May 26, 2011

The Need for Change

I talked with my seatmate Rachel on the flight to Singapore. She was 6G, I was 6H—Cathay Pacific Business Class.

I was sitting up front thanks to my Platinum status and a big stash of Frequent Flyer Miles. Rachel was up front thanks to the global bank she worked for, which after a brief display of frugality was now back to flying even its junior employees in Business.

Rachel was the same age as me. She had traveled to much of the world, but hadn’t really seen anything. It was always running back and forth, flying to meetings, going to business dinners, arriving late at night back in the big Asian city where she was based before getting up early for more meetings.

It was obvious that Rachel was discontented, wanted something different, and had no shortage of intelligence and drive. Yet she was the first to admit that major change was unlikely. She had a good job. Her employer flew her Business Class and paid for her taxi from the airport so she wouldn’t have to take the bus. She had spent years applying herself to earn two finance degrees, and besides, what would her family think if she turned her back on a successful career?

The Camel in the Eye of the Needle

Why is it so hard to break free of a life that’s good enough to pursue the life we truly long for? We like to think these things are complicated, but the root cause is pretty simple: change is hard, so we tend to put it off until it becomes urgent. When the time comes to change, it becomes an overpowering presence; something that must be resolved one way or another. Maya Angelou put it this way:

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.

In the AONC book I told the story of Sean Ogle, who left his job as a financial analyst with no real backup plan in place. The most interesting part of his story (I think) was when he met with his employer to propose a remote working agreement. Sean thought it was a win-win—he could see the world while still earning a regular paycheck and benefits, and his employer wouldn’t have to replace the position. Unfortunately, the employer thought otherwise. Not only did they turn down the proposal, they also presented a counter-proposal: You’re fired. They gave him two weeks to wrap things up, and he was so shocked that he didn’t know how to respond at first.

Thinking about it later that day, Sean was bothered by how the exchange had played out. He typed up some notes with his side of the story and sent them in a memo to the boss and H.R. rep. The response was quick: Forget the two weeks—you can leave right now.

Eighteen months later, Sean has turned out to do quite well for himself. Nice work, man! But from the outside, people tend to focus on the end result rather than the process, which is always filled with uncertainty. When Sean said farewell to his first real job after college, he honestly wasn’t sure what would happen next—he just knew that something had to change.

***

When the time comes where you’re willing to make a big break, you may find yourself facing down fear and trying to see through to the other side. Just remember: once you start going down the road of change, you don’t always know where you’re going to end up. This very reason is why many people remain stuck in discontent but unable to find their way out.

Will it be easy? Probably not, at least not if it’s worth doing. Will everything be OK? Maybe, maybe not. That’s why it’s scary.

Many people, like Rachel, will not be able to leave behind what is comfortable in pursuit of what is compelling. Others, like Sean, will find a way “come hell or high water” to follow the path of no return.

Is there a bulldozer on your horizon?

###

Image: Travis

Comment on this article

75 Responses to “The Need for Change”

  1. Great post, Chris. I totally relate. At some point toward the end of last year, probably due to a number of factors, something clicked in my mind and the bulldozer started up. Now, here I am, six months later, “jobless,” but working on a number of projects that make me happy to wake up in the morning. Is it scary? Sure. But at the end of the day, if I hadn’t made the change when I did, I could see myself getting more and more comfortable in the old job, until I would wake up one day and not recognize the beaten-down husk of myself staring back in the mirror. Ultimately, THAT is a far more scary thought than any short-term uncertainty. Keep up the great work!

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I spent many years wanting to be good at something before I’d even tried it. I was paralyzed by fear and perfectionism.

    Just last year I decided to start living differently. And it’s made all the difference. Now, I can’t wait to see what the day brings. I make mistakes everyday, but that no longer stops me from pursuing what I want.

  3. Making changes is hard because most of us don’t want to shake things up for ourselves socially. We don’t want friends and family questioning our sanity. We aren’t willing to risk our status as smart, stable people to lead lives that many people would define as impractical/odd. Or so I have found.

    I recently left my “cool’ job to do who knows what. I have some ideas, but I’m never 100% certain. The only thing I know for sure is that life is too short to spend most of my time living someone else’s vision for my life. Naysayers be darned, I’ll do what I want and figure it out.

  4. I have only one thing to add to that: it’s scary! I’ve been trying to figure out a way to scape my 9-to-5 job for years. I am now 43 years old and I still don’t know how to make the switch, although it is absolutely painful to wake up in the morning and drag my butt to the office every morning!
    I am always looking for your kick-in-the-butt articles! Thanks.

  5. Comfort and complacence are hard places to leave because you feel like you have everything you NEED, even if you don’t have everything you WANT. Also, having a job like that speaks very much to the mentality that a lot of people have: I’m better off than most people, I can do what most people can’t – so I should be happy with simply that, right?

