Insights from Working in Corporate America: Key Lessons Learned & My Journey of Leaving

In this article, we’re going to talk all about my experience leaving corporate America, traveling the world, and starting my own business.

I’ve learned many lessons from my years working in corporate America and then quitting to travel the world, so I want to dive deep into the mindset shift it took to leave and go after my dreams.

If you’re at a point in your life where you’re feeling stuck, unsure of which direction to go forward then this article is for you.

This article will be jam packed with brain hacking goodies and perspective shifting insights, so strap on in and let’s get to it.


Receiving magazines for the kids in the center to read

I’ve worked many different jobs in my life starting from a young age.

In high school, I was a hostess, a waitress and a camp counselor and then I graduated from my university a year early and got a job as a Program Director at a community center in my college town.

I was ecstatic because my major was Community & Nonprofit Leadership and it felt like I was going to actually use the skills I learned in school and put them to the test.

Felt like my degree was worth something after all.

I saw the impactful work this community center was doing and wanted to grow it to get more students into the after school program where they could get extra science and math help from college mentors.

I also started my own fundraisers and created programming for the summer camp.

With there only being 3 employees, I took on a lot of the strategic planning and creative work without a ton of support.

It was deeply fulfilling, but after about a year and helping raise $237,000 for the small center, I was burnt out from feeling like growing this center rested all on my own shoulders with minimal pay.

I could feel myself craving a supportive team, more structure and more money, so I got more and more curious about what corporate life would be like.

To the organized Virgo in me, corporate sounded like music to my ears.

Plus, I really wanted to fulfill my dream of working in a concrete jungle like Chicago and a ton of my friends were moving there too which was the icing on the cake for my decision.

So, I moved to Chicago, got a corporate job, landed my own apartment with 2 of my best friends and was living out my dream life.

Or so I thought.

From Nonprofits to Corporate to Feeling Stuck

Transitioning out of college, I tried my hardest to make this period of my life the best it could be.

I tried to take on more work at my job to show my value to my company. I went to happy hours with coworkers. I planned events with my friends.

I worked a side job at a fitness studio to get a free membership.

I enrolled in improv and writing classes.

I went on dates to cool bars all over the city.

On paper, everything seemed perfect.

Yet, for some reason I was miserable.

I hated my job.

I felt trapped with the constant stress of having to prove I was working on projects 8 hours a day in attempt to move up the corporate ladder.

I found it difficult to enjoy the work I was doing within the corporation.

I hated how my life revolved all around this job and there was this pressure to put on a professional face every day, which made me feel like I was losing my true authentic self.

Unfortunately, I feel like a lot of people feel this way in the corporate world or so-called "corporate America."

The company I worked for put together events for nonprofit associations, and I was in charge of working with the sponsors about their contributions.

The company's mission was to ensure the associations we were working for were happy and thriving at the expense of our own work/life balance.

The funny thing is, I would be on the phone with sponsors more interested in talking about their lives than actually getting into the details of the work.

At a convention ready to talk with sponsors

I also found myself walking around the office every single day striking up convo with anyone who wanted to chat and we’d dive into their dating life, their mindset, their family and things that actually felt authentic instead of the curated superficial office chat that regularly took place.

My soul craved it. I wanted to know how people really were, not this fake work persona they were putting on.

Year after year, as much as I hated my job, I couldn’t detach because that’s where I got my self worth.

From doing extra. Going above and beyond. Being validated by bosses.

I wanted the praise, the recognition, the feeling like I was valuable.

But my goodness it was a lot of stress.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I gave my all to this company, answering phone calls and emails at 9pm in the weeks coming up to the events, and bending over backwards to pick up extra work from colleagues who were drowning and needed an extra hand …only to have one situation be misconstrued and turned against me.

It all started when I auditioned to be in a sketch comedy show and got accepted to perform 3 late night shows.

I was ecstatic.

Almost immediately after accepting this gig, my company wanted to last minute send me to an event a flight away early in the morning the day after my 2nd show.

I told them I could do it, but I already had a prior personal commitment and I’d be tired from performing late the night before.

They said it’s totally fine and I can sleep in the time off.

Newsflash: it was not totally fine.

When I arrived, I was a bit tired, of course, but pulled it together and tended to my sponsors with a smile and made sure everything was going smoothly. It was. Because I was good at my job.

When my team asked me how I was, I candidly told them that I was excited to be there but a little exhausted from the night before and the travel.

This comment had gotten misconstrued and someone on my team had thought I had been up the whole  night before partying and drinking.

Which is funny to me as someone who took my work very seriously and barely drank alcohol.

Word got around within the company and my boss called me into her office when I came back.

She told me that I have to watch what I say and do in this corporate setting so that nothing gets misconstrued.

