I recently quit my job.
I had been getting tired of working a 9-5 style job for sometime, not to mention the fairly poor income I was making doing something that took up so much of my time and energy.
I have always been a personal development junkie. It used to be all about improving my health and fitness. I used to spend hours reading about the best diets, the best workout regimes etc, I tried anything and everything…. and I loved it.
I actually got to the point where I felt that I had mastered not only the basics of fitness and nutrition, but simplified them into systems that I could implement at will to get consistent results. Results seemed to come naturally. I never needed to be a professional bodybuilder. I just wanted to make sure I could permanently maintain 10-12% bodyfat without much effort.
In the couple of years my personal development journey has gone beyond health and fitness. I started looking at my life as a whole. In particular, I wanted to be wealthier, have more time and do work that inspired me. I knew that I wanted to be my own man. Call it self-employed, entrepreneur or whatever…..I knew that I wanted to have control of my life, talents and services.
And ideally I wanted to be rich. Freedom is the most important thing for me…but to obtain both freedom and wealth would be rather nice I reasoned……
The upshot is that I have spent the best part of the last year basically psyching myself up to quit my job. I didn’t even hate the job, I just didn’t want it anymore. There was no real scope for growth, greatness or freedom. It was dull.
I tried to start a couple of things while I was still working. I did a bit of affiliate marketing. The problem is that when you already have a full time job it can be extremely difficult to keep something going on the side. It’s fine for a few months while the new project is exciting, but it is difficult to keep the motivation once you start getting tired.
In the end I came to a crossroads in my job. I decided to take the plunge and leave. My rationale was that until I was in a position where I had to make something new work (my own business, new career or whatever), the comfort and security of my job would always prevent me from change.
The problem with the approach is, of course, money.
Money, bloody money
I have built up some money to live off for awhile but, ultimately, whatever I start has to eventually produce some income. Or I’ll have to go and get a crappy job somewhere to pay the bills (I accept I’ll probably have to do this while my business grows anyway but you get the point).
What I have discovered is, once starting your own thing is no longer just a passion project but is also to be your means of living, it is very hard to get started.
When I was working my job and started a couple of blogs in my spare time, it was easy. I found getting started no problem at all. Just start a blog, enjoy it, and if it makes an income then great.
Yet now I find myself with loads of ideas of ‘things I could start’ or even ‘things I could be’……but have hit inertia. There seems to be this extra weight on the decision: money.
Every idea gets subjected to the money test, namely: will this idea make me money, will it scale and how quickly can it produce a return???
It strikes me that this same problem must afflict loads of people, everyday, all over The World. We all have good ideas and many of us have dreams we’d love to pursue. Yet we are all shit scared of running out of money. We are scared of other things too of course, but those fears are more internal, deeper and rather darker. I’ll talk about those lovely demons in another post.
There’s something terrifying-yet-exciting about being on the edge. You are ready to dive in. You know the water is going to be freezing. You know the first while will be hard, maybe horrible. Then, depending on the water (or you), it will either become bearable, enjoyable or completely unbearable.
That’s how I imagine things at the moment while trying to decide what to start. Once I dive in it will feel awkward, uncomfortable and bloody cold. Then, it will become bearable or better…or it will become unbearable or worse.
Perhaps that is a little melodramatic. Maybe the whole process will be very enjoyable but I just won’t make any money. Perhaps I’ll discover that I’m actually suited to a job afterall (I really doubt it somehow). Perhaps I’ll start something I hate but actually do quite well for money. Who knows……
Do what you love??
The other classic question in personal development is: should you do what you love and try to make a living doing it? Or should you try to build something which has value to society.
My personal view is that I should be trying to build something which has value to society. No, I want to build something which has value to society. Whatever I do has to be helpful or valuable to others. It must serve others.
I love playing 5 a-side football but unfortunately I add decidedly little to society by running around like a headless chicken.
However I do in know how to get in great shape very quickly. I do know how to eat for optimum health. I do know how to invest my money wisely. I do know how to increase my daily happiness. I do read about, and try, strategies on a number of topics.
These are things which can add value to society. These are things I can talk about, that I can teach (or at least share). Do I know more about strength training that anyone else in the World? No. Do I know more about strength training that 95% of the World? Definitely. And that means that I can potentially a whole lot of people to become stronger, and thus healthier.
I recently read James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself.
For me it perfectly captures the essence of what so many people are going through at the moment. Society is changing. Mostly we still act as if we are in the industrial age. Drones going into work everyday, trading time for money. There will always be an aspect of this.
Yet many people now understand that they can be the business. Each of us has the ability and technology to be our own personal business. It’s both scary and exciting. There are less places to hide because we cannot hide from ourselves. We have to work on ourselves, develop our skills and talents; then we have to share those skills and talents in a way that makes others want to pay us.
In many ways that is no different to how it’s always been: James’s point is that now we don’t need a company…..we can employ ourselves, market ourselves, publish ourselves, sell our creations…directly to the customer using modern technology.
It’s an exciting time……but deciding, in order to get started, is still the hardest thing ever!
By the way, You can read James Altucher’s terrific blog here.