    There’s also this sense that we can’t get what we want. I mean, there’s a song devoted to not always getting what you want, but getting what you need. We’re not allowed to want big or great things because it’s implied that we can’t get them, that we’re not allowed to have them. I can’t want to be a millionaire because there are oppressive forces at work (ie: racism, sexism, homophobia, etc) that keep people down, that you’re stuck in your “class” forever, that you have no business wanting to be rich.

    I feel like there’s a lot of victimization involved in creating dreams. Only certain people achieve their dreams, and everyone else has to be happy with what they’ve got.

    It’s really sad.

  6. The need for change is almost a palpable sensation. It comes over us sometimes and can only be avoided by continued denial. The fear that comes with change is also palpable. I long for change…I hate change! Good post…thanks for your ideas.

  7. It seems like only yesterday I pondered these questions. One guiding principle for me – “I didn’t want to wake up at 60 and regret not even trying…”

    So I made changes. Scary at first, but most worked out fine.

    -At age 30, left a comfortable job as an engineer to try sales. Scary at first, but had fun. Learned a lot.

    -At age 34, left to join a startup. Fun a first, less fun later, lost money. Learned a lot.

    -At age 36, started a consulting firm. Failed. Crawled back into a corporate job. Learned a lot.

    -At age 38, went back into field sales. Great fun, made good money, made good friends too. Learned a lot.

    -At age 41, started consulting company again. Market crashed the first day in business. Succeeded anyway. Been a blast. Learned a lot.

    -Age 64, still consulting. No regrets. Financially secure. Also raised two sons, married 43 years. Still learning, still having fun. But where has the time gone?

    Big lesson to share — life is way too short to waste doing something you no longer enjoy. Don’t wake up at 60 wishing…

  8. Ironically enough, I worked for a big bulldozer company for 21 years, clinging desperately to a nice paycheck and a means to raise my son. But that big bulldozer company just turned those bulldozers on me. For the first time in 30+ years, I’m unemployed. But you know what? It’s forced a change I’ve wanted all along: now I can go back and finally finish my Master’s degree and maybe my PhD, live happily on a fraction of the salary, and travel a bit. Best of all, I’m starting to remember who I am — not the person they always required me to be.

  9. bulldozers can be welcome change indeed.. the ‘beauty in the breakdown’… but i hope i’m past the bulldozer stage and into the creation/creativity one! starting my own business and just launching last month is still a scary ride for me, especially when i live in a third world country currently in ‘the ghetto’ and having trouble paying my bills, hoping i don’t get my first bounced bank account. i’ve had a dozen/handful of client leads but can’t seem to stick many. hope this changes soon as i continue to ‘fail forward’. i’m familiar with sean’s story but didn’t realize the details with his boss.. what an inspiration, considering where he’s at now!

  10. Too often we are swept up in the myth of “scarcity”, thinking we have to hold on tight to what we have, because we might not ever find it again. It’s easy to believe there simply isn’t enough to go around–enough money, enough good jobs, enough love. But once we open up to the possibility of “plenty”, that bulldozer starts plowing through our brains. There really is enough to go around. Don’t let fear keep you from finding it.

  11. I guess, when you simply can`t take it anymore you will prepare for a break. Chris` books and guidances are a great motivation and help. I always hated the corporate world, yet in my earlier years I somehow ended up working for a consultancy firm. The pay was great. It was what I would call compensation money for pain. Working long hours, weekends, living in hotels, which is all fine – but, without a purpose. What is all money good for, if you do not see the intrinsic purpose. My turning point came when I had to assist the company to lay off people simply as a political move. It made no sense and the company could have been saved in a different way. I even did a whole presentation on an alternative solution – to no avail as it was already pre-arranged. For me, it was so unethical that I could not bear it. Working for the corporate world does not only mean that you have no way of influencing the status quo (at least not in large ones), but most of them make their return on profound unethical projects.

    I did not want to be part of this and made the leap forward many years ago. However, I am not rich and I still have to work hard to get it going. But I have a spirit of pride and purpose again.

  12. I wonder too whether part of the problem with “good enough” jobs is that they’re good enough by other people’s standards. They’re not necessarily what we want to do, but other people keep telling us they’re great jobs and we’d be crazy not to want them.

    Funny though with the scary stuff – Sometimes I look at my post-bulldozer life and it seems overwhelming and I contemplate bailing and then I think back to the way it used to be (well paid consulting job) and that’s what seems scary!

  13. I finished graduate school a couple of weeks ago and have been struggling with choosing between going back to a ‘real job’ (ack!) and starting a consulting business (what I really want to do, but it scares the pants off of me).

    I went to grad school after 10 years as a marketer in design firms because I wanted to be able to influence how creative industries are managed. Now the ‘safe’ side of me says I should go get more experience, but I want to just jump. I want to help people now, to help firms be better for both their clients and their employees. I know I have the skills and the insight to do it. But instead I’ve been dividing my time between resumes and business planning, walking the fence, not committing either way.

    What would happen if I put all that passion into creating my business, into planning and building networks and my message? How amazing could my life be if I let the bulldozer run full-force?

  14. I love this article. Change does feel like a bulldozer sometimes and I love the other end because it is always so liberating. Just what I needed!

