The way the world is designed, heck, the way life itself is designed, it is impossible to go through a full lifetime without some major life changes and adjustments. Regardless of what lifestyle choices we make, we all undergo periodic transformations. Every one of us transforms from being an infant, to a child, to an adolescent, and to an adult. Afterwards, most of us will transform to becoming parents ourselves.
Life in the 21st Century requires more personal transformations than ever! Today nearly all of us go to college. A life transformation occurs both at the start and the completion of our college education. Additionally, the world is changing at an ever faster pace. Gone are the days when one would be able to learn a couple of key skills to use over the course of a 40 year career with the same company. Recent writing has even suggested that the most effective people reinvent themselves every 3-5 years. Coincidentally, the current average time that a person stays at a job is 4.6 years.
It is hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment in which I realized that I needed to undergo a significant re-invention. We often have this notion that ideas just pop into people’s heads out of nowhere. We have all seen shows where a light bulb suddenly pops upon the screen, indicating that someone has come to a sudden realization. This is not actually the case. In reality, ideas are often developed over time, with contributions from multiple people.
For me, it took two separate disappointing experiences in traditionally-structured jobs, a whole bunch of reading, extensive self-reflection, and discussions with plenty of individuals, including some who had undergone a similar transformation themselves.
Life after college started off really good for me, all things considered. In Chicago, I had a steady job with a large corporation, where I met a lot of people who were also in their 20s, and had plenty of chances to enjoy big city life.
It was the life I had imagined for myself at the time, but inevitably, things had to change.
The hardest thing I learned about life working for a large corporation is that a person can put in several good years, and have their work output feel quite well received by those around them, and still have decisions made on their behalf that are not necessarily in their best interest. Essentially, what I learned, which sounds elementary to me now, is that corporations do not care about people, and that in large structured environments, people are often far removed from people making decisions. It is common for someone to have decisions being made regarding their career path by people who do not know them much beyond what would be included in a two page resume.
During this time, I did explore a bit about non-traditional work environments, reading books such as The Art of Non-Conformity. But, I guess I was not ready for it, and so I returned to another traditional structured work environment.
I have not discussed this much in this blog. As a matter of fact, I kind of feel like a phony even admitting that while I have been writing this travel blog, documenting the trips I was taking, I spent a good number of days sitting at a desk in an office like this. Most people would not consider that the lifestyle of a “travel writer”.
I am starting to believe that every life transformation has both externally driven and internally driven components. What I mean by this is that, the same way rehab programs only work for people who first “admit they have a problem”, someone can only re-invent themselves, when they come to some form of realization that it needs to happen. However, I do not see situations where someone decides to make major life changes in response to nothing.
Usually, something happens to make one come to the realization that what they are currently doing is not working. Sometimes, it’s just bad luck, like bad market conditions for a particular industry.
Other times, it is something more positive, like being introduced to something new, a new idea, a new way of thinking, or a new opportunity.
For me, it unfortunately took a combination of experiences. At work, I once again felt that feeling of alienation, as once again decisions were made without my best interests in mind. It actually lead to a work environment that I found not only non-fulfilling, but also unpleasant.
Through the afore mentioned self-reflection, reading and discussions I had over the course of 2015, I came to several key realizations that go beyond the standard “I need a new job”. I realized that….
- I had originally decided to apply for the types of work I had applied for because I had not really considered the alternatives.
- It is not just the few bold people that work in environments other than office jobs with 9-5-ish hours.
- With automation, globalization, and other forces, we are going to have to be more creative, self-directed, and individually motivated in order to maintain our current standard of living.
- In order to get what I want out of life I am going to make some major adjustments myself.
For the last few weeks, I have been transitioning to a new employment situation, as a “consultant”. This environment is described to me as being halfway between being in a “traditional” structured office environment and being a freelancer. It requires me to work differently, think differently, and act differently. As is the case for many that are self-employed, there are some financial risks, but in exchange, there is increased flexibility and autonomy. With all these changes, who knows what adventures await!
I am actually quite excited about making these adjustments.
In my new world, there are no more cubicles, and I do not have a permanent office. This means that both meeting people and finding work will require significantly more individual initiative. Without having the same people around me every day, I am going to have to determine for myself which people I should be associating with, both in a personal and professional sense.
In my new world, there is significantly less structure. Nobody is there to tell me what time I should be doing what. In order to ensure productivity, I will have to create this structure myself, determining each day, week, and month what I need to get done and when I will be doing it.
And, most importantly, my new world requires me to fully embrace thinking of life as a “slalom”. Just as those that compete in slalom skiing must think several turns ahead of time, I must be prepared to think several moves ahead of time to ensure that I am setting myself up for a successful, and more importantly, enjoyable life both short and long term.
This requires a new me, and hopefully a better me. It requires me to be more confident, both in what I believe in, as well as what decisions I make and what I believe myself capable of. It requires me to take initiative without being paralyzed by the fear of failure that causes so many people to not pursue their ideas and passions. But, most importantly, I believe it requires me to not lose sight of who I am and what makes me a unique individual. Of late, I have been active in encouraging others as they pursue their individual pursuits. What I am hoping for, both for myself, and for everybody around me, is that we do not transform ourselves into a completely different person, but that we are able to become what I refer to as the best version of yourself.