A little over a month ago today, I was packing up my desk and wrapping up my projects at work, rolling everything over to someone else who would finish things that I’d started and ultimately take over my responsibilities. I loved my colleagues, I liked my work, but I was getting ready to leap into the world of the semi-unknown to do what was truly pulling at my heartstrings: Running aSweatLife.com and continuing to build the team that I’m creepily obsessed with.
I finally quit my day-job.
Why did I do it? Because I believe that a life well-lived is full of adventure and passion and that by working diligently and intelligently, you can achieve anything – even those goals that live so deep within you that you’re afraid to say them aloud.
Over the past month, I’ve taken my work from Starbucks to gym (almost every gym has WiFi now … Vinyasa flow and checking things off of my to-do list? Don’t mind if I do) and back to Starbucks again. Here are five things I’ve learned in my first month.
The path you’re on doesn’t have to determine where you’re going
Just because you started your life or your career one way, doesn’t mean that you’re stuck moving in that direction. There is a lot to be said for paying your dues and working hard to achieve your goals and there’s a very big difference between changing course to avoid working hard versus changing course because your passion is in a different direction.
Assess what you’re doing and if it aligns with your skills and your passions and you can make money at it, stay the course. Work hard and you’ll get to your ultimate goal. The book So Good They Can’t Ignore You talks through the difference between passion and skill, acknowledging that sometimes, some chase passion, never to find what they’re looking for and never taking the time to get good at any one skill.
I’m not saying that you should quit your job and become a surf instructor in Costa Rica. I am saying that eventually, with hard work, you can channel the things you’ve learned into the things you care about.
I spent the better part of a decade doing social media for large brands at agencies across Chicago. Through that, I was able to create strategies, write content and learn the ins and outs of digital marketing (I’m still always learning, more on that later) that I’m now applying to something that I care about – wellness, through aSweatLife.com.
Listen to fear, but don’t give into it
Fear is a natural and healthy response that your body has to something unknown or dangerous. Fear protects us and has evolved with us to keep us from walking off of cliffs or touching a hot stove more than once.
When you’re about to do something that scares you, there are two options: to push through the fear or to run from it.
Your first step in dealing with fear is to ask yourself a question: Why am I fearful of this? Often the answer is as simple as, “because I could fail,” or “because I’ve been in a situation like this before and it didn’t end well.”
If the fear lies in you and your past experiences and what you’re fearful of is perfectly safe, you’re fearful of it because you don’t know how it’s going to end. In those cases, treat the fear as an indicator that you must prepare. Get ready for that big speech. Prepare answers for the hard questions. Get ready. When you’re ready, when you’ve practiced and when you have contingency plans, you’re unstoppable.
The key is not to let fear dictate your life or make your decisions. Fear informs you, but it is NOT steering the ship.
Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed
When you’ve got a team with you that pulls for each other, it’s hard to fail if you’re working hard and have a unified goal.
If you’ve ever worked for someone who spent more time jockeying for position than leading or didn’t care if the members of the team below him succeeded or failed, it’s hard to put in your best effort for that person.
When you’re on the right team, remind yourself of the fact that your success is deeply connected to your teammates’ success. When I’m about to give a presentation that I’m nervous about and I know all of the faces in the room, I start by reminding myself, “everyone in this room wants me to succeed.”
Corny, but it usually puts a little wind in my sails.
Remind yourself of your goals
Whether you’re working by yourself every day in a coffee shop or walking into your office at 9 am, you need to know WHY you’re doing what you’re doing each day and have a roadmap for your time. If you know that you have a big presentation Thursday, chip away at that task throughout the week.
If you’re working by yourself and you know that you want to spend 30 percent of your time writing, 30 percent of your time relationship building and 40 percent of your time on event planning, then plan your days accordingly. Set timers or change locations when you need to focus on a new task. Do whatever you need to do to get there.
Build in time to learn every day
The great thing about being a part of the human race is that there are other people with different perspectives and insights to learn from. Those different perspectives and insights can make you smarter and better at what you’re doing. Find someone who is smarter than you are or disagrees with you and read what they have written. Maybe that’s a blog about technology, design, content, personal finance, SEO or a different skill on which you’re focusing your efforts.
This time might be easy to write off each day, but it’s absolutely imperative. When you stop learning, you stop getting better.
Get out there and do something awesome this week.