  15. I’ll tell those of you who are young a secret. It gets easier. You do it once. It turns out well or it doesn’t. Either way, you find out you aren’t sorry you did it. That makes it easier to gather up the nerve to try it again. Again you find out you aren’t sorry you did it. By the time you’re 60, it’s not hard at all, and you’ve done so many different things you can be pretty confident about building a livable income from a collection of small income streams, so you don’t have to be dependent on any particular employer. Even the bad jobs you take temporarily aren’t so bad when you know you could walk out on any given day and survive.

  16. My situation is not unlike that of Sean. I was cited as an innovative marketer whose work had and was continuing to transform industry expectations. When I offered to expand on that role in an effort to ensure greater market uptake for the firm, I was let go. Although I had eliminated the cost ($1 mil. +) for the ad agency and cut the need for weeks of internal meetings to attain consensus, my role (after 20+ years) was apparently disposable. The response I’ve met since then at trade shows has been stellar… but all those ‘We must do something together… we love your work, ideas, and energy’ have – after some post-show pursuit – amounted to nothing. Yet. This post and its ‘Need for a Change’ theme is exactly what I needed today: a reminder that (thanks also to some of the comments) the world keeps turning around, and also that nothing in life is guaranteed. I wasn’t particularly happy where I was… I’m not particularly happy with where I am now. But I’m alive and well… and more confident than ever that I have something special to offer. Scared? Sure. But as we’re all discovering, times like this force us to adjust. And despite the fear, the future does look better.

  17. I would really like to think that it doesn’t have to be A) Rachel OR B) Sean/Chris/etc. I would really like to believe there’s a C) option or maybe even a C), D), and E).

    While I think it is absolutely brilliant what some of you do, I’d like to think there are ways to merge comfortable and compelling. I don’t understand why comfortable can’t add up to compelling and vice versa. Surely they can, can’t they? (you can can-can ergh)

  18. I have always loved the thought of becoming a famous tango dancer. Singing throaty standards in a Parisian nightclub. Buying a piece of land in the Pacific Northwest simply for the exercise of building a 30-foot sculpture I drew when I was nineteen.

    I love these dreams. I don’t know if I am any less of a person because I have not brought them to fruition. Now in my 40s, I have spent nearly eighteen years with the same global corporation. My “good job” has allowed me to be the sole breadwinner for my family, to have the flexibility to travel a little and be home a lot. To grow and develop and challenge myself. Alongside wonderful people who are also growing and developing and challenging themselves.

    In lieu of being able to live out the many lives I’ve dreamed, I give thanks for the life I have and infuse it with the stuff of dreams often.

    At sixty, I know I will have a choice to make. To look back with regret or gratitude. I hope I choose the latter.

    Chris, I love your posts and thank you so much for the constant reminder to find and celebrate non-conformity … even in conformity.

  19. The mind is a computer and when you’re in a world, which includes a job it’s like being plugged into the matrix. Unplugging is scary for so many reasons. Imagine if someone told you to wipe your computer and install all new software. It’s easier to keep running the old programs. The whole system is designed to make you dependent; so much that when you first unplug, it doesn’t seem right! Fear limits, Love expands infinitely. Do what you love, follow your heart and it’ll get you where you didn’t even know you could go.

  20. I have a big bulldozer looming in my future… and I’m scared. But like Daryl, I don’t want to arrive at 60 and feel regret that I never even tried to do something different. In order to ease the fear, I have been saving up a big pile of money. But eventually I have to fire up that bulldozer and things may or may not work out the way I hope. It’s a risk. But at some level I think the risk of avoiding change may cost me more in the end than taking the leap of faith to make the life that I really long for.

  21. I found that when I forced myself to continue “bucking up” eventually, I began to fail at work that had always come easily to me. I lost things, procrastinated, ran late for everything and “forgot” to return phone calls. I avoided conflict and deliberately botched sales calls.

    Avoiding my true self only made me suffer more in the long run…. your true self will have it’s day with or without your ego’s consent.

    You may as well be honest….

  22. The need for change has bulldozed a road for sure, and it’s up to me though to walk/run/drive down that road. I know where I want that road to go, but where it leads me may be better than I could ever imagined. Like Sean’s road took him to another part of the planet.

    It’s up to us to get on that road and go, life awaits!

  23. I have been in an ecommerce sales job for 3.5 years. It’s been my only job since college. I’ve been through a lot with the company during this time, and I am at the point where the need to move on is burning inside me. I just don’t know what the next step is. I could jump into another sales job (no desire) or jump on a flight to a distant land and travel for an unknown period of time. I want to choose the latter but am “scared” to leave my steady income and face the prospects of being unemployed when I return. I know that traveling could open my eyes to new opportunities, just need that kick in the butt to make it happen.

  24. May 26, 2011

    Maureen

    Over many years, I have come to realize that the influence we allow other people to have on on lives — the decisions and choices we make can be stifling. This interference begins in childhood and a pattern of rules to reward is established for being ‘good’ and following directions. The problem is that so many of these well-meaning influencers keep on enforcing established rules well into our adulthood. Their voices are constant echo is our ears.

