If you have ever thought: “Was THIS the job I was really meant to be doing?”, then you are not alone, because I thought that exact thing 365 days ago. Maybe you want to start a business? Open a restaurant? Go travel to another country? If you’ve ever wanted to just say ‘screw it’ but never had the guts to follow through, this may help prepare you for what you need to chase that dream, even if you don’t know what that dream is. I didn’t know mine. I just knew I wasn’t going to find it in my 10 year old office chair.
365 days. Yep. 365 days ago I left a job I was at for 10 years. I had no idea where I was going or what I was gonna do. Ballsy. Yes. I just knew something was pulling me to do something else. The toughest step was the first one. To resign as the Director of Technology at a company I helped grow from 8 people to nearly 80 today. I made the tough decision and left.
First of all, I’m still here! Life went on. And I went on with it. My biggest fear was that I couldn’t possibly do this. Clearly I can. And did. It would be impossible for me to explain all the ups and downs this year has encountered in this forum, so I’d rather give advice so you can prepare yourself for what to expect.
The Six Steps to Success:
1) Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
2) Don’t make plans. Set Goals instead
3) Know who your friends are…because you will need them
4) Have money saved OR be prepared to find a way to make ends meet
5) Don’t give up. The first step is always the hardest
6) Define your success
1) Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
In many cases you stay stuck in your old routines for no other reason than that they are familiar to you. In other words, you’re afraid of change and the unknown. You continually put your dreams and goals off until tomorrow, and you pass on great opportunities simply because they have the potential to lead you out of your comfort zone. There’s no price too great for feeling alive. And if you don’t do it now, let’s be honest, you probably never will. What a disgrace it would be for you to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of your full potential. So make the first step. Once you do, get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. The more you feel on edge, the more likely you are to succeed. It’s called being at the edge of your comfort zone. This is your new home. Put up a painting or two, cuz you’re gonna be here for a while.
2) Don’t Make Plans. Set Goals Instead
‘Man Plans. God Giggles.’ During my ‘Summer of Harp’ last year, by process of eliminating what I didn’t want in my life, I realized I wanted to educate myself as a Registered Home Inspector (RHI). I set a plan to go to college for the year, with my timeline all planned out. 4 months into the program, I decided to take a chance and write a national exam without fully completing all my course work yet. We get two chances to write it, so I thought, worst case, I get a sense of what the exam is like for when I write it again. Funny enough, only 20% of the folks passed. I was one of them! But that wasn’t the really cool part. I sat beside two older men who had Engineering Iron Rings on like I do. I asked them what they were doing in this exam (most students were much younger than them). They told me there is a private school in Toronto that focuses a program on training professional engineers to become home inspectors. WHAT?! Could this be more perfect for me? KARMA – THANK YOU! What was the chance I would sit beside the two guys out of everyone there who would make the biggest change to my ‘Plan’. Long story short, I abruptly ended my college experience and applied to the private school. Turns out they are the North American standard for professional inspections. They wrote the book on inspections. And I found out about them because I yap a lot and happened to be yapping with these older guys. Complete chance. My plans shifted but my goal stayed the same. 4 months of class and tuition costs couldn’t be transferred but I was happy to start again in a program that was perfect for my background.
LESSON: Understand that whatever plans you make on your journey will not turn out how you expect them to. Be flexible. Instead of making a plan, set a goal. Accept it won’t be a straight line to get there. Accept your plans may change, but your goal will not.
3) Know Who Your Friends Are…Cuz You Will Need Them
There have been many nights where I go ‘WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING’? I was making great salary and now I’m in a condensed 8 month program just studying ALL THE TIME (Yes, I decided to take the fast track program…if I knew how tough it would be, I would have reconsidered!). My friends are all out enjoying life, and on a Saturday night, I’m studying. Again. Well, leave it to your friends to keep your goals in sight when you stop seeing them. Good friends remind you of why you are making this change. Cuz sometimes you honestly forget. I’ve had some lows where a buddy would set me back on course. And family = friends too.
