The Road Less Taken

Last week, I met a friend for coffee.  She told me how lucky I was that I could “just take the time off”.  To her, and, to many, they assume that the path to working for yourself and setting up a business is straight. 

It isn’t. 

It’s a very squiggly journey with many tests, crossroads and challenges.  At times, it can be challenging to choose this path, I avoided it for over ten years.  My blue-sky dream was clouded over by pressures from others (stability, financial security, society, etc).  Last year, I let go of my first business venture.  Something I probably could have done at least earlier, but what’s a journey without lessons?  Over time, I’ve learned to own the life I live.  I’ve learned to hold myself accountable and embrace that how I do things, is different from most around me.  My work is on a path very different from the one of my friends, family, and the community I currently live in.  Since March 2020, I’ve made a large effort to seek out others on a path like mine.  And I hope that if what I write resonates with you, it might help you feel less alone.

When I left my teaching career, I realised that to many, I walked away from a societal position.  As I tried to explain my dream, I was met with confusion.  And on more than one occasion, I felt that I should go back to teaching.  This might only resonate with some of you.  If you are a teacher, when I have had this chat before, you tend to get it.

Here, I share some lessons about my career.  If they pique your interest, I’d love to know why.  Are you encouraged by them? 

1:  I don’t have a specific job title.

I do many things.  And what people see on paper is a small percentage of it. 

I coach people.  I facilitate workshops.  I teach an enrichment programme to children.  I write copy.  I hold Design Sprints for companies and I create courses teachers.  I am also my own secretary and bookkeeper and I take time to test out new ideas and practice curiosity to help me create more.

My bio on Linked In is currently, Mindfulness Facilitator, Creative Coach, Design Thinking Sprint Coach & Teacher

I also mentor, listen, and write.  I also market and advertise my work, create and design my websites and more.  When I read Emma Gannon’s The Multi-Hyphen Method, I felt seen. 

I work with individuals and companies.  I lead workshops where creativity ignites and some rediscover the joy of creativity and a playful approach to tasks.  I also sit with people who want clarity on their life and there might be tears instead of laughter.  The container I work from is a varied space.

I am the designer of a career I love yet I don’t work in design.  I work with people to rediscover their curiosity and creativity and apply these to areas of their lives. 

The Lesson: 

Do job titles matter?  Yes, if you work in an organisation.  Not so much for me.  I am not in a linear career, it is fluid and alive and everyday is different.  So many of us get hung up on job titles, yet when you look at the work that I do, it is varied and cannot be pigeonholed. 

2:  Explaining and still being met with confusion

The world of work has changed.  And some people don’t understand this.  This, at times, felt like a a deterrent, especially if you have a vision of your life, but those around you are dismissive or opinionated.

The Lesson: 

Does it really matter what we do?  Are people asking you out of interest or to form a judgement on how you live life?  I often use brief examples and direct people to my website. 

In July – I work with teachers by delivering online courses.  All year round, I work one-to-one or with groups.  I also write for others.  As above – job titles can be meaningless to many.  If people are still confused, let them be, you don’t need to explain yourself to others any more than you feel comfortable.

3:  Getting in the door

So far this year, I’ve had twenty emails asking how I started my career, and more specifically, how I left teaching.  Some have been straight to the point, and others have been vulnerable shares, asking me where I got the courage.  They all want to leave the teaching profession and hope that I can hand them a golden folder.  Inside this golden folder lies the steps on how to leave and be a “success”. 

Some are blindsided by all the online coaches who tell you that they can show you how to make €10,000 a month online.  This is Multi-Level Marketing – don’t buy into it. 

There is no magic formula.  As I said above, there is no straight road.  This is why a Design Thinking framework is helpful to learn.

It’s hard work.  It’s a series of small progressive steps.  And from my experience of working with teachers, this can be hard to understand as a teaching career, for many, is straightforward.  You study, you get a job.  You know your job conditions going in.

It’s working on your self-doubt and imposter syndrome.  Accepting they are here for the long-run so befriend them.  Don’t waste energy giving into them.

The Lesson: 

As cliched as it sounds, life is a series of lessons.  Embrace failure and embrace the pivot.  Reflect on what is working and what isn’t.  Keep your life balanced.  Opinion again but avoid networking events, meet people on a humane level.  See people as opportunities to learn and enjoy, not as some token to benefit from.   

____

Working for yourself is full of challenges, but what isn’t? 

I enjoy it because I unapologetically own the work I do, and I value it.  I have seen people transform before my eyes. 

Yes, I still get crippling doubt at least once a week.  And it took me a longer than I’d hoped to stop listening to the negative opinions of others.  Not everyone will understand your motivation. 

That’s ok, because plenty will.  And they are your people.  They are the ones to listen to, to hang out with, to learn from and grow with. 

I believe that negative comments are insecure projections.  And they can become easy distractions to let into your life.  Don’t take criticism from people you wouldn’t go to for advice.  And don’t take advice on unless you ask for it.  Ask people to listen to you, just listen.  Most of the time, that’s all you need to figure out the answer.

Potential knows no bounds, tap into yours, lean into curiosity and creativity.  You might surprise yourself at what you can create for yourself. 

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Photo by Mariah Solomon on Unsplash

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