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You can’t figure out what’s wrong.

Everyone else seems to have a goal they’ve broken down into smaller tasks and are hard at work achieving them.  They seem so focused and put together while you feel … bipolar.

It’s not that you aren’t willing to take a leap and try something new.  It’s just that nothing ever seems to stick, nothing feels quite right.  And so you go back to the drawing board again and again, feeling a little bit more like a failure each time.

It’s depressing and you’re about ready to give up on your dream all together.  Maybe you just aren’t cut out for this.  Maybe you don’t have what it takes to really make it.

It’s easy to get the idea that success is a linear process, and you’re either on trajectory … or off it.

In fact, everyone is taking the scenic route to success, just like you are.

The founders of Flikr started out with an online video game before they realized the picture sharing service had more potential than the game itself.  YouTube started as a video dating service.

Changing directions itself isn’t bad.  The trick is learning how to identify directions and pivot as a result of opportunity, not fear.  It’s a matter of being wise enough to acknowledge who you are, not who you wish you could be.

And in this post, I’m going to do something most businesses never, ever do.

I’m going to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how (and why) I’ve built my business the way I have–and why I’m really excited to be closing it in just a few days. (Yep, you read that right.  On March 17, I’m closing the No Regrets Career Academy–more on that below.)

Then I’ll show you how to apply these principles to your own situation, whether you’re a budding entrepreneur yourself or working in a corporate job that could use a revamp.  It’s easier than you think.

Changing your business means knowing your business

I was exhilarated when I finally decided what I wanted to do for my next career.  I wanted to be a writer (cue the trombones)!

But what kind of writer?  Novelist, copywriter, professional blogger, freelancer writer for magazines?

I’d solved one problem, only to be immediately faced with another: how do I make money at this thing I want to do, both in the short and long-term?

My initial plan was to focus on growing my blog (or platform as it’s called in the publishing world) while writing thought pieces for journals for my former boss.  Eventually I’d leverage my blog numbers for what I really wanted to do: write nonfiction books.

Becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t part of the plan.  Becoming a coach wasn’t part of the plan. Shoot, writing articles for my former boss wasn’t actually part of the plan either, but it was fairly lucrative (as writing jobs go) and seemed a good short-term solution.

But as people read my blog, they kept asking how they could hire me.  Starting a business sounded fun.

So I quit my article writing job and put together a pilot program on career design.  Was I scared?  Absolutely. But it went well, so I put together a full-blown course.  That went well too.

As an entrepreneur, you’re always trying to balance what you want and what your customers need.  And it was clear to me that my course needed a coaching component.  So in January, I redesigned the course.

My idea was to include a forum where participants could primarily network with each other and view each other’s exercise answers.  I would only get involved in the forum when someone got stuck.  I also added six monthly coaching webinars, where people had a full hour to ask me anything they wanted, from questions about the course exercises to advice on how to get hired.  And since I was providing a lot more value, I doubled my price.

It seemed like the ideal compromise between what they needed (coaching) and what I wanted (income to support my writing).

I should have realized it wouldn’t quite work out that way.

I’m the kind of person who absolutely cannot keep her mouth shut if there’s an ongoing conversation on a topic of interest.  I literally feel like I’m going to explode.  So you can imagine what happened in the forum where I’d initially intended to only comment occasionally.

I thought every exercise posted for feedback needed my input.  And that of course created the expectation that I would continue doing so.

Not that I minded.  I’ve grown incredibly close to my current group of clients.  I’ve watched some amazing transformations over the past months.  And since inspiring change and creating community are part of my core values, everything felt right.

Except that if you priced out what I was earning by the hours spent, it was really, really tiny.  I started this as a business, not a hobby.  Making money was integral to the goal, although I certainly had no aspirations of becoming some kind of mogul.

But there was something far worse.  I was writing less and less.  In fact, the business had so taken over my life, I wasn’t even strategically growing my blog, which was supposed to be my ticket to a book.

I had, in essence, created the exact situation for myself that I was helping my clients escape.  It seemed insane to walk away from a business that was doing really well.  I thought people would shake their heads in disbelief that I was changing directions … again.  It was that little voice whispering, “What’s wrong with me?”

I was trapped by my own success.

