. My family was very supportive and told me I could always move home if I needed to. Friends were supportive and told me I could always stay with them if I had no home. That’s when I realized: security is about so much more than just money. Security is all about your support network. My friends and family gave me a sense of security on a much deeper level than money ever could.
That’s when I realized: security is about so much more than just money. Security is all about your support network. My friends and family gave me a sense of security on a much deeper level than money ever could.I also mapped out what I was afraid of visually and then did an exercise about what else could give me security besides money and wrote that all down. It turned out that I really only wanted money for the freedom to get on a plane anytime I wanted to go home. So I carried a slip of paper in my wallet with the amount of money I had in my savings account written down and whenever I got scared, I could always pull out that slip of paper and remind myself I had enough money to buy a plane ticket home. That was enough to reassure me.
What was the turning point where you decided ok, YES, it’s time to leave my old life?
Borke: I felt like I was at a point in my life when I was only responsible for myself and I could do what I wanted. I had recently broken up with a boyfriend and was unsure about my work. Part of me felt like I had landed in a great corporate job but that I hadn’t actually chosen or decided on that career… I had more just slipped into it. I didn’t know, if given the choice, I would actually choose to work in that job. And I wanted to do something new so when I got this opportunity, I decided this was the time to take it!
And how did you stay connected to the working world during your career pause?
Borke: I stayed in contact with my former boss while I was gone via emails and I shared my blog with her so she could follow my adventures. You have to really make the effort to stay in touch because everyone else is busy in their day-to-day lives and you have to be the one to prioritize the relationship. It worked out because after only a few months, she was asking me to return to my old job!
Why did you decide to come home?
Borke: I had been prepared to be gone for 2 years but then my mom got ill and my relationship with my boyfriend became serious so I wanted to focus on those relationships. When you make a decision, things happen and you have to re-make your decisions. I was lucky that my former boss was so interested in having me return because then it was easy for me to come home.
How did it feel to return home and to the corporate world?
Borke: I came back with a different mindset. I learned a lot while I was away and one of the important lessons was that I really did like my corporate job and I had the reassurance that I would really choose it. But I would leave all over again if another great opportunity came because I learned and grew so much from this!
Any other advice for our readers?
It’s good to be afraid; it sharpens your mind. If you’re afraid of something, that’s where the magic is going to happen.
Borke: Let go, fall into that decision and see how it goes! If there is something you really want to try, you’ll only know afterwards if it was a good idea but you have to still try. It’s good to be afraid; it sharpens your mind. If you’re afraid of something, that’s where the magic is going to happen.
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