My boss came into my Washington, DC office and said, “I just read an article about the top five most stressful things in life, and you are doing three of them at once!”
There it was. I was embarking on one of biggest life-changing risks over the next 30 days. Within that 30 day period, I was going to get married, quit my job, and move to a city where we knew no one. We both would not have jobs, and I was going to get my MBA full-time at The University of Texas at Austin. For me, a huge life-changing risk, but I was also bringing someone else along for the ride – my new wife!
Why do it?
During the first seven plus years of my career, I was involved in politics. Right out of college, I worked in a Congressional campaign. When that did not work out as planned, I joined Senator Abdnor’s staff as a Legislative Assistant in DC. My career took a typical path. From the Senator’s office, I became a political appointee in several Executive Branch departments.
One day, I read an article by Fred Barnes about the parasite culture of DC, and I was living it. The article outlined what my final career step would be: Become a lobbyist. The point of the article was most people follow the path I was on and then stay for the money, as a lobbyist.
It was a wake-up call. There was no way I wanted to end up as a lobbyist. I needed to find a way off this path and avoid the parasite culture of DC.
It took a few years, but I figured out my plan. It entailed going back to school to escape politics and the government lifestyle as well as gain the business hook to take my career in a different direction. Maybe it was my Evil Plan, as Hugh MacLeod wrote about, or it was at least a part of it.
This plan was a life-changing risk in so many ways.
- Moving from getting a decent salary to paying college tuition again
- Moving from being single to marrying the love of my life and becoming a couple
- Leaving a city where I had a great circle of friends to now live in a new place where no relationships existed, other than with my new wife
It was a big risk, but it is one which worked out well. The transition was made (although not easily) and, today, Texas feels like home. It is home.
What advice can I give from this experience? Several key lessons were learned and can be applied, even today in my not-so-new-anymore career.
- Read! You never know what will give you a wake-up call or an inspiration. Read books, magazines, blogs, and newspapers, and mix it up. Don’t read the same publications over and over again. Read something new, something unusual. It will help you gain a perspective you did not have before.
- Plan! Once I had the wake-up call, I knew I could not change course overnight. I needed a plan, and I needed to work toward it. While the framework was there, the plan evolved over time. It served as the guiding light for the next step.
- Patience! This may be one of the hardest things to do. Sometimes putting the right plan in place takes a little time. If you have been on a track for several years, a few more months or years to get the escape plan right and reasonable is worth it.
- Timing! Knowing when to put the new plan in motion is key. Yes, you can get stuck if you never make the move to the new plan. Don’t get absorbed into the mediocrity of where you are; trust your instincts, take a deep breath, and make the move.
- Discipline! Developing a plan and then implementing it takes discipline. The discipline comes in making sure the right pieces come together as well as in taking the step to putting the new plan into place. Once you made the shift, it also takes discipline to see it through.
- Community! Use your community to bounce ideas around as well as a support mechanism as you make the transition. Some may think you are crazy for doing what you are planning to do, but most will admire it. They may feel stuck, too, but are not ready to do anything real about it. Your initiative and determination will inspire them to support you and cheer you on as you enter a new phase in your life.
Don’t become a member of a parasite culture. Take the risk to make a positive life-changing move. Do it with thought and perseverance.