What Keeps You Up at Night?
You May be Worrying About All the Wrong Things
By Valerie Young
In my last newsletter I
finally broke the news that I was hard at work putting together all the elements
of something intended to help you change course faster than you could likely
ever do on your own. One of the inspirations for my new "fast track a dream"
project came from a question put to me by a reporter for USA Today's
entrepreneur section. What he wanted to know was, "What keeps a small business
owner like you up at night?"
The article came out a
few weeks later. Not surprisingly it focused on concerns of people who own dry
cleaning shops, car dealerships, ad agencies and other traditional brick and
mortar businesses. What kept these small business owners up at night were things
like rising fuel prices, employee turnover, the cost of employee health care
coverage, and a potential jump in the minimum wage. Frankly I never expected my
answer to be included in the article because at this stage of my business the
kind of things I angst about are atypical to say the least.
But it wasn't always
that way. When I first left my corporate job to strike out on my own my number
one concern was earning enough money as a freelancer to pay the bills while I
tried to make Changing Course profitable. I now think of those early years as my
"hustle years." If one contract suddenly disappeared I would hustle to put
something else together. Worst case scenario I knew I could always go out and
get a j-o-b.
Ten years into the
business I'm doing very well. So well in fact, that I now get to worry about far
more interesting problems like, for example, what can be done to somehow help
people avoid Benjamin Disraeli's prediction
that "most people die with their music
still locked up inside them." It pains me to meet a person who has these
tremendous gifts inside yet who allows himself or herself to remain locked
safely but miserably in job jail. People who don't dare to dream at all and so
could not possibly bring themselves to dream big dreams.
You would think that I'd
be content knowing that in some small way I've helped literally thousands of
people to make the leap from having a boss to being their own boss. And you'd
think, too, that after doing this work for 12 years I'd have been prepared for
the onslaught when I asked readers to send me their top two or three questions
about what it takes to change course. But even I was taken aback. At last count
I received a whopping 1,200 questions and they're still coming in!
I was genuinely moved by how many
people who responded to the survey also took the time to include some sort of
personal note. Many wanted me to know that my work matters.
For example, a kindred spirit from Sydney, Australia included a quick note to
say, "Thanks for your enthusiasm & your service to a very wide community."
Another dreamer from "across the pond" wrote, "Your newsletter has often kept me
going when I'm at the end of my tether. There's nothing like this in the UK...
very few resources for the many like me who're desperate for escape."
Some of the people I heard from have
already taken the leap. Like Marianne Korten who runs a communications skills
training and consulting business called Soul at Work (Soul-At-Work.com)
in Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Marianne wrote: "I would like you to know that
I am very grateful for your newsletter. It uplifts me every time I read it and
there is always a story or source I can use. You are my light in my darker
entrepreneurial days." Even though she's already launched her business, Marianne
understands that all of us aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike need
someone to remind us that changing course may not always be easy, but it is
And that's exactly what Olliette
is learning as well. Olliette's husband worked for a home builder for four
years. For various reasons, including the fact that he did not receive a single
pay raise, it was a job he did not enjoy. Olliette says that off and on she'd
try to talk her husband into striking out on his own but to no avail. Then out
of the blue he was terminated. Being fired is never easy. Yet sometimes it takes
a crisis to moves us to action.
Olliette said her husband's
firing, was both "devastating and a blessing in disguise. He became a licensed
general contractor that same year. His first customers were folks who had
purchased homes from his former boss. It has been two years. There are
challenges and of course management issues at time but the ride is wonderful. We
managed to turn a small profit last year."
That was year one. "This year,"
said Olliette, "is even better. We started with handyman services and now we are
doing kitchen and bath remodeling. We even purchased, renovated, and sold an
investment property this year. It is not easy but it is wonderful to know that
we are building something from the ground up. I still work full time but I help
my husband manage the business, handling much of the administrative duties. I am
also able to use my love of decorating to help serve customers. Your newsletter
gives me hope and encouragement. It is not an easy road to take but I love the
Olliette is right about
one thing changing course is an adventure. According to Webster's Dictionary
the word adventure derives from the Latin adventus, past participle of
advenire to arrive. Of course the dictionary tells us that an adventure also
involves an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks... but also an
exciting or remarkable experience.
Perez from Charlotte, North Carolina shared her
adventure as well. Sonia's story is a telling example of how a little
encouragement can go a long way. She writes:
finally quit my job and started my own CPA business doing tax preparation and
accounting. I wrote you a very heartfelt note before I left the audit department
at the bank sometime before May 2003... I had been preparing emotionally and
mentally for this step for years and I was so ready that I had to do it. Your
words of encouragement in the newsletter and the fantastic note that you
personally wrote to me in 2003 made most of the difference...!"