    Recently, I’ve been observing the interesting advice my young adult (20ish) children have been getting from others and the advice I’ve been getting to pass on to them….. It is filled with phrases like, real-job, getting serious, settle down, doesn’t matter what they want, etc. I know that each of us can create enough obstacles for ourselves without having to navigate the objections and opinions of well-meaning advisors who don’t seem to realize the world has changed and we need to change with it. I guess this is were the bull-dozer comes in handy — I’ve always wanted to be a heavy equipment operator and I’ve passed on a spare set of keys to my kids!

  25. The quote from Maya Angelou is very apt – I feel that my desire to pursue what I love and am passionate about in life has bulldozed the structures in my mind that were set up under the pretense of an “American Dream.” The only pillar of belief I couldn’t break down was getting a degree – once my Bachelors is accomplished, I’ll finally be free.

  26. All I can say is exactly! I really enjoy your blog as it is one that inspires me to post each day on mine. I can definitely relate to being at the line between self-directed purpose and just-cuz purpose. Its only a matter of months before I take the leap. I can’t wait. I would love to repost this and create a link on my site. Let me know if that works for you.

  27. May 26, 2011

    Tia Tuenge

    I read your book and found it really inspiring. Living life on my own terms has always been important to me. I have mostly worked for myself at something creative with varying degrees of success. Somehow climbing the corporate ladder was never an option for me, I knew it would suck the life right out of me.

    Many of my friends are in corporate careers and while a few love what they do or are at least challenged and stimulated, most are doing a gnarly grind and living for the weekends. When we were young I was envious of my career climbing friends feeling like I was missing out on something important.

    Now in my forties I am so grateful freedom was my priority. I’ve been able to create a life I totally love AND have the time to enjoy it. I truely believe that anyone can live a life they really love if only they believe themselves.

    Thanks Chris for being such a visible inspiration.

  28. May 26, 2011

    karen friend smith

    Thanks for this post Chris. I recently released a bulldozer in my life and it’s fascinating to watch this change unfold. While the road seems unclear at times…the direction of the road is very clear. Scary as it seems some days – it simultaneously feels amazing. Recognizing the pure potentiality that exists in the unknown is pretty exciting! It’s like a clean slate, a new opportunity to create..but with the added new knowledge and information I gained during the previous phase. I am actually really looking forward to it. Come what may! Thanks for the reinforcement!

  29. About 2 years ago, because of some unexpected changes in my life, I was “forced” to make a change in the work I was doing as well as in my personal life. For many years I dreamt of travel and wanting to work for myself but was so scared to go for it….too comfortable and too many attachments. When my circumstance changed, it was almost like the kick in the butt I needed to get me out of my comfort zone and do something new and follow my dream. I won’t lie, the road has definitely been challenging, but I can honestly say that no matter how rocky it is, I would not choose to go back to doing unsatisfying work. I’m not always sure what comes next but I would much rather be here than knowing exactly what every day was going to be like.

  30. Pingback: If no one is interested in deep change (in Israel, or your organization)…

  31. What I love about these pieces is that you show me how important it is to cut through all the unnecessary words and get to the heart of the story. You inspire through example, great writing, and powerful messages that talk about the hard stuff. Thank you for what you do. You’re an inspiration.

  32. I had breakfast just this morning with a friend who lost his job yesterday. His wife is pregnant, and they could barely afford their mortgage payment before the loss in income.

    “Do you feel a sense of relief, however small?” I asked him.

    He smiled and answered, “Yes! It’s scary too, but I’m definitely glad that I don’t have to try to make it fit anymore.”

    We normally don’t change until stay the same hurts worse. Something tells me that Sean Ogle’s old company isn’t a leader in its field. Something tells me that Rachel would be happier on a bus, with freedom to choose her next move—scared but exhilarated.

  33. Weird. I just read an article by Johnny B Truant this morning who was saying basically the same things. Is the world trying to tell me something? :D

  34. I am glad I am able to ease into it. No firing! But then again, perhaps the urgency that being fired brought on drove Sean. Perhaps being fired would be the best thing for most of because it gives us no other choice. I guess maybe that is what some of us really need if its going to happen at all. For now, I’ll keep moving ahead and work to create an artificial sense of urgency.

  35. Great article and concept, Chris. It’s really hard to choose uncertainty, so it usually takes someone “burning the boats”, whether of your choosing or by getting fired, as you note.

    My wife and I decided on Jan 1 of this year to burn our own boat and move from the DC area. We put our house up for sale without a specific plan of where we were going, other than it was going to be somewhere new.

    As it turned out, we’re moving to the Big Island in Hawaii, while I work part-time for my current company and develop new business ideas w/ the rest of my time. We move on June 12 and still don’t have a house, car, or any other work lined up. And it’s a thrill!

    Your blog has been an inspiration to us in deciding to pursue goals worth living for. Different aspirations for us, but the sentiment is the same.

