It was a humid Sunday afternoon in early August. One of those sticky summer days in Chicago where you sprawl out in front of a window fan while your iced coffee forms a sweat ring on your coffee table.
I was reading a New Yorker profile piece on the next-up-and-coming-politico-tech-activist-billionaire-genius and my husband Andrew was reading Timothy Ferriss’ self-empowerment credo The 4-Hour Workweek. At almost the exact same moment, we both put down our quickly wilting reading material and looked at one another.
“Are you fulfilled? Like, jump out of bed, can’t wait to start the day, fulfilled?” I asked Andrew, out of nowhere.
“Nope. I’m honestly not.” Andrew said quite calmly—and quicker than I had expected.
“Wow. Okay. Me neither.” I replied as I stared blankly across the room, toward nothing in particular.
After about another ten seconds of silence, Andrew stated resolutely:
“Well…let’s do something about it.”
Thus began a life changing conversation over the next few hours, days, and weeks that would eventually lead to us resigning from our “traditional day jobs”, deciding not to renew our apartment lease, and putting our possessions in storage while we literally hit the proverbial road and started our own consulting business, Foxwell Digital.
Okay that sounds pretty drastic, I know.
And it was drastic. We both admitted we weren’t happy with the status quo, so we decided to do something about it. And something for us meant a drastic life change.
This is by no means a blog post encouraging readers to immediately quit their current jobs, pack up a Ford Focus, and visit 10 National Parks in the next two months while working remotely. (Ahem, exactly what we did.)
However this IS a blog post intended to encourage folks to start a conversation. A conversation with yourself, your partner, your children, your parents, your mail carrier. Anyone. Just start being honest with yourself and others on how you’re feeling in your current professional state and where you ideally want your ultimate impact to be.
Because here’s the truth: we weren’t taking about the fulfillment thing enough.
We had been performing this non-challenging dance that even when we saw the other person unhappy at work, unhappy when they dragged themselves out of bed in the morning, or unable to fall asleep at night because of their ever-impending stressful day to come, we just went with the flow, made our sack lunches, and pressed play on our music apps on our way to work. We weren’t challenging ourselves–or each other–to be honest in saying “Hey. I want more out of life. And I want to love my work.”
Interestingly, more than a year earlier, we had talked briefly about taking a several month-long road trip. We had talked briefly about starting our own business. But we kept telling ourselves (and one another) “Let’s wait. There will be a better, easier, less stressful, more perfect time for all that.”
But once we were finally honest about being utterly unhappy and unfulfilled by the current laissez-faire existence, we realized there’s never going to be a better/easier/less stressful/more perfect time to let yourself leap at a BIG life goal. It’s always going to be a scary, intimidating, seemingly nonsensical move. It’s safer to stay put, keep your head down, and just keep going through the motions.
Here was our mega realization: it may be safer and less scary, but that doesn’t mean it’s more fulfilling or motivating.
40 hours a week comes out to roughly more than 2,000 hours a year. We realized that we didn’t want to spend thousands of hours unhappy at anything. Especially something that should bring joy, fulfillment, and a sense of accomplishment.
So how has this one BIG conversation turned into a business and a sustainable lifestyle?
Well, the conversation is still going. Now we talk (and talk and talk) about these issues everyday, instead of just once a year when we were about to have our annual performance review at work.
We’re employing the unique skillsets we honed in various jobs and we’re working for ourselves. We’re making positive change and impact with organizations we truly care about. We’ve been on the road, exploring more of our beautiful country, working out of coffee shops, bookstores, and Airbnb rentals. We’ve challenged ourselves to redefine “being productive” and we’ve let ourselves think more, read more, and breathe more.
It’s been incredibly liberating–and also infinitely more challenging than we expected. We work together on some projects and independently on others, yet we’re talking more than ever and learning more from one another.
So if you’re feeling like we were, not completely sure of what you want next but sure you don’t want to stay where you currently are professionally, just START the conversation of where you’d like to go and how you’d like to get there.
The conversation may spark an immediate life wake-up call like it did in our case, or it may take a bit longer. However long the process may take, by just starting the conversation you’ll amaze yourself at what is possible.
Whereas before you may have never given yourself the opportunity to dream just that big.