This time three years ago I was miserable. I was working a job that lead to my first panic attack. I spent 70 hours a week at the office and hardly ever saw my friends or family. I was single, which is fine, but I was lonely. I ate protein bars for most meals because I didn’t make time to cook. And I was stuck.
I had to make some changes.
I quit my job. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I quit.
Every morning for the first month of being unemployed I made lists of ideas. Some of them were business ideas, some were lists of employable skills I had, others were names of people I loved, or things I was grateful for. It didn’t matter. The point was to start exercising my creative muscles again.
The first thing I did was build a website for my notary public services. No, actually, the first thing I did was go to the Halifax Central Library and take free online course for about 6 weeks on coding and website development. Then I built my website. Then I took some free courses on Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”), and used that magic on my website.
Now, I have one of the top notary public websites if you search for one in Halifax (go ahead, try it). I spend 2-4 hours per week doing notarizations for people, which accounts for about half of my income annually. I’ve debated just doing this full-time, because I could live pretty comfortably and hardly have to work. I know myself though, and I’d get bored of it quick.
The next thing I did was fly to the East Coast Music Awards in St. John’s, NL to act as a volunteer at the conference. I was working in the Export Buyers room which is where all the industry people leave their business cards and promotional materials for other industry people to take. I snagged every single business card I could, and when I flew back to Halifax, I emailed everyone looking for work. Two or three or these people ended up being clients which I did grant writing, or online advertising, or artist support services for.
This lead to me being accepted to the Self Employment program through CEED, where I started Laughing Heart Music. Now, I manage a band of five people who I love as friends and musicians. I’m going to be transforming the company into a record label over the next couple of months, and I couldn’t be more excited for what we’re about to do in 2018.
And that’s just the work stuff.
After I quit my job, I started going to yoga again. I was taking all kinds of courses online: besides the web stuff, I learned some Spanish, taught myself sound recording, took courses about online marketing and advertising, and more. I started making daily trips to the grocery store to buy fresh food to make my meals. I was going to the gym three times a week.
I went from having a panic attack in one of the lowest points of my life, to healthy, happy, and self-employed in about three months.
Of course there were bumps along the way. I had a relationship end in that time; I lost clients and friends; and in the first two years of self-employment I bought in to the “hustle” mentality a little too hard and had a brief period of burnout.
Now, I feel like I have finally found balance. I work extremely hard, but I stop when my body says so. I don’t take on work that my gut warns me against.
SIDE BAR: I think learning to listen to and understand your gut reactions is one of the most important skills you can develop. My gut has never lead me astray, except when I’ve ignored it.
I have a girlfriend who I met on Tinder. She lives in my hometown, laughs at everything, has the biggest eyes I’ve ever seen, and is unfailingly patient. Oh, and she’s a doctor, and she had the highest grades in the entire province when she graduated high school, and she’s a great kisser, and family is really important to her, and she enjoys hiking, and she’s kind-hearted, and on, and on. A unicorn.
I’ve made time to go home more often to see my family. I treasure that more than almost anything. My parents are still pillars for me. I go to them for advice on everything from business to love. I call my mother just about every day.
All these things have added up, and now, I’m happy as fuck.
Change is gradual and incremental, but lots of small changes add up. What’s something you could make just 1% better for yourself today?
There’s no reason for anybody to stay in a dead-end job. If you have access to a computer (and everybody does – THE LIBRARY), you can go and teach yourself just about any skill you might be interested in, FOR FREE.
If you’re really strapped for cash, do it after work. Learn or perfect whatever skill you want, and then hustle it online, or at farmer’s markets, or on community poster boards. Work your way out of your job slowly. Build the business up until you’re making however much money you need to, and then move on.
I have a theory that every person can do something to make $20/hour (or more) in self-employment. Prove me right. Stop going from one dead-end job to the next. Build something yourself. You can do it.
This goes for health, and relationships too: if what you’re doing isn’t working you have to change it. You will continue to be unhappy and suffer if you don’t.
Take your pick: 1) guaranteed suffering if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, or 2) the potential to be truly happy if you make the changes you already know you need to make.
I think sticking with suffering, and unhappiness is a way bigger risk. A lifetime of that, and then regret in your old age for never having done what you wanted. Won’t be me.
Call me if you like. Most of you reading this will know me personally. Call me. I will pep talk the shit out of you; multiple times if need be. I hate seeing people stuck because I know what that feels like.
I want you to find a way to be happy.