After the meeting, I couldn’t keep hiding my emotions anymore.

I cried in a quiet room to my friends and said I don’t want to have to wear a mask.

I want to be my authentic self.

I want to be free.

I didn’t know what to do.

My world felt small.

It felt like staying in corporate was the only option since that was all I had known and that was what all of my friends were doing.

I felt trapped.


Watching the decline of my mental health.

How the heck am I going to pull myself out?

I need to make myself a priority instead of caring so much about my job title and salary.

Maybe you can relate to this feeling of not knowing any way forward.

But then I felt a tiny pull from my intuition to leave.

To get out of this environment fully and travel the world.

My ego laughed, “that seems utterly insane. You can’t go do that. What about making money and succeeding on this corporate path?”  

Blazer ready hyping myself up to have a 14 hour day at an event I didn't feel connected to

But then I remembered how I studied abroad in Spain and absolutely looooved immersing myself in new cultures, meeting new people and seeing different perspectives.

In my heart of hearts, I knew that this corporate life wasn’t for me.

But my conditioning was strong and persistent.

I kept questioning and questioning about what I could possibly do to make money while also following this urge to travel.

How the heck do I know the right path to take?

Is this my intuition or is this pure lunacy? I would ask myself.

In my small bubble, I thought my life’s only  options  were to work 9 to 5 or go back to waiting tables.

Yet, I’ve always been drawn to being a teacher.

I marveled at how teachers would lead their classes when I was a student and dreamt of ways I would conduct my own classes and engage my students.

To this day, I love learning and I love helping others learn too.

And then a lightbulb went off.

I had known a few people who were English teachers in Thailand.

That’s what I’ll do.

I’ll travel and teach and see if I want to come back to get my Master’s degree to teach in the US.

A little break from this corporate culture.

This became my new dream.

Leaving Corporate America: The Escape Plan

The plan started to quickly shape up and I got my Teaching English as a Second Language certification, and started volunteering teaching English in a Spanish school after work.

I’d always wanted to get my yoga certification but I could never take 3 weeks off of work.

Side-eye to the minimal paid time off certain companies give to their employees in the US.

If I quit my job, before going to Thailand, I could also go get my yoga certification on the way.

I found an epic one in Bali, Indonesia.

The plan was snowballing and coming together.

Maybe this actually could work out, and I’m not absurdly crazy - I thought to myself.

I was psyched to quit my job, but also paralyzed with fear.

And this - I feel like you probably could relate to. How many times do we get excited about a situation but fear holds us back?

In that moment fear was saying: I know I’m miserable now, but what if I’m even more miserable?

What if I make no money and I’m stuck all the way across the world alone?

What if I’m lonely?

What if I’m sabotaging my career?

What if I hate teaching and then everyone will laugh at me for quitting and I’ll have to come home with my tail in between my legs as a big failure?

Oh goodness, the mind had a field day with fear.

When I confided to my sister and best friend about my work woes and my fear, I vividly remember them saying, “you are not a tree, you are never stuck.” If you hate your next situation, you can change it.

You can come home.

You can find a new job.

If you’re lonely, you can make an effort to meet more people abroad. You can literally do whatever your heart desires.

And that’s a piece of advice that I take with me in every situation, and I want to pass it on to you.

If you’re feeling called to do something new, do it.

And when fear wants to hold you back, remind yourself that you are never stuck.

You have the liberty to change your situation at any given point.

It takes the courage and trust within yourself that you can handle anything that comes your way.

But instead of getting so caught up in the future “what ifs” that haven’t even happened yet.

Can you come back to the present?

And reverse the negatives to “what if it goes way better than I planned?” “what if I stay open and allow for the situation to unfold and learn the lessons I need to learn?”

“What if I find the peace and contentment that I’m looking for?”

Working online in Thailand after taking the leap to move and live abroad

Which also can be scary too if we’re not accustomed to actually being happy and having things work out for us.

So in summary, I knew I needed to leave corporate because my heart wasn’t in it.

It wasn’t aligned with my deepest values, mission and passions.

There was this deep ping in my gut that something else was out there for me and when I scraped past the fear, the path started to clearly shape up for me.

If any part of my story resonates with you, I would be thrilled to connect with you.

Feel free to send me an email or DM on social media with your story, your questions or simply to connect.

If you’re not currently loving your job or your business, here are my best mindset tips that shifted things for me.

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Things I Learned From Years of Working in Corporate America:

Here are 4 of my top tips to get unstuck and start on your path to finding more joy, fulfillment and peace in your life.

If you’re hating your job or the current state of your business, there are ways to actually make it better without changing careers.

Transformation Tactic #1:

Ask yourself how can you show up with a different energy to your work?

