11 career change mistakes that will keep you stuck

11 career change mistakes

For the last fifteen years, I have had a front row seat on people’s desire to make a change in their career. Over the course of that time, I have seen the same mistakes show up repeatedly — mistakes that have either kept people stuck or doomed their previous career change efforts to failure. 

Today, I want to share some of those mistakes. 

If you feel like a career change might be lurking on the horizon, go through each of these mistakes and ask yourself, “Am I making this one?”

 

Believe it or not, discovering that you’re making any of these mistakes is good news. Why? Because if you’re making it, it’s holding you back whether you’re aware of it or not. Once you’re aware of it, you can start doing something about it. 

Mistake #1 – Saying, “I can’t.”

This is probably the biggest, baddest, ugliest career change mistake I see, with the most negative impact of any of them. The reason it’s so impactful is pretty obvious – if you say you can’t, you won’t. Which means you’re stuck with staying stuck.

If you find yourself pondering a career change and hear “I can’t” in response, I encourage you to question that assessment. Look for a second opinion. If you need to, flat out call bullshit on yourself.

Time and again I have seen people realize that they really can make a change. It might take longer than they want, or take a different track to get there, or even lead to a different outcome than they initially envisioned, but change is possible so much more often than people realize.

Mistake #2 – Taking action without inner clarity

Here’s another huge one. So many people come to me after taking the career-bouncing approach to finding their path. “This one looks good. Nope, it’s not. I think I would love this one. Oops. Never mind. Oh, this one is it! Hmmm…yeah, not so much.”

And almost without exception the trouble is that they aren’t able to clearly articulate what would leave them feeling energized and engaged. They aren’t able to say, “This is what makes me tick. This is what I want to experience in my work.”

Without that inner clarity, any career choice is little more than a crap shoot (small wonder so many people are unhappy in their careers

This blog post on finding your energizers is a good first step. 

Mistake #3 – Taking action without clarity of direction

This one is the other side of the coin of the lack of inner clarity. If you have a change you want to make, stop and ask yourself, “Why?”

If you can’t give yourself a good solid answer that is at largely based on what makes you tick (as opposed to external factors like “it’s a growth opportunity / the pay is good / people will be impressed”), any change you make puts you in danger of yet another “oops, that’s not it” experience.

So it’s not just having direction – you can pull any ol’ job out of a hat and find that. It’s having the right direction, one where you can seriously say, “Yeah, I would find it energizing to do that day in and day out for the next ten years.”

Mistake #4 – Jumping out of the frying pan (and into the fire)

When you’re unhappy with your current work, it can be tempting to solve it by jumping ship. If you haven’t gotten that inner clarity to understand what energizes you, there’s a high risk you’ll just be jumping out of one job that doesn’t work for you into another.  

Mistake #5 – Looking at too short a timeframe

I would love to tell you that I have found the magic wand solution for changing careers that will let you do it easily at the flip of a switch, but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t exist.

Career change isn’t a just-add-water endeavor. It tends to take time. People who make the big dramatic transition are the exception, not the rule.

If you’re looking for the dramatic change, it’s easy to look at shifting careers and think, “It’s not possible.” And in the short run, that might be true. You might not have the experience, knowledge, connections, or financial foundation to make that immediate change.

But if you take a more realistic longer term view, where you identify what needs to be done and start taking steps, you will often find that change is much more feasible.

Mistake #6 – Being impatient

Impatience can have a negative effect in so many ways. It is a key component leading to many of the other mistakes discussed here.

For example, frequently one of the reasons people end up on career paths they don’t like is that they haven’t done the self-exploration required to have a really clear picture of what kind of work would tap into what lights them up (mistake #2).

Or they jump the gun on making a change because taking action is more comfortable than doing the foundational work they need to do in order to make solid choices (mistake #3).

Or they want to make a change and they want to make it now, and when they can’t, that change feels like it’s not possible (mistake #5).

Mistake #7 – Taking a rigid approach

Another mistake I see is being too rigid on what that career change will look like, and/or how it will unfold.

Staying open to the unfolding (you take steps, and that opens doors and yields insights and ideas you could never have seen from the vantage point of where you started) lets you take full advantage of the possibilities as they unfold, not just the ones you see at the beginning.

Mistake #8 – Lack of preparation

Change – especially big change – is seldom a walk in the park. The more you can prepare in advance for making a change, the less it will feel like a terrifying free fall.

