Because I feel really strongly about doing everything you can to live out your dreams and have your dream job happen for you! At the end of the day, after all the excuses, the only thing holding you back is you.
Last year I read an amazing, life-changing book called The Art of Nonconformity. If you’re contemplating making a life change, job change, or just have this gut-deep feeling that sticking out your 9-5 day job for the next 30 years is not going to work for you, I highly, highly recommend this book. Really, I recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
I can already tell this is going to be a long and wandering blog post. I stayed up late last night catching up on an old friend’s blog; she has some very emotionally raw, vulnerable entries. While that’s not necessarily the style or purpose of my blog, I think a little opening up by myself has been called for. Why should you want to listen to what I have to say when you know so very little about me or what kind of person I am? So now I’ve been inspired to have a little bit of “share time”.
I went to college for six years. School has always been something I’ve been really good at for some reason. I think I’m good at memorizing, so that helps. I’m a rule-follower and I rarely missed a class for those six years. I started out as an Electronic Media major; my dream was to be a film editor some day. I loved filming my friends just goofing off, then creating fun musical montages from the footage. That was my thing. I interned as a copy editor for a tool and gas company, I took journalism, advertising, and PR classes, and I went to the UK for a semester and studied film. It was all very nice and easy until about 2.5 years into the program I realized it would be very, very difficult for me to ever find a job utilizing my Electronic Media degree. I never quit at it (by the time I decided to change I only had a handful of classes left to fulfill the degree’s requirements), but I decided to go into something much more practical, accounting.
This is why I am often talking about how I am such a weird mix of left brain and right brain. My logical, practical, numbers-crunching side is always at war with my creative, dreamy side. Looking back, I can see that my adult life thus far has been a continuous struggle between being practical and making “sensible” decisions and taking leaps and jumps and trying to express my creativity. It’s a constant tug-of-war!
I made straight A’s throughout all my accounting classes, even the grad-level ones. The summer after I got my Masters, I sat for the CPA exam and passed all four parts on my first attempt. I interned for two summers at a prestigious public accounting firm, and started there full time soon after I got married in 2009. I set myself up on the road for long-term corporate success. I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything, I’m just establishing that I invested a lot of energy into creating this “corporate” life for myself…and that I thought this was the path I “should” be on.
I had already heard how awful and soul-crushing public accounting was supposed to be, but I told myself I was ready for it. This was where the cream of the crop was supposed to end up. This was where the lucky top-of-the-class students with their freshly printed CPA licenses are supposed to go and soak up learning and knowledge and make a name for themselves. I dutifully wore my heels and my ironed skirts and blouses to work everyday for exactly one year and six months before I admitted defeat.
I wanted to quit within six months of being in the workplace. I worked in an environment where people regularly went into the bathroom to cry. There was a lot of yelling, phones being hung up, late hours, long hours, weekend hours…the saying “sh** rolls downhill” was repeated a lot. The goal was to get to the top of said hill. But it was just not a good place to be. I knew that, but I also thought that I was really lucky to be there, right? I felt guilty for not feeling grateful for the “privilege” of working there. I wanted to leave, but I doubted myself for a long time…what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just stick it out like everybody else? Was this just what being an adult meant? Was this just how working full-time was? Were all jobs like this? Doing something you didn’t really like everyday to make ends meet?
I finally gathered up the courage to quit. Happiness is a choice, and if I didn’t choose it for myself, then who would? I took a job in corporate accounting. My new job was such a breath of fresh air. The people were nice! There was smiling in the workplace! I only worked 40 hours a week. I began to develop hobbies. I had time to explore my long-dormant creative side. I started Lazy Owl Boutique. I trained for a half marathon. I became an active member of my local community. Life was better, but after a few months I still had that nagging feeling in the back of my head that this was not what I was meant to “do” for the long term. I had so many ideas and outlets I wanted to explore and delve into as a new entrepreneur. I just didn’t have the time or motivation. Reporting to my cubical for 8 hours a day and staring at spreadsheets began to seem like a waste of my time when I had so much else on my list. I sat in front of a computer all day, but at the end of the week, I couldn’t really explain to you what I’d done, what I’d accomplished or created, or how I’d contributed any good to the world.
Quitting my corporate job was more difficult than quitting my first horrible job in public accounting. I knew I had a well-paying, stable job in a great environment. Was I totally crazy for wanting to leave that all behind? I spent 6 years in school and had a CPA license. Wouldn’t I just be flushing all that hard work down the drain if I quit to pursue a JEWELRY business? How do I tell my family that I’m quitting to sell things online and write a blog? What would people say? Again, isn’t this what adults were supposed to do? Sacrifice free time and work hard to rise up the corporate ranks? Live for the weekends? Why were my priorities so seemingly screwed up?
Well, as you may have guessed, I did it. I quit my day job and took the plunge into the scary, mysterious world of working for myself. I struggle everyday with making this work, and getting this baby off the ground, but I haven’t looked back for a second. And I’m loving it. I make my own schedule, I am my own boss. I have the flexibility to work when, where, and how I want to. At the end of the day if I fail, I have no one but myself to blame. I KNOW what I accomplish and create each and every day. I can create things with my own hands and put them out into the world and feel like I am contributing. I work with purpose and feeling instead of in zombie cubical mode.
