Want to quit your job? Practice career yoga first.
Via LinkedIn : Our careers rarely go according to plan. Don’t believe me? Tell your baby that you have a huge presentation at work today. They will interpret that as the perfect time to throw up on whatever you’re wearing for your big moment. Tell the project you’re hustling on that you thought of every detail. The ship from China that has your product on it will get delayed by a hurricane that you apparently don’t control.
In moments where we feel out of control, we often think our only option is to quit our jobs. Perhaps there’s a perfect job out there where we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do. We’ll find some utopia where every aspect is under our control.
What if we instead embraced the tension of work? What if we admitted we control more than we think and we control a whole lot less than we think too?
What if we learned how to practice career yoga by being flexible with three very important things.
1. Be flexible with your dream.
I told my sister, who is 15 years younger than me, that when I was her age, what I’m doing now didn’t physically exist. I spend a good deal of my day interacting with social media. I tweet @JonAcuff. I post on Facebook. I help people figure out their careers with a free online tool at CareerSavingsAccount.com. I pin images. Fifteen years ago, when I was 24 that wasn’t possible. Not for lack of effort on my part, but just that there was no Twitter. There was no Facebook. Imagine if I had sat at my kitchen table and thought to myself, “I need to figure out my dream.”
Is it possible that I would have been able to conceive the invention of Twitter? Might I have daydreamed Facebook up? What then? Would I just wait for Mark Zuckerburg to invent it? Me and my moleskine notebook writing, “I hope there’s a talented developer and two gigantic twins that are fighting over an idea right now that will one day be where I hustle.” That’s ridiculous. The same goes with picking a college major. When I was in college, almost nothing I’m doing now was a reality. I didn’t get my first email address until I was a junior. And I thought email wouldn’t take off!
I hope college students pick the major that’s best for them, but they have to know the future is going to change what they do and how they do it. You’ve got to be flexible with your dream because it might not exist yet.
2. Be flexible with your direction.
I had a fuzzy vision in the 3rd grade that I wanted to be a writer. You know what that meant? It meant that I wanted to write poems. The kind that rhyme, particularly any where I could play off the idea that tall and fall rhyme in a pretty good way when you’re talking about trees. Do you think that in the 3rd grade I would have said that would be what the 39 year old me would do? Of course not. The specifics of my direction changed over time.
It’s not just writers who experience this either, it’s folks like Ultimate Fighting Trainers. Jon Hackleman is one of the top trainers in the world. For 20 years, he trained Chuck Liddell, the most successful UFC fighter in the world. He contacted me for help one day. I figured it was a question about a chokehold or something (it’s all in the forearm, by the way), but that’s not what he wanted help with. He wanted me to help him rebrand because his dream was changing. His gym, the Pit, had too hardcore of a reputation to attract the new group of clients he wanted to help, kids. In addition to training top fighters, he has a passion to help teach little kids karate. This is not something he’s doing because his original dream wasn’t successful. He is at the very top of his field. He just happens to love helping kids and adults learn karate. Why? Because directions change.
3. Be flexible with your definition of success.
Robin O’Bryant wanted to write a book with a big publisher. Every writer dreams of being signed by a publishing house that also printed Hemingway.
Robin knew how to hustle and spent two years working with a top literary agent but had no success securing a book deal. Her first reaction was to pout and mourn the death of the dream. It wasn’t just about getting a book out there, it was about getting a real book published by someone real.
She might have crawled back off into anonymity, voluntarily never writing another book. But her blog readers wouldn’t shut up. They kept pestering her over and over again. “When’s your book coming out?” they asked in the comments. “How’s your book coming?” they tweeted.
Robin fought it for as long as she could, but eventually had to give in after she asked herself the question, “Why did I write this book?”
“The answer was simple: because I couldn’t NOT write it. I wanted other people to read it because I thought it would help them. I wrote because I wanted to be read and I knew that self-publishing could accomplish my mission.”
So, after much wrestling with herself and deciding to be flexible, Robin self published her book Ketchup is a Vegetable & Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves in November 2011. She spent the next two years selling the book out of the back of her car, MC Hammer style. She trucked them to conferences and book signings and anywhere else an audience would have her.
In September of 2013, Ketchup hit the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today’s bestseller lists. A month later, she signed a two-book deal with St Martin’s Press. She was told no for years, but she didn’t quit. As Robin told me, “When the door slammed shut in my face, I decided I wasn’t too proud to hitch up my skirt and crawl through a window.”
You might be at the wrong job right now. There’s always a chance that quitting is the best thing for you to do. But, before you do, ask yourself these three questions:
- Am I being flexible with my dream?
- Am I being flexible with my direction?
- Am I being flexible with my definition of success?
Instead of seeing quitting as your only option, try a little career yoga. After all, flexibility is really the only way we can all crawl through a window when the door is slammed shut.
Jon Acuff is the New York Times Bestselling author of five books, including his latest, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work & Never Get Stuck. He’s worked with some of the world’s biggest brands including The Home Depot, Staples and Bose.
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