We all feel lost from time to time. Society has a way of beating us down with its arbitrary life rules and expectations. Just when we think we have it nailed, the rug can be pulled from below and we end up with a crushing realisation that actually, we don’t have it all figured out.
Questions arise, and you find yourself doubting your very existence.
“Am I in the right career?”
“Do I have the ability to rise through the ranks and increase my income?”
“Is this it for me?”
I felt all of this and more. Until the age of 31 I felt trapped in a menial customer service position that began to eat away at my soul. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew with absolute certainty that something had to change.
It did. When you back an animal into the corner it has no option but to come out fighting.
I quit my job and it was the scariest moment of my life. Would I sink or swim?
Well, 2 years later I have my own guitar tuition business and while it definitely wasn’t easy – the lessons I have learned on the way will be invaluable as I continue moving forward.
Hopefully, if you’re in a position where you are seeking to change your career or to start your own business, you can take a little something from the following 10 life lessons, such as…
Life Lessons Learned From Suddenly Quitting My Job
1. There is no such thing as the right time
Do you have a crazy life changing idea that you are putting off because the time just doesn’t feel right? You’re not the only one. I wrestled with my mind for years before I finally plucked up the courage to quit my job, and you know what?
It was a colossal waste of time.
Preparation is overrated. No matter how much thought, planning and care you put into something, you will always come up short.
Life doesn’t give a damn about how prepared you are. It wants people with the balls to make something happen.
2. People will think you are crazy but that’s ok
We’re fragile beings. Our ego likes to protect our little selves from all the bad people in the world. Even though we don’t like to admit it, many of our life decisions are taken because we care about what other people think.
It’s human nature.
After quitting my job it didn’t take long for the naysayers to crawl out of the woodwork and mock me for having ideas above my station. I heard it all;
“You can’t do that. How will you survive?”
“You should have found another job first. You’ll regret it.”
But you know what? You soon learn to ignore the haters and it’s impossible to please everyone, so in future it’s best to just live life by your own standards.
3. You learn to become responsible for your own actions
Doing something as drastic as quitting my job without really thinking it through, led me to a profound realisation;
This is all down to me.
I don’t have work colleagues to drag me down or a narcissistic manager to crush my soul on a daily basis. There is no one to blame but myself if this goes down the toilet.
That’s the beauty of taking control of your life; you’re fully in the driving seat and the motivational surge you receive as a result of grabbing life by the balls is astounding.
4. Every problem faced becomes an end of level boss to defeat
Is life easy once you quit your safe job for a life of uncertainty? Hell no. It feels like an endless assault on the senses. You’ve heard of treading water? Well imagine treading treacle.
Just keeping your head above the surface is a herculean task by itself. Forget trying to run a fledgling business. Putting food on the table and paying the rent suddenly become the only goals worth bothering with.
But you learn to cope.
And then you look for the next challenge that passes your way. You defeat that one too.
In fact, you quickly learn that life isn’t that hard after all. It’s just a videogame and you’ve got invincibility mode enabled.
5. Life isn’t a linear process – there is no beginning, middle and end
I’ll admit; I believed that once I picked up a few students and started making a bit of cash, everything would sort itself out.
Just when things seemed to be moving forwards I would suffer a setback. The few students I had on my roster suddenly quit. No feedback, no apologies, nothing.
Gone, just like that.
And then I waited.
It took me 6 months before I found a few more students to take their place. That’s a long time to wait around without any proper income. Even now, I have good months and bad months, but I have come to realise that it’s all about the process, not the destination.
Life is too big to concern yourselves with. The present moment is all that counts.
6. You can make up the rules as you go along
Who in their right mind would give up a safe job, their own apartment and independence for an uncertain life as a guitar teacher?
On the face of it, it’s crazy. But I’ve always teetered on the edge of conformity – peering over the edge to see what is possible.
