Wednesday, February 11, 2015
I left the corporate world over a year ago - October 13, 2013 to be exact. I had a great career in the software industry for 25 years, starting out in aerospace in the early 90's, golf throughout the 2000's, and finally high-tech for the last 7 years. It was a rewarding phase of my life and I wouldn't trade the valuable learning experience and people I've met for anything. However......
I became quite dissatisfied with my career over the last few years. I'm a bit idealistic and play a terrible game of politics, so it stood to reason that I was easily hurt by typical work place theatrics. Also, I'm an entrepreneur at heart and fiercely independent - two qualities not normally valued when trying to move up in the corporate world.
I started making jewelry 7 years ago just as a hobby and then started selling on Etsy for 'fun'. Little did I know when I listed that first handmade piece, I'd be hooked on the concept of running my own business. Once I realized that this was my true passion, I spent far too many hours calculating in my head how many pieces of jewelry I would need to sell to match my corporate income. I was literally obsessed.
After 6 years and many tears, I did quit my job. And I haven't looked back - not once.
Here are the 5 most surprising things I've learned in the past year.
1. I'm not alone.
When you live in the corporate world, you don't see how many people are living the entrepreneur life. Once I started attending networking events and perusing internet sites related to business topics, I was amazed how many different businesses there are being run by people just like me. It truly opened my eyes that this independent lifestyle that I had craved for so long was right in front of me the whole time. There are countless industries that support solo and small business owners.
Once the cat was out of the bag and I started telling people that I quit my stable, secure income for jewelry making, I was shocked how many people gazed at me with a dreamy look and admitted that they wished they could do the same thing! I thought I would receive the dreaded blank look and a silent, sympathetic nod, but instead I heard story after story from people that had the same dream I had - mostly from my fellow corporate colleagues.
2. My journey has changed from my initial plans.
I really thought all I wanted was to hang out at home, make jewelry, and live a relaxing, simple life. After all, wasn't that the whole reason to leave the corporate rat race? But now I dream about hiring employees, growing the business to the next level (and then the next level, and so on). My creative juices have now morphed into photography, blog writing, marketing, SEO, etc. I devour business books and podcasts. While I still really enjoy designing new jewelry pieces, I have been so surprised that my real passion is now more in running my business rather than making jewelry and hanging out in my backyard reading a good book whenever it suits me.
3. My lifestyle hasn't changed even though I make far less money.
My income has definitely taken a nose-dive since leaving my job. I was a software manager making 6 figures. But, for some reason, I still live the same lifestyle and I'm saving money. How is that? Well, my husband and I were able to refinance our house and rental property to save a significant amount of money. That helped a lot. But, I think the main reason is that my expectations have changed so my lifestyle changed without me realizing it. I no longer need 'shop therapy', pedicures, take-out food, and weekend getaways - all previously needed so I could endure the coming Monday 9-to-5 blues. I am so happy with my life now that my needs are simpler. I also don't need stuff like I did before. Weekly Target trips are now reduced to once every 3 months.
4. It's not necessary to go too far out of your comfort zone to be successful.
One piece of advice you hear over and over is that you have to go out of your comfort zone to be successful. I agree with this - to a point. However, taking this advice too literally can lead to burnout and unhappiness. After all, I left the corporate world to live a more comfortable life - not to stress myself out even more. I'm an introvert by nature, so I tend to enjoy my alone time and feel the most productive in a quieter environment. I also enjoy selling my jewelry on-line for this very reason - I'm not cut out for the type of business where I would feel the need to call on potential customers and knock on doors to get my jewelry sold. I once followed a piece of advice about attending a specific networking event - I was told this was absolutely necessary for me to 'grow' as a business. That was the most miserable event of the last year! I was completely out of my comfort zone and unprepared for the type of networking that I needed to conduct. Not only was it an absolute failure, I didn't enjoy the event and I'm sure it showed to anyone I spoke to. So, I went back to my home and now only run my business in the way that I enjoy, and therefore, have more success (and fun!). While it's great to stretch your limits, saying no to conducting business that is not in your true nature is okay too!
5. Friends, Family, and Fans don't necessarily overlap.
This was the most painful lesson I learned. I have received so much support from people that I don't know very well and a lack of support (at least visibly) from some friends and family that I thought would be cheering me on the most. Over the last year I've learned to not take it personally - business and friends don't always mix. I know my friends and family all want the best for me and are probably cheering me on from the side lines, they just don't share my obsession (haha!). Just because some of my good friends aren't fans on my Facebook business page, doesn't mean they don't support me - they're just in a different mindset and don't realize that for me, business and pleasure are now intimately intertwined. I admit it was painful at first and my feelings were definitely bruised. But, I'm now happier than I've ever been in my life and my relationships are better because of it.
This has been a tremendous year of growth, both personally and professionally. I look forward to getting up everyday and living the dream that I used to think was out of reach. I would love to hear from you - have you quit your day job or still dreaming about it?