Taking the leap to own your life is always very hard. Of course, the remaining steps are not easy too, but the hardest is building up the commitment to take the leap. I am in my mid-30’s now, and have had a meandering career over 10 years in both software, management, and business analysis. About 3 of those years were amazing, while the remaining 7 were lacklustre. This is a depressing stat which I am reminded of as I write this. 30% awesomeness is not what I strive for.
It has been a year now since I left a well-paying job with stable employment. I had good friends I worked with, filled with laughter at coffee breaks, lots of vacation days, low stress, and productive work. Now I make very little money, I am stressed out, I work on Friday nights and on weekends in addition to my Monday to Friday, and I couldn’t be happier.
I want to share my story because essential to it is a key to happiness. When I look back at myself about 4 or 5 years ago, I was miserable. I would fantasize on a daily basis of walking into my boss’s office and telling him or her that I quit. There were many reasons for why I was unhappy, but bottom line was, I was unhappy. But, I resisted this urge every time. I look back in wonder at this, given where I am now.
The main reason for me forcing myself into this state of unhappiness was fear. I was afraid that I would not be successful. My parents and some friends would stoke this fear when I would discuss leaving my job, encouraging me to stay, and pointing out any reason to justify it and there are many to draw on. Social norms and expectation were huge hurdles to overcome for me. However, I finally came to a crisis point. I was so unhappy that I was forced to do something about it. I made a decision to own my destiny.
This sounds incredibly cheesy. However, ownership is a powerful mentality and one that I avoided. By taking ownership of my destiny, I became accountable to where I was in life. I was unhappy, but it took me 4 long years to take ownership of this fact to make a change. Before that time, I would look to outside factors and blame them for my current state of being: the economy, my boss, my employer, my parents, my friends, my city. There were lots of nouns to choose from that I could lay blame to. However, none of them were to blame, only myself.
Once I made that paradigm shift, I was able to then make decisions from a position of strength, rather than weakness. All my decisions seemed to then flow like a dam that burst. Instead, my mind was focused on the tactics involved with the decision, rather than agonizing over the choice itself. Leaving my job became the easiest and obvious choice. My mind turned to deciding how to leave such that it was the best advantage to me. I left to live in Thailand for six months where the living is cheap and beautiful, and a great place to decide what to do for the rest of my life. The decision to get back into software became an easy and obvious choice. My mind focused on how to get back into software. I started to build an app called Laser Larry, a side scrolling endless runner game, inspired by Half Brick’s Jetpack Joy Ride. I started learning iOS development, and opened up my dusty Gang Of Four Object Oriented Design Patterns book to build elegant software which I loved to do. The decision to own a company and be a successful entrepreneur became an easy and obvious choice. My mind focused on how to be a successful entrepreneur. I networked within the startup community with a clear purpose. I joined my local Full Indie meetup group in Vancouver. I met game designers and artists, and other entrepreneurs. Instead of just meeting people for the sake of it, I looked for partners and mentors and sought relationships that I wanted to develop. I talked with clear purpose, instead of using words like “I should”, or “I would”, or “if only”.
Each decision I have made in the last year has been done on the foundation of a belief that I write my own story. I am the author of how I want my life to be. Admittedly, the choices I have made have been difficult. However, paradoxically, these choices were also remarkably easy to make. I am amazed at how adept my brain has been to solving the how of any choice I have made. And the output of every choice has been happiness.
I hope my story has inspired you. If you want to discuss my story further, reach out to me. Check out Ruth Chang’s discussion at TED Talks on making a hard choice for an amazing discussion of this topic.
Until then, be happy, and own it.