with Avery Thatcher and Anthony Kuo
Today, we have a fascinating guest on the show who believes that your career is much more than just a shiny resume. Anthony Kuo is a Career Satisfaction Coach with a unique perspective. He graduated from the prestigious NYU Stern School of Business in 2010 and embarked on an eight-year journey through the Fortune 500 corporate world, steadily climbing the ladder. However, Anthony’s realization that he was filling his bank account but leaving his soul empty led to a profound transformation.
Drawing from his practical corporate experience and training as a Transformational NLP Practitioner, Anthony now guides his clients in a playful yet gentle manner through one of life’s most essential questions: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You can join his newsletter at satisfactionseekers.com to explore his insights further.
[04:39] High Achiever Identity: Anthony reflects on his lifelong identity as a high achiever, shaped by familial expectations and cultural influences. He delves into the dual nature of high achievement, both empowering and confining.
[09:57] Impact of Corporate Success: The conversation shifts to the impact of corporate success on well-being. Anthony reveals how external achievements can mask internal dissatisfaction, leading to emotional and physical exhaustion.
[11:07] Awakening to Dissatisfaction: Anthony emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and listening to dissatisfaction as a catalyst for meaningful change, breaking free from the shackles of career conformity.
[13:51] The Care Card Concept: Anthony introduces the innovative “Care Card,” a tool for deciphering the key ingredients needed for career satisfaction, including interests, style, needs, and favorite skills.
[16:21] Balancing Burnout and Achievement: Strategies for recognizing signs of burnout include self-awareness, self-care, and embracing self-compassion as essential elements of a fulfilling career journey.
Avery – 00:00
Today, we’re talking with a really interesting guest that I can absolutely relate to in a lot of ways and I feel like you’ll be able to do that as well.
Because this person believes that you are so much more than your job, that you and your career is more than just a shiny resume.
Much more, actually.
Anthony is a career satisfaction coach and he wants to help you intentionally craft a career that you’re excited to wake up for.
Anthony graduated from the NYU Stern School of Business in 2010 and subsequently took an eight-year tour through the Fortune 500 world, rising up the corporate ladder before he realized that he was filling his bank account but leaving his soul empty.
Anthony integrates his practical experience with his training as a transformational NLP practitioner to gently and playfully guide his clients through one of life’s most important questions.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Avery – 01:01
Hi, I’m Avery Thatcher and I believe that we can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that created it.
That’s why on this podcast we combine ancient, Vedic and Taoist wisdom with our modern lifestyle and latest research to show high achievers like you, how to recover your energy and optimize your habits so you can elevate your impact, and prevent an epic burnout experience.
Because burnouts a bitch in hindsight in assholes, so rather than let them win, let’s dig into the truth about burnout.
Alright friends, let’s hear from Anthony Po.
I am so excited to have you here today.
I can relate to your story so much and I can’t wait to dive into it.
Anthony – 01:46
Thanks so much for having me.
Avery – 01:50
Yeah, let’s do it.
So I want to hear a little bit about your story and when you first identified as a high achiever and how that kind of played out in your life growing up.
Anthony – 02:01
So I don’t know if there was ever a time that I didn’t identify as a high achiever.
It was just sort of like ingrained into me based on how I was raised.
It’s a very Chinese American thing, I think, my parents were immigrants to this country and they believed in achievement as the path to the upper middle class.
And you know, you should have heard the stories that my parents would tell about how my dad survived the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 60s and came to the country with $20 in his pocket and his clothes in his suitcase.
For my parents, being excellent was the way to survive in a new country.
There was no other option for them.
When it came to having children, that was the template for us too.
Anthony – 02:54
And so my mom was a prodigy playing piano around the world.
She started performing in performance halls like in London and in Hong Kong when she was just 12. And so when she started teaching me piano at the age of five, there were, shall we say, expectations.
And you know, to her credit, it was excellent teaching.