Who quits their job at the age of 31 and moves back home? Who starts a degree at the same time because it seemed like a good idea? Who fills their days with German study sessions and rigorous guitar practice when they aren’t working?
Me. I do that, because I can.
I’ve learned that confusing people with your day to day activities just means that you’re doing something right with your life.
7. Nobody can order you around, but you still need discipline
I have worked under some ridiculously inept managers in my time. Borderline psychopaths, bullies, bumbling buffoons and many other things that begin with the letter ‘B’; but they all have one thing in common…
They can’t tell me what to do.
Except, this led me to a strange realisation; without the structure and discipline of a full time job I became lazy. I needed my alarm clock and the threat of dismissal for not turning up on time to fuel my day.
This is something I still struggle with. I am slowly improving but the procrastination monster still rears its ugly head from time to time.
I’ve learnt that whatever we choose to do with our lives requires discipline to achieve greatness.
8. Fear is necessary for growth
I’ll let you in on a little secret.
Life scares the hell out of me.
I used to think that there was a big difference between successful people and the likes of me. That somehow they were born with superpowers that enable them to surge through life with confidence and swagger.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Fear doesn’t discriminate. It engulfs us all. In fact, successful people experience more fear than anyone else because they are putting their balls on the line every single day
If you’re feeling scared then it’s a good sign. You are pushing yourself further; stretching your comfort zone and experiencing something new and exciting.
Accept and embrace fear because it’s the friend of exceptional people.
9. There will never be enough hours in the day
We always want more.
If it’s not money, then it’s time.
If it’s not time, then it’s success.
If it’s not success, then it’s respect.
If it’s not respect, then it’s money. It’s a vicious cycle – an addiction.
Life is a never ending quest to seek more of what we already have. But here is a novel idea… what would happen if we simply made better use of what we currently have? Of course, seeking to improve ourselves or our life situation is desirable but what is the point of acquiring more money if you can’t manage your current finances?
What’s the point in more time if you don’t make use of what you currently have?
What’s the point in building a reputation if you allow complacency to set in?
Everything; time, money and respect must first be earned and then utilised effectively. Do you only have $50 in your account? Stop binging on fast food and use that money wisely.
Do you only know a few people who trust and respect you as a businessperson or as a brand? Word of mouth is powerful; keep these people on side and you’ll reap the rewards later.
Do you only have 2 hours in the evening to spend with your loved ones? Make those 2 hours count.
Successful people make the best of what they have whilst continually striving to improve.
10. Excellence is 100% – everything else is failure
For years I coasted through life – doing the absolute bare minimum. Hoping that no one would notice how my whole existence was a master class in incompetence and laziness.
Everything from playing the guitar, my job, training in the gym and even my social interactions were all accomplished with this mentality. I felt like a fraud.
I needed to change, and fast. To do this I had to take a long, hard look at myself and accept that the only way I was going to be able to achieve anything is with complete transparency.
No more lies. No more covering up the cracks. It was time to get brutal.
I’ve discovered that success is a habit forged through a combination of time and effort. There are no shortcuts. Is it possible to put 100% into one area and then coast in another? For a while maybe, but eventually the lesser activity will start dragging the others down.
Consistency is the key. Eliminate the fat from your life and put 100% into whatever remains. Cement the habit and don’t settle for second best.
Since implementing this mentality my output has improved dramatically. My guitar playing has improved. My business has more students than ever. I’m finding that my studies and my assignments are getting easier. I am training harder than ever before and my diet is in check.
It’s not a coincidence.
By suddenly quitting my job I have finally learned how to live my life.
Try it. See what happens.
Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?
When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?
As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?
Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.
Let’s park this one for now and we will come back.
Categorization is essential to our survival
There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses.
The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.
An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.
In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.
When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting!
Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.
- lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin
- lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin
The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.
Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored.
This amazing skill has its drawbacks
As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.
Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)
Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.
This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.
Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.
The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people?
We can overcome unconscious bias
Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals.
Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms.
Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds.
The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals.
What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!
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