  36. May 26, 2011

    tierra hodge

    Had the bulldozer through a few years ago and did some massive reshaping of my world–am still building some new roads and footpaths into some very exciting territory but have also had some time to do some “re-seeding” and erosion control on those newly cut road banks. so far what i’ve re-planted with has taken root and turned into a blazing field of wildly exotic dreams many people told me wouldn’t grow or would be hard to get established.
    I love debunking myths such as “art doesn’t pay” and “only really bad marriages end” and “divorce has to suck”–I’ve been paying my bills and funding my travel habit for the last 3 years on art and my ex. husband is now an inspiring friend and co-parent. The whole divorce process has been fairly graceful and free of financial or emotional terrorism and our lovely little daughter is thriving on multiple continents.
    So go get a big old D-8 dozer and have at those stubborn road-blocks–just remember to have a good stash of dreams to re-seed with on hand so that you don’t leave a bunch or disturbed friendships out in the rain to be washed down stream.
    All the best on your demo and construction projects, Tierra

  37. Amazing that Sean’s boss would not even discuss the remote working idea. If his superior was not even able to have a discussion before firing, it sounds like a bad working environment to begin with that needed to be left behind. It’s an inspiring story, I’ll have to read more about Sean’s experience.

  38. May 26, 2011

    Sherri Underwood

    Sometimes you do get what you ask for. Unlike Sean, my company has allowed me an 8-month personal leave of absence and is even paying my health insurance while I am out. Had I not asked for it, I never would have been granted this wonderful gift.

    Now I am spending ME time, getting in better physical and emotional shape, traveling, enjoying friends and family. Life is indeed good!

  39. I think the point that Mutant Supermodel made is a really good one and I totally agree. Change and challenging the status quo can be a wonderful thing, but not all change and challenge is wonderful. Just as comfortableness and complacency can be a bad thing, but not in every circumstance. In the wise words of Kenny Rogers, “you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em.”

    It’s easy (and common) to place a value judgment on someone else’s choices, find others wanting and think your choices are better or more worthy than theirs.

    The truth is you need people in both ends of the bell curve. Rachels, who have jobs with consistent paychecks, can become customers/clients of the Seans of the world. Maybe her choice of comfort enables his choice for change.

    So back to Mutant’s great point. Choices don’t just come in black and white, but every shade of gray.

  40. Thanks so much for reminding me that nothing in life is certain but also, anything worth having is worth fighting for.

    That means fighting the fear of change. My family and I have recently decided to sell our house and buy an RV to travel the US. We are so excited all we do is speak, eat, and dream RVing.

    I think that means we may have overcome the fear factor!

    Life SHOULD BE an adventure, but it won’t be unless we create it for ourselves.

  41. I’m in the rubble at the pointy end of the bulldozer blade as we speak… and so far I haven’t died from it. It’s been over two years now and slowly things are taking shape. The odd thing is my enthusiasm. It hasn’t waned at all. Yes I’ve been scared [out of my wits at times] but I am still maintaining direction taking steps in slow increments toward the future. Some day I expect to wake up at my destination [at some pre determined time in my future] and look back lovingly at how courageous I was in taking that first step. And how wonderful my life has been because of it. It’s not over yet. It could quite possibly never be. That’s the funny thing about the future. It’s uncertain. And that’s an inescapable fact for all of us. We have to live it [and love it] now… and let the future play out.

    Thanks for the reminder Chris :-)

  42. Great post as always :)
    My bulldozer is on it´s way! I´m 21 and starting university this fall and am working in a retirement home. I have been working there for the past 5 years with school and I´m sick of it. And the thing is, I don´t want another job! I don´t want to be sucked into the worklife everyone is expected to live in.
    So I´m going to start up the bulldozer and change my life the way I want it to be.
    The way I see it, I have 3 years in university where I don´t need to have a “real” job so all the spare time I have is going into finding a way to work for my self.
    I can´t wait for my life to become my life, not my boss´ life!

  43. May 26, 2011

    Brendan Cain

    “It takes courage to do what you want. Other people have a lot of plans for you. Nobody wants you to do what you want to do…follow your bliss” Joseph Campbell

  44. “Why is it so hard to break free of a life that’s good enough to pursue the life we truly long for?”
    Because we’re afraid. Because we’ve settled. Because change, however much we long for it, is unsettling.
    Loving all the stories shared in these comments; they’re a treasure in themselves.
    PS ~ Bradley, thanks for referring me to the Johnny B. Truant piece~ another great read!

  45. Chris, I relate to both the comfort and being thrown out! I started to write my world domination plan when I was discontented but in a great job. A year later with accomplishing my goals for a promotion in-hand, I was let go. Seven weeks later I had a promotion in every respect in a new role and industry that resonates with me. Thanks for being a great example to kick-start my successful change!

  46. Yes there is. You’ll be happy to hear that I finally had enough with putting it off (and that dissatisfaction) and have now decided to travel starting September. At some point I realized I couldn’t live my life without doing the one thing I wanted to do and even if I don’t have the money to make it a round the world trip, I could still go somewhere different. It’s given me purpose and the motivation to save my money for something that really matters to me. Even going to my job is easier knowing I’ll be gone in three months and the money I’m making is going to something important to me.