That preparation might entail building a nest egg to cushion the financial challenges of making a change. Or it could be spending time cultivating a network ahead of time in your new field. Or it might look like building your knowledge and expertise by taking classes, or creating your own self-study curriculum.

Mistake #9 – Not building inner support

Navigating your life when things go sideways is challenging even in the best of circumstances. Add the uncertainty and turmoil that a major change can bring, and it gets even more stressful. Developing a solid inner foundation to stand on is vital.

The greater your internal stability, the less potential external circumstances have to throw you, and the easier the inevitable bumps and bruises will be to navigate.

You build that inner foundation through practices like meditation, mindfulness, and learning to question the negative stories you tell about your situation.

Basic well-being blocks like a healthy diet and exercise also play a huge role in developing a solid foundation for change.

Mistake #10 – Not building outer support

Think you’re going to do this alone? Think again. The sooner you start consciously building support networks into your life, the better.

That support takes many different forms. It could include things like emotional support, mentoring support, inspiration support (for example, peers who are doing things in the world you find inspiring), healthy habits support, and logistical support.

Mistake #11 – Not starting now

Last but definitely not least, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is not starting now. Why? Because not starting now often leads to not starting tomorrow, or next month, or next year. And the next thing you know, you’re looking back at the last twenty years and wishing you had made a change earlier. Don’t believe me? I wish I were making it up, but I hear that story all the time.

Starting now doesn’t mean diving into the deep end with full-on change. It means identifying what steps need to be taken and taking them, one by one.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Take the first step with my FREE audio course.]

–-

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

 

Change your story, change your life at work

change your story, change your life

The stories you tell create the lens through which you experience your world. Want to change your experience? Change your stories!

Of all the ideas in this series on learning to love your life at work, this is possibly the most powerfully and immediately impactful.

It’s no magical, mystical idea. It’s simply common sense. We all tell stories. It’s how the human mind makes sense of the world. The story you tell is the way you interpret an experience. Two different people can experience the exact same thing and, depending on the story they tell, come away with two completely different impressions of what happened.

Being conscious of your stories and working to shift them in a more positive, enlivening direction is one of the single most powerful habits you can develop.

The value of awareness

You can go at it from multiple angles, with ever-increasing amounts of nuance and awareness. But at its simplest it boils down to three questions.

  • What is the story I’m telling here?
  • How does it make me feel? Does it have an expansive or constricting impact?
  • (If it has a negative impact) Is there a more positive story I could tell?

Next time you find yourself feeling constricted, maybe frustrated, irritated, angry, etc., stop and ask yourself those three questions.

It starts with awareness. So often we react to what we see through the lens of our stories as though it were solid Truth with a capital T. It seems so obviously real that we don’t even question that it might only be a reflection of the story we’re telling.

If we don’t have awareness, we remain at the mercy of whatever constricting story is at the heart of it. Awareness opens the door to the potential for positive change.

Dramatic change (with no change)

I see the effectiveness of exploring different stories all the time in working with my Passion Catalyst clients. A great example of this was Bill. By the time he reached out to me, he was so frustrated with his work that he wanted to quit immediately.

One big source of frustration was the game-playing (or, as he perceived it, manipulation) that was rife in the industry he worked in. It was at odds with his values.

As we explored that, he acknowledged that it wasn’t that the people were bad, or that their intentions were malicious – it was just the way the game was played in that particular industry. And there was pretty much zero chance he was going to change that.

I suggested that he try an experiment. Every time he noticed his button getting pushed by someone interacting that way, instead of building up a head of righteous indignation, why not just laugh internally and say, “There they go, playing that game again.”

He was skeptical, but agreed to give it a try. A week later he came back and said, “Curt, I have just had the most positive week at work I have had in months!”

He kept working with that, and it created a complete shift in what had been a major source of the steam coming out his ears by the end of the day. His experience changed dramatically, even though nothing externally had actually changed.

3 kinds of stories

As I described in my post about how to do an internal energy audit, there are three broad areas you’ll find your stories. From that post:

Stories about yourself: These might include, for example, self-criticism vs self-appreciation (e.g., “hey, I really did that well,” or, “it wasn’t perfect, but I did the best I could.”) or self-doubt versus self-belief.

Stories about others: Do you see others as basically good or basically flawed? Do you see the best in others or the worst? Are you hyper-critical of others or supportive and understanding? Is your basic default trust or distrust?

