Making the career change leap
In 2010, I made a major career change, a huge shift to a full-time pursuit of doing what I truly love for a living. My first career was corporate: as in suits & ties, negotiations and meetings, and a steady paycheck. I don’t miss my tie collection, but some days I do miss that steady paycheck!
It’s a setting I thrived in for many years and one that opened countless opportunities to travel, learn, and grow. I share more about my career change and some key lessons learned in an article here. My second career is in coaching, and it’s through this change into the coaching profession that I learned a lot about humbly embracing support when going through a career change.
I get by with a
little A LOT of help from my friends
I believe that the support you receive when changing careers or starting your own business is based on a combination of how you consistently treat people in life, as well as luck and good fortune to have positive people around you. And even when you have all the good fortune and relationship karma in the world, it’s still all too easy to allow ego and drive to get in the way of honoring the support that is so graciously extended to you.
I’m grateful to have had wonderful support over the years–without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. There are 3 sources of support that have had a profound impact on my career change and shift into the world of entrepreneurship and running a small business. In today’s post, I share experiences and lessons learned from each source.
I love the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I’ve experienced this wisdom time and time again, as mentors and guides consistently appear right when I’m at a crossroads. Sometimes it is obvious, as I’ve sought them out for instruction via a course or other type of training. Other times, and this is where the magic is found, it is a subtle interaction, what appears a coincidence, or discovery that a friend may in a dual role also be an excellent mentor.
Some of my coaching clients have turned into outstanding, caring, and selfless business advisers. And I’ve had spontaneous mentoring conversations over a local beer in a variety of unexpected settings from Africa to Southeast Asia, where a new friend challenged me, thus expanding my vision and creating a new fire in my belly.
Some mentors have become lifelong friends, while others appeared briefly and then faded away. And it is with mentor relationships that our egos can often get in the way. While one edge of the ego sword brings all important self-confidence, the other edge brings close-mindedness, jealousy, and resistance.
I’ve made this mistake a few times before, grabbing the wrong edge of the ego sword. I’ve ignored opportunities to learn and grow because I was jealous of someone’s business success, social standing, job title, education, intelligence, etc. Over time though, through both self-reflection and also gaining more insights into how everyone walks around with hidden struggles, I’ve tried to better attune to these moments of ego struggle, and in doing so, learned to embrace and show gratitude for all the mentoring help that’s offered directly or even indirectly.
How to humbly embrace a mentor’s help:
Open your mind, especially to pondering guidance that makes you uncomfortable.
Listen more than you speak. This is often quite challenging, especially when the topic excites you, but growth will come from listening, not speaking.
Look outside the box. The most powerful mentor for you may be the one who appears the least like the label of a mentor. Perhaps it’s your 86-year old neighbor, the owner of the corner market, or the farmer who grows the vegetables you eat.
When I launched my coaching business, I invested in my own company through savings and funds from my corporate job’s exit package. This allowed me to found the equivalent of an LLC and to weather the initial months of significantly limited income.
Once I decided to create a gym, I was at a point where I was running low on funds and needed help to invest in equipment. A good friend heard what I envisioned and volunteered to loan me money to outfit the facility. He genuinely wanted to help, with no expectation of a financial gain or stake in the company from his investment. That said, I was still very much hesitant to accept a loan, as I really wanted to do it all on my own! I wanted to prove to anyone who doubted that I could make a living in coaching that I was running a real business and could self-fund all that I sought to do.
I thought it over and ultimately decided to accept his generous offer of support. Here’s the kicker: he offered to loan me 5x what I asked for! I was so tempted to take it, as it would create a cushion and allow me to buy everything on my wish list and perhaps even start paying myself a salary sooner. At the same time, it would bring more comfort than I wanted. It would make things too easy, so I chose to accept just the right amount of help, but not too much. I wanted to be uncomfortable, as I saw that as a means to create additional motivation. Within a couple years, I paid back the loan in full, and it felt very good!
Without that investment, I would have struggled more than I needed to at that stage of my business.
How to humbly embrace an investor’s help:
Understand when scaling a business that it may only be possible with outside financial help, so being “smart” in business doesn’t necessarily mean doing it all on your own.
Recognize that your investor may also receive non-financial benefits in sharing their resources with you, making it a win-win.
Embrace your commitment to honor your investor’s trust, regardless of the challenges you face in business.
3) Partners, Friends and Family
I save the most important for last.
My wife had a huge impact on my ability to change careers and especially on my ability to write my first book. Not only did she provide ongoing moral support through the many low points of entrepreneurship and writing, she also worked hard in a challenging profession and earned the steady paycheck that I wasn’t earning, so that we could pay a mortgage, buy food, and keep the lights on. This was of critical importance when I massively scaled back my in-person coaching work to write full-time.
There is both a fiscal and major emotional benefit in not having to worry about stable earning, while one partner takes an entrepreneurial risk. In writing about my entrepreneurial journey over the years, I made a mistake in sharing more about risk-taking and business creation tasks than about the underlying support that makes so much of it possible.
I share this as a lesson learned, as it is very much like the Social Media paradigm of sharing only the high points of life, creating a false illusion that life is merely a sum of smiling moments, holidays and desserts. No, life is about the fascinating mix of high and low points, and entrepreneurship is about the fascinating mix of teamwork and drive that makes it all possible.
How to humbly embrace a partner, friend and family’s help:
Communicate: make sure all parties in these incredibly close relationships are on the same page with what this type of support means and any expectations of results, reciprocity, timelines, deliverables, etc. Also, discuss what success means to everyone involved. Success may be defined in myriad ways, not always in terms of revenue generated.
Never miss a chance to show your gratitude.
Lastly, I’d like to mention that often clients become incredible sources of support. From offering guidance to showing up to help with moving locations to attending my book release party and other events to sending notes of support, there have been countless moments when clients (who became good friends) put forth an effort that had a much larger impact than they likely realized. This is priceless support and represents the best of teamwork, where we’re all helping each other along our respective paths to fulfillment.
I wish you the best with any change in career or focus that you are considering.