  47. There is something to be said about “investment” they’ve put to get a job. When people ponder about making change, especially a big one, they think about “oh but I’ve already invested so much time and energy into this, I can’t just leave them and start all over. It’ll be a waste”. I bet Rachel in your story feels that way. Plus, this life is not too bad – not bad enough to make the shift – yet.

    I have quit “a good job” at least twice in my life, and every time, I did think about that.I had a job at United Nations, I had gone to a grad school in the US to make that happen. Once I moved to San Diego, I had a well-paid, 9-5 type of job that I really enjoyed for 4 years. Both times I left the job for very compelling reasons. Both cases, I did think about long and hard about “everything that was invested to get that job” before I quit. But the thing is, those “investment” was not for those jobs, it was for me, and I carry the experiences and skills with me whereever I go & whatever I do next. In other words, nothing you do in your life is ever “a waste” if you don’t let them.

  48. This is oddly relevant to me as today my boss and I announced to our team that I’ll be leaving the company in six weeks. It has been a definite case of leaving the “good job,” getting over the fear of the uncertainty ahead, and trying to coherently explain to more conservative people that I’m not crazy.

    The most exciting part of telling people I’m leaving has been the reactions of others. Many of the older people say “congratulations” while trying to hold back the glint of envy in their eyes. It’s really thrown into perspective just how easy it is for people to spend their entire working lives in the same groove. Everybody is excited when somebody gets out on their own terms, because so few people even try.

  49. Nice piece! I don’t see what is so great about living in the comfort zone. It does get boring. I’m sure this Rachel feels she would have to sit through a terrible “board meeting” with her family and discuss all her wishes and to justify herself. She doesn’t need to justify.

    Change is hard mostly because of having to deal with all the nonstop questions and feeling like you have to give an answer to those asking. You don’t. I have dealt with these issues many times. You gotta do something or you will wake up and have regrets when you are 70. Bottom line. Change is not so smooth but it’s worth a shot. Most people are unwilling to even try so you may come across as a fool to others at times. But the real fools are the ones that regret how they spent their lives.

  50. Thank you for this. I’ve just started my maternity leave. I’m expecting my first, and I’m hoping not to return to work – I just don’t know how it’s ever going to be possible. I’ve tried making in on my own before and that didn’t work… I will need some new ideas or radical changes to the old ones… Either way, thank you for the encouragement. I think it’ll work out somehow.

  51. Fantastic post! Truth and inspiration beautifully stated.

  52. Really great post Chris and it is so true that change can be so intimidating and cause you to be filled with fear. I really appreciated what you said about us putting it off until it is urgent. I think that is so true and it really drives home the point that perhaps we should consider changing before it comes urgent. Great post. Loved it.

  53. Hopefully after more people take the plunge, there will be more people advocating for improvement for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The government just lowered the soc. sec. tax for individuals but not for the small business man/woman. Health care expense is another obstacle. I would presume that most “entrepreneurs” have a spouse that supports them with insurances or they have no coverage at all. I would be very interested to learn if there is an advocacy group I (or all of us) could join to help make changes in our system to help support us.

  54. I can tell you from my own experience that I’ve answered that call many a time. I’ve moved thousands of miles on a couple different occasions in order to appease that inner fire of mine that has an insatiable thirst for experience, knowledge and adventure. Like the cowardly Lion in the Wizard Of Ozz, what I have come to possess and develop inside my own being is courage. You will be tested. You will lose battles. You will suffer. Strength and courage to be myself is what I’ve come to know by courageously doing what I felt was right, and listening to that inner voice that tells me when it’s time for a change. This I know to be true in my own journey, whenever a path begins hard and remains hard, and you have to force yourself to enjoy it, it’s not the right path. When you are on the “right” path, good things seem to happen almost right away and without too much struggle. Maybe it takes those “darker”, harder paths to lead you to the ones without as much resistance. I’ll take being happy over being miserable anytime any day.

  55. Mutant supermodel asked “I would really like to believe there’s a C) option or maybe even a C), D), and E)”
    Of course there are other ways! But you need to bulldoze them for yourself…

    My own personal example – I travel a few times a year on behalf of my employer to various places (cattle class – not business class… I don’t work for a bank…), and I always make sure to leave at least a day or two at the start or end of the trip to discover the area where I’m going.
    In this way I have seen some of Beijing, Sao Paulo, New Delhi, Cleveland, northern Italy, western Germany and other places (Mumbai is up next month).
    Fortunately, my boss and the organization are supportive of this, and it even saves the company money as the flight tickets are much cheaper if the stay includes a weekend, and the difference usually more than covers one or two extra nights in a hotel.
    If my employer had not supported this, I definitely would have been a less satisfied employee.