I realized that in order to change my business, I had to know what I wanted my business to be.

Making room for envy

There’s a concept that if you’re struggling to decide what you most want to do or be, your envy will point the way.

The truth is, the people I admire most are writers.  When I daydream about my ideal dinner party, it’s spending time with the likes of Malcolm Gladwell, Gretchen Rubin, and Alain de Botton.

As I read the books publishers send me in the hopes I’ll review them, I think to myself, very quietly, “This is what I want to do.”

Here’s what I know for sure: the No Regrets Career Academy was an absolutely necessary step in my development.  Working closely, intimately really, with this set of clients allowed me to understand their challenges and try out potential solutions in a way that immediately holing myself up to write a book could not.

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to inspire and be inspired, to watch an enthusiastic community grow around me.  It’s been rewarding and fulfilling beyond measure.

And now it’s time to do something different.

On March 17, the course will close to new clients.  I’ll continue to honor this arrangement and will shepherd anyone who signs up prior to that time through the six month timeframe.

Then I’ll have the quiet and mental space to find the right balance between my writing and my business.  I don’t intend to close the course forever, but I do know that what’s currently up for offer isn’t sustainable.

I’m making room for envy in my life so that one day, the life I admire most is mine.

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43 Responses to Be the Envy of Yourself

  1. Jen, I’m so glad I got to do your course when I did – it’s REALLY helped me. It’s also great to see you continuing to take your own advice and not just talking the talk – bravo!

    • Martin, it’s been such a pleasure working with you. I’m really excited about what comes next in your journey. We’ll keep inspiring each other!

    • On
    • March 13, 2012 at 11:26 am
    • Portia
    • Said...

    Jen – one word comes to mind: EVOLUTION. This is what it’s all about and you are shining example to so many about how to do it even when the road ahead is not totally clear. A wonderful mentor of mine once said “You go as far as you can see and as you make progress, the road gets clearer and clearer.” She said this to me when I was in my late twenties and wanting everything to happen NOW. I didn’t get it then but I do now. It really makes perfect sense why you are making the decision you’ve made though I’m sure it must be tempting to ride the “gravy train” for awhile too. You are such a gifted mind and a talented writer that I can’t wait to read about what’s next. Bravo!

    • Yes! I have longed maintained that a career is continually evolving, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t resisted the idea for myself from time to time. But I am getting better at appreciating the twists and turns that come with being honest with yourself.

  2. I applaud your courage in writing about this on your blog! “Making room for envy,” now there’s an idea I can get behind! :) Not as the object of negative focus, but envy as a motivator, as an inspiration.

    I have similar goals for my own writing — a book. (Wow, that’s actually the first time I’m saying that “out loud,” online.)I’m a freelance writer and marketer and earn my living doing those things, but in my paid work I don’t always get to write the kinds of things I want to write. When I read about a blogger I love who just got a book deal, I feel joy for them, but also, a little envy.

    I absolutely love the idea of taking the “scenic route” to success — thanks for sharing that wise insight! It’s true, but well worth being reminded of: success is not a linear process. I mean, most of us get this, but it’s so important from a mindset standpoint to NOT see the detours as failures, but merely as signs to course-correct. I am constantly doing this, and I’ve learned to give myself permission to not be perfect or have it all figured out all the time!

      • On
      • March 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm
      • Lisa Duran
      • Said...

      Don’t you feel amazing now that you’ve said your goal out loud (online)! I’m just discovering the power of it myself. Not only is it incredibly energizing, but the universe realizes you’re serious and will start sending people and things in your direction to help you. Best of luck!

    • Exactly, Kimberly. Having envy as a positive motivator in our lives is a whole new way of looking at things, isn’t it? And don’t worry, I have to remind myself to enjoy the scenic route as well!

    • On
    • March 13, 2012 at 11:39 am
    • barbara
    • Said...

    In a way I believe when you aspire to one path, whether career or life in general, and think there’s a destination that will be the end of the journey you are missing the point. If we aspire to reaching our personal presumed pinnacle as the end of the road we’re not giving ourselves credit for growing and changing along the way.

    The more we learn the more we grow. That changes everything. I’ve always felt it was a very good thing to change direction and use what you’ve learned along the way. I’m certain your next evolution will be exciting Jen.
    b

    • Always love your wisdom, Barbara. Well said!

