Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

How To Choose Between the Ski Vacation and the “Make or Break” Career Event?

Chapter 10: The People-First Life Part 1

My life is so much better since I busted my corporate idol and started putting people first.  But the challenges of life don’t go away. As this story illustrates, we live in overscheduled times.

Here I was, writing a book that advocates family over work, when I canceled our annual ski week vacation to attend the 2012 San Francisco Writer’s Conference. I felt bad about doing it, especially because we go with another family. But simplistic slogans like “family over work” are just another face of idolatry. Life is complicated, and sometimes there will be times when we decide to honor our career goals.

The word “canceled” above comes from my inner voice of guilt and doubt.  The reality is that I made the decision with the full support of my wife and friends, who understood how much the conference could help get the book out.  And with five months notice, we found another time to skiing, although it cost us a bit more.

A year later, I am faced with the same choice – The San Francisco Writer’s Conference always falls on Presidents Day Weekend. This year I picked the ski trip, even though from a career standpoint, I “need” the conference even more this year.  The book is almost complete, and the SFWC is full of sessions with freelance editors, designers, and others to help me self-publish “Busting Your Corporate Idol.” And I’m sad that I won’t get to spend time with so many other writers.

The fear, that I am missing a “make or break event” is palpable. But the rational part of my brain reminds me that the “make or break” feeling is just an illusion. I have other options to find resources for the book, and rescheduling the ski trip two years in a row would be just too much

I need to have faith that things will work out in the end. I’m sure they will, and I can’t wait to hit the slopes!

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Seven Lessons About Changing Careers From Writers And Entrepreneurs

career change magic

Career Change - Visualize The Impossible

Recently, I attended the San Francisco Writer’s conference, my first professional meeting in my new career.  I learned a lot from meeting other writers, many of whom had changed careers as I did.  Here are the lessons I learned.

  1. It takes a lot of courage to change careers.  Support from a community of friends and family is critical.  Key quote from author Ransom Stephens: “If your spouse doesn’t support your change, get a divorce.”  While this was delivered off the cuff and is a bit overly blunt, I think it is true.  He went on “Your family loves you, and want you to be happy pursuing your dream.”  I am thankful every day for the love and support I get from my wife.
  2. Writing a book is a one person business.  The author needs to not only write the book, but also do the marketing.  This includes creating the website and building a following well before publication.
  3. A book is a startup company.  Like all startup companies, as its product development passes milestones, the value of the company increases.  Right now, an agent or publisher can buy my book relatively cheaply.  The more progress on the book, the more its value increases.
  4. An author’s title from the previous world doesn’t matter.  A new career means that I need to establish a new network.  It’s exciting to do something completely different, but it can be a drag to have to pay the dues again.  However, I have learned that most people in the new world want to help.  If I act like a beginner, which I am, they are more likely to offer their help.
  5. Skills and experience from the previous career matter a lot.  What I did before helped make me who I am today.  I am writing about corporate culture and the business life.  I know it well.  Those skills that made me successful in the corporate world- communication, networking, planning, problem solving – they all transfer directly.
  6. I need to build two networks. The first is potential readers/customers who get value from my writing.  The second is peers and colleagues in the writing ecosystem who can support the growth of my career.  Peers are particularly important because they also provide moral support.
  7. Resource allocation is critical. How much time do I spend to writing, and how much building my network?  According to Adam Frankl a startup marketing expert,  a very new company should allocate 50% of its resources to R&D, and 50% to customer development.  I will target 25% to 50% of my time to building my network.

Overall, the conference was a fantastic experience for me.  Do these lessons resonate with those of you who have changed careers in other fields?  I’d love to hear what you have learned.  How did your family react, and how did you build your new network?  And if you are thinking of making a change, my advice is to go for it.  To quote my favorite Rabbi, “If not now, when?”

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Adam Frankl on LinkedIn

Ransom Stephens is a writer, physicist and speaker.  His lecture on becoming a writer inspired number 1 and 4 on this list.