Lately my friends and I have been discussing our lives and the paths we’ve taken, and where we are going. I think most people have a similar point to start out at – everyone has to pay their dues somewhere. It might be easier for some than others, and the beginning might be early for some too. But almost everything has to struggle at some point.
The short version of my story (starting after college) is this: I sold all my belongings including my 10 year old car, and moved to NYC with a suitcase and about enough money to survive for a month. I had no job lined up, and no real home to speak of (though I was fortunate enough to have a couple couches to sleep on). I found a dump of an apartment (that was actually probably illegal in about 20 different ways), and moved in for $500/month. There were two other girls living in the apartment, that was essentially a hallway with three rooms and a bathroom.
I decided I would find a job and figure it all out before my finances ran dry, and so I took an entry level sales job going door to door. I worked from 7am to 9p five days a week, and sometimes on Saturdays. I didn’t get a base salary, and relied strictly on commission. They sent me on business trips up and down the east coast where – I used my own car (once I finally broke down and bought one), and paid my own food. If I was really lucky, I would get to sleep on the local manager’s couch, instead of share a hotel room with 3 other girls.
Fast forward 5 years, and now I am working for my second Fortune 500 Company, doing B2B sales in the Mid-Market level. I have an expense account for travel and small customer purchases (coffee, flowers, etc), and the company actually pays my travel expenses and puts me up in a nice hotel room. By myself. I have a very nice 1 Bedroom apartment, that I share only with my cat (Kira) and dog (Roxie). I generally have a very nice life.
I’m not sharing this story to brag, but I’ve come a long way to get where I am today. And I WORKED for it. I put in the time, the sweat, and the tears.
So it would be REALLY easy, to call it good, and stop here. Just float along with the current and see where I end up. It’s very tempting, and I think a lot of people choose this route. But I am not that person – there are still things I would like to do that are out of my reach in my current life, so I feel there is still work to be done.
So the question becomes: How do You Break Free of the Current?
1. Know What You Want
I talk about this a lot, but it really is impossible to do anything without knowing what would make you happy in life. Otherwise it’s like shooting darts in the dark – you have no idea where the target is, so you can do nothing to increase your chances of hitting bull’s-eye.
2. Know What You DON’T Want
It’s just as important to know what doesn’t work for you. I, for one, could never be happy as a receptionist. There’s so little creativity or autonomy involved, that I would just dread every minute. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, so it’s just a matter of figuring out what works for you.
3. Actively Take Steps in the Direction of Where you Want to Be
My Dad loves growing the food we eat on his property. This year he planted an apple tree that will take between 6-10 years to bear fruit. He joked around saying, “if I had done this 10 years ago when I first wanted to, we wouldn’t have to wait!” If you don’t make moves, no one is going to make them for you. Sometimes, where you want to be is years away – don’t put it off.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Risk
Sometimes the most logical move isn’t the best one for you. If in your heart you want to change careers, and everyone is telling you not to, go with your heart. Things always work out one way or another, so if you can’t ignore a desire, make the leap. You will probably end up happier for it. My example of this is when I quit my first job – every single person told me to wait until I had another job lined up. I just couldn’t do it; I was miserable and needed time to recuperate. And I’m quite happy the way things worked out.