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I’m not as successful as you think I am.

I am, however, as successful as I need to be.

That feels wonderful to say because few things are as exhausting as trying to maintain a facade about your life and what happens inside it. Likewise, few things are as satisfying as knowing you have and are enough.

A while back, a reader took me to task because she realized from one of my posts that my business is not the primary source of income for my family. Here’s what she said (edited for privacy):

I have been reading your advice about leaving well-paying jobs for work you love [for a long time] and was seriously considering jumping ship to “make my dreams come true.” I used you as my career-changing role model, believing in all you wrote and assuming you were now making enough money to support yourself (and anyone else who was part of your life).

What I see now is that you are relying on your spouse for income. This is a HUGE caveat that I don’t see mentioned anywhere else on your blog. Perhaps you don’t think it’s relevant to your message — but I’m wondering how many other readers might be assuming what I did and falsely reassuring themselves about their own futures?!?

I don’t take offense to these questions. I know how important it is to have a sense of hope that what you want to do is possible.

Unfortunately, no role model can really provide that for you.

That doesn’t mean role models aren’t useful. Knowing that other smart, talented people are making big changes in their lives and coming out okay should be a big relief. It’s a good indicator that if you’re reasonably smart and plucky, you’ll figure things out too. That’s what I call hope!

There’s a huge difference between “career change is possible” and “this idea I have for a new life is feasible.” Too many people try to mimic someone else’s success (probably because that’s exactly what a lot of people advise you to do).

The goal is not to replicate someone’s exact strategy, but to understand the parameters and trade-offs you have to work with.

Here are 3 questions you can use to drill down on someone else’s experience in order to evaluate the feasibility of your own dreams.

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Editor’s note: guest post by Leanne Regalla

Do you ever feel like you’re selling your creative soul for a measly paycheck in a “safe” job?

Maybe you never finished writing your book because you just knew you couldn’t pay the bills with it. Or you set aside playing that instrument when it came time to start really making a living. You think you could have gone farther with your photography, but you know that you’d just end up investing way more money on the equipment than you’d ever make from it.

Most of us have a story like this.

After all, art is a lot of work. It requires putting yourself out there and being open to criticism. Why go through all that hassle when (conventional wisdom says) artists are always poor and struggling?

My Unexpected Quest

I thought the same things many years ago, when I started learning music as an adult. I knew in my gut my job wasn’t the best fit, but it was pretty good and I thought it was too late to change careers. I immersed myself in music simply because I loved it. Honestly, I didn’t expect any returns at all and certainly not financial ones.

I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised.

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A while back, I published a review of the new book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath.  I talked about some of the major pitfalls people make when trying to make big decisions where they didn’t have a lot of relevant prior experience to guide them.  As part of a book give-away (now over, sorry), I invited folks to share one big decision they were struggling with.

The response was over-whelming.

Many were along the lines of “Should I change careers/jobs or not?”  If you read the review, you know that “whether or not” type decisions are dangerous anyway. But this one in particular is troubling because it jumps to a solution (changing careers/jobs) before identifying the problem.

And THAT is a recipe for making a bad decision.

It occurred to me that before I can help you design a career you love, we have to discover and address the underlying problem.  If you’ve been struggling with the idea of career change for a while, you probably know this is easier said than done.

Over the next two weeks, that’s exactly what we’re going to tackle.  I’ll be running a free mini-course that unpacks the “Should I change” question and takes a step back.  We’ll examine

  1. How to productively reframe the “I don’t know what I want, but it’s not this” mindset
  2. How to challenge the limiting beliefs that hold you back
  3. How to discover the real problem you’re trying to solve when contemplating career change
  4. How to widen your options and prevent a catastrophic wrong turn
  5. Case studies of alternatives that produced big wins

Finally, at the end of the two weeks, I’ll host a live Q&A webinar on April 20th that wraps up all the material and helps you confidently plan your next step, whether that’s a career tweak or a big leap.

This is a mini-course, which means I don’t want you to just READ about this topic–there are actual exercises to do that I’ve never released before.  That’s going to require some work and engagement on your part, but hey, it’s Spring.  Instead of cleaning your house, let’s work on the things that are really nagging you.

Of course, there is a catch.  Everything in the course is private and exclusive for my subscribers.  It also happens to be free for a limited time. If you’d like access to the material without paying big bucks, you have to sign-up here.

All the course material comes down on April 28, so don’t put this off.

Why am I doing this?  The No Regrets Career Academy will be opening again in just a few weeks. But as good as the No Regrets material is, I realized it’s worthless if you’re incapable of making a decision on the first question: should I consider a new career?  I’ll probably turn this into a paid course in the future, but for now, consider it my way of saying thanks.

Hope to see you on the other side!