Stories about circumstances: Do you feel like a victim of circumstances or do you habitually look for ways you can improve things? Do you see the world as a fearful place or a hopeful place?

Find your limiting stories

As I mentioned earlier, awareness is key. But sometimes that can feel easier said than done. One easy way to start building awareness is to start noticing the things where you feel a constriction and contraction.

Some examples include:

  • Irritation
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Impatience
  • Judgment (both of others and yourself)
  • Resistance of what is
  • Stress

Any time you notice any of those, you can step back and say, “OK, what’s my story about this? What is it that is causing me to feel this?”

Another way to approach it is to ask, “How should things be?” Your irritation, frustration, etc. typically stem from feeling that things should be one way and having them be another. It’s a good bet that how things should be – as you see it – is part or all of your story.

(On a side note, Byron Katie’s process, called The Work, is an excellent tool for finding a greater sense of peace with what is.)

Yet another way to notice your limiting stories is to watch for all or nothing words. For example, phrases like:

  • They always
  • He never
  • I can’t

Frequently the black-and-white stories we tell are only a caricature of reality. If we look at them more objectively, we often see that we’re looking through a lens that encourages us to confirm that point of view.

For example, “He always rambles on in meetings” completely ignores those occasions when the person in question either didn’t ramble on or played a constructive role in the conversation.

The more aware you can be of your limiting stories, the better equipped you are to explore the opportunities to sculpt them in a more affirming direction.

I’m not suggesting that you just sit there and blow sunsine up your wazoo 24/7. Sometimes there really are negative things that need to be addressed. But if you’re like most of us, you inflict a lot of unnecessary suffering on yourself simply through stories that could easily be changed.

Find your enhancing stories

While you’re at it, it’s worth looking at your enhancing stories as well. Again, it’s about awareness. The more aware you are of the positive stories you tell (stories about yourself and your abilities, stories about where others are coming from, your optimistic view of what’s possible, etc.), the more potential you have to cultivate and grow them.

Do your own experiment

I’m a big fan of the “don’t just believe me, test it for yourself” school of thinking. With that in mind, I encourage you to try an experiment.

Find a limiting story that you tell frequently. Spend a little time looking for other stories you could tell about that situation/experience that would leave you feeling lighter. Then, for the next week, play with catching the story in action and swapping it out with the new one.

It doesn’t have to be anything big. For example, I had one client who couldn’t stand the drama and conflict he saw all too often in meetings. The drama typically didn’t involve him, but his story – unbeknownst to him – was that if drama was happening, it was real, and it affected him.

When he realized this, he started telling a new story. “This isn’t my drama.” He was able to take a step back and watch the drama, rather than get pulled in.

He even took it a step farther by starting to ponder what the story behind the drama might be for the person or people in question. “Why are they responding like that? Where are they coming from? What are they trying to get accomplished? What are they afraid of?” It added a whole new dimension of “human interest” to the meetings.

If you see any difference at all, expand the experiment. Continue focusing on the same story for the next month and see what happens. Or expand it to include other stories.

Story by story, you can change your world.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Take the first step with my FREE audio course.]

–-

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

 

The blessing of a jackhammer (and what that has to do with creating work you love)

road construction

There’s a big road construction project going on across the street from me. The last couple days have been filled with wave after wave of jackhammering.

There’s not much to do but tune it out, but every time it stops for an extended period of time I’m struck by how peaceful it feels. The silence is almost palpable.

Every time I experience that silence, I realize how much tension the jackhammer has been causing – both in my mind and my body. The silence feels like a little trip to the spa where that tension just drips away.

Sure, the incessant rattle of metal on concrete has been irritating, but it has also been a blessing.

Huh? How could a jackhammer be a blessing? Let me explain.

Quieting the jackhammer of the mind

Grating as it has been, the noise of the jackhammer has helped me experience the peace of the silence in a way I seldom do when the noise level outside is just at your standard urban hum.

Every time I feel that silence, I think, “Ohhhhh, that’s what’s there when the noise stops!”

That jackhammer and the silence in its absence is a perfect metaphor for what happens in our minds, and the peace and spaciousness that comes if we can quiet that mental jackhammer even just a little bit.

The jackhammer and the profound peace of its absence has been giving me a frame of reference – an experiential analogy, if you will – for what happens at an internal level, both with the noise we create in our minds and the potential for peace when we find ways to turn down the volume.

