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Changing Course Newsletter!

To Make a Real Career Change You Need to Get “Unreal”

If you truly want to change course, you need to stop thinking about what’s “realistic” and instead think about what’s possible.

For those of you who’ve been reading this newsletter since 1995 or even for a few months, this may seem obvious. But I assure you, not everyone is on the same page.

That point was really driven home a few years ago when I hosted a small dinner posted for a few friends.

One of my guests was taking a Spanish class. So I mentioned the invitation I’d received from International Living magazine to speak at a conference in Panama for people who want to live and work overseas.

Before sitting down for our dinner, I gave my dog Cokie his. As I mixed up a concoction of chicken and sweet potato, I reminisced about a delightful woman I’d recently met while in Paris who makes her living as a professional dog chef.

As we retreated to the living room for dessert, one of my guests picked up a copy of Sir Richard Branson’s biography on my coffee table. Much to her surprise it was autographed.

That of course required an explanation of how I wound up being part of an intimate “pick Richard Branson’s brain” roundtable followed by VIP seats atRock the Kasbah, Branson’s star-studded annual fundraiser for his mother Eve’s foundation.

(Click here for a cool video about her work helping impoverished women in Morocco to start small businesses.)

My friends have no idea who entrepreneurs like (counterclockwise) Ali Brown, Mari Smith, or Eban Pagan are.

  Valerie with Eben Pagan

But they definitely were wowed that I got to chat with the surprising T-I-N-Y Paula Abdul and was front row for Natasha Beddingfield, Estelle, Adelle, and Gavin Rossdale.


Then a friend and I traded compliments on earrings. She had no idea who made hers. Mine came from an impressive young Canadian jewelry designer and entrepreneur named Rachel Mielke.

I met Rachel while speaking at the Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan annual conference after which she invited me to tour her nearby studio.

Rachel Mielke

I’m a huge fan of the hit television show the Shark Tank where entrepreneurs pitch venture capitalists to give them money to grow their businesses.

So you can imagine how impressed I was that Rachel had successfully pitched her business on the original CBS’s show known in Canada as the Dragon’s Den. And by the age of 29, she had been invited to attend a 2008 pre-Oscar Luxury Gifting Lounge in Los Angeles

As my guests were leaving one of them noticed my tube of lip balm “Chicken Poop Lip Junk.” With a name like that, I had to tell them about my recent interview with another determined entrepreneur named Jamie Tabor Schmidt of

Everyone told her that you can’t name lip balm Chicken Poop. As it turns out, the novelty name is the reason they buy and why Jamie got her product into a huge national chain like Walgreen’s.

That was the moment my friend Joanne exclaimed, “Wow, you live in this total other world, don’t you?”

I honestly didn’t know what she was talking about. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, you just got back from speaking at a travel photography course in Paris. You’re speaking in Panama. You meet these fascinating people that no one else ever seems to meet. It’s like you exist on a planet all your own.”

As I looked around the table at my guests – a district court judge, the training director at a university, a clinical social worker, and a college professor – I realized that I may not live on a different planet, but in a lot of ways I do inhabit a very different world. It’s a place I’ve come to think of as the World of Possibilities.

Life in the Real World

Sadly, most people operate in a world they proudly refer to as the Real World. You can always tell when you’ve met someone who has never lived in – never mind entertained – the World of Possibilities.

All you have to do is start talking about how happy you are when you’re baking and how you’ve been thinking of starting a cookie business…

Or you talk about how you’d absolutely love to run tours to Provence, France…

Or that you have a life-long dream of moving to the country and starting an organic farm…

The first thing you’ll notice is that Real World people look at you like, well, like you’re from another planet. Which, compared to them you are.

Next they are quick to recite with great certainty all of the reasons why your ideas are completely unrealistic.

After all, having never started a business themselves and knowing zilch about either selling cookies or running tours, being from the Real World they nonetheless deem themselves authorities on what is and isn’t possible.

And to underscore your other world status they will flatly tell you that you just aren’t operating in the Real World.