She was both my parents graduated from Juilliard and were highly accomplished musicians and I was taught to play at a very high level as well.
To the point where when I was 17, I performed my own recital at Carnegie Hall.
Avery – 03:40
Which is super impressive, my friend.
Anthony – 03:42
But there is a big butt.
That performance happened to be my very last time on stage because I, truth be told, did not enjoy it.
It was something my parents wanted for me and it was their expression of love for sure.
But it was not what I was interested in.
I was so much more interested in learning French and being on the swim team and playing video games with my friend and piano was like the last item on my list.
And yet it was the thing that I kept having to do.
Anthony – 04:24
So it just, the tension just kept growing and growing and growing.
Where I was forced to choose piano over my other interests and the better I got and the more prizes I won at competitions, the more I had to choose it.
And because it was also so much of my parents’ passion, I felt like I didn’t get to choose.
Unknown speaker – 04:45
So it just got to a point where I was missing swim meets that I was qualifying for.
Anthony – 04:49
I was qualifying for like state level.
Competitions, but I had to miss out on those to perform or compete at piano.
And it was just like such a… I freaking hated it.
If we’re being completely honest, like I… It just felt like complete shit to have to make that choice over and over again.
So I decided that was it.
I was gonna record that performance, send it into colleges, and I was done.
Avery – 05:21
There’s a lot of people pleasing that comes along with high achievement, especially at a young age.
When so much of your identity is tied to achievement, perfectionism is such a part of that too.
Can you tell me a little bit about how that kind of showed up as well, moving into career?
Anthony – 05:41
Oh my goodness, I mean, perfectionism showed up everywhere.
Avery – 05:44
Does it still show up everywhere?
Anthony – 05:47
Oh, it did.
It shows up everywhere.
I’m perfect at being a perfectionist.
Avery – 05:54
Anthony – 05:56
I mean, even from an early age, I was placed into the gifted and talented programs and I imagine you know and speak about this a lot, where when we are given the identity of being gifted and talented, Then any failures is not a learning opportunity, it is a failure of the person.
And so I avoided failure like the plague.
And in moments when I needed to take risks and learn.
So in my career, I took The safe choice, I had a career in the corporate world, which again was a template that was given to me.
I succeeded in the corporate world, I was the best little worker be there ever was.
And I got promoted, and I did a really good job, and I got promoted again.
I was the poster child of the American Dream.
Anthony – 06:54
I had the sixth figure job.
I bought a house with that salary.
I bought a nice car.
And yet, I felt like I was filling out my bank account and draining my soul.
Avery – 07:07
Which is such powerful language.
I want to highlight that not all kinds of burnout are the physical exhaustion or the mental exhaustion.
Sometimes it’s fulfillment burnout.
We’re just grinding away at maybe someone else’s dream and we just don’t feel connected to that at all.
So not all burnout means that you’re like completely wiped out on the couch.
Did you feel that?
Anthony – 07:31
I mean that happened too.
Avery – 07:32
Yeah, I was just like, tell me about that.
Anthony – 07:37
First, thank you for naming that, because for such a long time I was so confused about why things were going so well on the outside and felt like they were going so terribly on the inside.
That made it even more confusing as to why I was so tired on the couch and wiped out.
Because let’s be honest, I was working a white collar job.
I was not hauling boxes in the warehouse for 45 hours a week.
I was sitting in front of my computer.
Either talking to people or filling out spreadsheets and doing some math.
Anthony – 08:18
And every day, pretty much, when I got home, it was as if I couldn’t lift a finger.
I just flopped on the couch.
I was a single dude at the time, so I turned on, I think Dexter was the hot show that I was catching up on.
And I would just binge watch five episodes at a time because that’s all I could do, and then of course I would fall asleep and have murder dreams.
You binge watched Dexter.
Avery – 08:50
Dexter was so good for that.
Yeah, so what was the moment then where you’re just like, fuck, there has to be more than this.
