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The view from the summit

[ 10 ] July 26, 2011 |
Triumphant guy on top of a mountain

Image by runningclouds, via Flickr.
Used under Creative Commons License.

Friday was my last day at my old job. I am now officially self-employed! Woohoo!

Building my business to the point where I could quit my job has been my huge goal for the past six months, and a big dream of mine for much longer than that. It’s a triumph, and I’m excited and proud.

So, what’s it like to accomplish something like this? Honestly, not how I pictured it.

I expected that I’d finish my check-out procedures Friday afternoon and have a vast, boring afternoon to kill before I could finally leave. Instead, I spent all of Friday running around getting forms signed, and still had to go back yesterday to finish up.

I thought I would have to defend myself against a lot of people saying I was crazy to do this. Instead, everyone has been amazingly supportive. Even my mother, who is queen of the world’s worriers, surprised me most by telling me she was proud and excited for me and knew I could make it work. The most negative thing anyone said was, “Do you really think this is sustainable?” (a valid question I’ve asked myself). While one person asked that, many people said they wished they had the cojones to do it, too.

I also expected I’d be totally fired up and start writing like a maniac the second the job was out of the way. So far, though, it’s been two days (plus the weekend), and I’ve written two half blog posts and otherwise spent a lot of time dreading my pile of email, scowling at the mess all over my house from all the stuff I brought home from my office, and feeling unsettled, tired, and weird.

I did not expect to feel any sadness or loss about leaving my job. After all, that’s what I wanted and worked so hard to accomplish! But a funny thing happened when I turned in my notice: all of my complaints about the job faded into oblivion, and everyone started being super nice and friendly to me.

They were nice before, too, but it was different after I announced I was leaving. It was pretty easy for me to be zen, knowing that none of the problems there were mine for more than a few more weeks. From their perspective, I’m not sure what was different, but somehow everyone seems to be extra helpful and filled with love when met with someone who is leaving. I have never seen such an outpouring of support at the university as I did on Friday when I was going around to various offices, trying to finish my check-out procedures. Leaving all these sweet, friendly, helpful people was much harder than leaving the usual atmosphere of my office, which I’ve compared to a morgue more than once.

me on my first day working for myself

Can you tell I'm self-employed? The Avenue Q "Internet is for porn" shirt and lack of pants are a dead giveaway!

Also, I had a ton of stuff in my office, and I knew I didn’t have space for all of it in my house, so some had to go. I went through a ton of old notes and papers from grad school and my time as a professor and recycled piles and piles of paper. Even though I had forgotten I had a lot of it, it was still a bit wrenching to let it go. It felt like I was giving up my old identity. Even though the papers are only symbolic, that was still a little hard and sad.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or sorry that I’ve done this. I still think it’s the most awesome thing I’ve done to date. I can’t quite believe it’s really real. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that everything isn’t black and white, and even really great times can be a little unsettling, too.

I’m really happy for the people who have found meaning and happiness in their 9-to-5 jobs–kudos to you! I mean that in all sincerity. I would have liked to do that, too, but never quite managed it. For the folks who would be happier on their own, it can be done, and it’s so worth it!

I’d like to make it a little easier for everyone who comes after, so here are a few things I’ve learned over the past six months.