    • On
    • March 13, 2012 at 11:48 am
    • Lisa Duran
    • Said...

    Congratulations! How exciting (for you) and inspirational (for us). I love the idea of envy pointing the way to what you want to be when you grow up. I also have writer envy, so my path seems pretty clear. Happy writing!

    • I think one of the issues for me was really getting clear on what kind of writer I wanted to be. In fact, I still harbor little inklings I want to do fiction. But I’m excited enough about nonfiction that I’m just going to keep going and see what it all takes me. Thanks for the kind words!

  3. I’m reading “The Path of Least Resistance” by Robert Fritz, which is focused on the “creative orientation” as the underlying structure for creating what you want in your life. It starts with absolute clarity about what you want — the life you most admire.

    He also explains that people keep going back to the drawing board over and over because the underlying “structure” in their life is built on a “responsive-reactive orientation” to the circumstances in their life.

    So I’m very intrigued to hear your thoughts and watch what you do next.

    Onward!

    • Interesting, Marsha. I haven’t read that book. I’ll have to add it to my (ever-growing) list!

    • Thanks for sharing this title, Marsha. I’ll definitely check it out. I’ve been reading Dr. Dan Siegel’s Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology and he defines creativity: as “a way of being in which life emerges in new and fresh combinations of inner experience and outer explorations.” Seems like a creative orientation would imply a dedication to this as a real and present motivator in one’s life.

    • On
    • March 13, 2012 at 2:47 pm
    • Benny
    • Said...

    Jen, I believe this pivot will be the right one for you. You’re following your heart and doing what’s right for you. Look forward to reading your New York Times bestseller. :)

    • Thanks so much, Benny. It’s pretty darn fabulous to have such a great community to share this journey with. Fingers double crossed on the NYT idea (though I’ll be perfectly happy with a slow-burner too).

  4. Jen, it takes such courage and honesty to make a choice as you have; brava! Supporting you every step of the way.

  5. Hi Jen,

    This is the great thing about blogging and also the downside of it:) I started my blog to build a platform for my travel blog. Now I have a platform of lovely readers but no book!

    I named 2012 the year of the book but so far haven’t got started as I couldn’t refuse when I got invited on a free trip to Japan. And now I’ve been invited to go to Canada.

    But I love your expression about the scenic route to success. I know I’ll get there in the end and you will too. It’s good that we’re taking the scenic route but yes, we do need to make sure we get there sometime soon!

    Can’t wait to read YOUR book and by the way, I am a big Alain de Botton fan too.

    • LOL. Figures we would be in the same boat. I’m guessing though that, like me, you already have quite a bit of material written. You just need to collect it, organize it, and find the right arc.

      I actually just discovered de Botton. Too bad he’s on a US book tour. I wanted to meet him!

  6. Congratulations Jen on both your decision and the role modelling that you are displaying by sharing it with us.

    You are a brilliant writer. I could hear that whisper inside as you tell yourself you want to write.

    Write and you WILL find a way to eat!

    • Thanks, Karen. I know it’s true. Now to do it. Onward!

    • On
    • March 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm
    • Janis Freitas
    • Said...

    Jen,
    Once again, thank you for your insightful honesty. You have an amazing gift of putting into words the gritty, inner workings of the human psyche.Your intentions for healing and awareness always lovingly laced through your messages.Your voice has resonated with me deeply and it’s obvious I’m not alone.
    The Best of Luck to you expanding your gift!

    • Janis,
      Thanks so much for your note. It means a lot to me. Blogging, and the required vulnerability that goes with it, has been the best thing I’ve ever done (next to birthing my daughter). You are definitely not alone!

    • On
    • March 14, 2012 at 3:01 am
    • veehcirra
    • Said...

    Jen am so encouraged by you. Many people say that one should listen and follow their heart. You do it, with no apologies. Wish you the best as you venture out on your new path. I am sure everything will work out for you. Thank you for this inspiring message.

    Veeh

    • Well, hopefully I don’t make it all sound like a walk in the park. I’ve struggled with this decision for months and endured more than a few restless nights. But once I made the decision I knew had to be made, the calm was all the sweeter.