  56. I know why Rachel stays in her job.

    Her self-esteem is tied to being flown business class. It’s tied to fancy dinners and expensive wine and having other people wait on her. She’s mixed up her own self worth with these privileges and she knows how people in this world look at those who don’t have the privilege and she fears leaving because there is nothing else that she has seen, nothing else that is compelling enough to make it worth it to give all that up.

    You say she doesn’t want to leave behind what is comfortable to find what is compelling.

    I’m telling you that, right now, she does not see what else is compelling. What else is there to do? You’ve got to make a living somehow and once you become accustomed to special treatment, it becomes increasingly expensive to maintain that without conforming.

  57. Great blog Chris.

    It reminds me of what business guru Peter Drucker once said,

    “There is the risk you cannot afford to take, and there is the risk you cannot afford not to take”

  58. I’m a couple of weeks away from my latest bulldozer ride, and the thought of it is both exciting and scary.

    This particular bulldozer will be carving a different type of road for me, one i’ve never been dowm before, which makes it even more exciting and a lot scarier. I’m 51, i’ve ‘jumped’ a few times in the past, packed up my bags in London and gone backpacking for 18 months, never to return (until now that is)

    Lived and worked in Bali for 12 years, then on the suggestion of a friend, just after my daughter was born, put all our savings into a new venture that meant being 6 months in California and 6 months in Bali.

    Then on another ‘gut feeling’ packed up and moved to Costa Rica. This time though i have no idea what is going to happen and where i’ll end up, like i said exciting, but scary…………my knees are now playing me up, i know it’s because part of me knows that we need to go, wants to go, but part of me wants to stay.
    If i’ve learnt anything through these ‘jumps’ and over the years it’s that i have to trust my ‘gut feeling’, when i have done this it’s always turned out ok, maybe not as i thought it would, but ok none the less. So, my advise would be, listen to your ‘guts’, they know what’s good for you, jump and have faith,and it will be ok………………i think i’m advising myself here.

  59. May 27, 2011

    Adrian Collins

    Right now, I can see several bulldozers coming closer to me. I just finished college and am facing the big world. I already know from when I was younger that I’m not keen on having a job in the traditional sense.

    I gave myself all sorts of excuses in the past for not wanting or not being able to do this or that thing. Sure, I kind of regret it now but you know what, the past is over, the now is what matters.

    Will it challenging? Yes. It will be hard? Yes. BUT these changes need to be done so that I can enjoy true freedom.

    Forget about just bulldozers, I’m going to be needing an entire construction company in my mind with all the changes that are on the horizon for me.

  60. I’ve been an expat for 6 years, and everywhere I went I applied for jobs and worked in that specific location, Dublin first, then London. I usually want to stay longer than a normal vacation, so I was okay being sort of “stuck” with jobs, but I never managed to resist for more than 2 years. Especially London at the end gave me the idea I was being swallowed by corporate lifestyle and I run away. I didn’t leave immediately, they allowed me to work from outside over the Internet, but finally I left completely. I never regret it, on the contrary, I regret not having left earlier. Ok, let’s also say that probably my job was not as high-profile as Rachel’s, but I’d have left anyway, just to avoid getting crazy behind a desk. Now I’m completely location independent, I keep traveling and working from where I am. Is that easy? No, especially when it comes to financial instability. But I’m happy, even when I have to deal with problems, I’m aware that this is what I wanted.

  61. There is one question that I’ve been asking myself for a long time – how to find out if I am made for a corporate job? What if deep inside all my desires and skills can only find fulfillment in a large organisation – let’s say – as a manager? Many times we talk about living rat race behind. What about find the right corporate world with a normal 8-9/hours a day shift?

    Let’s say somebody is a great leader with a vision how to move things forward. His skills and character can be used in a large organisation (look at Jack Welsh) and bring a lot of satisfaction because of the great scale.

    To sum up – how to find out if I am cheating myself that I am corporate guy or if I am cheating myself that I can find joy somewhere else like being on my own?

  62. I once heard that the expression about trying to fit a camel through the eye of the needle came from Jerusalem’s eye of the needle gate, a very small opening through which a camel can barely pass, much less one with LOTS OF STUFF on it. When Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven,” I think it had to do with letting go of stuff in order to get somewhere. That seems to be one of the keys to living unconventionally. Lose it in order to get it. I keep experimenting with that as an improvisor. I have no idea how I am doing, but I am having a great weekend letting wonderful things come to me.

  63. Thanks for this article Chris – it chimed with me big time, particularly:

    “…once you start going down the road of change, you don’t always know where you’re going to end up”.

    So true – and so much the point! I remind clients that they need to “get into the game” by moving forward, even if they can’t be 100% sure of where the road will lead. I tell them: the act of moving forward will bring you into contact with unexpected strangers and happy accidents, and that will all contribute to moving you on to where you need to be. You’ll know it when you’re there, and perhaps that’s the only way you *can* know it…

  64. This is my life’s message.

    Too many of us our trapped by our own fear and “success” that we are unable to do what we were made to do.

    Go.

