Thursday, 29 October 2009

Quote of the Day

"The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become" - Charles Dubois

Risky Business

There are times in life when you have to ask yourself that most insightful of all questions:
"What is the worst that can happen?" For me, I was a publishing assistant. I liked my job, but alas, I didn't love it. I had finally got my foot in the door in publishing, and yet after a year I still found myself in the same situation as I had been in before in every other job I'd ever had: I just wasn't where I was meant to be. I knew I was capable of so much more, and yet taking the safe job options was never going to allow me to that.

So I decided to take a leap, and I resigned from my job. And I didn't have any other roles lined up. I just decided it was time to start doing what I truly wanted to do. No time like the present. It is amazing the different reactions a move like this will give you - many friends couldn't understand why I would put myself in a position where I am not earning any money. So many times I was asked, why I hadn't decided to stick out my old job until I had found a new one? I was tired of waiting things out, locking in another safe option, and ending up in the same position. If I wanted to start following my passions, I had to do it right now, and I had to take big risks.

It seemed to me as if we have become so reliant on the security of a job, that the concept of not having one is completely unfathomable. (I had a similar reaction when I told people we were not having a TV in our new flat - people have come to rely on television so religiously that they cannot see past it, and imagine life without one). Yet what I have come to truly realise - not just agree with but actually understand - is that this is our life, right now. It's not a rehearsal. I should have done this years ago, so why wait another day?

Every day we get up, go somewhere, and spend the whole day doing something in particular. So surely we should be doing something we enjoy? Far too many people don't like their jobs but they stay there and continue to do it because they like the security of the pay packet, and the comfort of the familiar. Others admit that they don't like their job but they do it for the money, so that they can fund their lifestyles outside of office hours. Sure this makes sense, and in fact I used to subscribe to this exact school of thought myself, but I've since learned that for me, this isn't the way I want to live.

I was earning very good money as an executive assistant for one of The Big Four firms in London, and while I could buy nice things and go to nice places, I wasn't fulfilled. I was selling my soul. When I took a significant salary drop to work in publishing, I found was much happier, and, most amazing of all, having less money didn't actually make me miserable. Right now I am earning nothing (albeit for the short term - there is rent to pay after all) but I feel great. A little anxious, yes, but believe me - great. I am grateful too that my boss at the publishing company was fantastically supportive, and let me go (replacing me with two people, I might add) because I am now free to work for myself.

Suddenly my fate is in my hands: what I do each day is of great consequence, and my motivation is put to good use. It is an amazing feeling. I have never felt so free! Sure, it's terrifying, intimidating, and my energy levels come and go in peaks and dips. I can spend two days believing I can take on the world, and then spend two days bathing in self-doubt. This is all part of the vital process and it's a test of my commitment. There is no sense of achievement without a challenge.

What is the worst that can happen? You will not end up on the streets, alone, with nothing to eat. You will not lose your health and your family. Frankly, the worst that can happen is you fail, you run out of money, you stay with friends, get another job, and try again shortly. You will find is that all the things you truly need will still be there. Except you will be better off for it.

Of course, you need to be committed; nobody will help you unless you first try to help yourself. I have parked myself at my home desk every day, networking, job searching, applying for paid and unpaid writing tasks, eager to build my portfolio. The problem is, I know I can write. I just need to prove it. But to get the copy proof, you need to HAVE the copy proof.... and there lies the catch.

There are no real hard and fast rules to anything in life - despite what people may tell you - and I know from experience that self-believe, perseverance and willingness to take the plunge will get you everywhere. Somehow, I am going to make this work. Yes, it's a gamble, and no, there are no guarantees for success. But you will never know until you try. When you take a risk you either: a) succeeed; or b) fail, and learn invaluable lessons. Both outcomes are worth the gamble. So why play it safe? To develop and to discover your potential you need to push yourself, and see how far you can go. You are not going to do it in the safety of your comfort zone.

What is the worst that can happen? It's never as bad as you think.

Recommended reading: Why Do We Believe That Our Job Is What Makes Us Worthwhile? by Alain de Botton