Okay, so you'd think
hearing from people like Marianne, Sonia, and Olliette would make me sleep like
a baby... but you'd be wrong. Don't get me wrong I absolutely love hearing
success stories like these. In fact, they make my day. I love giving people the
support and information they need to work at what they love on their own terms.
And I like to think I'm pretty good at it. But for the vast majority of people
the process of changing course is so painfully slow. So slow in fact, that most
people never do a thing.
So for a while now
what's kept me up at night is trying to figure out how to help greater numbers
of people to change course F-A-S-T-E-R! Since launching Changing Course in 1995,
I've learned a ton about how to significantly accelerate the process of getting
from where you are to where you want to be. Up until now the challenge has been
figuring out how to share it all.
Like I said in the last newsletter, I
have been literally working on this project for two and a half years... but I'm
finally ready to wrap it up. It is going to be a complete brain dump of
everything I know about how to quit your job to work at what you love.
In fact, when I asked
the question in my recent survey, "If you
could sit down with me for lunch what top two or three questions would you want
to ask me about changing course?" most people wanted to know how to "find" one thing or
Some people asked how
they could find their heart's desire... their calling if you will. Others wanted
to know how to find the time or the money to pursue their dream. A fair number
of people had very practical money questions, like what to do about health
insurance and retirement. Others were looking for advice on how to get an
unsupportive spouse or other family member to support their dreams. Still others
were seeking specific information and guidance on things like marketing or how
to start a small business. And a few even said flat out told me that all they
really need to get going is a good "kick in the pants."
The whole point of doing the survey was to
make sure that before I sent my new fast track project off to the printer and
duping house that I didn't miss anything. Your answers did help me tweak a few
things like adding more information and some new worksheets on how to
establish multiple income streams and passive profit centers. But overall I was
really happy to see that my original "brain dump" was right on target.
When this thing "launches" it's going to
cover everything from figuring out what you'd really love to do, to how to turn
your interests into income, to finding the money to fund your dream, to dealing
with fear and self-doubt, to what to do about health insurance and taxes, to
marketing on a shoe string budget, to navigating the transition from salary to
self-generated income, to business start-up tips, to where to get ongoing
support and answers to frequently asked questions, to how to profit from an
online business, to how to stay inspired and keep your dream on track... and then
I know that finding the money,
time, courage, and support to change course are all important to changing
course. The good news is that they are also manageable. What I mean is, there
really are actual practical steps you can take to work out, work on, and work
around all of these barriers to changing course. I know because I've been
studying these steps for over a decade now.
I understand your worries because
I lived them. In fact, I spent seven years fretting about where I would find the
money, time and confidence to change my life direction. What finally moved me to
action was a painful wake up call. My mother spent the last nine years and seven
months of her life toiling at her job as a second shift custodian a job she
took solely to get vested for the retirement benefits. When my mom died
unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 61 just five months before she was to
retire, it totally changed how I viewed time (we can choose how we use it),
money (things work out), and life (it's all too short).
One of the questions I received
was, "What should be the driving, better yet, propelling force to get the
courage to do it?" It was a good question but one that is also impossible to
answer for someone else. But I know what the propelling force was for me. Losing
my mother at such a young age made me realize that I had spent far too much time
agonizing endlessly about what might happen if I changed course and not nearly
enough time worrying about what would happen if I DIDN'T.
In other words, instead of being
afraid of the "unknown risks" that adventure can bring, I should have been
equally worried about the "known risks." The known risk of staying stuck was
spending another 25 years dealing with alarm clocks, commuter traffic, office
politics, and spending five days a week living the spirit numbing reality that,
as it's been said, "the truth is rarely told between the hours of 9-to-5."
"The big break for me," quipped Jon
Stewart of the Daily Show, "was deciding that this is my life." I know what he
means. For me
the propelling force was finally getting and I mean really getting that I
only had one life to live. And that by not at least trying to create the life I
really wanted, in all likelihood I would die with my music still in me. Now THAT
American editor and author Christopher Morley got it right when he said, "There
is only one success... to be able to spend your life in your own way, and not to
give others absurd maddening claims upon it."
So when you go to bed tonight try "worrying" about what it might look like to
actually spend your life "in your own way."
But rather than letting
this question keep you up I want you to think about what you might do to move
yourself in the direction of your dreams and not your fears. I want you to begin
to focus less on "what is" and more on "what could be." 2007 is almost upon us.
As we approach a New Year you may already be thinking about how you want 2007 to
be different... how you can make 2007 YOUR YEAR. So, what promise can you make
yourself to make that happen?
Learn how you can Fast Track Your Dream of working at
what you love on your own terms.
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About the Author
"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.
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