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“I learned that it was in hard times that people usually changed the course of their life; in good times, they frequently only talked about change. Hard times forced them to overcome the doubts that normally gave them pause. It surprised me how often we hold ourselves back until we have no choice.”—Po Bronson, from his book What Should I Do With My Life?

I made the decision to change careers just hours after suffering my second miscarriage in a year.

I’d talked about my career frustrations for years, but it wasn’t until I literally had death staring me in the face that I found the courage to make a decision.

I’ve interviewed dozens of career changers, and found similar circumstances. Brian Clark waited until he almost died from a head wound. My friend Larry Warrenfelz made his leap after six rounds of cancer, two amputations, and a brain-stem stroke.

I want to spare you the agony of feeling you can’t change until life gets that bad.

It was this idea that led me to start the No Regrets Career Academy. If I could prevent just one person from having to go through a major trauma en route to their career shift, that was well worth the effort for me.

What I discovered once I started coaching clients surprised me.

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I’ve been trying to decide who to give $7.5 million to.

The money is for a new synthetic biology project I’m managing as part of my Air Force reserve work. There are a lot of things that drive me crazy about continuing to work in the government, but I still love awarding big sums of money to innovative scientists trying to push the edge of our knowledge.

Programs like this attract the very best scientists in the country. Most grants are on the order of $1 million. Getting $7.5 million completely transforms your career and reputation.

As you might imagine, it’s not an easy decision. The chances of ultimately getting selected for funding are roughly 2.5%. In an extremely competitive field like this, the difference between success and failure often comes down to something small.

Leading this effort gave me a big picture view of competition and an objectivity I don’t always enjoy. All of a sudden I realized my own approach to getting help and getting ahead was less than stellar. I bet yours is too.

These lessons learned will be useful for anyone who thinks they have to tackle every big challenge alone (ummm, overachievers, I mean you).

But if you’ve ever toyed with the idea of starting your own business, either on the side or as a full-time replacement for a job you’re eager to escape, for goodness sake, don’t skip this post (or the webinar announcement at the end of it).

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Sumitha Bhandarkar.

Admit it — every time you have a conversation with friends about successful entrepreneurs, you secretly daydream that someday they will be talking about you.

Sure, you’re currently in a regular job just like them, but you know you are destined for more.

You feel it in your guts that someday you will break out of the shackles and strike out on your own. You will find a way to turn your dreams and brilliant ideas into a spectacular success that people can’t stop talking about.

Is it time, though? How do you know when to give up the comfort of your regular job and take the plunge?

I wrestled with that very question for two years. And then, last month, I gave up my promising career with a six figure salary to start something on my own. It was without a doubt the hardest decision I’ve ever made.

And I haven’t looked back.

The thing is, you can never be 100% sure it’s going to work out. There’s never going to be a perfect time to quit.

What you can do however, is take a long, hard, look at those who have tried this before you. And notice the subtle differences in how those who are successful at striking out on their own approach this decision compared to those who fail. These differences raise some important questions. If you answer them honestly you’ll have a clear idea of whether it’s time for you to strike out on your own, and if not, what you need to do to get there.

Ready to give it a try?