I have been a champion of redesigning one’s career to meet a goal, realize a dream or follow a calling.
I wrote a book about it.
I host a podcast where I interview men+women who changed their careers, in big and small ways, in an effort to provide others with different models of possibilities and help stoke the I-want-to-do-something-different fire in their belly.
My work is focused on helping people design and plan their career reinvention.
So, what I’m about to say is probably going to sound close to sacrilegious.
Starting over is hard.
The truth is, the longer you’ve been on one path, the harder it is to stop and upend your whole life by jumping into a brand new track.
Self-doubt creeps in when you want it the least. Your biggest fears get woken up; they have a party and mess up your best-laid plans. If you’re prone to comparison-itis, starting over is petri dish.
I’m perfectly aware that others have had an easier time undertaking a career change. But that has not been my personal experience.
Still, I’d do it again if I could call a Mulligan.
In fact, knowing what I know now, I’d probably do it sooner than I did. [Though, I would go about it differently, which is likely why my experience was the way it was. But that’s for another post.]
Here’s what I love about getting the chance to begin again.
1. Being a student
I learned a ton. New stuff in new areas for which I never would have had the time before.
No, scrap that. It’s more like, I wouldn’t have given myself the permission. Learning about these new things wouldn’t have made it to the old priorities list (and that list was long already). Whatever training time I could muster would have been focused on getting sharper on things I already knew or adding complementary things to the arsenal.
Starting over allowed me the freedom to go down rabbit holes. In the process, a whole new world opened up to me. And I’m so much the better for it!
2. Being a beginner
I had the freedom to try. And mess up. And try again.
I know this is something that, in theory, I could have done before… but seriously. The people who paid my salary in my previous life wouldn’t have been very happy if I were making lots of mistakes. Heck, I’d have been pissed with myself (since we’re being honest here) if, after 20 years in a particular career, I was still messing up.
Starting over released the pressure. It freed me to make mistakes! It’s great to have the chance to be at Level 0 again. Play in the sandbox. See if it works. If it doesn’t, no big deal. Try a different one. Or try the same thing but do it differently.
3. Being my own R&D department
I had the freedom to do something about my ideas. To flesh them out and see where they lead me. To pursue ideas that may have been outrageous in the ROI-driven corporate world, where you have to present your case to your boss and his boss and his boss’ boss and lay out why the idea is a good bet.
But that’s precisely the thing. At any given day, I have at least a handful of ideas, none of which I could know if they were a good bet or not.
Starting over gave me the opportunity to try those ideas out. To see if they made sense. And more importantly, to see if they fit me and the big-picture work that I’m trying to accomplish here.
4. Being a creator
Starting over meant I had very few things that needed to be “maintained” to keep ticking along. I had to create new things. I had to make things happen. Otherwise, nothing will happen. No status meetings to attend. No putting together a plan-to-make-the-plan crap.
5. Being the new-kid-on-the-block
To be honest, this was the hardest thing for me. And it took me a while to begin to enjoy the experience. Frankly, I’m not 100% enjoying it yet. But it’s more like 50-50 now, which is huge progress for me.
Being the new kid on the block meant meeting new people (aka the scary part for me), the freedom to ask basic questions (aka the embarrassing bit for me), and asking for help (aka the really hard part for me).
I had started over twice in my life. Maybe it has to do with the age thing… this second time was harder than the first.
It’s a process, I remind myself. It’s a journey. It’s a continuous practice of choosing myself and committing to my vision of the person I want to be.
I’m grateful I have this chance. We all do.
We’re lucky that we live in a time when this is possible. When we can choose to pick a new path, dream of a different future, and make it happen.