They mean it as a dig. What they don’t realize is that this is actually a very good thing.

Because when you dwell in the World of Possibilities you know these things are doable for one simple reason: People are doing them!

The World of Possibilities

Look around and you’ll see people who have figured out that a dream + effort = profiting from your passion.

People like 55-year-old Marla Romash, who after an amazing career in politics felt the urge to do something new. Today she bakes cookies with a political theme.

Or MaryJane Butters of MaryJanes Farm. What began as a passion for organic farming has morphed into her own magazine, retail stores, a bed and breakfast, a line of food and other products, a farm school and much more

Or Cynthia Morris who, after leading successful tours to France for years literally wrote the book on how to lead tours for fun and profit (if Cynthia’s name sounds familiar, she was part of a panel discussion along with Barbara Sher, Barbara Winter, and me that’s part of Making Dreams Happen.)

It’s likely that you have a foot in both worlds.

A big part of you knows in your heart that it really is possible to open an artist’s retreat or design your own skin care line or find some way get paid to research holistic healing techniques.

But the gravitational pull to “be realistic” keeps pulling you back to the Real World.

When I started this business in 1995, I could never have imagined speaking in Panama or reviewing travel photography courses in Paris or getting to pick Richard Branson’s brain or running my own career coach training program or meeting people who run the most fascinating businesses…

And yet, here I am doing all of that and more.

And so can you.

Dale Carnegie once said, “We all have possibilities we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.”

The vacancy sign is always out in the World of Possibilities.

Whenever you start to think your dream is not possible, find someone who is successfully doing the thing you want to do and follow them. I guarantee that this road will lead you to a lifetime of satisfaction, well-being, and even greater possibilities than you could ever imagine.

Being realistic is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, as hip-hop artist and actor Will Smith reminds us, “being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity.”


Welcome to my world…one that’s about to get even bigger. That’s because next week I’m opening registration in my new 2012 Profiting from Your Passions® career coach training program.

I’ve put together a short video that spells out some of the key qualities and characteristics of people of my fellow Possibility Dwellers. Whether you’re curious about what it would be like to get paid to brainstorm business ideas as I do or not, I think you’ll enjoy video. Click here to watch.

There are 14 comments. Add yours.

  1. Great article. It’s very easy to get weighed down by what’s practical and giving up on what’s possible.

  2. Ana

    I can comment with some authority on being from the world of possibilities, but from a radically different stand — that of someone who risked all to chase a dream and lost everything. Like the entertainment industry, to use a good analogy, many people try and very few make it. Eleven years ago, before I left to pursue my dreams, I had a cute apartment in L.A., a modest-paying but good career, friends, and hope for the future. I have none of that now. You are right in what you say: it’s easy to obsess on the practicals. But from this vantage point, I’d give anything at all to have my modest, gentle life back.

  3. Wonderful article, Valerie!

    I think that in order to pursue our passions, we really need to strip away a lot of outside influences and ask ourselves what truly makes us happy. Whether it’s baking cookies, working with animals or decorating and renovating (as in my case!) it helps to envision yourself in your dream career. Positive visualization is the first step. Then, you can work, step-by-step, at creating a path that will take you there.

    I left my career in Corporate America 15 years ago with the support of my (wonderful) husband. He told me to “Choose quality of life over quantity of money.”

    Experience has taught me that when you pursue what you love and work hard, you might even be lucky enough to get both!

  4. Thanks Troy, Ana, and Debra!

    Ana, first I’m so sorry to hear you have regrets about following your dream. As you well know, there are no guarantees. Not knowing what your dream was or what the odds of success were — for example, as you say the entertainment industry is TOUGH — its hard to comment on your specific situation.

    Sometimes you start a restaurant and the major employer pulls out of town the next day. Things happen

    What I can say is that regrets can work both ways. If I had to choose though, and research bears out that most people feel the same, I’d rather have regrets about what I did, than about what I failed to do.

    I hope you can at least feel proud of yourself and know that you won’t wish you’d at least given it a shot.