Recognizing the unacknowledged tension

One of the most striking things about the peace following the noise has been a realization of just how much tension I was holding in response to the jackhammer, even though I thought I was tuning it out.

It’s the same in our minds. Our thoughts create a tension in our minds we often don’t even realize is there. Maybe it’s the shrill underlying hum of a worry about the future, or rumination about what he did, or what she said, or how you screwed up.

Maybe it’s an ongoing battle with what is and an insistence that things should be different. Perhaps it’s just an addiction to going at mach speed without the ability to really relax.

Whatever it is, it frequently creates an underlying tension there that can suck your energy dry.

What jackhammering (and quiet) has to do with loving your work

The goal of getting Wild About Work isn’t just finding work you love. It’s also developing your capacity to fully experience the juice your work offers.

The tension and energy drain created by the jackhammer of our minds has a constricting effect. It makes us smaller and less open. It takes us out of flow, rather than helping us step into it.

The benefit of toning down that internal jackhammer is twofold. First, you reduce the energy drain it causes. And second, the more you can do to quiet that internal jackhammer, the more internal space you have to experience the good stuff.

How to turn down your mental jackhammer

In the Wild About Work model, one of the basic foundational pieces is some kind of grounding practice (or even better, several grounding practices).

There are a bazillion different ways to turn down the volume on that internal jackhammer. I’ll dive more deeply into a few of them in future posts, but for now here’s a handful:

Mindfulness: This is simply pulling yourself back from whatever wild gyrations your mind is doing in the past and/or future and experiencing what is happening right here, right now, without overlaying a story.

Meditation: A regular meditation practice – even just a few minutes per day – can have a profound effect on the noise in your mind. You can use it both as a regular practice and as a way to ground throughout your day.

Breathing: Your breath is a great tool for getting out of your mental noise and into the present moment. Try simply focusing on your breath for sixty seconds at various intervals throughout the day.

With any of these, try to take an approach of softening, rather than effort to make something happen. An effort to relax only contributes more tension to the mix.

Try this: Here’s an experiment for the next week, if you’re up for it. Every once in a while throughout your day, stop and notice. Are you grounded and present? Are you spooled up and tense? Just notice. No judgment.

Then  take ten breaths. Focus your attention on how the breath feels. Connect with how your body moves as you breath in and out. If your mind starts to wander as you do that (it probably will), just come on back to focusing on the breath.

That’s it. Notice, then breathe. Notice, then breathe.

Simple, right?

Let me know how it goes!

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

The life-changing potential of one single small step

footsteps

Do you have a big dream you feel inspired to pursue, but somehow you just never quite get started on it?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how often we let our goals and dreams languish on the shelf, waiting for the time to be right to pursue them (or maybe even feeling deep down like we probably never will).

There are a bazillion reasons we do this. One of the biggies is feeling overwhelmed at the size and perceived do-ability of the vision.

With that in mind, may I present to you…<drumroll,please!>…the superhuman power of one single small step!

Many of us have a tendency to over-complexify things. Looking at the big picture is helpful when it helps you get context for where you’re going and what you need to do to get there. But if you find yourself shouldering the full weight of that big goal right here in the present moment, it’s time to get small!

Why is a single-step focus so powerful? :

Taking that single small step creates momentum

Sometimes the worst enemy of what we want to achieve is the simple inertia of inaction. Taking a step puts you in motion. And when you’re in motion, more movement is easier.

It’s like the difference between trying to start riding a bicycle in a high gear from a standstill and shifting into a high gear while you’re already zooming down the bike path. It takes a lot less effort and feels a lot easier on your legs if you’re already in motion.

Taking that single small step creates success

Taking a single small step can start creating small successes you can build on. Even just the fact that you’re in motion can be celebrated as a success. Feeling that sense of success can cultivate a greater sense that the action you take can lead to more success.

Taking that single small step creates insight

When you take steps, you get results. Something happens as a result of the action you take. That might not always be the result you’re looking for, but regardless of the outcome, there is a potential for learning.

Most of us want the path to success to look like this:

Step…Success…Step…Success….Step…Wheeeeeee! Big success!

A more accurate (if abbreviated) picture is this:

Step…Hmmmm…that didn’t quite work. Why not? What could I do differently?…Step…Oh yeah, that’s better…Step…Crap! I thought I had this figured out. What went wrong?…Step…Ohhhh yeah! That’s what I’m talkin’ about, baby!

