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A little over nine months ago, I left a stable and promising career as an engineer to pursue a terrifying curiosity: can I make it in the world of self-employment?
For a few years, I had been sharing more and more about my experiences of healing and growth through mindfulness practices. People were taking notice and approaching me to ask questions pertaining to their own lives.
I loved being able to support others through my own stories. I loved holding that space for people. I loved feeling like I was contributing to their lives. I started to wonder—can I make a living teaching this?
I thought I would stick around in my corporate job for at least a few more years, but then, the universe kicked my butt and gave me the push I needed. My dad had a health scare. I wasn’t sure if he was going to live.
For a few months, I drove back and forth from where I was living to his house to check in with him almost every weekend. I would leave work on Fridays at 5 p.m., arrive at his house around 1 a.m., cook him food and keep him company on Saturday and Sunday morning, turn back around Sunday, get home late, pass out, and get up for work the next morning.
I started figuring out how I could move back home to be with him. It was thrown upon me that it was time to quit my job, way before I felt ready.
I was terrified.
The first month was filled with questioning. I was broken up with by someone who, after four years together, thought I had lost my marbles. I felt like every inch of ground I knew before had been ripped out from under my feet. But I needed that space. I needed to reassess. I needed to reconnect with myself.
I kept creating. I kept myself open. I kept putting myself out there and expanding my comfort zone. I didn’t make decisions based on the fear that was sometimes overwhelming. I took action when I felt inspired, when I felt that gentle nudge of knowing that I could do this.
Things got easier. And then things picked up. And now they’re really picking up.
I’ve gotten to a place where I’m excited to wake up every day and see what’s on my to-do list. I feel confident in what I can create and the impact I can have.
But I learned quite a few valuable lessons in these past nine months.
Here are the things I’ve learned:
1. Security is a lie and a reason to stay small.
One of the hardest parts of changing to self-employment was feeling like the ground was pulled out from under my feet.
I had some ideas of what I wanted to do when I started out, but no idea where I would be in a few years or even a few months. However, I’ve learned that there is no security in life. We could die at any moment. Things could fall apart. Life can shake us to the point that we have to start over. We could lose everything we know.
This truth is uncomfortable, so we cling to security and try to force that desperation for it into anything we can. Like our jobs and income. Like our relationships. Like our health. We can’t let the illusion of security stop us from doing what we love.
2. Without mission, you will fail.
Things get hard. This is inevitable. We have to have a purpose for starting on this path to keep us going when that happens. Maybe it’s helping others, maybe it’s the freedom, maybe it’s helping the environment, maybe it’s creativity, maybe it’s more time with your family.
When mission is involved, the failures aren’t failures—they’re lessons and growth opportunities because the mission is more important than our pride and comfort.
Our missions keeps us going.
3. Self-care is important.
We have to take care of ourselves to have the strength, trust, and clarity to make the right choices. This just works better when we’re relaxed. Even five minutes a day of self-care is enough if you feel like you have no time. You have time for this. You just have to make it.
A few weeks ago, a mentor of mine told me something about self-care that tripped a wire in me. I was confiding in her how I felt like I had really let my self-care slip during that week (I’m usually super on it), and I could feel it starting to get to me. I felt like I had too much work on my plate to dedicate time to the meditation, reading, writing, and movement that I normally incorporate into my day.
My mentor said, “You have to think of these things as your job now. You can’t do as well at what you do without giving yourself this time. You have to think of these things as not only giving to yourself, but giving to others. In terms of business, you have to think about these things like you are making money while doing them, because in a way you are.”
It’s true. I can’t be the teacher and give what I want to this world without giving myself space to receive from myself and from others first. We all know the good old cup analogy. Fill your cup, people.
4. Education is important.
You don’t know everything about how to take yourself (and your business) to the next level. Good news is you don’t have to. We live in an age where information is abundant, and tons of it is free. Find podcasts, read books, meet up with like-minded people. Be open to new ideas, new information, new resources, new guidance.
Educating yourself continuously is key.
5. Investing in yourself and your business is important.
This has been a big one for me. You can’t be afraid to spend money to make money. Since being self-employed, I’ve invested in website stuff, software, courses, workshops, teachers, travel, and more.
Investing in people who can support your business is huge, too. There are people out there who can guide you who have done what you are trying to do, and there are people who are good at the necessary parts of your business that you’re lousy at.
6. You don’t have to have a plan.
Let the pieces come together as they will. You’ll continue having new ideas as life unfolds. Especially when you’re starting out, you don’t have to have a ten, five, or even one-year plan. I had no idea I was going to start a two-month long mindfulness program that supports people all over the world when I quit my job nine months ago.
When the idea for my course, WORTHY, first came to me, I was terrified of it. I didn’t think I was ready. I had no idea how to make it work, but I put in effort every day for months. Slowly, the “how” came together, the course became a reality, the confidence rose up to match and enhance what I had created.
The same thing is true with my podcast, “Air & Earth.” Just follow the ideas and curiosities and see where they go.
7. The fear doesn’t go away.
Actually, it’s sometimes more. Doing big things and putting yourself out there sometimes means even more fear to face.
But guess what?
8. You do get stronger.
I’ve been up against fear before, but I’m stronger now. I can face it. I know how to work through it. I’ve done much more than I ever thought I could. I can look back and be proud of how far I have come. You can do the same. Just keep facing the fear.
9. You can love what you do and be successful. Really.
Success is whatever you want it to be. To me, it means feeling satisfied with the present moment and not worrying too much about what the future holds. It means feeling like the work I do is making a contribution to others. It means educating myself. It means having freedom to work from anywhere, to lead my own life, to have time with my friends, family, and dog.
It means making money in a way that is fun for me. It means empowering others. It means spending time in nature. That’s what it is for me.
Define your own idea of success and go for it. Know that it is possible. Know you are worth it. Make it happen.