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Big dreams and scary leaps: How I quit my job

[ 36 ] July 8, 2011 |
triumphant girl

Image by TheGiantVermin, via Flickr.
Licensed under Creative Commons.

This is a story about dreaming big. This is a story about taking a chance and growing into the person you need to be to make things happen.

I used to think nobody except Stephen King and the other New York Times top ten bestsellers could make money as a writer. I used to think nobody except pornographers could make money on the internet. I used to think people were mostly manipulative jerks who want something from you and should be avoided. I used to think it was best to play it safe and avoid trying anything too big, unrealistic, or unreasonable. I used to think I was small, “just me,” not very important, and I didn’t have any good ideas.

The past six months have shown me none of that is true.

It’s easy to think you’re small. It’s easy to think you should settle for what you have and be grateful for it. It’s easy to think you don’t deserve any better. That’s how I felt, and I know a lot of other people here feel the same.

There are a lot of people out there who are all too eager to remind us of the ways we don’t measure up or simply dismiss us altogether. Some people only respect people who make a six-figure salary. Some people only respect people who have audiences over 5,000. Some people only respect people who drive fancy cars, live in fancy houses, and wear fancy clothes.

Whatever. What I’ve learned is that the only thing that really matters is whether you respect yourself and believe in yourself enough to take the risks, try the big ideas, and pursue the big dreams.

When I thought I was small, I was small. I thought small, and I acted small. But my awesome coach Jonathan pointed out to me that successful people can tell who is on track to become successful, and they recognize those people as their own–it’s only a matter of time. This makes sense. I remember when Corbett Barr and Ash Ambirge launched their first products. I was around for both of those, and it wasn’t that long ago, but look how successful they both are now.

So I started thinking of myself as a successful blogger who just lacked a few months. And you know what? It really changed how I saw everything, and that changed how I acted.

For example, the Only72.com sale last month. I know most people outside this community think Karol and Baker just hired me as an underling to run their customer service and coordinate affiliates for that sale. But the whole story is I had the wild-ass idea to put together a huge package of awesome products to help folks at 17000 Days (and anyone else who was interested) remodel their lives. I compiled an initial list and approached Karol and Baker to work together because they pioneered the huge sale thing, but I expected and intended to do most of the work even if they agreed to work with me, and I fully intended to do it without them if they didn’t.

They’re big-deal people with a track record of huge sales, and this is the biggest thing I’ve done since my dissertation. When I first thought of the idea, it seemed too big for me. To tell you the truth, I was kind of embarrassed to mention it to Jonathan in a coaching session because it seemed so outrageous. But when I did, he didn’t laugh, and he didn’t say “dream on” or “don’t waste your time.” He filled me in on some logistical considerations I hadn’t thought of, but he encouraged me to try it.

If anything is the lesson of the last six months for me, that’s it: try it. Even if it seems huge, even if it seems terrifying or wildly impractical, try it.

As it turned out, the guys agreed to work with me. Although the final arrangement had me in a more minor role than I proposed, that gave me time to create a whole new product to include in the sale. I created a 25-module e-workshop in 11 days, another huge and wildly impractical undertaking that ended up being a stunning success.

In the end, my crazy idea, thinking big and trying it, resulted in 1130+ sales. Over a thousand people got a great deal on a huge collection of life-changing guides. Gross revenue was over $100,000, and we raised over $5,500 to help Team Juggernaut fund kidney research.

Just imagine if I had chickened out!

Since I started working with Jonathan, I’ve been taking on bigger and bigger challenges, and one side effect that has surprised me is how much more it takes to scare me now. Before I started pitching guest posts to bigger bloggers, I was terrified of that. But then I did it, and it went great, and now it seems absurd that I was ever scared of that. It was the same with meeting other bloggers, using Skype, even talking to readers. So scary before I did it, so easy in the rearview. I still have tons of doubts, but they seem a lot less important than they used to.

Now it’s time for a new challenge. What’s the next scary but awesome thing? Supporting myself as a business person and writer.

I turned in my notice at work. My last day is July 22.

Honestly, my job is a pretty good one, but it doesn’t light my fire. It doesn’t inspire me or make me feel alive like 17000 Days does. When I hadn’t yet figured out what I wanted to do instead, it made sense to stay, but now that I’ve found something I truly love, continuing to sit in a beige box and do lukewarm work seems like an incredible waste. Every time work is shut down for a natural disaster, it reinforces what I already know: the job is not the best use of my talents and energy.

Today is Day 16,531 for me. The whole point of what I do is to help people wake up and live, squeeze every drop of joy and meaning out of each day and make their lives the best they can be. I’d be a hypocrite to stay at my job and continue letting it take time away from my passion work. I love writing, I love creating, and I love making a difference in people’s lives. That’s what I need to be doing, and starting in two weeks, that’s what I will be doing full time.