Taking that single small step creates opportunity

Finally, taking that first step puts things in motion that can open doors to opportunity you would never have seen if you just stood at the starting line and scanned the possibilities you could clearly see from there.

Maybe the door opens because taking a step created a connection you didn’t have before. Maybe that step planted an idea in your head. Maybe it gave you a better picture of the reality of what you’re trying to do, so you can adjust and refocus.

The opportunities you can see when you’re standing still is just a fraction of the opportunities that will show up when you start taking action.

At the end of the day, standing still and thinking about what you do will never take you down the path to your goal. The only way to get there is step by step by step.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

11 career change blocking mistakes to avoid

 

11 career blocking mistakes

Do you have a career change percolating? Want to make it as fluid and successful (and minimally painful and challenging) as possible? Then today’s post is for you!

For thirteen plus years in my Passion Catalyst work, I have had front row seat on people’s career change efforts. Along the way,I have had a bazillion conversations with aspiring career changers, both my clients and others.

In the process, I have gotten a good picture of how people get in the way of a successful career change. I would like to share a few of the big ones here.

Taking a blind leap

This is probably the biggest mistake I see people in danger of making. They feel frustrated and stuck, and they want to hightail it out of Dodge into something better ASAP. And so they jump ship to something that seems attractive, only to discover too late that they have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

Before you commit to any career change, take the time to get a deep understanding of what makes you tick. Figure out what energizes you, and where you shine. A good place to start is identifying your energizers.

Immediate gratification mindset

Here’s the cold hard truth. A successful career change almost never happens with the flip of a switch. There’s no giving your notice on Friday and starting a grand and glorious new career on Monday.

Wanting the immediate gratification of a change to something new is understandable, but it gets in the way when it becomes a guiding desire.

It can lead to mistakenly assessing an opportunity as not possible (what might be impossible immediately is often possible over the course of a couple years). And it can contribute to a feeling that you’re failing when you’re actually making progress (if your definition of success is a dramatic change in the short-term, even good but slow progress towards change in the long-term can feel like failure).

Believing your no

When my clients are at the stage of assessing the feasibility of the potential careers they have identified, I always advise them to question it any time the answer is no.

Sometimes no really is a valid answer, but other times it’s more of a knee-jerk no than a well-supported assessment. An example of this is the scenario I mentioned earlier of someone mistakenly seeing something as impossible when taking a longer-term view would open the door to possibility.

When you look at a potential career and ask, “Is this feasible,” follow any no up by asking, “Is that really true? What assumptions am I making? Are they valid? How could I make it feasible?”

Believing your yes

The flipside of believing your no is flying down the path with an unquestioned belief in your yes. When you decide that an a new career option, spend some time building a case for why it’s a good idea. Will it really work for you? Is there really the potential there you think you see?

Don’t take a pessimistic approach to this. It’s more one of positive curiosity. Think of it as testing the solidness of a rope bridge across a river before you choose to go runnning across it.

Not expecting obstacles

Another really common mistake I see people making is somehow not expecting obstacles to pop up. This can lead them to mistaking a roadblock for the end of the road. “Crap! I guess thisn’t isn’t really doable after all.”

Reframe what obstacles mean. Rather than something that proves that what you’re trying to do isn’t possible, or that you don’t have what it takes, just look at them as a normal part of the landscape you’ll inevitably need to navigate.

Over-expecting obstacles

It’s also an all-too-common mistake for people to fill their path with phantom obstacles. Awareness of the possibility of obstacles can be valuable, but continually assigning a solid sense of reality to obstacles you haven’t even encountered yet is a recipe for trouble.

As you move towards a new career, make it a habit to check in with yourself to see if any limiting imagined reality is slowing you down.

Not creating an inner foundation

OK, you know by now I’m going to weave this one in any chance I get. When people don’t have a solid inner foundation – when they don’t have a grounding practice to slow down the hamster wheel in their minds – it’s easier for doubt, worry, and fear to take over.

Developing some kind of grounding practice, whether it is meditation, Qi Gong, breathing practices, mindfulness, or something else, gives that poor overworked hamster a break and helps you come from a greater sense of peace.

No objective forum for assessment

Somewhere along the line in their career change, people often feel like they’re not making any progress (some of this is that immediate gratification beastie rearing its head again). And when they do, it’s too easy for them to throw up their hands and say, “This isn’t working.”