  5. Thank you for such an inspiring article, Valerie!

    You’re absolutely right – it IS another world! I love your way of describing it as a World of Possibilities. I think that’s very true, because, even when the going gets tough (as it sometimes does), people in this other world are still driven by their passion to keep going, knowing that anything is possible, if we put our mind to it.

    Rock on!! 🙂

  6. Valerie,
    Thanks for the great article. I think every time I’ve tried to be “practical” as opposed to following my heart, it’s hard to keep the momentum going. When I am doing things that I love, it’s easier and doesn’t feel like work.

    That’s not to say that you don’t have to have some practical aspects so you are not completely stressed out. But if all your energy is going to being practical rather than fulfilled and happy – that sounds like regret to me.

  7. Valerie, I love this article and I agree that it’s a compliment to be told we “live in another world”. The world of possibilities is a magical land indeed.

  8. Heather

    Hi Valerie…I attended one of your seminars a couple years ago and am signed up again for the freebie on Monday. Since that time, I’ve started my own business and LOVE it! Responsiblilities being what they are I am still working 8 – late plus doing my own thing (and raising 2 kids) but I’m committed to continuing my quest to break free of the job-box. Not quite sure what the next step is….but know there are possibilities. You always have great ideas and are an inspiration to listen to!

  9. Ana

    Hi Valerie and group,

    First, it’s been great reading about the feelings and experiences of the other respondents. Notice I haven’t left your little world here — or the World of Possibilities at large — and have no intention of doing so in the near future.

    Anyway, yes, it’s difficult not to have regrets when survival is all you’ve left. But survival itself beckons. There’s a little voice inside that keeps nudging me, like Yoda: “Pass on what you have learned.” I’m trying to find a way to pass it on — and make a living, too. That’s what keeps me in this World. The trick is to find a way to start with no money at all. Attending any seminar, conference, meeting, etc., or buying into anything, is beyond my world of possibility but there’s got to be a way. One thing I’ll have to admit to people when I do get started is that, in reality, no one starts with nothing. I’ve never heard of anyone who didn’t start with a little money somewhere. After all, that’s your market.

    I wasn’t involved with the entertainment industry; I only used that as an analogy. (my original career was on its periphery before I left to “go for it”) The dream was to live and work in Spain. The chances of success were very slim. The odyssey took me there twice and 3 stints in another country, with friends’ couches in between, before dumping me here.

    My newest dream actually represents a means to an end, but the activity itself is something I want for the long term. I want an online business to support me before the end of this year. It’s what I should have been doing all along. The chances of success? A tad better than my original dream — if I can get the resources to start and keep working until I make it.

    Just some words of musing. The best of luck to everyone.

  10. Hello ! I saw your weblog and I actually like it…the design is extremely excellent.Did you do it oneself or used a template? ( i searched on web and i saw you will discover lots of for wordpress) I do not have however a domain but I will invest in 1 so i can weblog myself also.Anyway good information and excellent site…btw I hope Excellent luck

  11. It is wordpress but not a template – it is based on my the same design as my web site at — glad you like it!

  12. Ana

    If it’s WordPress but not a template, does that mean you designed it yourself, using something like Photoshop, et al? I’m not even sure I’m using the right descriptive words since I know nothing about building a site. I thought everyone who used WordPress used templates unless they designed it from scratch which requires skills.

  13. Thanks for your ideas. One thing we’ve noticed is that banks and financial institutions really know the spending behavior of consumers and as well understand that a lot of people max outside their cards around the holiday seasons. They properly take advantage of this real fact and commence flooding a person’s inbox along with snail-mail box using hundreds of Zero APR credit cards offers soon after the holiday season closes. Knowing that if you are like 98% of all American public, you’ll jump at the possible opportunity to consolidate credit card debt and transfer balances for 0 APR credit cards.

  14. Agree Berta — banks are good at sucking people in with these deals. Having said that there are times when assuming you pay back before interest kicks in when it can be a very viable way to get out of a high interest credit card bill.


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