Anthony – 09:00
Oh, it was sprinkled throughout, but the moment where I decided this, this is it.
I am done with the corporate world, eight years in, then that’s it.
I had started to seriously consider the possibility of leaving and starting my own business, and I was starting to lay the groundwork for it, to the point where I had commissioned my really talented friend who’s a graphic designer to help me with developing some branding.
And I was really excited for that on my way home to meet with him after work.
And I was so excited that on my way out of the parking lot where I had just gone to pick up some beers for our get-together, I had a little bit of a minor fender bender where I just lightly tapped the car behind me as I was pulling out.
And that whole situation got so blown out of proportion where somebody called the police, they nailed it as a hit and run, they threw the book at me, police lawyers were involved, the whole thing just completely blew out of proportion for what actually happened.
And it just felt so unfair and so unjust and I was so enraged The car just became a flash point, a focal point, for all of my pent-up frustration and rage and just Everything I wanted to tell like to say fuck off was just directed into the car.
Anthony – 10:48
And the car became a symbol of everything that was wrong with my life.
I was reverse commuting from New York City to New Jersey.
It was taking me away from where I wanted to be to a place that I was at best very blah about.
It was taking me to a lifestyle I didn’t want.
I was having heart palpitations and What I now have the language to call panic attacks at work.
It’s just this whole car thing.
I was like, this is everything wrong with my life, this is everything wrong with my career.
Anthony – 11:26
And after the dust settled and the lawyers did their job and I walked away with paying a nominal fee, I decided that was it.
I don’t care how hard I have to hustle in the next chapter to make things work, but this is it.
This has run its course.
Avery – 11:47
So tell me about that next chapter.
Where are you now?
Anthony – 11:52
Where am I now?
I am now a career satisfaction coach.
So I help people move through that entire journey, hopefully a lot faster and a lot more seamlessly than I did.
To go from being trapped and dissatisfied and misaligned into having a career where you are happy, satisfied and engaged.
Because when people are happy, satisfied and engaged, not only do they feel better in the rest of their lives, but they do great fucking work.
Avery – 12:19
And I love that you’ve tied that.
Because when we’re feeling so blah and drained in our career, it just trickles everywhere.
Like you described earlier in your experience.
So there is, if you’re, because you’re listening and you can’t see what’s beautiful behind Anthony here in his little space, the plants that you have behind you tie into something that you offer, which I think is just so cool and just really aligns with you.
So can you tell me a little bit about the care cards?
Anthony – 12:55
Oh, of course, I would be happy to.
So I do love Taking care of plants is something that stems from when I was charged with my mom’s plants when I was 12 or 13 and I learned the difference between over watering and under watering and they both look bad.
So the care card is a tool that I use with my clients when I work with them, and it’s one of the very first exercises that we do to figure out what exactly is going on.
And so whenever you come home with a plant from the store, it usually has a tag on it that says, I need this much light and I need this much water and you need to fertilize me this often.
And that is so useful because if you’re a complete newbie, you at least have a place to start.
You know how to take care of this living organism, not only so that it can survive, but ideally so it can thrive.
And so what if we had something like that for our own careers as human beings?
Anthony – 14:00
Obviously we’re not plants, so we’re gonna need something a little bit different, although let’s be honest, vitamin D does help.
Avery – 14:06
Anthony – 14:09
But what do we need to thrive?
I think that’s the question that most often gets lost in the hustle of trying to get a job, right?
It’s always about what can you do for me?
What are your skills?
What are your certifications?
What are your accomplishments?
What KPIs have you managed?
Anthony – 14:27
We just miss out on this really, really important question about what do I need to thrive?
So the care card is all about that.
It’s about figuring out the ingredients of what do you need.
And it turns out that it’s actually very, very simple to determine.
And the ingredients are, what are you interested in?
What captures your attention when you’re engaged?
What is your style in meeting those interests?