Think about how you want to feel and interact with your tasks and colleagues and then ask, “how can you step into more of that energy?”

So for example, I was able to switch my perspective in my job and find gratitude that this job was paying the bills while I figured out what else I wanted to do with my life.

I started looking for the joy during my days and letting go of the anxiety I had to do a task perfectly.

I would email my colleagues in a brighter tone, which had them respond to me more positively.

I started to detach from the outcome.

Which was HUGE.

Wherever possible, give your 100% and then detach and trust that your effort was enough.

Give your all to the spreadsheet or the email, or the meeting and then let go and let that effort be sufficient.

We increase our suffering by replaying the past in our minds and worrying about the future.

We can’t change the past, we can only change how we respond to it.

And the future hasn’t happened yet, so it’s important to simply come back to the present and let go.

Breathe for a moment.

Can you keep coming back to the present moment and focusing your energy there?

Transformation Tactic #2:

After you make your current situation more bearable is to dive into your own personal values and orient yourself in the direction of wherever your highest excitement is.

If this immediately puts you into a panic, do not worry because I have created a free mini course called Propel to Productivity to help all of my listeners break their mindset barriers, explore their values and goals, and create an action plan to take the first step to your most aligned goal.

To access this free mini course, you can click on the link in the description to start creating a new life for yourself today.

When you align your values and goals and follow your highest excitement, you start to become a magnet to invigorating opportunities. You take one step in the direction of what excites you and the rest snowballs.

I’m exhibit A.

I never thought I’d be traveling the world full time and teaching yoga, but I followed what excited me and here’s where it led.

Transformation Tactic #3:

Something that is super important to remember, is you don’t know what you don’t know. When you are immersed in your own bubble and world, it is easy to believe that you are stuck where you are.

I’m here to remind you that you are never stuck.

There are infinite possibilities and ways to go about creating a new life.

My world was small.

I thought there was only corporate and waiting tables.

After quitting my job, I quickly found that there are limitless opportunities.

I was freelancing doing website design, copywriting, video editing, search engine optimization, social media management, creating content for brands, teaching yoga, hosting energy healing sessions, and coaching different clients.

I’ve met numerous people doing fascinating jobs.

There is something out there for everyone.

You can even create it for yourself.

It just depends on going inward and exploring your own unique interests and then taking action steps toward them and watching the rest unfold.

Again the free mini course Propel to Productivity will most definitely help you with this, so make sure to check it out here.

Trust that when you make a change, you will be supported. Welcome and acknowledge the fear, and still keep charging forward.

Transformation Tactic #4:

Allow for things to flow.

My 5 year plan was to teach English in Thailand, then South Korea then return to the US and become a teacher in Denver. None of those things happened especially due to the pandemic.

Instead, what unraveled was an incredible journey of self discovery and starting my own brain hacking coaching business while traveling the world. My wildest dreams would have never come up with this.

So, yes.

Have a north star and a direction you’re going, but loosen your grasp of the goal to allow for magic to happen.

I hope these transformation tactics were helpful!

I’d love to hear how you’re going to implement them in your life.

As always, I love hearing from you. Feel free to send your questions, comments and answers to any of my thought-provoking tactics to my email or DM me on social media. My email and social media links can be found in the description.

As we know, I love science. So let me explain the science behind being stuck and it might resonate with you in a different way.

Neuro Nugget - The Brain Science to Help You Shift Your Mindset

In this episode, I discussed how I felt stuck and crazy for wanting to do something completely out of my comfort zone.

Now let’s explore the powerful forces at play within our brains and how they influence our life's trajectory.

One force is the brain's inherent resistance to change.

Our brains prefer the comfort of familiar routines, often holding us back from taking bold steps toward a more fulfilling life.

But whyyyyy?

What’s happening inside there keeping us stuck?

The Amygdala

At the heart of this resistance is a small, almond-shaped structure in the brain called the amygdala.

The amygdala is like our brain's security guard, constantly assessing the environment for potential threats.

When faced with change, even positive change, the amygdala can perceive it as a threat to our comfort zone.

It triggers feelings of anxiety and unease, making us second-guess our decisions.

The brain is wired for survival and the amygdala ultimately is like the detective in charge of looking out for any danger that would threaten your survival.

And if you’re here well HELLO - you’ve survived 100% of your days.

Therefore, the amygdala in the brain is like wow great, look at us surviving! I’m doing a damn good job.

Let’s keep doing what we’re doing.

But consciously, you’re like - well yeah I’m surviving but I want to be thriving. And amygdala is like cool, but I don’t care if you’re thriving, I just care if you’re alive.

Which is great and all, but we want to be fully living not just going through the motions of life.

SO what can you do?

Dun dun dun dun

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Are you ready to finally find peace and joy in your life?