  7. Go Jen!

  8. Hi Jen,

    I love how you’ve highlighted that it’s okay to let go and change directions, because for some people (myself included) that can be a really difficult decision to make and feel confident about. I always attached my letting go of something with failing, like I didn’t work hard enough to get to the outcome I expected.

    When I landed my first writing project I thought it was my ticket to leaving my day job in politics and that it would be my launching pad to making a living through writing. Nothing about that project went as I expected, and two months later I chose to walk away. The decision to let go was an easy one, but I struggled with the fact that my plan didn’t turn out the way I thought it would because that ending I NEVER saw coming.

    Today I find myself continuing to learn that things don’t always go the way I plan or expect – and that’s okay. The best I can do is remain flexible and to hold loosely to my plans allowing them to evolve as I continue to grow and life brings to me the unexpected. There are days I wonder if this journey is less about realizing my dreams, and more about realizing the person I’m meant to be.

    Anyway, thanks for continuing to share your insights with us!

    • Kathryn,
      In the Air Force we have a saying: flexibility is the key to air power. So it is in life. I’m still learning too (goodness how I love a plan). But I remind myself that unexpected events just allow me to do more planning! LOL

    • On
    • March 14, 2012 at 8:28 am
    • Myrna
    • Said...

    Dear Jen, I recently viewed your online introductory piece and was hoping to continue on. Since you’re closing your business, will I be able to access further instruction? I was so intrigued by the preliminary piece, especially the manner in which you communicated. You just had a way of stripping away the high powered approach to career change. I look forward to following your work in the future. One of my favorite writers right now is Marion Roach. Perhaps you can visit her website for additional tips on writing. Take care.

    • Myrna
      Sent you an email. The free training will remain up and folks on the list will continue to get emails when new material is added. I’m so glad you enjoy it. I’ve heard wonderful success stories from that material alone. I’m just glad to help!

      Will help out Marion Roach. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • On
    • March 14, 2012 at 10:12 am
    • Lisa
    • Said...

    Jen,
    You are an inspiration to us all.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Best of luck to you!

    • Awww, thanks, Lisa. Can’t think of a kinder compliment!

    • On
    • March 15, 2012 at 12:15 am
    • Ritu
    • Said...

    Change, change, change….is the name of the game, at least for those who want to get the most out of the game of life.

    All the best for your next step, and the one(s) after that too:)

    • Thanks so much, Ritu. I couldn’t agree more. Appreciate the well-wishes!

  9. Good for you, Jen! I often feel like I’m doing it wrong because I keep changing my mind about what I’m doing. (My career has looked like this: design! No, web stuff! No, programming! No, teaching! No, research! No, yarn! No, writing! lol) But it seems like it all comes around in the end. It’s extra difficult to walk away from money, so I applaud you all the more for following your dreams! If the path was straight, everybody would be doing it.

    • You always make me laugh, Cara. I often feel the same way, but it’s funny how I’m not sure it looks that way from the outside. I was just doing an interview with someone who had gone from pediatrician to hospital administrator to lawyer to medical rights advocate. When you write it that way it looks like these huge jumps, but when he described it in more detail, it seemed the most natural progression in the world. While no one things that about my jump from scientist to writer/speaker/coach, I’m hoping the rest of it seems less herky-jerky. :)

  10. Ah I love this. Just found your blog and what a great post to land on. Your writing is so inspiring, beautiful vulnerability :)

    Also this post made me smile; I did the exact, exact same thing, and have had to pull back BIG time. Good news is… I’m currently in Thailand writing my first book (yup the deal came via my blog and newsletter). Yours had better come along soon cause the offline world is missing out on Jen-ness!

    • Hello, Marianne. What a pleasure to see you here! Yes, I am totally envious of your Thailand writing vacay. I should have added you to my list of ideal dinner party guests. :)

      Maybe when you get back we can meet up. I’d love to hear your thoughts about self-publishing versus traditional. I still go back and forth on that, though I suppose I should set that aside and just get writing for now!

      • Hey Jen, the world’s my office so there’s no getting back :)
        DM me @freerangehumans – happy to Skype and chat about your options if you like, I know how confusing it can be and there are a lot of variables (if you go trad publisher you should NOT just get writing, can talk you through why :) M

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