Saying Goodbye to My Corporate Career and Hello to My Calling: Embracing A New Understanding of the Meaning of Success

Saying Goodbye to My Corporate Career and Hello to My Calling: Embracing A New Understanding of the Meaning of Success
This is part 9 of a series by author Paul Attaway
Words by Paul Attaway

The advice most often delivered in the Bible is some form of the following: Do not be afraid.

If fear weighs too heavily on our decision-making process, what do we do? We may take the safe route and do what is expected.

Before long, other people’s expectations can become ours. 

How many of us choose a career or life path because of our father’s impact? Some of us choose a career path as far removed from our father’s as possible as a form of revolt. Others follow in their father’s footsteps. As sons, I believe that living our lives to meet or exceed our father’s expectations, real and perceived, is unavoidable. Even absent fathers have this affect by their absence.

I was fortunate, for I had a very involved father, one who loved me dearly. I wanted to please him. I wanted to be him. He was an entrepreneur. He started his own sheet metal manufacturing business in a building so small he had to open the doors to operate the equipment. He achieved success, and he did it the hard way. So would I. He had a chip on his shoulder. So would I.

Not only did I want to be like my father, I wanted to out-do him. This is not a horrible way to live, to an extent. But, measuring success by any standard other than the only one that matters, as I have come to understand success, has its pitfalls.

For twenty-five years, I immersed myself in numerous business careers. Looking back, I now know that I was chasing something I could not catch. But I want to be clear—it would be disingenuous to say I regret the decisions I made. One can always look back and see certain decisions they wish they had made differently. Sure, that’s the case with me, but as for the big decisions, well, they landed me here. I was recently asked by a friend if I wished I had pursued a writing career from the outset. I answered emphatically NO. What did I know back then that could have made its way into a book? Nothing. Others pursue writing careers at an early age and that’s where life led them, but not me.

This mindset, of pleasing and surpassing my father, also bred an unhealthy obsession with perfection. Somewhere along the way I got it into my head that I had to earn my father’s approval. Once this poisonous vine took hold, it infected every part of my life spreading like Kudzu. Failure was unacceptable, for failure threatened to lessen my father’s approval. Success became the only acceptable outcome. I viewed my relationship with God the same way. I had to please him, or else. I was wrong to think this, and no blame for my attitude lies with my father. This was on me.

Today I have a better understanding of why I made the choices I did, and now I understand how hard it was to jump off the well-worn path. I was afraid to. Even though I was not happy doing what I was doing, it was safe. I knew how to do it and I could have kept going. It would have been expected and accepted. 

So, I come back to our Lord’s advice: Don’t be afraid.

Getting over my fear of writing a book meant getting over my fear of failure, over my fear of what others might think after reading my book, and learning more about me, over my fear of not pursuing a traditional business centric career—a career I identified as what a man of my background should want—over my fear of losing my father’s approval.

I was able to overcome these fears by learning to embrace the one true measure of success—living life knowing that my creator, God the Father, loves me and thinks I am wonderful. Living life embracing this truth is success for me.


Paul was born and raised in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Paul and his wife, Lyn, met in college at Georgetown University and were married after Paul graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law. They moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1988 where Paul embarked on a thirty-year business career before retiring so he could write fiction. Paul and Lyn raised three children together in Phoenix and now split their time between Phoenix and Charleston, South Carolina. 

Blood in the Low Country  is Paul Attaway’s debut novel. Writing this book, along with the move to Charleston, is a coming home of sorts, a return to the South. The history and culture of America’s South is rich, complicated, at times comical, sad, tragic, uplifting, and inspiring. Paul hopes that his novels can capture even a small bit of this tapestry. Learn more about Paul Attaway, and purchase his book, here: Find the audiobook on Audible, Amazon, or Apple Books!