Category Archives: Escaping the corporate treadmill

What Is It That You Can’t Not Do?

change the world

I think that almost everyone would admit that we are here to do things that really matter. Deep down, most of us know that we have some inner force that calls us to be the best version of ourselves.

We want to do something that matters – to us and to the world. We want to do work that we are proud of. We want to do work that feeds our Soul.

Some of us are just getting started, others are well on their way and the rest are just starting to believe it’s even possible.

As I talk with people about doing work that matters, I find that there is one statement that tends to hold us back more than any other.

 “But I Can’t Just Quit and Start Over”

Very few people have the flexibility to “just quit” what they are currently doing and begin something new.

There may be exceptions but many of us have mortgages, families, student loans or a million other reasons that keep us in our jobs…at least for now.

Many of the people that I talk to about pursuing a more meaningful life are between 40 and 60 years old. And most of them have a couple of children and a mortgage – none of which are going anywhere.

But that is NOT an excuse to give up on our dreams.

That is not an excuse to condemn yourself to a continued life of quiet desperation for the next few decades.

You must control what you can control – and fortunately we are in control of a lot more than we might realize.

Not being able to ‘just quit’ does not mean you can’t begin the process of building a career around something meaningful while you still have a job.

Regardless of your situation or current obligations, it’s still possible.

The best time to create a new career is while you’re at your old one.

If you just quit tomorrow, the odds are that you would instantly start to panic about some made-up story of you and your family starving on the streets. This would likely cause you to immediately go into panic and desperation mode, which would eventually lead to you getting another job.

But it does not have to be this way.

And if we want to create meaningful change and find a path that genuinely makes us happy, then we must go about it differently.

In my previous blog series about ‘Getting Paid to Make a Difference’, I reviewed the following framework:

  1. Simplify and Prioritize Your Life
  2. Create Room for Expansion (so that you can create something brilliant)
  3. Begin Experimenting and Pursue Your Meaningful Idea
  4. Surround Yourself With People That Support You (I just added this one and you’ll hear more about it later on!)

This framework was not designed for the unique individual who can afford to quit their job tomorrow.

It was designed around my own real world experience. It was designed for any of us.

It was designed for the people who need to bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to go.

It will be up to you to do the work on yourself and make the discoveries, ideally while you’re at your current job – in the morning before work, during the evenings after work, on weekends, during commute, on lunch breaks, on vacation days, whenever…

Because if you don’t figure out what you’re looking for, you’re never going to find it.

And knowing yourself (your unique blend of skills, talents, passions and life experience) creates massive confidence.

When you don’t know what it is you want to do – when you don’t have a clue what work you simply “can’t not do,” then you feel like it’s impossible to make a change. And that, over time, is exactly how complacency kills a dream.

For example:

My wife Jill, can’t not do yoga.

My friend Johnny, can’t not do fitness.

My friend Alissa, can’t not do design.

My friend Skylor, can’t not do healthy food and living.

The object is to figure out what you Can’t Not Do!

Jill, Johnny, Alissa, and Skylor are all exceptional at what they do and it has taken them time to get where they are. Success didn’t happen overnight for any of them. But with consistent effort over time, they have all created businesses around the things that they can’t not do.

Once we realize what makes us come alive – the natural talents, strengths and skills that we apply to make our impact in the world, our fear suddenly gets converted into pure confidence and excitement.

And that’s when the magic starts to happen.

I challenge you to make 2013 your year to finally do something about the job you might not be very excited about.

Decide to make this the year to finally get serious about that little hobby or side-project that you’ve so badly wanted to call a business.

I challenge you to make this your year to commit to learning about yourself and finally start doing the work you can’t not do.

Things really can be different but we’ve got to take action.

What matters most to me is that you realize that things can be different, and then you begin taking the steps to live that reality. I don’t care how that happens. All I care about is that it happens.

Please, for you and for everyone around you, decide that you are done complaining and making excuses and that you’ll actually start doing something about doing work that really matters.

There is no standing still.

There never is.

A tolerable work situation now often becomes a miserable existence in a few years.

Your dreams either move forward or they die.

The great thing is you get to choose.

We are all here together to express our unique purpose.

All that’s left is the doing.

Here’s to 2013 being the year we do more of what we can’t not do!

Michael

Are You Working Towards What You Really Want?

wake-up-and-live

I just finished reading ‘The War of Art’, a book about facing resistance as we go about leading a life of authenticity and creativity.

Talk about a wakeup call! Reading this book really caused me to cut through all the bullshit and realize one thing;

“To labor for any reason other than love is prostitution!”

This is not the revelation that I was hoping for. Far from it. The idea that I have spent that last 15+ years working for money is a harsh pill to swallow. But it is the truth. It is not a truth that is convenient. In fact, it’s borderline depressing. But it is a truth based on the actions of my past beliefs. And it is this truth that keeps me moving forward in pursuit of something better. Something more meaningful. Something that will give me the freedom and creativity that I truly desire.

