When I graduated from North Carolina State University back in 2009, Business Degree in-hand and a 1999 Ford Explorer loaded down with a tank of gas and everything I owned in this world, I was 22 years old with nothing and everything to lose at the same time. I was hopeful, ambitious, and curious about what opportunities were out there for me, and even though the economy was a little ‘under the weather’ (to say the least), I was still optimistic about the trajectory of my career.

My first job was for a small advertising agency in Cary, North Carolina. It didn’t pay much, but it was valuable experience in a time where you’d do anything for $8 an hour just to have something to put on your LinkedIn profile. I loved that job, but I had to keep moving up if I was to make something of myself in the years to come. I later got a job at a small tech startup, and so began my journey into the tech industry as a young, ambitious marketer.

Fast-forward to 2012, when the SaaS (Software as a Service) industry was beginning to really take off. Companies like SAS, Cisco Systems, and Red Hat were expanding at an alarming rate. Websites were becoming more user-friendly and intuitive, and people were learning about this thing called ‘the cloud’ while abandoning the notion that you had to insert a disc in your CD-ROM drive to download software to your computer. Times were starting to move fast, and I knew that at the very least, I wanted to be part of all the excitement.

As SaaS marketing started to develop, I was at the top of my game – attending conferences, reading articles, learning and testing new technologies to make my job more effective and my efforts more integrated than ever before. I wasn’t perfect at my job, but I was energized and having fun while doing it – and that was enough for me…until suddenly it wasn’t.

As time went on, I became increasingly restless in my occupation. It was a feeling that I can’t really put my finger on, but it wasn’t good. I was almost feeling like what I was doing simply wasn’t good enough. That the numbers were never high enough, the creative wasn’t edgy enough to be effective, the systems weren’t doing the trick fast enough to drive revenue, and so on. I felt like I was, in essence, falling behind the curve. It’s not a great feeling, but something was causing this demotivation. Something was making this thing I once loved not so enjoyable anymore.

Sparing the juicy details (that’s for another post), I slowly discovered what was driving my demotivation. It wasn’t so much the marketing job itself, but really what impact I was making through marketing in the lives of others.

Let me explain.

You see, my whole career I’ve been motivated by some crazy things. Money, titles, authority, control – all very real and very human motivations. What was missing, come to find out, was the understanding that none of these things defined me or gave me purpose. I had to learn through a series of failures and painful realizations that, in the end, I am not my career, and my identity is not in the work that I do. As a believer in Jesus, I knew that I had to learn to lay these things down at the foot of the cross. Simply put, I had to change how I perceived my occupation in order to reveal my true, God-inspired passions. We don’t have time to delve into the details here, but through this process of revelation God reminded me of my identity in Him, which highlighted one of my greatest passions in life – helping people make difficult but exciting life transitions. You see, every job I’ve ever had (that I’ve truly enjoyed) had one thing in common: the idea that I was helping someone, serving a purpose in their life, and guiding them through a major life decision.

So how does this relate to marketing? Simple. Marketing is human. It’s connecting people to other people to provide a product or service that they need in that moment or long-term. It’s meeting a need when a need arises, and serving the person above the profit. Marketing is making a human connection, and it’s wonderful when it’s not used to exploit or take advantage of people. I needed my work to be human. Better yet, I needed to take the journey with them, not funnel them in and move on to the next prospect.

Real estate, in all it’s uncertain glory, is the perfect venue for someone like me. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had an infatuation with houses. I used to draw floor plans with crayons, talk to real estate agents during open houses in my neighborhood instead of riding bikes in the cul-de-sac with friends, and explore partially-build houses (against the wishes of my parents and most local laws). Many believed I would go on to become an architect, and I definitely thought about it. Most knew, at least in my family, that real estate would be where I found purpose, and that’s exactly where I landed in 2016.

So, to wrap it all up, here’s where I am. After a rather interesting year, I finally discovered what drives me. I now know that I love marketing, I love working with people, and I love connecting people to something I was born to do: real estate. I now know that my identity is and never will be in what I do, but for whom I do it for and why. This all didn’t happen over night, and don’t get me wrong, I loved working in the tech industry for so long. I have so many people to thank for the opportunities that led me here. If I ever had to go back, I would in a heartbeat – but whatever job I might have would have to satisfy my passions. Otherwise, what is work without passion? Just a job, I guess.

Find your passion. Do your best work. It’s a simple equation for a complicated life.

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.