Today, Facebook reminded me that it’s been exactly three years since I quit my old cubicle job and started a new chapter of my life. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. In no particular order, three things I’ve learned in those three years:
1. Change often does not announce itself.
Sometimes you get the heads up that change is coming, like when you decide to move, or start applying for jobs. Often though, it comes without warning, for better or worse. Sometimes it’s the opportunity that catapults you into something new and exciting. Sometimes it’s an uninsured driver totalling your car.
The point is, just because something is happening right now, doesn’t mean it will continue to happen that way forever, no matter how much it feels that way. Case and point: four years ago, I jerked to attention in my cubicle because I suddenly realized I had been trying to work out if the fall from the overpass by my job would be enough to kill me. I felt trapped and could see no way out or forward. I was staring down the next forty years of my life and seeing nothing to look forward to. A year later I was out, and starting what has been to date the best chapter of my life.
2. Learn how to rest.
I’m still learning this one. There’s a lot big changes when you start working for yourself, but one thing stays the same: your boss is still riding you about that deadline. The biggest change is now you have to look at them in the bathroom mirror every day. It doesn’t matter how much you love what you do. If you do not take time to rest, you will burn out. I learned that the hard way. These days, I try and take evenings off, even if I still kind of feel like I “could” be working. Being disciplined about taking breaks means I have the stamina to stay in this game for the long haul.
3. Prioritize people.
In my experience, money come and goes. Sometimes you land a good gig, and sometimes you get hit by an unexpected medical bill. Sometimes both happen in the same week. In my experience, the people in my life are more reliable than any insurance company and a better investment of my time than nearly anything else. We get each other through the tough times. We give rides, cook meals, pool skill sets, consult, collaborate, refer work, and sit up waiting for each other in the emergency room. The list goes on. Maybe there is such a thing as a truly “self-made man” out there, but I haven’t met one yet. I didn’t get this far alone, and I don’t intend to change that now.
Three years down. Here’s to the next three.