Having a way to objectively check in can help immensely. It might be as simple as taking a journal and asking questions like, “What steps have I taken? What progress have I made? How am I closer to a successful change than I was? What difficulties am I running into? What can I do about them?”

Not having a plan

Diving in and winging it is a great way to fall flat on your face. When you decide to make a career change, spend some time creating a plan for how you’re going to make that happen. What are the steps? What do you need to learn? What relationships do you need to develop? What’s standing in your way? How will you navigate past that?”

The more you think it through in advance, the fewer surprise you’ll encounter and the better prepared you will be.

Over-attachment to a plan

Some people run into the opposite problem from the free-wheeling no-plan-for-me types. They get so rigidly attached to their plan (and their goals) that it gets in the way of being able to nimbly recognize and capitalize on opportunities and explore alternative routes past obstacles.

Make it a habit to check in with your goals and plans and ask, “What needs to change here?”

Mistaking molehills for mountains

I mentioned this one under “not expecting obstacles,” but it merits its own focus. When you run into the inevitable pothole in the road, resist the urge to create a story that the road is washed out. Let the molehills stay molehills.

When you find yourself responding negatively to a difficulty, ask yourself, “Is this difficulty really as big as I think it is? Is my response proportionate to the actual size of the problem?”

So there you have it. Ten mistakes you can avoid in your career change. Which ones are you in danger of making?

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

How to ride your fear to success

Does fear ever stop you dead in your tracks and stop you from stepping fully into your potential? Do you ever feel inspired to do something, then watch that inspiration seep away as fear leaks into the picture?

If so, welcome to the human experience! That happens to all of us, to some degree.

In my most recent Wild About Work video, I take a look at how to harness that fear to help you reach your goals, rather than letting it stop you.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

The good enough secret to success

Is your vision for what you want to create in your world being repressed by the inner tyranny of perfection? Does the need to “get it right” drag down your efforts to reach your goals?

If the answer to that is yes, this video is for you. In it, I take a look at the good enough secret to success (while taking another step in my path of perfect imperfection).

As Brene Brown said in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, “Perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis.”

I’m committed to moving towards my vision for the impact I feel called to make in the world with positive, productive, perfect imperfection. I’m not sure my ego will ever actually buy the story that imperfection is OK, but I’m gallumphing forward whether my ego approves or not.

I learned a couple things doing this video. First, I need to reposition the lighting in front of me so you don’t keep seeing the reflection in my glasses (or just get some dad-gummed contacts!). And second, I need to figure out how to eliminate the shadows from my wild gesticulations.

I cringe a bit when I watch this video (cringing seems to be a standard reaction as I take steps here), but I love that I’m in the game and taking action.

How about you? Is there anything you need to do to move towards your goals that would benefit from a little perfect imperfection? What would taking a good enough approach look like? What one thing can you identify that you can do “good enough” and start creating some momentum?

good enough screen shot

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

The power of perfect imperfection

I want to invite you to join me in something I am convinced will both open the door to possibilities and facilitate momentum towards your goal.

What is it? Perfect imperfection!

In my last post on wearing my Vulnerability Hat, I mentioned how I have dragged my heels on starting to share my ideas via videos, in large part because of a desire to get it perfect before I put it out there.

Over the weekend I realized I could – and probably would – keep planning for perfection until I retire if I didn’t just do something. I needed to get away from my computer, away from creating any kind of setup that would make it look professional and slick, and away from the temptation to keep doing take after take until I got it “right.”

So I did the only logical thing – I climbed a tree.

Yep, the maiden voyage of my Wild About Work videos was done 20 or 30 feet up. No way to obsess about perfection when I’m hanging on to a tree branch as I talk.

Here’s the video. Keep reading below for my thoughts on perfect imperfection.

As you can see, the video was high on imperfection. Oh-too-shaky? Check. (It gets marginally better around the 1:20 mark as I realized I needed to hold it with two hands.) Looking at the screen instead of the camera? Roger that. And let’s face it – it’s basically a video selfie.

But here’s the thing – I did it! Allowing it to be perfectly imperfect allowed me to take action. I blasted through the stuck inertia of the last umpteen months and made a video. I embraced the perfection of imperfection and did something. And that gave me a video to post here, results to learn from, and momentum to build on.

