In her book ‘Refuse to Choose’, Barbara Sher identifies a group of people she calls ‘Scanners’. Scanners are Renaissance Souls; people with a wide variety of interests that find it hard (and soul destroying) to stick with just one thing. Whether you constantly move from one interest to another or circle around the same 2, 5, 10, or 20 interests over your lifetime, you’re a Scanner.
I’m so grateful for this book. Not only does it give a name to something that most people see as a flaw in my character, but it gives practical advice on how to manage your interests and make a career out of them.
You might think it’s a cop out, that I’m using one woman’s opinion or theory to explain my chopping and changing. One week I want to be a comedian, the next a motivational speaker, all as long as it doesn’t interfere with my budding video editing interests or latest half baked book idea I’ve been working on. But it’s not just one woman anymore, more and more people are figuring out that actually, we’re way more complex than just finding one thing to make us happy and doing that for the rest of our lives. Just because you like a certain jacket, doesn’t mean you have to wear it until the day you die.
Laugh if you must, tell me that I should just grow up and get a job, be happy and accept life the way it is.
My entire adult life I have tried.
Now I’m choosing to just go with it and see what happens. I’m willing to bet Leonardo Da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin didn’t get crap from well meaning friends and family about having too many interests or settling down and getting a real job.
This is a journal of my attempt to go from stuck in a 9-5 job to complete career freedom in 18 months. I will be using 3 books as my main inspiration.
25 Principles of Success – Jack Canfield
Refuse to Choose – Barbara Sher
Be a Free Range Human – Marianne Cantwell
These 3 authors have each inspired me to reach for something that right now feels completely out of the realm of possibility but which I desperately want. This blog will be sharing how I put into practice the techniques and tools these authors explain to create the life I’ve always wanted.
I want to be able to have an idea and start work on it without the restraints of a 9-5 job. I want to have the financial freedom to give some kid from the Make a Wish foundation the time of their life. I want to be able to stop sitting on my sofa in the evenings scratching out various sums on the back of an envelope, working out how long it will take to save to buy a house or pay for a holiday. I want to be excited on a Sunday night at the prospect of what may be in store on Monday.
The journey starts now. 22nd May 2017. No matter what my circumstances are I will be posting on 22nd November 2018 to let you know how far I’ve got.
Judy Garland once urged us to ‘always be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of someone else.’ For a long time I thought ‘Easy for her to say.’ For people who are talented and successful of course they are happy to be themselves.
Then one day recently I was reading ‘Be a Free Range Human’ by Marianne Cantwell and for some reason, the message just clicked.
Marianne talked about how as a coach she felt restricted when she wasn’t being herself. Once she relaxed and coached using her personality instead of hiding it, not only did she enjoy herself more, but her clients appreciated it too.
I realised that I haven’t done a lot of things because I couldn’t be like the people I admire. If I couldn’t deliver a deliver a comedic line like Ellen Degeneres or write like Pat Conroy what was the point of even trying? A huge weight lifted off me when I realised the whole point wasn’t to try and be like Ellen Degeneres or Pat Conroy but to be me! All this time I’ve been trying to repress my personality but I should be using it as a strength.
Now I feel a lot more excited to create stuff. I can do what I like without trying to be like someone else. It feels great!
So, if you’re anything like me, your job isn’t working out for you. But you don’t know what you want to do. Frustrating isn’t it? You get this feeling that there has to be something more than this. This CANNOT be it for the rest of your life.
You shuffle through your work day, trying to look busy whilst really all you’re doing is working out how many hours until retirement.
Let’s see….36 hours a week, roughly 48 working weeks a year, for another 40 years…
Then you see how long you have left and you cry.
You voice your concerns to loved ones who shrug their shoulders and say ‘That’s life’.
Well, sod that! Life is way too short and precious to feel this depressed 36 hours a week. Without even having to look up any scientific research I KNOW I am more productive, creative, helpful, happy, giving and hardworking when I am enjoying what I’m doing.
So, for the past few days I’ve been making a list of all the things I enjoy doing. It’s pretty varied, from random acts of kindness to scaring people (what can I say, I’m complicated), from watching documentaries on body language and deception to playing Hide and Seek. Let’s stop pretending that we are shallow two dimensional people and that we always have to be professional, or silly, or the student, or the parent. We can be all of these and more.
How can you create a life you will love if you can’t list what you love doing? My list is currently 24 items long and growing. The next step will be figuring out how to get paid for doing those things. (Just in case you’re interested, I have already been paid to play Hide and Seek, I guess that makes me a professional).
Walking into my office, I saw a stack of paperwork waiting for me on my desk. The same paperwork I had been doing day in, day out, for months. The same paperwork that would build up again and be waiting for me tomorrow.
It wouldn’t have hit me so hard if I hadn’t been at a concert the night before. The singers and dancers had genuine smiles on their faces, loving what they did for a living. Watching them move across the stage they seemed to be having the time of their lives. I wanted that level of joy and passion in my job.
I was literally bored to tears.
I decided I had to find something I was passionate about, that I enjoyed doing, that I found worthwhile. Common sense, family and friends all told me the same thing; that work is meant to be boring and hard. You go to work, do what you have to do and try to enjoy your evenings and weekends.
But why should that be the case? Why should I just muddle through with a half decent job, trying to pay my way through life, living for the weekend? Who dictated that work must be boring or hard? Why should the best bits of my life be squeezed into tiny time slots throughout the year? Must I really wait until retirement, which isn’t even guaranteed, before I live my life properly?
If it had been a Hollywood movie, I would have resigned there and then, walking out of the building to some epic guitar solo (in slow motion). In reality I had rent to pay and food to buy and I stayed in that job for another YEAR. (I know, stupid.)
It did, however, start me thinking. I decided to start trying to find what made me happy, what I was passionate about and how on earth I could make a living from it.
I am still discovering, but know for sure that one single formal job is not for me. Not just any job. For the past few years I have been reading about so many people who have broken free from the daily grind, the rat race or the career cage. I refuse to believe there is something special about them which sets them apart and makes that kind of life off-limits to me.
There are 2 reasons I am starting this blog. I have made several false starts towards becoming what Marianne Cantwell would call a ‘free range human’. I need some accountability. Without no one but myself to answer to I give up way too quickly and easily. I plan to share this with friends and get some support.
The second reason is that I also want to show that I am a real person, in a real 9-5 job that is sucking the life out of me and making me die a little each day. I want to share the ups and downs of the journey I am about to take from living in a 2 bed flat, not able to save much money to buy a property, deeply unhappy with my professional life, to feeling alive and excited about what I do each day and actually thriving financially and contributing so much to the people around me.
My motto for this journey will be a quote I love.
‘The question isn’t who is going to let me. It’s who is going to stop me.’ Ayn Rand