At the end of January, I left my day job. I'd been planning my escape for about a year. I quit my "good job" in one of the worst economic climates in history. I'm sure that sounds a little crazy to you. My family was very concerned and thought I was nuts. Why did I leave?
Earlier this week, I mentioned that I worked in the movement to end violence against women for about 10 years. There were a lot of things that I loved about the field and my job. However, I reached the burnout point and knew I needed a break.
In Minimalist Health, I talked about the importance of taking care of your physical and emotional health. You only get one body and mind. If you don't take care of both, I don't think you can effectively help others. For folks who work in social services burnout is common and and I think it's incredibly important to take care of yourself. If that means asking for a reduced work schedule or leaving a "good job," then it's something you have to do. Not only for yourself, but for the victims you help everyday.
With that in mind, I knew it was time to make a serious career change. Starting a small business is something I've always wanted to do. But I never had the confidence to actually follow through. I was living a life society said was "good" but I couldn't figure out why I was so unhappy. Thanks to the encouragement of mentors, I finally stopped talking about my dreams, and started planning to make them a reality.
How did I do it? I discovered a few tips and tools anyone can use to create a rockin' career path and ditch their cubicle.
1. Believing in yourself leads to passion and focus.
When I finally discovered my writing voice, I got really excited. I thought, "WOW! I can do this! The key is to just keep writing content that helps people." I know that probably seems like a silly revelation, but it's true.
It comes down to believing in yourself. You are an artist. If you believe you can do something, passion and focus follow. Moving from a fearful mindset to one of focus, changed my career path for the better.
Fear gets the best of so many people. We listen to the lizard brain instead of growing and embracing new opportunities. In short, we don't believe in our abilities. People are constantly saying to themselves, "I can't because ......" rather than saying I can. By pushing back the lizard brain and focusing on my passion for simple living, I've been able to create art that makes a difference. And it all started with believing in myself.
Micro-actions: Start a journal and write down all your dreams. Think about what brings your joy, happiness and what skills you love to use. Don't hold back. By finding your passion you can begin to help others.
2. Prioritize your spending.
Save your money and stop buying useless crap.
If you're thinking of making a huge career change and quitting your day job, make sure you have enough savings to meet at least one year of your expenses. A few of my friends have left jobs with three to six months of their salary saved and I think that is the minimum. A financial cushion is ideal for decreasing your anxiety during a transition period, especially if things don't turn out the way you expect.
There are a number of ways you can get your finances under control. One of the best things you can do is to start reading about simple living and/or the minimalist lifestyle. Thanks to simple living we downsized to a smaller apartment, sold our cars and realized that buying more stuff wouldn't satisfy our pursuit of happiness. Using this method we were able to reduce our expenses and thus make our savings last much longer. Spending less is typically much easier than working more.
Without simple living, there is no way I could have transitioned out of my cubicle. Three years ago my expenses were out of control and the notion of leaving my day job to work less and "write" sounded silly and trite.
Micro-actions: Evaluate your finances. If you have debt, start looking for ways to cut back. For ideas and methods consider reading blogs like Zen Habits, Man Versus Debt and Far Beyond the Stars. I'd also encourage you to read the book: Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.
3. Take online classes and read as much as possible.
Last year, I enrolled in Pam Slim's Escape Seminar and it rocked my world. It helped me refine what the heck I was doing with my writing and small business. I realized that I needed to transform my blog from a personal journal to a resource for people. So I started focusing on writing solid content. Content that helps others and provides value to the world. Taking online classes has been a great way to connect with other folks.
Last month I participated in the 100 biz forum. Chris and Pam are rock stars and facilitated an excellent forum, packed with useful tips and tools. Registration is now open for their next $100 business forum and I recommend this course to everyone starting an online business.
Enrolling in online classes and reading as much as possible content is a great place to start. It is also critical to make connections with your peers. Meeting people and developing relationships is an valuable source for learning and sustaining my passion.
Micro-actions: Consider taking an online class and start reading as much as possible. If you're not sure where to start, take a peek at some of the books I've read this year.
4. Test the waters.
If you're thinking of starting your own business, consider testing the waters. Find your tribe and test your ideas. Start a blog, write an ebook or develop a free online class. There are a million different ways to get feedback on potential business ideas.
Blogs are such a good way to connect with other people and to share resources. If you don't like writing, maybe you can start vlogging. Look to Gary V as an example of what you can do with video.
Micro-actions: Brainstorm ways to test your idea and go for it. Don't let fear hold you back.
Seth Godin has a wealth of information on his blog and has written some amazing books about marketing and business. Add his blog to your Google Reader and check out some of his books from your local library.
5. Be aware of your media consumption.
Not watching television is a recurring theme in many of my posts. Why? It is an incredible time suck and most entertainment shows are a big ad placement scheme. I'm not a fan of TV. However, not all video media is bad. I think some programs are very valuable, like TED talks, PBS, and educational indie documentaries.
The mindless consumption of media is dangerous. You might not own a TV, but you might surf the web for 6 hours a day. Bottom line - be mindful of your media consumption patterns.
Changing your career focus isn't easy. Being aware of how you spend your time is essential. For example, If you go home and watch a couple hours of TV a night you may not have enough time or energy left to plan your transition. I recommend changing your behavior and using your TV Time to focus on creating art and thinking about your long-term goals. Distracting yourself won't change anything and will only delay your progress.
Micro-action: Add up how many hours a day your watch television or mindlessly surf the internet. Use those extra hours to focus on a project that will help you change careers.
Take a few minutes and read: But it's better than TV
6. Seek out mentors.
I have a number of amazing mentors. Thanks to reading books and blogs created by these folks, I finally worked up the confidence to leave my day job and pursue my dreams. I'm writing for a living, working on fun web design projects and enjoying leisure time.
Success doesn't happen in a vacuum. It happens in community. Without the help of mentors or my blog readers I wouldn't be where I am today.
Micro-actions: Seek out mentors and start talking about your dreams. Plan to go after those dreams instead of letting them gather dust.
7. Build relationships, be human and be kind.
Building relationships is the key to success. Whether you plan on starting your own business or staying with your current organization you need to build relationships. For me this comes back to community involvement, reciprocity and the joy of helping others.
Micro-action: Read Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.
Life is too short to be stuck in a career you hate. I truly believe anything is possible, especially if you build relationships and start getting involved with your community. The time we have on this planet is too precious to be exchanged at big box stores for useless crap.
Go out into the world, pursue your dreams and spend time with your loved ones. In this you will find the joy that comes from a satisfied mind.