Yesterday was a big day for me. It was a day I have been working toward and dreaming about for a long time. It was the day I decided to turn pro.
I took a huge leap of faith and quit my corporate job.
From here on out I’m all in with Focus 5 Design. This is my only full-time job now. I’ve turned pro.
An experienced amateur
I’ve been slogging away in the corporate world for the last 16 years – as a network engineer and most recently as a web designer. I’ve always wanted to venture out and start my own web design business. It’s work I love doing and I’m damn good at it. But I’ve always been too afraid. Fear has held me back for a very long time. Fear of failure, fear of uncertainty, even the fear of success. But after finishing IRONMAN Louisville in 2013 I realized that I could do anything. I decided that fear would no longer prevent me from pursuing my dreams. So I started my business on the side, still working the corporate job, and learned everything I could about running the business. Clients started trickling in and I was experiencing a measure of success. But I was still an amateur. I was too afraid to quit the steady day job – the one where you get paid every two weeks no matter what, the one with the health insurance and the 401k.
My shadow career
Quitting is hard. It means you’re serious about your business. It means your’e willing to risk everything. So instead of quitting, I just switched jobs. I found a different corporate gig as a web designer. This was closer to what I wanted to do, but not quite right. In his amazing book Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield calls this the shadow career. When we’re terrified of pursuing our true calling, we find a shadow calling instead. A shadow career is similar to our true calling but involves no risk and no real meaning. This was my shadow career. This is what amateurs do. They’re too afraid to chase after their dreams so they settle on a watered-down version instead.
It only took about six weeks in the Shadow Career for me to realize what I was doing, and that I would never be happy working at that job. Last Friday night after a tough week at work Kristine looked at me and said, “just quit.” “We’ll make it work. I know you can do this; you always have my full support.” I gave my two-week notice on Monday.
Turning pro vs being reckless
I want to make a clear distinction here. I did not approach this decision recklessly. I didn’t say “I’m going to quit my job today and start a business tomorrow!” That would be reckless. I’ve built my business slowly and steadily over the last 18 months. I created a household budget and the numbers worked. I purchased health insurance. I worked as an amateur for quite some time and then I turned pro.
My life is no longer about working for someone else’s bottom line. It’s not about punching a time clock or commuting to work in rush-hour traffic. My life is now all about the journey. It’s about only doing work that I love. It’s about working with the clients of my choosing. It’s about running the business my way (which just happens to be the best way…). It’s about travel. It’s about me and my laptop working from wherever, doing work that is engaging, fulfilling, and meaningful.
The funny thing is that this life was always there for me, and it’s there for you too. But the only way we can see it, the only way we can live it, is to go all in. We have to stop being amateurs. We have to stop living the shadow career. We have to turn pro.
Are you living in a shadow career? Is fear keeping you from pursuing your dream job? What’s holding you back from turning pro? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!