I’m leaving the full-time, cube-dwelling, butt-kissing rat race in less than a month.
Before you start commenting on how I’m making a terrible mistake, I am 100% confident in my decision and know it’s exactly what I want in life right now (see #9).
I can tell you that after 5 years in corporate America (plus 4 years of college priming me for corporate-land) this transition will not be easy for me.
Like most people, I need structure. Ambiguity makes me uncomfortable. Working on my own with no boss and only myself to hold me accountable has me worried, but only slightly (see #6).
I can’t show up for 40 hours a week and expect a paycheck anymore. It doesn’t work that way in entrepreneur-land (if I’ve learned anything from Gary Vaynerchuk, it’s that nothing comes easy).
However, I’ve taken steps to detox from the rat race and reinvent myself as a confident, self-employed, and capable pioneer.
If you’re looking to do the same, here’s how…
1. Shut off all superficial notifications
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” — Winston S. Churchill
The human brain can only process a finite amount of information at any given moment.
When I pick up my iPhone and there’s an email, 2 Slack messages, a text, 3 Snapchats, and Medium comments demanding my attention, my brain isn’t capable of focusing on much else.
Other than a few essential apps (Evernote, Google Calendar, Messages), I shut off all other notifications from popping up and distracting me throughout the day.
Focus on what’s essential.
2. Create something before consuming
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” — George Bernard Shaw
Similar to #1, I used to wake up and mindlessly scroll through my phone for the first 10 minutes of my day.
Now I have a new rule: I can’t consume anything (even breakfast) until I have created something of value.
I started a simple publication where I share my daily creation.
Some mornings I stare into a blank screen waiting for an idea to strike. Other mornings I can pound out a post in a few minutes. Either way, I feel more productive than skimming through Facebook all morning.
3. Read one book at a time
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” — Stephen King
I’m a slow reader.
It also doesn’t help when I bounce around 3 to 5 books at any given moment.
This year I started focusing on one book at a time. I pick up a book, I start reading it, and it’s the only book I read until it’s complete.
Books are powerful tools, but so are toothbrushes. And when was the last time you shoved more than one toothbrush into your mouth?
By setting limits, I am able to extract as much knowledge as I can from one book without feeling tempted to jump to a new book if I’m bored or sense resistance to finishing it.
4. Listen to your body
“The greatest wealth is health.” — Virgil
I’m currently in the process of shifting my sleep schedule. It hasn’t been easy.
Instead of going to bed at 12:30 pm and waking up at 7 am, I’m trying to go to bed at 11 pm and wake up at 5:30 am.
My body has not enjoyed the change.
In my corporate heyday, if I ever felt an ounce of drowsiness, I booted up the Keurig for another cup of coffee. 6 cups later, I was wired.
Now, I pay attention to when I feel tired, happy, anxious, sluggish, and energetic. I even resorted to jotting down notes to help me identify the root causes.
~Worked out at 10:30 PM, went to bed at 11:20, woke up at 5:44. Didn’ t feel drowsy. Does exercising before bed help me sleep better?~
This body of mine manifests my thoughts into results. It’s the only vessel I got. I might as well understand what makes it work.
5. Enjoy leisure without feeling guilty
“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
For the past 6 months I’ve bragged about how I don’t watch T.V. anymore and use all of that time to work on my projects.
My wife is currently studying for her boards and occasionally takes a break with an episode of 30 Rock on her laptop. And occasionally I might sit next to her and watch with her.
But only for one episode! Or two if Liz Lemon gets herself into a conundrum.
My point is that I’ve stopped beating myself up for enjoying leisurely time with my wife instead of being productive.
I’m still glad we got rid of our T.V. since it was too much of a tempting distraction. However, my wife is kind of important to me and I want her to know she’s more important than any of my work.
6. Focus your attention on one thing at a time
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” — Zig Ziglar
If there is one word to describe my experience in the corporate world, it’s this: Reactionary.
Here’s how a typical day goes:
- 8:00, arrive at work, check inbox and calendar. Nothing surprising, I can finally work on that project I’ve been putting off.
- 8:06 AM, email with “[URGENT]” in the subject hits my inbox. Never mind, I can work on that project tomorrow, this email is obviously more important.
- 8:34 AM, IM: “Have you sent out the Daily X,Y,Z Report?” Shoot I forgot, I need to drop this urgent thing and send out this report. People are waiting for me.
- 9:12 AM, meeting invite for 9:30 pops up on my calendar. Someone thought 15 minutes notice was plenty of time. Great, time to rearrange my schedule.
- …(repeat until 4:30)…
Unfortunately, this is how I modeled my work routine outside of my full-time job. I simply reacted to what was pressing in the moment.
I’ve learned, or shall I say, I’m learning how to focus my attention on one thing at a time. Whether it’s writing this post, or answering an email, or talking with a client, I’ve noticed that solo-tasking instead of multi-tasking yields quality results.
**Recommended book to read: Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi**
7. Appreciate the climb and not the summit
“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Results are king in corporate world.
But results are never enough.
Once you achieve 100, great now achieve 110. Now 120. Now 200.
When you answer to the shareholder, you better be ready to disappoint. Enough is never enough.
However, if you work for yourself and answer only to yourself, the climb and not the summit is what matter’s most.
Who you want to be is not as important as who you are becoming.
8. Engage in purposeful relationships
“Surround yourself with good people. People who are going to be honest with you and look out for your best interests.” — Derek Jeter
You don’t get to choose your co-workers.
You do, however, get to choose your network.
If you want to build more purposeful relationships, find people who want what you want in life. Help them achieve their goals. Give more than you receive.
If possible, form a mastermind group. Meet every week, be vulnerable, seek support and accountability.
I’m an introvert, I tried for years to “make it” as a blogger. But with no support network around me, I faltered.
It takes work cultivate relationships, but it’s the greatest investment you’ll ever make.
9. Be honest of what you want in life
“I don’t want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself.” — Emma Watson
For a long time I only did things I thought would make my parents proud. Go to college, get a good job, get a promotion.
I love my parents, but I don’t have to answer to them anymore.
This corporate career is the result of seeds planted by teachers, neighbors, and even my parents of what’s needed in life to be happy. If you have a college degree and a white collar job, then you are living the American Dream!
Except it’s not my dream. It’s not what I want in life. It took a long time to be honest with myself and accept it.
Leaving my full-time job to pursue my own projects and work is the first decision I ever made without worrying about what other people will think.
My wife’s opinion is the only one that matters to me.
As for everyone else, I don’t care what they think is best for me.
I know what I want, and I will put in the work to achieve it.
Bonus: Know your areas of opportunity
I don’t have weaknesses, only areas of opportunity.
If you struggle to hit your goals, it’s probably because you have an opportunity to improve in one of three areas: self-awareness, planning, or execution.
I created the Goal-Getter’s Self-Audit Workbook to help you find out which one.