I came to identify with this truth after taking a good look at why I do what I do for a living. It became evident rather quickly that I do my current work primarily for money. Pure and simple as that. And I don’t see it as right or wrong in any way. It’s just a fact.

We all need money to live our lives, put food on the table and put a roof over our heads. And if we’re lucky, we get to enjoy a few extras in life because we have a job that pays us well for what we do. But for me, getting to the raw truth of why I do the work I do, has helped me to clarify my vision for creating something more fulfilling. I choose to pursue something that will provide both meaning and money.

I challenge you to take a close look at your own situation. If you are working at a job, engaged in a career, or doing anything for any reason other than love, then you are selling out. You are selling your Soul. You are playing into the design of a culture built on the idea that we must trade our time and life energy for dollars in the hope that these dollars are going to make us happier somewhere down the line.

Our schools, media and culture do everything to try and conform us into what they want us to be. I realize that we all have free will and choice, but be honest with yourself. Do you work at your job so that you can live in a certain house, in a certain neighborhood, in a certain city, so that you can feel good about your life? So that you can be comfortable?

I’m guessing for most of us the answer would be ‘yes’.

And you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Let me re-emphasize that this is not a right or wrong thing.

My point is that if you don’t enjoy and love your work, you are denying yourself the possibility of being something greater. And you are also denying the rest of humanity the gifts, talents and desires that you were given to share.

It is my belief that we all come into this world with a unique personality and a specific destiny. Think about it. How many babies are born as a blank slate? No! They are all born with a personality and a predisposition to BE a certain way. That’s why we all have different desires, talents and gifts.

I’ve spent the last several years working at jobs for the money and I am currently doing it. I currently enjoy my job and I have a great relationship with my boss and most of my co-workers. I get paid well for my efforts but I also know that it’s not my greatest calling in life.

Is it time for you to wake up? 

I believe that we all have a specific job to do, a calling to enact, a self to realize. We are who we are and we can either fully embrace it or go through life pretending to be happy.

Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine, but to find out who we already are and become it.

If we were born to write, then it’s our job to become a writer.

If we were born to raise children, then it’s our job to become a mother.

If we were born to teach yoga, then it’s our job to be the best fucking yoga teacher that we can possibly become.

If you were born to travel, then figure out how you are going to get started travelling.

If we were born to start companies, then it’s your job to start the most amazing companies in the world and get down to business.

Okay, this is where I throw in a little disclaimer. I am not saying that you should go and quit your job next week if you are not 100% happy. I am a big believer in making intelligent decisions that will allow us to move towards our goals and dreams in a way that is sustainable and smart.

But the first thing you must do is to wake up and come to grips with that fact that you were born to do something great and meaningful. It’s time to get in touch with that and start moving in that direction.

Play it safe or go for it?

I have recently been coaching a couple of people on how to do two things:

  • Get completely clear about what your Unique Genius is (i.e. discover your unique combination of skills, talents, passions, and life experience)
  • Turn your Unique Genius into your first profitable idea and test it in the marketplace.

One pattern that I have observed with them is that they try to play it safe and not really go for it. I think that our greatest fear is discovering that we are more than we think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent to bring our deepest desires to life. We fear that we can plant our flag and be successful and reach our promised land. And this scares the living hell out of us.

If we really go after what we want, we are afraid that we might end up alone. That we will lose our friends. Or that we will be poor and destitute.

The truth is that we probably will lose some friends along the way. I know I have. But we find new friends in places that we would have never thought to look. And they’re better and truer friends. We make our way and we are better for it. By far.

My challenge for you this week is to ask yourself the following question and answer it honestly:

What keeps you from doing work that you absolutely love?

I would love to hear your comments below!

In gratitude,

Michael

Your One Wild and Precious Life

Camping-in-New-Zealand

At 42, my friend Sarah is not rich, but she does earn a very good salary as a human resources manager for a residential care corporation. Her closet is full of new clothes, she owns a nice house, she drives a new car and she can afford a two week vacation.

By all accounts, Sarah should be happy, right? Wrong.

Sarah’s job is one of those high stress, everything-needs-to-be-done yesterday type of jobs. Like a lot of people, Sarah longs for the weekend and her two week vacation every year.

Remember the days when giving your employer a highly productive eight or nine hours a day meant that you were a dedicated employee? Sarah often gives up her lunch hour, comes in on Saturday’s, and answers her cell phone and email after hours. She is expected to arrive at work before 8 a.m. and often leaves well after her family should be having dinner together. Sarah often feels compelled to apologize for leaving work before 6 p.m. She is just trying to meet the minimum expectations of her employer.

To say that Sarah in unhappy would be an understatement.

Oh, but did I mention that she makes a great salary?

“Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” – Buddha

No one sets out to be miserable and well off. Quite the contrary. TV commercials and magazine ads would have us believe that money, and all the goods and services it can buy, is precisely what it takes to achieve the elusive state of ‘happiness’.

So earn and spend is what we do. But are we really any happier?

ManpowerGroup recently released a new snapshot survey that underlines the dissatisfaction among American workers. At a time of high unemployment, lackluster job growth and major uncertainty in world financial markets, many employees feel stuck and unhappy in their jobs.

