I can’t think of a better analogy about transitioning from 20 years in Corporate America to owning your own business than that of being like Tom Hanks in Castaway.
It just happened one day. All the sudden, I was not going to work again. Not “regular” work anyway. I woke up in my regular bed, in my regular home, but…I didn’t HAVE to go anywhere. I honestly didn’t HAVE to do anything. I mean, I did, because I had to make money. I’m not some trust fund baby, able to leisurely find my way into building a business out of my passions and skills without having to really hustle because I have family money to fall back on. I have no trust fund. I have no funds. I was all alone on an unrecognizable island and I needed to dig in, get to work building shelter and seeking out food and water. (Or more literally, I had to go to work finding more clients, learning the ropes of small business, creating my own schedule and a whole mess of other new tasks.) It sounds fun, and it is, but it’s also pretty stressful. I didn’t know where my next fish was going to come from, whether I was going to be attacked by the local islanders that had their own language and painted their faces for tribal customs. It was just, try this, try that and keep pushing, running, learning how best to survive.
In Corporate America, it’s…you know, the Rat Race. Because you wake up at the same time every day, get ready in the same way every day, go to the same building every day, sit in the same chair, do the same work, leave at the same time, come home and go to bed and start again the next day. And don’t forget, for the majority, get told what to do and not do every day. (In the case of one of the large companies I worked for over the years, get asked things like, “You were 90 seconds late from your lunch break yesterday, what happened??” Seriously. True story.)
When you own your own business and it’s just a little delicate fledgling bird getting off the ground, and you only know about 15% of what the hell you are doing, it’s scary AF. There are so many things that arise that you didn’t know, never thought you’d have to know, surprise the crap out of you, and make you sometimes wonder, “Could I go to jail for this??” (Taxes are confusing, amirite?)
Plus, the biggest change is the schedule. Making your own schedule is the veritable devil/angel on your shoulder. The angel is all, “Let’s get up at 7 AM every day, follow this morning routine that I Googled for small business owners that work from home, and get to getting”…all motivated and cocky. Then…there’s the devil over there that’s rolling his eyes and spouting off about, “You need your rest, sleep in till 10!” and “Don’t schedule 5 days of work!! That’s crazy talk!!” and “You did an hour of administrative work, you deserve to go watch a movie!” It’s tough, man. I like relaxing. But I also like succeeding. So, it’s a tough line to manage.
It’s been almost 16 months since I left Corporate America. I have had many, many challenges in that time. Some so tough that I wondered if I had made the wrong choice to follow my dreams and my heart and leave a steady paycheck and paid time off to take this frightening single-engine plane ride to this faraway abandoned island with just me to fend for myself. But then there are the victories, the small-wins, and successes that fill you with so much pride, elation, and joy that your worry leaves your body for a solid amount of time, upwards of 30-45 minutes. And for that time, you feel like nothing can stop you and that maybe, just maybe, you are the smartest person in the whole wide world.
Here’s the thing. Life is short. However, it’s also long. It’s shortlong. So, my advice is this, walk briskly towards your well-calculated dreams. That’s what I did. I made a plan, worked my ass off while holding down my 9-5 to get my dream inflated, sorting out needs, wants, rules, money and the very core of me that wanted more for my life than what I currently had. What I had always had. Which was mediocre. I wanted extraordinary. I wanted my rules, my time, my failures, my successes, my life…to be mine. All mine.
Today, as I write this, on a rainy, cold Tuesday, where I’ve had a client reschedule, and I was left to have time to write for my blog that I love so much but have come to prioritize last in the past few years. I am living my life just as I wanted. Just as I had envisioned. Time to relax, time to be crazy busy and build my empire, time to be creative and philanthropic, time to enjoy my life. Something that was much harder for me to do in my years in Corporate America.
Listen, if you’re in Corporate America and love life, that’s awesome! Not trying to bring anyone else down, it just wasn’t the island I wanted to be on. If you are in Corporate America and daydream about what life could be like if you were doing something you loved, something you were passionate about, something that made you feel alive…let this be a blog of hope for you. It absolutely can become your reality. Start that Etsy page in your spare time, research how to start that food truck you’ve always wanted to own, take classes at night online on how to be a dog therapist…take small steps as often as you can to make your dreams a reality. I know, I know, that sounds like gouda, cheddar, and Swiss combined but I’m serious. And if you need help, someone to bounce ideas off of about your dreams, let me know, I’m here for you. 🙂 This wooden sign in my home reminds me every day how I want to live…and how I want you to live.
You should see my island now, 16-months later, I’ve built a home out of bamboo and beautiful conch that rivals the Swiss Family Robinson shack, I’ve learned how to catch fish with a spear I made, and I walk around my home in just a loin-cloth with my very long beard. It’s fantastic. Still working on my water-filtration system utilizing a tortoiseshell and some VHS tapes that washed up on the beach, but I’m hopeful.
I know that I can rise to any challenge and live to talk about it.
Keep those dreams alive and never settle for less than extraordinary,