It’s about the time where many people will start sharing their annual reviews, and I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently for other projects I’m working on. The review I’ll share today isn’t really an annual review as much as it is a shared reflection on the fact that I’ve been a rogue idea guy on the loose for just about a year now.
Last year, on December 10th, I quit the full time academic job that I had. It was a job in which I would have been nice and financially comfortable but miserable had I kept it.
You Don’t Get It
I want to pause here for a minute. I generally don’t like to talk about myself, as I don’t find myself that interesting or worth talking a lot about. There are other things to share and talk about. That said, I recognize that me not talking about the backstory puts up a barrier.
Let me explain: some of my writing makes people uncomfortable, not because I write in an in-your-face-and-gonna-call-you-out way, but because I write the truth about latent possibilities. I’ve learned to speak plainly about it and I often don’t “justify” it, so I get people who think “yeah, that’s easy for you, but you don’t get it” – sometimes they comment or send me emails about it, and other times they just remain quiet and dismiss the ideas.
One of the things I write about somewhat frequently is the dangers of being too comfortable. Writing about it is one thing – living it is something entirely different. I write about what I know and am living, but because I don’t say that enough, people don’t get that I know both sides of the issue.
I know what it’s like to be scared shitless to quit while at the same time being miserable enough to know that there’s more out there.
I know what it’s like to be really good at something and “unable” to just throw it all away.
I know what it’s like to have no freaking idea what you’re doing or how to go forward.
I know what it’s like to look around at others that are making it and think that they’re somehow different than you are. They’re better. Smarter. More confident. More extroverted. More whatever – just not you.
I know what it’s like to not feel like you’re creative or passionate or interesting or dedicated and need some inspiration in those areas.
A lot of my writing is based on the fact that I know how these things feel from the inside. And because I’ve worked my way through them, I can speak simply and confidently about them.
People get uncomfortable with me at times because the fictions they’ve told themselves don’t match the reality I’m showing. It’s easier to be frustrated with someone else than to recognize that you’re standing in your own damn way.
Even now I hear some people saying to themselves that I don’t get it. I said the same thing two years ago. All I can say is that I’m not sidelining here.
If you’d prefer that your self-limiting beliefs prevail, I suggest you find another blog to read. We’ll be here changing the world while you’re gone, and you’re welcome to come back when you’re ready. Just know that I’m not letting up – I have only begun to fight.
A Year On The Loose
There’s more than a rant here, though. It’s easy to say all of this stuff, but I’d prefer to show you what I mean by including some of the text of the post I wrote last year about this time.
But I’m a long way off from making what I was before and I’m living month to month. I’m facing the real prospect of drawing into lines of credit and loans to cover the expenses that my prior salary covered. On many levels, that scares the shit out of me.
We are still living month to month, but we’re no longer scared shitless about it. We did have to float some expenses on a credit card and/or loans and go through what little savings we had. There were a few months early on that cut it close, and we got busy on Craigslist and Amazon to get rid of stuff we didn’t want or need that would bring in some money. Though we’ve eaten a lot of Spaghettios, that’s more because it was just as good as anything else and we had dissertations and posts to write.
The early parts of the journey weren’t easy, but for the past three or four months I’ve managed to make about what I made when I quit that “nice” job. To be an entrepreneur is to live month to month – you don’t realize when you’re employed that somebody is thinking about how to keep revenue coming in; you just show up. This is true whether you work in a corporation, small business, academia, or government job – someone somewhere is making sure you get paid.
I still occasionally get the 9 o’clock terrors. They hit me when it’s too late to do anything about them because I’m spent, and because I’m tired, it’s harder to ward them off. I’ll just distract myself or go to bed, knowing that I’ll wake up the next day and make something happen.
I’ve become who I am now through sharing as much as I can, and I’ll continue to do that. And as I commented on Twitter the other day, I can only find myself by helping others find themselves.
I said this and knew it was true, but I didn’t quite feel it in my bones the way I do now. One of the best things I did was let go of the notion that my success being separate from other people’s. The more I find ways to help and work with people, the more I’m helped. After playing the zero-sum game of me vs. you, this is a refreshing and fulfilling change.
I don’t want selling to get in the way of sharing, and with your help, it won’t be an issue. This community hub will not turn into a retail store, and selling to you will not drive how I connect with you.
I’m sure many will take issue with this one. I have sold things and I have a fair few products or events out there that people can buy or pay to join.
Is selling in the way of sharing? Nope. Because I sell a few things, I can share much more. Could I sell a lot more? Absolutely. Could I sell less? Probably.
Trying to figure out the “right” answers to those questions can be maddening. My view on life and entrepreneurship converge here: 1) go with your gut, 2) add value, 3) leave more on the table than you take, and 4) acknowledge and correct your faults when they come up. It’s worked pretty well for me thus far.
If we lived in the Star Trek universe and didn’t have a need for money, I’d be much happier. I’d be doing the same things and wouldn’t have to bother with figuring out whether I’m going to sell something or not. That’s not the world we live in, though, but not living in that world doesn’t justify the relentless pursuit of profit.
Prepare to have your socks knocked off: I’m on the loose with my back against the wall and my heart in the intangible threads that connect us.