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Brain Hack of the Day - Your Action Step Toward a Happier Life

Today's brain hack is a powerful tool to overcome the amygdala's resistance and embrace change with ease and grace.

So now as we know, the brain is wired to keep us alive and doesn’t accept straying from your current path very easily. BUUUUUUT if you flood the brain with success stories about people living a similar life to what you want, it will grasp that you can safely and easily do that too.

You shift your perception of change from a threat to an opportunity.

Here's how to do it:

Choose Your Role Model: Start by identifying someone whose life resonates with you. It could be a cooking influencer, a travel vlogger, a TEDx speaker, a CEO, or a successful solopreneur.

The key is to pick someone whose journey inspires you.

Then, research their story.

Read articles, watch interviews, follow their social media, or cough cough listen to their podcast.

Learn about their challenges, setbacks, and how they overcame them.

Discover their mindset, strategies, and the steps they took to achieve their goals.

You’re already doing it with me aka your brain is already starting to see that there are more opportunities in the world for you than your current life situation.

Today’s task is to basically keep doing what you’re doing and researching into the lives of people you are inspired by to train the brain that it is possible.

Next, identify actionable steps you can take to move closer to your desired life.

It might be learning a new skill, networking, or changing daily habits.

The key is to apply the insights you've gained from your role model's journey.

If you don’t know where to start, again this would be a fabulous time to visit my free mini course of Propel to Productivity to help you gain insight on what your values and goals are and create an action plan to launch to your most aligned goals.

Repeated exposure to your role model’s success will reinforce the idea that you, too, can achieve remarkable things. Repetition is essential for creating lasting change in the brain.

So perhaps, it’s declaring now that you’ll keep listening to this podcast to continue getting inspired or following this person on social media to stay up to date on their story or hanging up articles in your room about people who have done what you want to do.

By immersing yourself in the success stories of those who inspire you, you're effectively reprogramming your amygdala.

Over time, your brain will begin to perceive change as an exciting opportunity rather than a threat.

This shift in perspective can empower you to take bold steps toward your own success with confidence and optimism.

So, the next time your amygdala is like “yo abort mission this is dangerous” remember that you have the power to rewrite the narrative.

Flood your brain with success stories, and watch your journey transform from survival mode to a thriving adventure.

Fulfillment Fast Track - The Recap

We covered a lot in a short amount of time, so let’s quickly recap it so you have nice digestible takeaways and action steps after you listen.

Unaligned Job and Self-Fulfillment: I found myself in a corporate job that didn't align with my values and passions. If you're unhappy in your current job, take a step back and evaluate whether it aligns with your passions, mission and values.

If you’re unsure of what your values and mission are, that’s why I created my free mini course Propel to Productivity to help you figure those out. Again you can find that in the description to launch to your most aligned goals.

Many Opportunities Await: I realized there are countless opportunities beyond what we can initially see.

When you're feeling stuck, remember that you don’t know what you don’t know.

There's a vast world of possibilities and fulfillment waiting for you.

Having a Loose Plan: Instead of grasping so hard to a specific goal and outcomes, embrace the idea of letting life unfold. How can you allow opportunities to flow and trust the process a bit more?

Embracing Change: You are never stuck, and you have the power to change your situation at any given time.

Whenever you feel trapped, remind yourself that you are not a tree and you can always choose a different path.

Overcoming the Amygdala’s preference for the comfort zone: Flood your mind with success stories from people’s whose life you want to emulate to shift your perspective of viewing change as a threat to seeing it as an exciting opportunity.

Wooooo! These tips can help you fast track your journey to fulfillment.

I’m sooo grateful that you’re here taking another step toward living a life that feels extraordinary.

Teaching yoga in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Keep Rewiring Your Brain With Me

I would love, love, love, love to hear from you.

Since you're here, you're probably looking for a way to take your first step to your dream goal. My free mini course Propel to Productivity will help you change your mindset patterns, align your goals and values and take action toward your most aligned dreams.

We've got a great community here, and so I'd love to gift this to you so that you can start taking the first action step towards your goal.

Thank you so much for joining me today to learn all about my journey out of corporate America and getting unstuck to live a path that feels more aligned.

If you're wanting to hear an audio version of this blog post, feel free to check out my podcast Radically Rewired on all streaming platforms.

So grateful you're here and it's a pleasure to have you in my community.

If you're as passionate about rewiring your brain and want to brain hacking tips right to your inbox, subscribe to my newsletter.

Let's continue on this transformative journey together, my friends.

Until next time, keep rewiring, keep thriving, and keep shining.

Lots of love,


Hi! I'm Nicole. A brain hacking mentor on a mission to help you optimize your mindset to achieve your goals and live a fulfilling and joyous life.

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