I have to be honest, posting this video in all its imperfection isn’t the easiest thing for me to do. But I’m not going to make any progress toward my vision of helping live energized, impactful, heart-based lives by sitting and making things perfect. I’m going to make progress by taking imperfect action.

The idea I talk about in the video of making everything an experiment made it somewhat easier. My commitment in doing this was to give perfection the heave-ho and make it an experiment, learning from the results and building on that.

And guess what? I got results! I learned! I moved! Mission accomplished.

How about you? Where in your life do you need to embrace perfect imperfection and take an experimental approach? What are you not moving on that you could blast free with a little experimentation?

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

Why I’m wearing my Vulnerable Hat

vulnerable hat

In my career, I wear two hats – the Expert Hat and the Vulnerable Hat.

The first is that of subject matter expert. After more than thirteen years of deep focus on how to create an energized, meaningful, impactful career (and life), I feel pretty comfortable with that hat.

My other hat, though, is a little (OK, a lot) less comfortable. The Vulnerable Hat is the one worn by just another poor schlep trying to navigate things as best he can. It’s the hat of the guy who doesn’t always know what he’s doing, who feels fear, uncertainty, and doubt more often than he would like.

I like presenting the first hat to the world. It fits well, and I like how it looks. So it’s tempting to wear that hat and only that hat when I show myself in public (e.g., on this blog).

But that, my dear reader, would be doing you a disservice.

Everybody has a Vulnerable Hat

One of my pet peeves about the self-help/personal development world is how seldom the experts show up with their Vulnerable Hat on. With a few exceptions, you seldom hear them say, “Yeah, I’m really uncomfortable. I’m kinda racked with doubt about what I’m doing here. Boy, are my limiting stories up around this!”

And while I understand why, I think presenting a picture of only the Expert Hat paints an inaccurate picture that is impossible for anyone to live up to.

If you think of your career path as a journey, what you get from many personal development experts is a polished multi-media presentation about the trip. “Oh hey, that looks great!” you think. “I want to do that!”

And so you embark on your own adventure, only to discover that it’s not all highlights. You also get lost. You miss your flight. You get sick. Sometimes you just want to go home and sleep in your own warm, comfortable bed.

And somewhere along the way you start to feel like maybe you’re just not cut out for this. Something must be wrong with you, because, while you’re certainly experiencing some of the highlights, you’re also experiencing a big pile of suckitude.

Suckitude is normal

I want to tell you, that pile of suckitude is part and parcel with the adventure. The odds are piled high against your doing anything in your life that will make you look back and say “Yes!” without experiencing some bumps and bruises, fears and doubts along the way.

So I want to give you the good, juicy stuff. I want to come galloping in with my Expert Hat, giving you insights and looking good in the process. But I also want to be authentic and transparent, because I want to normalize the suckitude.

I want to reinforce the idea that it’s OK for the journey to be a mess, that it’s normal to feel like everyone else has it more together than you do.

Creating a career and a life that energizes and inspires you isn’t just about swooping in with your Looking-Good Hat and striking a pose (though that’s a fun part of it). It’s also about navigating the bumps, recognizing that they are part of the landscape, and not taking them on as your identity.

Getting in my own way (and doing it anyway)

I have been intending to start a video series for eons. I have so much I want to share, and doing it by video seems like a great addition to the mix.

But I haven’t. Why? Because I have stopped myself. I have stopped myself with a desire for perfection, researching how to do it, but never actually doing it. I have stopped myself by wanting to get it “right,” but not quite knowing what right is. I have stopped myself because I didn’t really know what I was doing, and at some level I haven’t wanted to “go public” with that ignorance. And, in an endless loop of stuckness, I have stopped myself with the inertia of not doing it.

Over the weekend, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do it, imperfectly, and see where it takes me. It was fun, though I cringe a bit at the imperfection. Most importantly though, it was a step. It wasn’t just about making a couple videos. It was about setting something into motion and navigating the inevitable obstacles in the landscape.

And did I happen to mention that everybody has obstacles they’ll need to navigate? Some of those will be external. A lot of them will be internal.

If you experience those bumps and bruises, and that fear and doubt, it doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes. It just means you’re in motion.

In my next post, I’ll be sharing the video that came out of it.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

Ask-0-Rama: Expand what’s possible, guaranteed!

Advice Help Support And Tips Signpost

Want a guaranteed way to blow the doors wide open on what’s possible in your life? Put this one simple word into play on a consistent basis:

Ask.

