What no one will tell you about how easy it is to create the life you want.
I quit my last full-time job 8 years ago, and I’ve never looked back.
If you’ve just quit your job, or are thinking about it, then I know you know how hard it is to figure out what you’ll do after, how you’ll make ends meet, and if you’ll regret your decision later. None of this is easy. It keeps you up at night, it messes up your social life when you start avoiding the emotionally charged reactions you get from family and friends, ranging from concern to envy, and all that extra time you have with yourself to think about your life is just like being in a tiny little boat in the middle of the ocean with no land or human in sight. It’s enough to give most people a recurring panic attack a few times a day (and when you suddenly have 5 extra days a week, that’s a lot!)
It was that way for me too, when I quit my job. No one around me understood what I was doing, including myself. All I knew for sure was that I couldn’t spend the rest of my life sitting in an office waiting for the chance to create something meaningful when someone else decided it was time for me to execute whatever idea they had come up with.
I knew that I could create something that other people, including my bosses or clients, couldn’t yet see or imagine, something better, more useful and beautiful, than what they came in the door wanting. I don’t know how, but I knew.
And I believe we all really know deep down.
But before I had a chance to create that something, there were days, weeks, months of worrying, wondering if I was crazy taking such a leap of faith, going off the beaten track into totally unknown territory without a paycheck or an office to go to everyday. I even spent a lot of time looking for another full-time job just to feel like I wasn’t in the deep end, unable to feel the ground under me, but that I could stretch my arm and feel the smooth, solid tiled edge of something I could pull myself to safety with. I needed something to hold onto until I learnt how to swim.
I decided to treat the gym like my day job. I went to the gym, every single weekday morning, just to get out of the house, move, feel powerful and feel like I was actually productive in some way while I was figuring out what I was going to do next. I went there and for 30 minutes, I focused on nothing but using up all the energy I had in my body, which wasn’t being used for anything useful to anyone else. I let myself believe that me going to the gym everyday was somehow useful to someone, something, somewhere in the world. I had to believe it to keep going. Because emailing out to people for jobs or assignments is like sending messages in bottles out to sea… you don’t know if someone is ever going to read it, let alone respond, and you definitely have no idea when that response will ever show up.
I kept sending those messages out, though, while I kept going to the gym and cooking and eating and living healthy, because I finally had the time, so much time to prioritise my health and fitness. It’s like you plant a seed, and then you sit there, waiting for the first bright bud of green to appear in the middle of the dark, dark soil. And all you can do is make sure there’s just enough water and sun — not too much, not too little—you agonise at getting it just right because there’s nothing else you can focus your energy on. And then you wait some more. And some more. And some more. It’s excruciatingly painful to wait for something indefinitely. Unless — you drown it out with something even more painful—like breaking your muscles down over and over until you’re too tired to be impatient.
I worked on my website, I developed my portfolio, I talked to as many people as I could, went to as many networking events as I could, gave out as many business cards as I could, and I emailed people to tell them “Hello! I’m here! Hire me! I’m really good, try for yourself and see!” and they nodded and said they would, and they put my card in their pocket and I went back to the gym so I could be too tired to lay awake at night.
Because they weren’t going to contact me the next day, or the day after that. That bright green bud of an email wasn’t going to appear for an indefinite period of time, and there was nothing I could do to speed it up.
But then, something unexpected happened. I learnt the most important thing I have ever learnt as an independent business owner. And it came from my only standing appointment every morning.
Somehow, the discipline that went into getting myself to the gym every morning started to turn into actual results I could see. Not only did I look better, I felt better. I felt fitter, more confident, more energised, more in control of myself. I liked what I saw in the mirror, and I loved that I had created it all by myself. No one told me to do it, no one did it with me, no one even helped me. I just decided to do it, and then I did it. I felt like I could have anything I wanted, if I set my mind to it.
My confidence was higher than ever, and it was based on something real. And when I felt so good, the people around me felt better, and wanted to be around me more. They were even willing to pay me to have me around. That’s how I started to get my first freelance clients.
Going to the gym every single day taught me this: If you keep watering the seeds you’ve planted every day, with determination and dedication and unwavering faith, they will sprout buds. And they will correspond to the seeds you planted. You will start to see the result of your hard work and discipline, and it will not only surprise you, it will motivate you to go further!
That’s right… just like forming or breaking any other habit, you can turn success into a habit, too. When you see the results of your hard work, you just want to keep going. All you have to do is start and before you know it, that muscle is moving of its own momentum, you don’t even have to make a decision to do it. And the longer you keep at it, the more success you will see.
When I started to see the results of my daily exercise routine, I experienced, first-hand, how much control I had over my own life and being. Quitting my job was definitely the first step in the right direction, because it freed me up to learn what came next. But it was forming that exercise routine that helped me really feel the power I had. Realising how much control I had over my body, and seeing the results of my hard work directly, gave me confidence unlike any other. And that was all I needed to believe that I could create anything — even a career as a freelance designer in a hostile work culture that didn’t believe in temporary hires.
Before I knew it, I had a new job: a freelance gig at a large Fortune 500 company that had just rebranded with one of my most long-admired design studios in the world, and they needed my help with brand implementation. I made half of my last annual salary in just 3 months. And without a doubt, the positive energy that I had filled up on at the gym and brought with me to that first meeting with the client was what got me the job, and earned me the trust that extended a one-week gig to 3 whole months, and continued into a client relationship for over half a decade.
Fitness became a regular non-negotiable part of my lifestyle at that point. Even people who knew me all my life came to identify me with fitness, and started asking me for advice about getting in shape. I never worked out just to look good, I always used my workouts to remind myself of that incredible feeling of accomplishment you feel after you push yourself past your pain point. The exhilaration you feel at the end of a workout can empower you to do anything with confidence. (And the rush of endorphins, and looking good in anything you wear, will help, too.)
The key is to start. Quitting your job is not easy, figuring out what you want from life is not easy, creating it is not always easy. But commanding your self discipline to exercise the muscles that will help you succeed is easy, when you make it non-negotiable. Once you make a committed decision that it has to happen every day of the week, it stops being a decision and starts being a normal part of your day. Just like you didn’t doubt that you would go to work on Monday morning no matter how much you didn’t feel like it, just decide you won’t doubt that you will go work out, no matter how much you don’t feel like it. And do it every single day. Over and over and over.
Prioritise and invest in your own success. It only takes 30 minutes a day. That’s 2% of your entire day. The job you quit, doing things others asked you to, took up 30–50% of each day. Can you replace that time commitment with one that shapes your own self-made success? Yes, you can! With ease!
Push yourself as hard as you can for just 2% of each day, that’s how easy it is to start creating the life you really want. Really.
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