I will admit… I am still working on growing confidence in myself and my abilities. When people ask what I’m doing with all my free time, I sheepishly attempt to explain that I’m working on providing bookkeeping and other business materials for creative small business owners. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I honestly do not know yet if I made the right decision to quit a stable job and pursue this dream of being an entrepreneur. But I will tell you something, if I don’t try, then I will never know. So now’s my time to give it all I’ve got. We owe ourselves that, don’t you think?
Coming full circle now, this is why I brought up The Art of Nonconformity. Perhaps as a creative entrepreneur, you can relate to my story. Maybe you’ve been there in the past or maybe you are there right now. Why are so many of us afraid to take the plunge? What is holding you back? Money? Guilt? Self-doubt? Fear of being different? Fear of what other people will say? All of the above?
It’s easy for us to buy into the concept that “good” or “smart” people work hard for thirty years at an okay job, play hard on the weekends, and save up for retirement. This is just how life is supposed to be, right? That is what you’re supposed to do. Well you know what, this is YOUR life. At the end of your time here, are you going to say, “Gee, I’m really proud of all those awesome spreadsheets I made for my manager?” or are you going to say, “I wish I had spent more time doing the things that made me feel alive, I wish I had spent more time with my friends and family, I wish I had done something that really contributed to my community and made the world a better, happier place”?
Maybe you are saying, Janet, that’s nice and happy-feeling and all, but it’s really not practical. I have to have a steady income to support myself and my family. And maybe you are right, you’ve got to do what’s right for you and your own. But don’t sell yourself short. You don’t know what you are capable of until you try. And if you never get rid of your safety net, you might never really work as hard to make your creative business work for you as you would otherwise.
One thing that really helped encourage me to take the plunge was asking myself the question, “What’s the worst that could happen?”. I quit my steady job, I try to make my business work, and I fail. I lose money. I make an ass out of myself. Everyone tells me “I told you so”. You know what? If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. I will go back to full-time work as an accountant. At least I will be able to say I tried. Is it really the end of existence as you know it if you quit your job? If you fail? We convince ourselves that we can’t handle these changes and we become paralyzed with fear. But really take some time to think it all the way through. If you quit your job and later fail at making your own gig work, what would happen to you? Would you have to live in a cardboard box by a dumpster? I doubt it.
Staying in a job you aren’t 100% passionate about isn’t being fair to yourself…it’s taking the easy way out. It’s hard to break away from the world, to go against the grain, to pour your blood, sweat, and tears into making your job and your life something completely authentic and completely your own. The people that stay in their “okay” jobs are really the ones who are taking the easy path, the path to mediocrity. Is that what you want for yourself?
I have seen too many people sit and sit and sit in jobs they hate, or even jobs that are just mediocre. You will eventually become numb…you will spend your mediocre days doing mediocre, soul-numbing work until you don’t even realize that you aren’t truly LIVING, you’re just coasting. Life’s too short for that. And more importantly YOU are worth more than that. No one is going to swoop in and make your life fabulous for you, you have to do it yourself. So stop doubting yourself, stop wondering if you are crazy, and just give yourself a chance. Give yourself a chance to follow your dreams and make your business work. What’s the worst that can happen? More importantly, what’s the BEST that can happen?
I will step off my soapbox now. It is just important to me for anyone out there doubting yourself to know that you should TRY. You are worth it! Happiness is worth it!
- A young person’s guide to quitting your day job (arbor.posterous.com)
- 10 Lessons I’ve Learned During My First Three Months As a Founder (technori.com)
- How I Got Out Of The Rat Race (christianpf.com)
Thanks, Janet, for posting this! Not only was it an interesting read, but it was inspiring, too! I had already noticed you trying new things over the past year and a half or so, but it’s great to get the backstory and to understand more of where you are coming from. I’m so glad that you decided to follow your heart and take the risk of being the architect of your own life — of creating a blueprint that suits you instead of what everyone else thinks of as successful. It does take a lot of courage and it’s so scary — but again, it’s inspiring to more people than you would know (including me).
I have picked up and read parts of Chris’ book, but I should probably go back and take a closer look. I definitely understand the art of non-conformity on an intellectual level, but it’s been difficult for me to apply to my life. Or, I guess until recently. I always have that similar battle that you have: logic vs. passion. I think of what’s practical versus what I really want to do… (and I also get confused as to what I really, really want… I’m like a Spice Girls song).
Thanks for opening up and sharing more on this blog. And thanks for giving your tips about starting your business and being an entrepreneur. I think a small business (even on the side) may be something I’m into one day and I have some thoughts about what I could eventually do… In the meantime, I am making some other choices (that I’ll share eventually on my blog I think). But it’s so great to know someone who is on this same kind of path and that we can share similar journeys! 🙂 Yay!
Yay Erika! Thanks for your comment. It is SO nice to see other people out there thinking about living a life “off the beaten path”. Good luck to you and thanks for your wonderful, inspiring blog!