Last week I was talking about what makes us come alive and the steps that I have deliberately taken to move closer to designing my life in a way that fits for me. Keep in mind that this process is not an end game. It’s a constant state of deciding what excites me and making changes to align my life with what’s most interesting.
Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?
I say YES!
So how is it possible to move towards this kind of living?
I don’t think there are any specific scripts and I wouldn’t want to imply that my path is the only option. The reality is that my path is exactly that – MY path. If I can share something that inspires others to move closer to their desired path then I will feel great about that.
Picking up where we left off last week, I had identified four specific steps that I have taken to bring me to the point of launching this blog (and I see launching this blog as the first step in a completely new phase).
- STEP 1: Get on your feet financially
- STEP 2: Simplify and prioritize
- STEP 3: Create room for expansion
- STEP 4: Start a meaningful project
Today I am going to focus on STEP 1: Getting on your feet financially
This step has to do with navigating our desire for safety with our desire to make a difference in the world. How do we navigate between our desire for adventure and creativity and our desire for some level of predictability in our lives? How do we reconcile our idealistic dreams with the harsh realities of the marketplace?
This is where I tell you that I am not a gambler and that there is a huge difference between throwing caution to the wind and taking calculated risks. I will not be advising anyone to quit their comfy corporate job right away to solely pursue their creative passions.
So, am I telling you to give up your dreams, stick with the societal program, and keep that boring, safe job, and do just as your (insert relative name here) tells you?
The problem is, there are serious risks to that path as well. If you’re not particularly passionate about accounting, corporate management, engineering, or law and you go into those fields to placate your own fears about the risks of following your creative passions, it seems very unlikely that you’ll end up happy with your career choice. You will always be plagued by a nagging sense of “What if?”
Sure, there are a lot of risks with following your creative passions – the risk that you’ll not make it or that you will have to start over. But there are also many unacknowledged risks to not following your creative desires, of sticking too close to the beaten path in the name of safety and predictability.
These might include: the risk of working with people you don’t respect; the risk of working for a company whose values aren’t consistent with your own; the risk of compromising what’s important; the risk of doing something that fails to express who you really are.
And then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet that you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.
The biggest risk is what we classically refer to as the middle-aged crisis. You become forty-five years old and recognize that you’re not the person you wanted to be. The reality is that the vast majority of people today, even on their deathbed, say that their regrets largely center around things they didn’t do or try, not things they did do.
Is there a way to combine the relative safety and security that society advocates with the passion, meaning, creativity, and individualism that we dream about? Is there a way to get the best of both worlds?
Yes, I believe there is.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share a plan for living a more meaningful life, making a difference and escaping the often predetermined societal script that says you must choose between safe & boring or exciting and fulfilling.
This is about creating a career path that provides a high likelihood of financial security and allows you to follow your dreams and make a difference in the world. It’s about bringing the spheres of money and meaning together and having them overlap significantly. After all, when was the last time someone took you aside and shared how to best achieve financial stability while at the same time making a difference in a way you care about?
We’re talking about creating a path where your work is you life’s purpose is your income is your meaning is the difference you're making. Significantly more elusive – yet infinitely more rewarding – than the much-hyped “work-life balance.”
This process will require a great deal of self-inquiry into what, exactly, the difference you want to make is, and also a lot of creative, entrepreneurial problem solving to figure out how you could make great money while making your mark on the world.
You’re going to have to create a solution unique to you and your circumstances. No similar solution will have ever existed before and for a very simple reason. In the whole of humanity, no one has yet made the difference you want to make. How cool is that?
Since I’d never have you try something I haven’t applied in my own life, I will dedicate the final blog post in this series to sharing the story of how I used these very steps to go from being fairly miserable to building a flexible and rewarding career while starting a meaningful legacy project on the side.
Now let’s dive into STEP 1.
STEP 1: Get on your feet financially
If you are in one of the two following scenarios, then you must pay close attention to Step 1.
- Scenario A: You would be happy spending the rest of your life doing what you’re doing because it feels so meaningful to you, but you’re barely scraping by financially.
- Scenario B: You’re not happy with either the money you’re earning or the meaning from what you’re doing to earn it. In other words, life sucks!
If you would be happy spending the rest of your life earning what you’re now earning, but it doesn’t feel meaningful, then you can stop here and wait for STEP 2 next week.
There was a period a little over four years ago where I was stuck in a combination of Scenarios A & B big-time. I had left my career in technology to pursue some other ambitions and I ended up at a job where I provided coaching services to college students. This job seemed like the ideal fit at the time but I soon realized that if I was going to be coaching people, then I needed to be doing it on my own terms and charging my own rates. I am not saying this was a bad job. It was the job I needed to wake me up to the realization that I needed to leverage my skills to get back on my feet financially to be able to pursue something I truly wanted to do.
I could have gone on for several more years coaching college students on how to be successful but the money simply wasn’t good enough to justify it. And the bottom line was that is was someone else's dream and my heart just wasn’t in it for the long haul.
If you are in scenario A or B, leverage your skills to get on your feet financially, however you can. Contrary to many of the glorified stories out there, this is the way that most people start out. They get a good job, a corporate job, a boring 9-5 job, any job that will support them financially. Give up your “art,” “purpose,” or ‘meaning” for a little while and know what it means to be financially stable. Get a kinesthetic feeling in your body of how it feels to have enough money to pay rent, to pay all of your bills on time, to take your loved one out to a nice restaurant. This is so important to building a foundation of financial stability so that you can eventually pursue your legacy work without the energy of fear and scarcity lurking in the background.
This is how I started and how many of the entrepreneurs that I will be showcasing have done it. I will share exactly how I did this in the final post of this series.
Again, if you already have a solid income that feels good to you, consider yourself that much further along and tune in next week for STEP 2: Simplify and Prioritize.
That’s it for now. Keep your sights on the legacy work that you are meant to create and I’ll be here again next week.
All the best,