I often thought this was the case for me. Even though my corporate job wasn’t allowing me to completely shine, I thought “how can I possibly throw away all of the experience, money, and the career that I have worked so hard to create?”
I know this is a question that many of us face every day. “Is it too late for me to change directions?” It’s especially hard when we can’t stomach being in our current job for another year, let alone another 10 or 20 years.
I have good news. You’re not alone and it’s not too late.
You are not your job.
Our culture has a crazy way of valuing things.
Doctors, lawyers and accountants are respected, encouraged and given a clear path towards achieving a successful career.
But the crazy guy who wants to promote his art, love and compassion through his desire and talent for photography gets told to be more realistic and to go find a real job. He’s likely even meant to feel irresponsible for not taking the ‘safe’ route of getting a 9 to 5.
And eventually he begins to believe his critics and he gives up. Or even worse, he never starts in the first place.
Thankfully, National Geographic photographer and activist Nick Nichols pursued his passion for photography and uses it as a tool for connecting us all. He uses his images (read art) to connect us to the creatures that we would otherwise not experience.
Photo capturing Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees
So how do you go about making a change when you’re already thoroughly committed to the wrong path?
Here are three things that just might turn you around…
1) Realize that there are endless ways to use your skills.
Lawyers are great at what they do. So are doctors, engineers, accountants, software developers, or any other profession that you might have been trained for.
Take a close look at the underlying strengths that make you good in your profession. Then step back and realize how many other professions would love to have the determination that law school taught you, or the attention to detail of your engineering background or the competence that comes with being an accountant.
These skills are immeasurably powerful in any career or entrepreneurial endeavor. You may just need to recognize this and shift it to fit your true calling.
2) Look for examples to serve as proof of what’s possible.
The quickest way to do the things you don’t know how to do is to surround yourself with people already doing it. One of my missions with The Startup Sessions is to feature people who have figured out how to do meaningful work while also earning a great living. Heck, I plan to completely overwhelm you with weekly inspiration and strategies for exchanging soul draining work for doing work that matters.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.
Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
If you think you have a great excuse for why you can’t do what you love, go and find someone that had excuses 10X the size of yours, but did it anyway. For every excuse that you can come up with, I guarantee that there’s many others who had it much worse but still did it anyway.
Here’s proof of why it’s never too late to make a shift and change directions…
Johnny Nasello got his business degree and began pursuing a life in the corporate world. Then he began blogging about his interest in fitness and working out. In just over a year, he had generated enough interest in his blog to be able to quit his corporate job and begin training others how to become more fit. Today, JohnnyFit is a growing brand and business. Johnny has his own studio and runs a growing business that is 100% debt free and in the black. He’s created the life and work that inspires him, and he's done it in a very short period of time.
Jill Knouse (my lovely wife) was highly successful in the world of corporate finance in San Francisco. She was great at her job but longed for something more soulful. She left her six-figure job after 11 years, moved to Portland, Oregon and started teaching yoga classes. Now she has translated her love of yoga into a successful yoga business that includes yoga teacher trainings, yoga retreats, yoga festivals and unique yoga+music experiences.
Natalie McGuire enjoyed her comfortable job at a design firm but she longed for offering her own style of creative work. She began offering design services while she worked full time and before she knew it, she had more clients than she could handle. This forced her to make the tough decision of leaving her great job for something better. Today, Natalie McGuire Designs is a premier design and branding company. And the best part is that Natalie gets to infuse all of her work with what she loves most.
Corbett Barr was a highly paid consultant for some of the biggest name consulting firms in the world. After endless weeks away from home and countless hours of work stress, he decided to quit his job and travel around Mexico for 6 months with his wife. This downtime allowed him to focus on what was most important to him. As a result, he used his experience and determination to create one of the finest online communities out there (Fizzle) for people who want to make their own difference in the world.
Leo Babauta was 70-pounds overweight, deeply in debt, father if six kids, working a job he hated, while living in the middle of nowhere. But he decided that he wanted more out of life, for himself and his family so he started writing 20+ articles a week (in his spare time) to build ZenHabits.net. Today, he has one of the most successful single author simplicity blogs on the internet. He’s also done countless meaningful projects since then, most recently, his Habits of Entrepreneurs video site.
Jonathan Fields was a big time securities lawyer in New York City. But after too many long days at the office away from his wife and daughter, he decided to open what became one of the most successful yoga studios in Manhattan. And he did it despite not having a deep background in yoga. Since then, he sold his successful studio and become a best-selling author, sought after speaker and esteemed entrepreneur. His most recent work is the incredible Good Life Project.
In case you’re not getting it yet – it’s never too late to do the work that makes you come alive!
You can either find excuses for not following your desires or find reasons to make a change. The proof of what’s possible is all around us – as long as you’re willing to look.
3) Find your reason why.
All of the people above had a big reason why they wanted to make a change. They also had a deep desire to make a bigger difference in the world. Without both of these things, making an extreme transformation will be pretty tough.
That’s why it’s so important to listen to your gut and take baby steps. That’s what happened to me. I knew deep down that I wanted to be more creative in my work. And I knew that a corporate job would no longer make me happy. So I began blogging about the things I was most interested in and those ideas began to take form. Then I offered basic coaching services to others that felt the same way I did. Then I got the idea to begin interviewing people that had successfully made the shift to a career/business that they loved.
One thing led to another. Step-by-step. That’s how it works. Listen to your gut, test your ideas, and move forward one step at a time.
Knowing why you want to make a change is an absolute must. It’s not about giving up on being a lawyer, an engineer, an insurance salesman (or whatever) – it’s about doing something that embodies who you are.
And please don’t read this the wrong way. I’m not saying don’t be a lawyer. If that’s what you genuinely feel called to do, then by all means go for it! The best lawyers are the ones that can’t imagine doing anything else.
But just because you studied to be an engineer or an accountant does not mean you have to stay in that role. You are not condemned to your past decisions.
How crazy is it to think that just because you decided to do something a decade ago means that you have to be miserable for the rest of your life?
The world needs you at your best.
And it’s never usually about quitting what you’re doing cold turkey. That rarely makes the most sense. Most of the examples I used above eased into their new roles so that it didn’t feel like they were risking it all.
Realize how useful your skills and talents can be in just about any career.
Surround yourself with people and ideas that prove what’s really possible.
And find your compelling reason why.
Then start moving forward by trusting your gut and taking baby steps towards what you really want to be doing.
The world needs what you have to offer!
P.S. Are you currently at your best? Please share a comment about the next baby step that you will take to move in the direction of offering your most meaningful work. Sharing your thoughts and ideas inspires others and gives us all permission to shine.