  • Even passion work isn’t fun all the time. (Do it anyway. It’s still awesome.)
  • Many dreams are far closer than we realize. Before you decide something can’t be done, at the very least, do some research and find out what it would really take. For example, I thought health insurance would be the killer in all this, but I got some for $91/month. It’s got a high deductible, but it’s real coverage with a $5000 annual out-of-pocket maximum.
  • Change requires adjustment, even if it’s change we really want. Don’t freak out if you feel a little let-down when you achieve your goal. Apparently, it happens all the time.
  • People are happy to celebrate with you. I ended up having a spontaneous new-life party at an outdoor concert. Our group grew to nine people and four dogs, including two people I had just met the night before. What a blast!
  • Gathering a support system for yourself is key. There have been times of despair and freakout in pursuit of this goal. That’s probably true of any worthy endeavor. My real-life friends and my online friends helped me get through those times. Knowing they’re in my corner gives me confidence that I’ll make it through the hard times to come, too.
  • Know yourself, and apply that knowledge. I know that I love working in mad obsessive fits, like when I built The Less Hassle, More Harmony Relationship Workshop in only 11 days. But I also know that I need to take time off after those fits. I didn’t do that after the Only72 sale, and I’ve been dragging my exhausted carcass along for the entire month since then. I knew I needed a week off, but I didn’t think I could afford to take a whole week. So instead, I’ve been tired, unhappy, and grossly unproductive for an entire month. Not smart.
  • Take care of yourself. When you work like I do, it’s absolutely necessary to take breaks, eat right, exercise, and sleep enough. I’ve tried it both ways, and it’s a disaster if you mess those up.
  • Be patient with yourself. Things always take longer than planned, and your feelings will also fail to follow your schedule. Life happens–roll with it.
  • Get ready to be your own best friend and boss. Why leave the 9-to-5 if you’re going to treat yourself worse than your former employers did? Don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong, and don’t expect the impossible of yourself all the time. Learn what you need and want, and structure your environment to be optimal for your happiness and productivity. Keep adapting things as you see what works.

I’m totally amazed at what I’ve accomplished in the past six months. I can’t wait to see what I do in the next six! Meanwhile, I’m finally listening to myself and taking a week off. It’s long overdue!

It’s definitely not unrealistic to quit your job and support yourself with work you love! I’ve done it in only six months, and trust me, there is nothing magical about me. If you’d like to do the same, you may be interested in a webinar that my awesome coach, Jonathan Mead, is hosting tomorrow night (Wednesday, 7/27, at 6 pm Pacific time). He’ll be talking about the essential first steps to making that happen. It’s free, so why not check it out?

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 (10)

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  1. Ev`Yan says:

    Congratulations, Cara!!! May your days as being your own boss be filled with love & light.

    You go girl. ;]

  2. Mika says:

    Cara! Congratulations on quitting your job. When I quit my job to work online for a living, it was so surreal. It was bittersweet and exhilarating at the same time.

    I totally have to agree with you on the importance of structuring your environment. I have a difficult time working from home, I usually go to a coffee shop if I want to be productive. There’s just something about seeing my bed out of the corner of my eye that makes me not want to work but rather jump into bed for a quick nap instead 😉

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, Mika! It really helps to hear that I’m not the only weirdo who wasn’t instantly jumping for joy and knocking ebooks out of the park as soon as my darn job was out of the way. 😉

      I have a really sweet setup for working from home, but I think I will spend some of my writing time in this crazy/awesome artist colony in town for inspiration. And so I don’t turn into a total hermit. :)

  3. Hi Cara,

    Just wanted to wish you best of luck with your business and new life! It makes total sense that you’re feeling a little miserable after letting go of that old identity, and it takes a lot of self-discipline to build your business from home (in between the junk and cozyness).

    I know, because I’m in the same boat. I, too, quit a secure job at university because I couldn’t stand it anymore and started a company of my own. It’s not always as awesome as it sounds, but it’s so worth it and I wouldn’t go back to my old life in a million years.

    Go out there & go kick some ass!

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, Esther! And congratulations to you, too! That’s actually one of my fears: that I’m completely unemployable from now on. My former colleagues were all like, “well, have fun, and if it doesn’t work out, you can always come back here or get another job in the industry!” But after being my own boss, I think I would find it completely soul-crushing to go back to a life of timesheets and meetings. I better make it work! :)

  4. Cordelia says:

    In addition to saying congrats again on the new venture, I felt compelled to mention that I find it fantastic that I would have no idea about lack of pants if you hadn’t pointed it out. 😀

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, Cordelia! About the pants, I did some strategic cropping for everyone’s viewing pleasure. This is a family blog, except for the language. 😉

  5. RavS says:

    This article has been lying in “readitlater” list for a long time, and I managed to read it today.

    And I must say, I feel really happy more than amazed to what you have achieved. Because even I achieved my long time dream (something I thought I may not able be able to achieve) sometime ago.

    Keep Rocking! :)

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, RavS! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I’m glad to hear you achieved your dream–congratulations! I hope you have a new dream that’s better than ever to pursue now. :)

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support!

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