How One Millennial Traded a Briefcase for a Backpack

For TJ Loeffler, it took a few left turns to find his true calling.

After some time on Wall Street, TJ decided it was time to pursue other dreams.. With a love for travel and building communities, he now dedicates his time to a tech start-up for churchgoers, a school in Haiti, and LifePlanning. As a Certified LifePlan Facilitator, TJ helps other people find their calling through those little signs you see along the way.

Read on to learn more about this young entrepreneur who writes to inspire other millennials. And check out TJ’s page to learn more about him!


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m one of those Millennials who traded a briefcase for a backpack.

But not really. I never owned a briefcase. So I guess I didn’t trade anything. Well, not anymore.

I left Wall Street in 2015. That was a three year journey. It was my first job after college. And it’s what brought me to NYC. My home.

Home wasn’t always in the city, though. I was born and raised in Virginia. I grew up in the same house for the first 18 years of my life. Then I moved to Blacksburg. To Virginia Tech.

If you know me today you might find it odd I’ve spent more than 85% of my life in one state. I’m hardly a homebody anymore.

I like to travel. A lot. It’s where I find my best education, entertainment, return on investment, and opportunity to experience life more fully.

What are three things every recent college grad should know before going into the workforce?

My thoughts may not apply to “every recent college grad entering the workforce”. As with any advice, I bring my own unique experiences to my response. But I’ll get to that later.

There’s a lot of development happening in your twenty-something years. It’s a formative time to develop good habits and emotional stability. Several books helped me articulate the jumbled thoughts that tend to come with this time in life. So, first, here’s a short list of five helpful reads:

  • The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and the Visionary, by Angeles Arrien
  • The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter, by Dr. Meg Jay
  • Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No, by Henry Cloud
  • Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis
  • The Bible, by many wise believers

And, now, here’s three things from those books (and my experiences):

1. Add value. Don’t confuse eagerness with adding value. But add value wherever you go.

Adding value requires thought. It requires a bit of learning before doing. I’m often eager to add value when I enter new groups. But that doesn’t mean my eagerness is the value. Be thoughtful.

Practice being a better listener, and a better question-asker.

2. Be kind to yourself. It frees you so you can be kind to others.
How can you pass the ball if you don’t have it in your hands? That’s how I think about kindness. Compassion. And that’s not to be confused with sacrifice. Compassion looks like an act of kindness with no expectation of gratitude in return. Sacrifice looks like an act of kindness, but it’s really an act of compliance. Not everyone has trouble being kind to themselves. But I do notice this pattern with many ambitious, competitive, Type A folk. Mainly, New Yorkers.

Practice positive self-talk, prioritize sleep, and learn how to say “no” when it interferes with alone time.

3. Write. Being true to yourself requires knowing yourself first.
People who stay late at work don’t have anywhere else to be. They’ve either prioritized work, or haven’t prioritized anything else. You can’t expect other people to prioritize your life for you. So remember that career is only one domain in your life: home, health, career, relationships. I’m at my best, and happiest, when all four domains are getting attention. I know this about myself because I journal. Every day. Writing allows me to see patterns over time. I start to notice when I focus on the wrong things, or when I’m struggling in one domain while doing well in another. So, in order to truly know yourself, to be true to yourself, I’d suggest writing.

Practice journaling on your phone during the course of a routine daily activity (e.g., on your morning commute).

Tell us a little bit about LifePlan.

LifePlan Process

A LifePlan is meant to activate people who feel stuck. It’s a customized series of charts and questions that help people take direction, both personally and professionally.

We’re all seeking clarity. Some more than others. In my early twenties I started to put words to my life purpose. I started to explore ideas of what that looked like as a career. But I became paralyzed by the thought of “next steps”. And, of course, there’s no right answer. Books and personal mentors offer advice, but that’s from the context of others’ lives. We need insights from the context of our own lives.

Thankfully, a brilliant man named Tom Paterson also had this thought a few decades ago. So, he created LifePlans. The idea was an offshoot of his work in corporate strategy for RCA (the electronics company). He created a customized two-day process built on behaviorally sound foundations, encompassing all areas of your life.

We’re all on a journey. And many are looking for guide posts and road signs. As a Certified LifePlan Facilitator, I simply teach people how to find them.

How are you utilizing technology to build stronger communities? How can technology help these communities, instead of hurt them?

UnitedYoung MVP Demo

A wise man once told me “community is just a byproduct of people’s’ commitment to shared vision”.

My time in New York has helped me gain clarity in my vision – to see more renewal in the world. In the blip of my lifetime I’d like to see a world where more people experience the gifts of generosity and empowerment.

I’ve been so blessed to receive the friendship of two people that share the same vision. And the same commitment to that vision. Of course, timing helps.

Earlier this year the three of us formed our company, United Young, and launched our first prototype as a tech start-up.

We’re building a mobile app to better connect Christians in urban communities. We know the Church is years behind in technology. We also know the Church stands for community. Fortunately, technology is our expertise and community is our aspiration too.

You write on your Medium as a voice to and for the millennial generation. What are your goals with these posts? 

One goal, selfishly, is to take risks. Healthy risks. I grew up on stage, so I learned to not fear the live audience. But writing makes me self-conscious. In part, as opposed to speaking, I can’t “rewind” or “correct myself” on the spot. It’s not as flexible. That said, it’s great thought practice.

A second goal, honestly, is to have a more scalable way to speak into the lives of my peers wrestling with similar thoughts. The response has been positive. Friends from different parts of my past have reached out to share how different posts resonate. Many of us put on a “good face” in public. But the fact is all of us are in some sort of struggle to fill a void in our lives. Whether we know it or not.

How do you think people can live more purposeful lives?

I remember sitting on my best friend’s couch at 13 years-old. We would stay up ‘til 2am just hashing out the meaning of life. Who does that? At 13?

I was born introspective. Deeply introspective. But I don’t think you need to be if you want to lead a more purposeful life.

To live purposefully is to live intentionally. You might ask “why” a bit more often. And you’ll say what you mean, and mean what you say. Not always. But more often.

Practically, just make time, and create physical space, for silence. That’s it. Very simple. The big movement now is for “meditation”. It’s like the modern day safe word for spirituality. It’s okay to make time for God. Your God. Our God. Whatever you want to call it. You just need quiet time where your thoughts can be heard.

Zoë Björnson is a Product Marketing Manager at She loves cheese and is currently traveling the world while working remotely. You can find her on Twitter @kzoeb.