Anthony – 14:53
And then what needs are being met through your pursuit of those interests using that style?
And there is a skills category that I kind of give the half-assed treatment because it’s so over emphasized in the rest of the conversation.
But there is a fourth column in that care card which is, what are your favorite skills?
What skills do you love employing in order to meet your interests, your style, and your needs?
Avery – 15:18
I think that last question is so, so important.
It’s something that I include in my interviews when I’m hiring new people for my team and then also in a regular check-ins because I think a lot of it is if you find something enjoyable, you’re going to pursue excellence in that space, right?
If it’s something that you just like, it’s harder to get into that, you know, and I think That is such a great thing to recognize, especially if you’re looking into your career and wondering if it’s the right option for you.
Just ask yourself, what do you actually enjoy about it?
Anthony – 15:51
Yeah, and it is such, for me that’s a hard one question, because just the stories that I’ve told, I’ve told stories of excellence, of skill, right?
I could play piano to the point of performing at Carnegie Hall.
And that these were skills that I highly developed and did not enjoy.
So there is a really, really big difference between having a skill versus actually enjoying your use of it.
Now skills are obviously important and useful, but the real satisfaction comes when we get to use the skills that we really genuinely enjoy and actually feed us.
Avery – 16:26
So if you’re listening right now and you’re like, I don’t think I have enough of things in my career that actually feed my soul rather than just suck the life out of it, Anthony, tell me how else people can get connected with you.
Tell us what your website is.
Anthony – 16:49
And you can read all about career satisfaction on it.
There’s also a quiz on there about whether your career is building or breaking your mental health.
Because sometimes it’s a question that we don’t know the answer to.
Sometimes we just get used to the grind.
And so if you’re wondering about how am I doing, am I just surviving and treading water?
Am I trying to fight an uphill battle here or am I actually doing okay?
The quiz will help with that.
Anthony – 17:22
You can see that on the front page.
And other than that, I am on LinkedIn and Facebook and would be very happy to connect with you there.
Avery – 17:32
That sounds excellent.
So again, we’re going to link to all of those things in the show notes as well.
So Anthony, I just want to thank you so much for sharing your story so vulnerably and really getting into some of the emotions behind it, because I think that’s very challenging for us to do a lot of ways, so I just want to honor that, so thank you.
Anthony – 17:54
Thank you Avery.
Avery – 17:55
So before I let you go, is there any one last bit of advice that you’d like to leave to the person listening right now?
Anthony – 18:02
Yes, and that is to listen to your dissatisfaction.
It is such an important, crucial voice that only gets louder if we don’t listen to it.
It is trying to tell us something, it is trying to give us the opportunity to do something about it and to make some changes.
And often what happens is we paper over it with gratitude journals and You know, we practice positivity, which of course is really important and it is a useful tool, but we don’t want to do it at the expense of actually listening to and doing something about the dissatisfaction that shows up.
Avery – 18:40
Such important advice.
Thank you so much for that.
Anthony – 18:43
Avery – 18:45
Thank you so much for listening.
I really hope you found this episode helpful, validating, and maybe you even got a few ideas to try yourself.
If you did enjoy this episode, I just ask that you share it with someone that you think might also benefit from listening to this podcast.
In doing this, you’re not only helping those that you love, you’re also helping me get this podcast into the hands of more people.
Together, we can really make a difference.
And before I let you go, do you know your default self-sabotage style?
There are four main self-sabotage styles that ultimately lead to burnout, and knowing yours can make a really big difference in your ability to prevent burnout from taking over.
Avery – 19:26
Awareness is the first step and the second step.
What you can do with this awareness of your default self-sabotage style I will send you some ideas for what that second step could be after you complete your quiz results.
So are you ready for this quick quiz?
Go to becomingavory.com slash quiz to try it out for yourself and take the first step on your intentional burnout recovery journey.
Becomingavory.com slash quiz for that self-sabotage style assessment.
That’s it for now.
See you next week.