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?