Let me start by saying I’m not a lover of change. I’ve stayed in relationships and jobs and feuds well beyond their expiration date. (I blame my moon in Taurus.) Until April 1, 2012, I worked full-time in a corporate journalism career I effectively began when I was 14. I rose in rank through sweat, tears, and putting up with assholes. In 2007, I landed my dream gig: communications director for a large university research program. We’re talking “I made it” money, minions, a 10 percent 401(k) match and four weeks of vacation a year to start. Hooray! Huzzah! Um, no. Infighting, rampant disrespect and hours and hours of meetings that usually ended with the words, “We don’t have money for that.” By 2009, I found myself constantly sick, battling depression, and dreading almost every moment of my awake life. I was ridiculously unmotivated to do anything. The yuck of my job had become a poisonous blob that was destroying my life. Still, I didn’t quit. The economy was in a tailspin. Life was too cushy, and I had no idea what else I could be. After all, I had “made it” … right?
The pain-vision-plan triangle
Skip forward to 2012. I’m 43 and sitting at After Dark, a now-finished very cool photography conference, listening to Dane Sanders (of FastTrack Photographer fame) talk about why we get stuck. It was all a bit confusing, some long mathematical formula, but a nugget rang true for me. This is how I interpreted it: To actually make a change in our life, we have to reach a tipping point. Change comes when you have two of these three things in place:
- A vision that makes you want to leap out of bed in the morning even though thinking about it kept you up all night.
- A rock solid plan to get you where you want to go.
- So much pain from your current situation that you cannot. stand. another. minute.
It’s like a teeter totter. Until there’s enough weight on the other side, you’ll stay stuck in inertia. That kind of blew my mind, especially when he told us it’s possible to increase the pressure in any of these areas instead of waiting for the universe to deliver a big slap on the back of the head.
A kernel of vision
In 2008, I bought a Nikon D40 for work, since I was the official photographer. I discovered that I really liked taking photos of people who were not my family or pets. I did lots of group shots, headshots, and event photography. And I watched a lifelong hobby turning into the germ of an idea: I could be a small business owner, and the business would be portraiture. In late 2009, I started doing event photography for my local writers group, then was asked (and paid!) to do headshots, then an engagement session, then a wedding, then a boudoir session. I kinda loved it. I made a plan to establish a part-time photography business that focused on boudoir, maternity and newborn photography and leave my PR career in May 2013. That would give me enough time to learn, make mistakes, buy gear, establish a track record, put away savings and blah blah blah before I stepped out on my own full time. But I began to develop a vision. I started taking these steps. And the pain was getting worse … and faster.
The email that broke me
By WPPI 2012, I was working 7 days a week, 12-18 hours a day between the full-time job and the part-time business. On the last day in Vegas, I attended Sue Bryce’s plenary and became incredibly “I can DO THIS” inspired. Tears streamed. Seriously. I am not a crier. I was flying high, enlightened and raring to make my May 2013 quitting date reality. Then I saw it in my work inbox: The email that broke me. I read it. I realized that there was no way in hell I could tolerate another 14 months at that organization. I started to cry. (Again, not a crier.) I told my husband I could not go back. He told me we’d make it work. Finally, the pain threshold had reached the tipping point. And I had such a strong vision of what my life would look like if I ran my own business that I was flying. (Whether it was a realistic vision is another story.) The teeter … tottered.
Lots of pain. Lots of vision. No plan. But I leapt anyway.
That next Monday, I spent an hour on the phone with Helen, a colleague/friend/amazing supporter of mine who had been one of my first boudoir test clients the previous January. (That’s her with the cupcakes. She had been telling me for years that I should be out on my own, freelancing as a writer and web strategist, and then as a photographer. She fed off my enthusiasm. I fed off her support. I went into my boss’s office to quit but he wasn’t there. So, poetically, I waited two days til Leap Day. And I leapt.
What happened next? What did I learn from taking a leap and trusting the net would appear? That’s another story … to come.
Where are you stuck in your business? What will it take to get unstuck?