It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? If you want something, asking opens the door to the possibility of getting it. Not asking…well, not so much.

And yet for many (most?) of us, asking is precisely what we don’t do.

The Ask-o-Rama

Much to my chagrin, that includes me. I’m naturally inclined to reach out and offer help. But historically I have pretty much sucked at asking.

Whether that has been asking for help or asking for the sale, that reluctance has had a negative effect on my ability to do what it feels like I’m here to do, to make the difference I feel called to make.

So I guess it was only a matter of time before I would create an opportunity to face that head on.

A couple days ago I decided to contact each of my Facebook friends with a request to share a link to my two series on how to feel more juice in your job and how to make work more meaningful.

It was a simple thing to ask. It was easy for people to do (or not do), and my motivation was wanting to get the insights and ideas of those posts into the hands of the people who need them. And yet doing it made me squirm, taking me headlong into my discomfort zone.

In an exchange with one of the first friends I asked (Patti Digh, author of Life Is a Verb and several other books), my effort to spread the word about the posts turned into something bigger. Rather than an isolated effort to spread the word on some blog posts, it became my first foray into “the year of making the ask.”

Or, as I like to think of it, making my life an Ask-O-Rama!

Turn your life into an Ask-O-Rama

The idea behind turning your life into an Ask-O-Rama is simple. Figure out what you need, then ask for it. Not exactly rocket science.

But the keys to the kingdom don’t come from just knowing what you need. They come from asking for it. Asking puts possibilities in motion. There are no guarantees that you will get what you ask for all the time, but some of the time you will.

And if you don’t, as hockey great Wayne Gretzky noted, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

Here are some thoughts on creating your own Ask-O-Rama.

Brainstorm ask-fodder

Before you ask, you need to know what to ask for. A good place to start is to spend some time brainstorming. Answer questions like:

  • What help do I need?
  • What support do I need?
  • What are my goals? What would help me move toward them?
  • What challenges am I experiencing? What would help me overcome them?
  • How can I ask people to join me?
  • What commitment do I need to ask people to make?
  • What contribution do I need people to make?

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Embrace non-attachment

The very act of making the ask sets you up to hear no. Except for the occasional sales-type for whom hearing doesn’t seem to have the slightest effect, that can throw cold water on your commitment to keep going with it.

To counter that, take a non-attachment approach. Throw the requests out there, but do it with the understanding that living in an Ask-O-Rama is really a numbers game. Sometimes you’ll hear yes, and sometimes you’ll hear no.

In fact, the very nature of the Ask-O-Rama life means you’ll hear no more. You might even turn up the volume on hearing no by making a habit of making unreasonable requests.

If you let go of your attachment to hearing yes, and stop giving any meaning to yes and no (“Yes means success. No means failure, or rejection.”) your path is going to be a whole lot easier.

On a related note, when you do hear “no,” don’t make it about you. The more gracefully you can accept a no as simply an indication of what works for that person at that point in time, the more comfortable people will be getting requests from you.

Look at what’s getting in the way

Unless making the ask is easy and natural for you, you’ll probably run into obstacles that get in your way. For some people, that might be about fear of rejection. For me, it’s more about not wanting to impose on people, not wanting to put them in the uncomfortable position of having to say no to me, or feeling obligated to say yes but not really wanting to.

If the idea of making requests brings up any resistance, ask yourself why. The more insight you have into what’s blocking you, the more ability you have to do something about it.

Keep track

Finally, keep track of the yeses you get. Record what came out of it – what you were able to accomplish as a result, what doors opened, what obstacles you over came, etc. Review that on a regular that to reinforce that, even if asking inherently means hearing no more often, it also creates possibilities.

Don’t just ask – offer too!

One last thing to think about as you work to make your life an Ask-O-Rama. Don’t just focus on asking. Look for opportunities to offer as well. You want to create a balanced flow of the energy of giving and receiving.

Try a 30-Day Ask-O-Rama experiment

Let’s face it. Committing to wholesale change for the rest of your life can be a recipe for falling flat in your commitment. Instead of resolving to me the rest of your life an Ask-O-Rama, try making it a 30-Day Experiment. For the next 30 days, turn your life into an Ask-O-Rama. Brainstorm requests, the challenge yourself to make at least one request a day for the next 30 days.

What are you going to ask for first?

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

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