On one hand, this is kind of terrifying. It’s definitely a leap. I’ve never in my adult life not had a source of steady, external income where the money was produced by someone else and directed into my bank account every two weeks. Suddenly, it’s all up to me. What if nobody wants to buy anything I make? What if I go broke, lose my house, can’t feed myself? What if I end up a huge laughing-stock failure?

But you know what feels really great? Trying something terrifying and kicking ass at it. I’ve gotten kind of addicted to that over the past six months. It seems absurd, but after all this practice with scary stuff, quitting my job actually feels a lot less scary than my first guest post pitch or Skype conversation.

And really, what could be more exhilarating than striking off to follow your dream and shape your own destiny? Instead of working on things someone else thought would be interesting or money-producing, I will be cooking up wild ideas and doing whichever ones seem most awesome. There will be no meetings or telecons, no TPS reports, just passion work.

I want to thank everyone reading this, because you’re the ones who have made it possible. I can’t thank you enough for all of your support. Your comments and emails, and even just knowing you’re out there, have given me a reason to do all this and the courage to keep conquering new, bigger challenges.

We’re all in this together. You’ve inspired me so much, and I hope we continue to grow together and break the boundaries of the scary, unreasonable, and seemingly impossible.

I’ve got a next step in mind. I’m contemplating creating something that people have really been asking for, and if I do it, I’m going to throw my whole self into it and really do it up. As usual before a big project, my doubts are whether it will be worth it–should I put that much of myself out there? What if nobody wants it after all and I make a fool of myself?

What do you think? Was there a time when you thought you couldn’t do something, or were afraid to do it, but did? Please inspire us all by sharing it in the comments!

About Cara Stein: I'm a Breakthrough Coach and Creative Director On Demand. I'm also an idealist who has stopped trying to play it cool. I offer alignment, clarity, and unshakeable belief in yourself—and then I help you bring your vision to life with great sales copy and graphic design.

Comments (36)

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  1. Ed says:

    THEIR last day is Jul 22. YOUR first day is Jul 23! : )

  2. Jess says:

    Cara!!! I’m so proud of you! Rock on and I can’t wait to see where your adventure takes you.

    My inspiring story is natural childbirth. Although I was hellbound and determined to do it, the stories of misery and pain and “just take the drugs” really did prick at my confidence. I did it in the end, and you know what? It was the most amazing experience. The second time was even better.

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, Jess! And you have my undying admiration for the natural childbirth thing. My hat is definitely off!

  3. Harley says:

    Yay! This is awesome! keep up the great work. 😀

  4. jean says:

    Well done Cara. You have got freedom and choice now. That last day walking out will feel strange but so wonderful.

  5. Laurie says:

    SWEET!!!

    I knew you were a rockstar months ago, Cara, and you are certainly showing your true colors now!

    How awesome it feels to grow into the person who can kick ass at so many scary but cool things. There’s just nothing like that exhilaration. :)

    My scariest action was quitting my old job with my house still on the market. I’m still in waiting mode on that, but I’m trusting that my new business will keep growing, and I’ll find the guts and ingenuity to keep rolling until the house does sell. So far, so good. Every week, astonishing things happen that help me build on my new endeavors.

    I’m so very happy for you! Another freedom seeker has crossed the threshold!

    • Cara Stein says:

      How awesome it feels to grow into the person who can kick ass at so many scary but cool things. There’s just nothing like that exhilaration.

      Exactly!! I know you’re living it, too, so you know how it feels!

      My hat’s off to you for having the guts to do this with your house still on the market. That was definitely beyond me. I’d say good luck, but you don’t need it! :)

  6. Beti Spangel says:

    You are my hero! I’m working on being my own hero. That story isn’t finished yet.

    My big scary accomplishment was driving solo, straight through, from upstate NY to Nashville for a meeting with buyers of a national chain store who were interested in my product. Although we ultimately we didn’t strike a deal (and my little business died a quiet death within the year), it was an INCREDIBLY empowering experience that I will value and look back on fondly for the rest of my life. I had the balls to put myself out there, which was a big deal for me.

    LOVED the comment that “their” last day is 7/22, and your “first” day is 7/23! Excellent point! We’re all rooting for you!!

    • Cara Stein says:

      Good for you, Beti! Being able to get value out of an experience regardless of the outcome is the mark of a truly successful person. Good for you for becoming your own hero–that’s the way to do it! I’m glad to be your temporary hero meanwhile. 😉

  7. Woo HOO!! Cara, this is such an awesome post and I am SO proud of you and SO delighted for everyone who gets to benefit from you shining your full light in the world!! I’ll be cheering you on every step of the way!!

  8. Timothy Gay says:

    Love this post. When I made the decision to quit my job, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I’m used to sticking around and getting fired before I quit. However, at some point, you have to start doing what’s best for you. You realized what worked and didn’t and went after it. I like that. It’s inspiring to me. I can take so much from this. Thanks for writing this. It makes me feel like my decision was the right one.

