"Like Helen Keller said, ‘Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.’ What are you waiting for?"
Ever find yourself daydreaming in the middle of your workday about the “what ifs” that teasingly float through your mind as you curse at another spreadsheet? Those what ifs are the possibilities that often lead people down the unconventional path of self-employment, or as Jonathan Fields calls it, the career renegade.
In his book Career Renegade, Fields lays out viable profit avenues and available resources for the 9 to 5 day dreamer to start earning a living on their own terms. It is a practical handbook that walks the reader through the process of developing a business plan in a fun, engaging way – two words never before used to describe a business plan! Along the way, Fields complements the pragmatic advice with diverse anecdotes that provide encouragement for the reader.
Only You Can Bring Your Ideas to Life
"No one else can take action but me. Upon that realization, I began to accept responsibility not only for my life to date, but for the process of making it come alive from that point forward."
This is a key concept that calls readers to take action to avoid the information overload that many people find themselves in. You can read all the blogs, books, and magazines you can on starting your own business, but ultimately none of them will give you an obstacle-free road to success. Nor will they give you overnight success. You, and only you, can make things happen in your life. Recognize and accept this responsibility.
One of the stories that Fields showcases is that of Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net. Leo, like many people around the world, was living a deeply dissatisfying life filled with debt and plenty of unhealthy habits. Yet, through his consistent efforts of taking action he transformed deeply engrained habits and changed his life. His story reminds us that only action yields results. For instance, Leo felt overwhelmed and overworked in his job as a journalist. His first step was to take a job with more normal hours as a speechwriter and began to pick up freelance work on the side. This evolved into a desire to write articles based on his experiences losing weight and giving up smoking. Eventually this compilation of articles became ZenHabits.net. Leo mentions that it was hard work for several years, but juggling the workload paid off.
100% is Often the Tipping Point
"...the next leg of the journey could never really take off the way it needed to until the decision to fully commit to it was made."
My dad has often told me to “ride two horses until there is a clear winner,” which I think is the mantra of many people with dreams of self-employment and entrepreneurship. It can be an exhausting process that can take the wind right out of your passion-filled sails. Yet, there comes that moment when you realize you’re selling yourself short and need to make a full commitment. It can be a nerve-racking decision, but it is the only real way to judge the viability of your side venture.
As Fields points out, this is the most challenging part of the process for many people. There is definitely no typical transition, which is highlighted through the featured stories of other career renegades. Some took years, while others only took a few months. But that moment of commitment was the same for all of them. It was a moment when they acknowledged the discomfort of risk and decided to go for it anyway.
The 7 Career Renegade Paths
"The paths to transforming a moneyless passion into a lucrative future are limited only by your own creativity."
To complement the personal development portions of the book, there is a wealth of tactical advice for people looking to make a living on their own terms. Fields outlines seven career renegade paths, which I think is one of the most useful sections of the book. The seven paths are:
- Redeploying your passion in a hungrier market – creatively think about how your passion could serve people in different sectors, like an artist venturing into cake decoration.
- Refocusing and mining the most lucrative micromarkets – consider the fields or careers where elements of what you are passionate about valued, but in short supply.
- Exploiting gaps in the information needed to excel at an activity – when it comes to selling information, the key question to answer is, “Are there things that either aren’t being done or could be done better?” That is the sweet spot for information product creation.
- Exploiting gaps in education – our society has bred an excessive desire for information, which is a prime opportunity for the career renegade. Consider creating an educational program to satisfy people’s needs for that information.
- Exploiting gaps in gear or merchandise – there are many hobbies, activities or jobs that require stuff in order to do them. Take a hard look at the merchandise currently offered to look for gaps or areas of improvement.
- Exploiting gaps in community – consider opportunities to create a monetized community around a pursuit that many people enjoy.
- Exploiting gaps in the way a pursuit is provided –if there is already a market developed around your passion, look for ways to improve the way the product or services is offered, sold or delivered. In other words, make the customer’s life easier!
What is great about the way Fields presents these seven paths is that they get you to think at a high level. It is easy to get caught up in the granular details of an idea, but Fields forces the reader to take a 1000 foot view of it, which further opens our mind to other possibilities. Cultivating this openness is what leads to endless creativity and that is what contributes to the career renegade’s success.
My copy of Career Renegade is chalk full of notes, dog eared pages and post-its that I’ll be referring to as I blaze my own renegade path. I appreciated Field’s two-fold approach to the question, “How do you make a living doing what you love?” It is a well-balanced mix of personal development and proven business advice.
The only question left to consider is – what path will you be taking?