You might still have your socks on. That’s cool. Mine are gone, though.
I didn’t finish the book I’ve been working on. I didn’t complete my Ph.D. It would have been way cooler to have those done, but there are so many hours in a day. But…
I’ve gone from one or two clients to being booked a few weeks out. I completed my command tour with excellence and honor. This blog has grown 300% and I’m proud of what’s here. I’ve become friends with great people who I once thought I’d never get to talk to. I’ve done some awesome joint ventures with people who I didn’t even know last year. And I’ve helped a lot of people, in my own way.
In a few weeks, I’ll be 30. I’m happy and hopeful in a way that I’ve never been. Angela and I are able to spend more quality time together in a day than most couples get to spend in a week. Instead of thinking that things are downhill from here, I’m looking to the horizon and seeing that our thirties will be our best decade yet.
My back is no longer against the wall – it seems that the winds have replaced the wall for now, and while that’s the case, my sails are up. If things change, I’ll start rowing again. My heart…well, it’s still in the same place.
This has been my journey this year. If it helps and inspires you, great! Thank you – now go do some epic shit. It’s within you.
If it makes you uncomfortable, then I have to ask: why do you think your journey will be so much different? What are you doing to take that first step?
Right now I am giving thanks to Charlie from twelve months ago for taking that leap. Because this morning, it sure felt like my back was against the wall and an impending avalanche will wipe out all my plans. Thank you for your candor and for bushwhacking the trail for all of us who are taking the first steps of the journey. And for all of us who are “really good at something and “unable” to just throw it all away.”
I threw it away and practically went dumpster diving in panic shortly after. But my old job is sitting firmly in the garbage and I have been worrying about my sanity. At one point I literally asked myself if I should spend what little money I have left on really getting my business off the ground or on a week in a psychiatric institute and then return on my knees to my old boss.
So I decided to cheat a little, I am partnering up. Going solo just won’t be possible for the plan I have. I am really, really lucky to have found a couple of people who share the same vision and want to do this scary thing together. And usually when one of us wants to kick and scream, it coincides with another one of us having a lovely, peaceful, calm day so we can talk each other down.
Your work is amazing because you help people feel like they *aren’t* doing it alone. Your blog is like an invisible business partner to all the solopreneurs(or whatever wacky word they use), the one who is really good at straight talk and inspiration. Thank you so much for being you and sharing the truth about what the last year has been like for the business. It is eye-opening and inspiring. Thank you!
.-= Megan´s last blog ..Shiva Nata Practice Day: Getting to Flow =-.
Jennifer Louden says
Is it true you are only 30? Shy of 30? Oh world, just wait! Good to know you Charlie, yours is one of the few blogs I actually read! I love watching you find your voice, your truth, and own it. And mirror some of my same concerns about selling. Wish I could be at your and Pam’s retreat!
.-= Jennifer Louden´s last blog ..Choose Your Life Mondays – The Holiday Prep Edition =-.
Ali Hale says
If I can have as much wisdom and grace as you do in five years time, I’ll be happy about turning 30… 😉
Well done on quitting. Well done on staying quit. Well done on all you’ve achieved — and all that you’ll be doing next year.
And thank you for all the encouragement you’ve given me: through emails, through the blog, and through simply setting a shining example. If it wasn’t for Productive Flourishing, I doubt I’d ever have launched Aliventures — and I’ve had a lot of fun writing there.
Keep being awesome!
Sending love and Christmas wishes to you & Angela,
.-= Ali Hale´s last blog ..You Need to See the Box Before You Can Think Outside It =-.
As someone who is just about to make a similar leap into the unknown, it’s inspiring to hear your outlook. Best of luck in the coming year, and keep the great content coming!
Jonathan Mead says
Charlie, it’s been a damn awesome year. I’m really excited for you on many levels. I think in a lot of ways this year has been the year of “breaking free” and then the year of “stabilizing.” It’s been a little crazy at times, as you said… you’re the one who thinks about how you’re going to get paid next month.
It’s been awesome working with you, and helping each other break out. I think this next year will be the “year of reckoning” ”” shit is going to reach a whole new level in 2010. I’m buckling up, because it’s going to be a fuckin’ awesome ride.
.-= Jonathan Mead´s last blog ..Annual Review: Reflection and Setting Intentions for the New Year =-.
My Happimess says
Charlie, thanks for sharing this. I can really relate to what you’re saying. I quit my “comfortable” job (which made me uncomfortable in so many ways) a couple years ago to create a more meaningful and joyful life for myself. While it’s a work in progress, I’m in such a better place than I was two years ago.
It takes time to develop the kind of life you want when it requires undoing everything you’ve been taught you *should* do, or the priorities you *should* have, your entire life.
It requires awareness and action each day, leaving you with some growing pains. Thank you for sharing the reality and the rewards of your situation with us.
.-= My Happimess´s last blog ..Gifts Of Gratitude =-.
Andrew Lightheart @alightheart says
Having lived as an entrepreneur, I’ve felt stupid for YEARS worrying about where the business is going to come from.
I never thought that when I was employed *someone* was thinking about it.
Thanks for, well, company.
.-= Andrew Lightheart @alightheart´s last blog ..How to make sure you fight at Christmas =-.