I also realized that some people who I thought were good friends were not. When I was younger, I would trust too easily. As you age, you refine this skill and trust your gut about people more and more. I realized how little integrity some people I considered good friends actually have, and that’s a good thing to know. People who stick around you during your tough times are the ones you hang on to for dear life. The rest were meant to come into your life for a reason, and just as easily, were meant to leave. Quality over quantity. You won’t have time for drama when making this kind of life change, so eliminate the drama. The only thing I can conclude about why these other people emerge is life doesn’t always introduce you to the people you WANT to meet. Sometimes life puts you in touch with the people you NEED to meet – to help you, to hurt you, to leave you, to love you, and to gradually strengthen you into the person you were meant to become.
4) Have Money Saved OR Be Prepared To Find A Way To Make Ends Meet
When I left my job, I thought I’d be taking the summer off, and by Sept, I’d find a new job in technology that would challenge me again. Something fun where I could learn new things and have less stress. After all, I still love technology and its impact on making positive change in the world. On my summer off though, I realized if ever I wanted to try to do something in construction, (a field I have been passionate about since starting renos at the age of 13), the time was now. I had no idea how I was going to pay for a year of school, and a mortgage, and living expenses, on money I had saved for just the summer. Every challenge has a solution. I was in school full time, bar tending around school hours, and doing handyman jobs for a real estate agent on weekends. I slept about 4-5 hours a day for the past year. But I made ends meet. No one said it would be easy to follow a dream. As I now hit the final crunch of exams, I’ve had to put an end to the other jobs so I can focus on school. It’s been really tough these past few months, but this is all part of the journey, so prepare to sacrifice those expensive dinners, rounds of beers, and fancy new clothes. Again, no one said it would be easy.
5) Don’t Give up. The First Step Is Always The Hardest
I often hear, “I’m too old to start a new career at my age”. So let’s ponder that. You can say that you will be 40 in a couple of years if you retrained yourself to begin work in another field. How old will you be in a couple of years if you didn’t re-train yourself?
Exactly. Time will pass one way or the other. Why not do something you are passionate about while it does? If you don’t take the chance now, you probably never will. Do you have a 5-year lease on a car? Maybe a 10-year mortgage on a house? Why not make a 365-day investment in yourself? I did, and it has already paid itself back in spades. You see, my technical knowledge hasn’t left me. Technology changes so fast you are always learning anyways. In the past year, however, I added bar tending experience and a brand new Home Inspection career to my repertoire. Before I took this leap of faith, I had one career. Now I have three! An amazing return on my 365 day investment. I’m recession-proof 🙂
There is no right or wrong here. Maybe success to you is monetary. Maybe it’s a happy family. Maybe it’s a lifestyle. Or a combo of all this. Whatever it is, KNOW IT. You can’t succeed if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve in your life. And remember, this is YOUR success. Don’t let others dictate what success means to you. When defining your success, here is how I was mentored to think of it: We spend over 50% of our waking hours trying to apply some kind of vocation so why shouldn’t our vocation in life be enjoyable? That said I think it`s important not to make change simply for the sake of change. Change is not something to be afraid of and I honestly believe that nothing stays the same even if we think it does, but change for the right reasons is very important. No vocation is a utopia but whatever you do, I hope you are able to find that kernel of pleasure inside that makes your life as well as your work pleasant. Having a good income and a secure job are important objectives but they should never prevail at the cost of happiness because in the end you pay one way or another. Also, be mindful that there is no such thing as ‘being your own boss’. It simply doesn’t exist in reality. The reality is that your work obligations and commitments become the boss even if you’re the guy in charge. They will dictate your schedule and priorities in the same way that a person does. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I’ve had people tell me my dream was dumb. They’d tell me I was too old to go back to school. If I had listened to them, I wouldn’t be as happy and healthy as I am today. I haven’t achieved my goals yet. I haven’t attained my success yet. But I’m on the right path now. And I’m closer today than I was yesterday.
So there you have it. My 365 days of learning. Instead of Freedom 55, let’s call it Freedom 365. Take it and use from it what you will.
The best thing you can do is:
1) Trust yourself
2) Break the rules
3) Don’t be afraid to fail
4) Ignore those who doubt you
5) Work your butt off
6) And be sure to give something back before you’re done
That’s what I’ve done. I Walked The Talk. I don’t know where it will lead me next, but I have NO REGRETS.
Now it’s your turn…
Read Harp’s last inspiring Gracious Living guest blog post HERE.
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