For me, the idea of starting from scratch is equally exhilarating and petrifying and I think that is true for most people. Usually it’s the petrifying, unknown part that keeps us from doing it. That was definitely true in my case and after several years of contemplating a reset, I muzzled all those doubting feelings and took the leap. For me, the first thing was to take some much needed time off of work and rejuvenate. But after that period of self care, I knew the day would come when I was ready to go back to my career (or my bank account would require it).
So my first question was:
- Do I return to my successful career because there are many aspects of it that I loved, still miss, and occasionally get nostalgic about? or
- Do I try something new with this opportunity? Because if I don’t I will never know what else I am capable of?
Not taking advantage of the latter sounds like a future regret life regret in the making, right? The same core principles of dedication, commitment, focus, and hard work from my first career can be applied to write a fabulous second chapter in my career. Being a natural worrier, I ran through the worst case scenario in my head: I never get another job, my hubby decides to retire and take up mountain biking full time, and we have to move back in with my parents. Since I have the coolest parents ever that’s not such a bad option. So new opportunity it is!
But that still left the question of what exactly to do. For the first time in my life I had no clear plans for what came next and for this type-A personality that was a nail biter. Like most people I had spent so many years focused on building my career that I had forgotten to cultivated any personal ambitions beyond that. Over the past several months I have had lots of ideas but did they make sense and were they going to help me fulfill my goals? I fully believe it’s important that we invest our time well because that is a lost opportunity we will never get back (maybe I should focus on a time travel machine?).
I needed a checklist to compare my ideas against, which would ensure I was pursuing something that would lead me in the direction of fulfilling my goals. Being an CPA and a former executive/general manager in the corporate world I have oodles of capabilities in evaluating a business opportunity and taking a new idea/product to market. But there are two other components that are equally important to me in choosing my second chapter: Excitement and aligning with core values.
Identifying my core values
One of the main reasons I left my job was because I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Since I had just celebrated my 40th call it a midlife crisis. I was keenly aware that my sense of self was faltering and no one owns that except me. So in my next chapter of life what were they key things I wanted to avoid that brought me to that point?
- Balance – I needed to learn how to better participate in all aspects of life and create a mix that included all of the components. As a result, my relationships with my family and friends were suffering and at work I was becoming more impatient and harsher in my interactions which is the opposite of my personality. I was watching my regrets mount quickly by being too singularly focused on my career.
- Being present – Rarely (ok, never) was I fully engaged in the current moment because in my head I was either focused on what was coming next, replaying the prior moment in my head to critique what I should have done differently, or checking the non-stop emails pouring in. On a good day I was maybe 47% engaged in the current moment. I absolutely have to be able to manage and prioritize the never ending demands so that I don’t neglect any pieces of my life and I am focused on is important and done well.
- Excitement for the day – I came to a point where rarely bounced out of bed eager to tackle the day, feeling energized, and excited. Instead I would immediately begin counting the hours until the day ended. I lived for Friday even if most of my weekends were still spent in front of my computer (of course in yoga pants and an early glass of wine). On Sundays I began dreading Monday. This was making me into a person that was not the best version of me in any parts of my life. At one point my dad said something to me that has never left me: “Kerri, you need to stop wishing your life away because one day it will be gone and you will want all these days back.” That was one of my early moments of realizing I needed to change something but it would be a few more years before I was ready to make the change.
These are the 3 biggest items that gnawed me at each day of my life and I want to to ensure that I do not fall back into those old habits. Frankly, this list could be a bit longer but for the sake of my self-respect I am going to move on right now.
What gets you excited
I want to get out of bed every (or at least most) days ready to tackle that day’s list, but that means I have to love what I am doing.
- Feeding a passion – for most of us to be successful in our career we need to be passionate about it or else we are just going through the motions. Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that one of the things I am most passionate about (besides my cat) is travel. I live for it, work for it, plan for it. I love exploring new places, cultures, languages, and meeting new people who are different from me.
- Finding value – one of the things I place the most value in is people and relationships. I am motivated and engaged when I am around people. I like to learn from other people, I am motivated by others, and I like to make them feel happy, included and valued (you know, kind of like we all like to feel).
- Relying on my natural skills – Tapping into my natural capabilities and leveraging those strengths seems to be a no-brainer. But so often we all end up in jobs that don’t highlight our core strengths or think we need to focus on turning our weaknesses into strengths (after years of trying to do that I am removing that from my list of efforts). So I created a list of skills that I am naturally good at and I am happy when doing: planning, organizing, researching, writing, hosting, creating positive and happy environments.
Business and Market Opportunity
So when is all is said and done (I hate the phrase “At the end of the day”) the dream we choose to pursue needs to provide financial support to our long term goals and aspirations. Even if you love what you are doing, the longevity of it is likely not sustainable if it cannot economically contribute to the other aspects of your life.
- Research – For the past several months I have researched my ideas. Since I am considering something a completely new industry I have had a lot to educate myself on. Make sure you understand items such as:
- Federal, state, and local laws relating to the industry
- Tax implications
- Industry statistics .
- Market size and expected growth
This might sound overwhelming but it is certainly necessary as you need to understand the nuances to avoid any unpleasant surprises as much as possible. Most of this information can be found on government websites, industry associations, and by talking to those who are already in the industry you are looking to get into. Psst…honestly this part is really fun because you are going to learn so much about your idea (I promise!).
- Build a Plan – I won’t lie…I love building a badass spreadsheet that shows my financial opportunity and a progressive plan on how to get there. I realize that this is not everyone’s cup of tea and can be an intimidating part to planning your new business (maybe a future blog post on this?) but it really is necessary to know your plan and a roadmap on how you are going to get there. This of this as building the story of your business and who doesn’t like to tell a fun story?
- Seek Council – Seek out people who you trust to challenge your idea and help poke holes in it. This can be so hard to do because we just want to think about the unicorns and rainbows (plus it’s hard not to get defensive of your concept). But this outside view is invaluable to help identify potholes and build a stronger story for your business. Plus the reality is that these people only want to help you be an even bigger shining star than you already are!
Keep in mind that these 3 items are not a one-and-done. As you move forward and learn more your plan and road map will alter for these new bits of knowledge. So revisit it on a regular basis to ensure you are still making good decisions for your business.
So there you have it…this is the process I went through when trying to decide what direction to take next. While going through this process I scrapped several of them before starting because I learned enough to tell me this was not for me (at least right now). Everyone’s evaluation criteria is going to look a bit different, but what is important is that you have some so that you can have guideposts to help you make those big decisions.
So you might be asking (or not)…so what are you going to do next? The next step I have chosen is to started investing in vacation rental property and start to build a brand around unforgettable, fun, unique, and customized experience for our guests.
So here is where I start from scratch! I am sure there will be plenty of bumps along the way but that’s ok because I am excited to try something new. And I will most definitely be sharing my experiences as I navigate this new endeavor so follow along and I promise to keep it real (good, bad and the ugly)!