ManpowerGroup ran the survey between April 16 and May 15 of 2012 and collected responses from workers in the U.S. and Canada. Only 19% said they were satisfied with their jobs. Another 16% said they were “somewhat satisfied.” But the rest, nearly two-thirds of respondents, said they were not happy at work. Twenty-one percent said they were “somewhat unsatisfied” and 44% said they were “unsatisfied.”

What about you? Does your income exceed you level of bliss? If so, you may be suffering from a case of “Affluenza”. Producers of the PBS program by the same name, describe the disease as:

  • The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Jones.
  • An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream.

As I hear Sarah speak of her current situation, I can’t help but wonder how it affects her health, her relationships and her resolve to offer her best to the world. I have spoken to Sarah many times about her current situation and how she is going to change it. She is hopeful but she has to come up with a strategy to overcome the following:

  • She dreads her 10 – 12 hour work days and longs for a change
  • She often feels that there is no way out and this is just how it is
  • She occasionally numbs herself with TV, food, alcohol, the internet or some combination of them all
  • She’s willing to work hard but she’s desperate to do something more meaningful
  • She’s already so busy and overwhelmed with work and family obligations that it’s hard for her to see other options
  • She’s scared to give up her salary, benefits and ‘job security’ for something unknown
  • She has forgotten what she’s really capable of and what she is meant to be doing
  • She has lost touch with what her unique genius is and how much its really worth to the marketplace

Despite all of these obstacles, Sarah has set aside time during the week to experiment with creating income from a skill that she absolutely loves. And you know what? She is now getting paid to teach people music and she is more excited than ever!

Your One Wild and Precious Life

I recently came across this quote in a line from the poem The Summer Day by Mary Oliver. The poem closes with this line:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Many of the people that I know are increasingly realizing that this is their one life and every day is an opportunity to really live it or to just get by.

What does this mean to you?

What do you really want to be doing with your life?

I believe that these are two of the most important questions we can be asking ourselves.

Here are some examples of family, friends and acquaintances that are either moving in the direction of their desired lifestyle or they are already living it:

My wife, Jill Knouse, walked away from her high paying, high stress job in financial services to pursue her love of yoga. She started down this path eight years ago and she is now one of the most sought after yoga teachers in Portland, Oregon. She has also created her own unique yoga business that leverages her core strengths and talents to teach new yoga teachers how to sharpen their skills and become amazing yoga instructors.

My friends Dakota and Chelsea are making preparations to travel the Western U.S. in a converted Sprinter van. They will experience the West in a way that few people ever will. They will be visiting some of the most scenic natural environments in the world and exploring them on their terms. Something that could never be done with two weeks of vacation!

My friends Rob and Heidi are pursuing their love of fitness and extreme sports by training for and participating in one of the most grueling physical endeavors imaginable. They will take part in the Lake Tahoe Ironman Triathlon later this year. For those that don’t know, this is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. Talk about setting big goals!

Other friends are planning a sabbatical to spend six months visiting their favorite countries abroad. They realize that their life is happening right now and they want to experience it in a way that will allow them to follow their inspiration now rather than waiting. My guess is that this experience will open up new doors that they never would have imagined.

A guy that I am just getting to know has taken his passion and knowledge of physical fitness, weight training and yoga to become a fitness blogger, certified personal trainer, and yoga teacher in Portland, Oregon. Johnny Nasello found himself in his first post-college desk job and started noticing some changes in himself that he was not particularly proud of. For the first time in his life, he started to develop body fat around his mid-section and he decided that it was time that he did something about it. He didn’t know it at the time but that decision changed his life and he left his corporate job to start JohnnyFit.com.

Pat Flynn used to have a 9 to 5 job, which he really did enjoy. He was working at an architecture firm and loving the line of work he was in. He had no plans to leave, but unfortunately he was laid off. It turns out that getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to him.  He started the Smart Passive Income Blog and used his real life experiences to show people how they can make a great living online. Pat has been publicly tracking his income from his online business and last month he created $51,475.50.

The Choice is Yours

As you can see from the examples above, making a living is starting to take a backseat to having a life. I’m not saying that you need to quit your job to pursue something else. Far from it. I’m encouraging you to think about prioritizing your life in a way that allows you to live it to the fullest. For some, this will mean taking a sabbatical to pursue travel and adventure while they are young. For others it may mean leaving a corporate job to discover what you knew you should have been doing all along.

Is the thought of making a big change scary? You bet. But facing your fears is always more exciting than remaining in a miserable state of predictability.

My goal from the start of this blog has been to encourage you to wake up inspired and fall asleep fulfilled because you’re fearlessly giving your gifts to the world.

One final thing…..take five minutes and watch this video of two people that may be much like yourself. They took a journey. And it changed them. Forever!

http://vimeo.com/36519586

And I ask you the same questions that the man in this video asks:

Is it possible to be happy with this life?

Did you enjoy your story?

In gratitude,

Michael