    • Cara Stein says:

      Awesome! I’m delighted to have helped!

      For a long time I was on the track of wishing to be fired so I didn’t have to be responsible for the decision of walking away from a perfectly good job. But you’re exactly right: you have to do what’s best for you. It’s your life–it’s up to you to make it what you want. You can’t expect anyone else to do it for you. Congratulations–it definitely sounds like your decision was the right one. :)

  9. Cordelia says:

    Five cheers for you, Cara! (Three doesn’t seem like enough.)

    So excited for your upcoming freedom and opportunity to embrace what truly matters to you. You were my inspiration for my own thing-I-was-afraid-to-do, namely approaching Ash about doing my Fear, Exposed post, and I’ve been following your progress over the months with a mixture of envy and hope, because you really do prove to the world that it’s possible to make your dreams come true with enough passion and guts.

    (p.s. That whole Only72 thing? Holy moses, I actually whooped out loud at work when I found out you were the one behind the phenomenon that literally took over my Twitter stream for days. Sheer brilliance on your part!)

    Can’t wait to see what the next big project is, and where your blog (and your life) goes from here. You’ve worked hard to bring this all into being, and you totally deserve everything you’ll be getting from it!

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, Cordelia! I’m absolutely delighted to have played a tiny part in your Fear, Exposed post, but really, that was all you, and you’ve been up to plenty of great stuff since then!

      You’re next! :)

  10. Congratulations Cara. You are on to great things. When you leap, the net appears. :)

  11. Ethan says:

    All I can say is “wow”, Cara. Such an inspiring post and an amazing story you’re living!

  12. John Tola says:

    Cara, how will they ever get along without you?!? Congratulations! Michele told me the good news a few days ago, and we’re both proud of you, and wishing you great success and happiness.

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, John! Couldn’t have done it without you and Michele! Whenever you want to talk about self-employment and being a writer, give me a call. :)

  13. […] Big dreams and scary leaps: How I quit my job “I used to think nobody except Stephen King and the other New York Times top ten bestsellers could make money as a writer. I used to think nobody except pornographers could make money on the internet. I used to think people were mostly manipulative jerks who want something from you and should be avoided. I used to think it was best to play it safe and avoid trying anything too big, unrealistic, or unreasonable. I used to think I was small, ‘just me,’ not very important, and I didn’t have any good ideas. […]

  14. Hi,
    I just ‘retired’ (don’t like the word; prefer moving on/transitioning)from my job of 20 years. It’s a little like quitting since I did not wait for my maximum years/pension. But I wanted to take advantage of other opportunities and pursue my own things while I Can. It’s a bit scary. First time I won’t have something concrete or grounding. Finished child-rearing; now finished my structured job. Now I’ve got to create my own thing. I’m ready and up for it. But new things feel funny.
    I’ve launched my website/blog 7 months ago in preparation for this time. http://www.rebuildyourlifecoach.com
    Thanks for your timely piece.

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, Harriet! Good for you for making your own leap. I hope it goes great for you!

      A few friends have asked me if I’ve retired, but I think of it more as graduating. :)

      Good luck with your new adventures–keep me posted with how it’s going!

  15. Steve says:

    Wow, I was out of town for a couple of weeks and missed all the excitement! I have no doubts you’ll do well.

  16. Maaike Quinn says:

    Hey Cara! I’m so happy for you! I get all excited just by reading this post :). And I love that you love Jonathan :). I also was in his first Trailblazer group and I loved it. Still do. I’m not as far as you, but I hope to be soon. Enjoy!

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, Maaike! Jonathan totally rocks–no way I could have done all this without him.

      Keep working, and good luck! May your momentum build quickly! :)

  17. I am not sure how I ended up here on your blog but I am glad I did.
    I really want to do book reviews and get paid for it for a living.
    I have been blogging for two years now about books and wonder if you can think of a way for me to make my passive income?
    To follow my dreams, I guess I do what I do now which is Security, and slowly build?
    Jackie would love help

    • Cara Stein says:

      Hi Jackie! I’m glad you’re here, too. :)

      Passive income is definitely an elusive goal. The way most people make a living as bloggers is through some combination of selling their own products, selling other people’s products (affiliate sales), and offering services. It’s kind of tricky with book reviews because you can’t really get people to pay you to review their books, although if you had a lot of traffic to your site, you could sell ads. Otherwise, think about what you could do that people would pay for. Could you go meta and write a short book on how to be a good book reviewer? Offer training on how to become a book reviewer?

      Building slowly while you still have your regular income stream is definitely a wise move! Best of luck to you!

  18. […] a few days, it will be a year since I quit from my job. Life hasn’t been perfect since then–there have been some hard, scary, stressful […]

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