  65. Great post!! While observing myself and others I’ve noticed that significant change, the kind that changes who we are, comes in one of three ways. The most common way is a traumatic event, a death in the family or a personal health scare, which makes us reexamine everything in our lives – and possibly change. The second is having a mentor to teach us how to break free from our imaginary bonds – you do a great job in this. And the third, and least common, is to learn on our own how to live the life we want and become comfortable with change.

    Rachel your seatmate, as you said was discontented, but I think all people are fundamentally discontented. This discontentment is what pushes us to invent, improve and push ourselves. Someday because of this discontentment, Rachel will change.

    I once read a book (long forgotten) that illustrated discontentment/longing perfectly. A lone traveler was walking through a quant village and happened to peer inside a house. Inside was a happy family eating and talking – and the traveler longed to be with his family. At the same time a boy in the house looked outside and saw the traveler and wished he too had his freedom and longed to see the world.

  66. My first thought upon reading Sean’s story was, “Ouch.”

    It sounds eerily like my old work environment. I’m really glad he was able to see what a good thing it turned out to be. I’m in the midst of legal action against that former employer, but feeling that need for change so intensely.

    Next year, the legal action will all be over. That September, I’ll start my final year of university, and I’ll graduate in 2013.

    And then I’ll take my first steps down that road. I don’t even know where it leads, but I can’t wait to leave.

  67. June 2, 2011

    Sara A.

    I had a nightmare last night. No wait… I guess that was just my night shift work. It’s work that pays the bills but leaves me unfulfilled. None of you know that kind of work, do you? There’s that sarcasm again.

    Strip away all the sarcasm and the truth in that statement is scary. Maybe not yet “scream out loud” scary, but allow that type of work to fester in your life for long enough, eating away at your life’s purpose, and some day it will be “scream out loud” scary.

    The incentive for taking this job was money. And because of that, I consider myself a sellout. This term traditionally reserved for high profile music artists and the like, I believe, can be applied to anybody who does work they don’t enjoy simply for the money. Parents, or those with other obligations, may be considered exempt. My real self is not a sellout and it’s time for a change that honors that real self.

    I write this as I sit with my grandmother who is on her death bed. She is not afraid to die and has lived a fulfilled life in her own terms. She is an example for all. For it is not death itself that is scary, but living a life unfulfilled.

    Thank you to everybody for understanding.

  68. Everyone thinks I’m crazy, leaving my high paying, extremely secure job next year, especially because I don’t have a “back up”. I’ve reached the point where the money isn’t enough. I am not challenged, and I do not feel like I have done any good at the end of the day, and I can’t live like that, can’t give that example to my child. “Aren’t you scared?” they ask. “Only excited!” I reply. I need this change.

  69. Sorry, can’t leave my steady paycheck yet for unemployment; did that before and had to move back home which was beyond miserable I was actually unwelcome. Not taking that chance anymore. Guess I’ll have to keep looking for someone who wants to hire a fatass ugly over-the-hill invisible introvert for…not even sure what marketable skills I have anymore. Thanks for trying anyway Chris you deserve all the success you have.

  70. Hey Patch ~ There is not always a need to shake things up in your life but your thoughts about yourself could sure use some shaking. Every one of us has parts that are ugly but everyone of us has parts that are good too…including you. Messy humans is all we are. Love to you. xo Ali

  71. Great work Chris,

    The way i perceive the bulldozer example is one that it can be used to unfreeze solid behaviors that promote or are the product of “fear of change”.
    Once that bulldozer has knocked down the wall that is preventing one from change then a remolding to a new career can take place.

    Thanks!

  72. This is so true. I left my flying job almost 2 years ago, and I never regret leaving :) Everything in life is temporary, we must always remember.

  73. Come hell or high water, I will learn the languages objective c and java. Build something, then move out to San Fran to work at a tech company as a product “meddler”. I have a lot of knowledge and experience in business, design, and data; however, programming has always been my weakness (I know the theory and concepts, but can’t code at the standard they’re looking for). So I’m going to do this! Thanks for the inspiration.

  74. Excellent Article , Jump of the Edge , Find your own way, i have had to several times , as an Architectural Designer and gone thru the recession here in New Zealand, working for an office you might think is safe but not always a very wise decision ! , Yes its a salary , yes it gives you paid holidays, Yes you sit in the traffic wasting your time , if you dont listen to success audios !!!!! hint !!!!! , can be over 50 hours a month , now that is a waste of time, and $ if you work it out over a year, your JOB is not worth what it costs to get there.

    Do your self a favour , jump of the cliff, it will give you a shock, but it wont kill you , it might just make something of you ! Try working from home !!! YES, get a note pad and a repelling pencil , not a pen
    and start to make some notes on what you might like to do , write it all down , JIM Rohn said , don tkeep stuff in your head, you will forget it as quick as you thought of it ! put it all down on paper, make you 101 goals , does not matter how silly or grand, JUST DO IT……. you can always get another JOB tomorrow , but i bet once you have landed from jumping of the cliff , you will not want to go back up there. Cheers Theo

  75. March 18, 2014

    Christopher F. Darden

    Great post, I highly enjoyed. Thanks.

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