What do you when you’re not 100% happy what you’re doing with your life?
I sat reflecting what I’d just done. The fact I hadn’t had the heart to tell me family yet, stands for the fact that it wasn’t a frivolous decision. I took a bite of my cinnamon swirl (the eternal comfort), downed my strong espresso and signed the letter the letter that would seal my fate. I dropped the letter into the green letterbox (I was in Ireland after all) as I walked by, and looked up to the Departures board:
Kuala Lumpur: 18: 25
Yep that’s me, better go board the plane.
It was exactly one year ago today that I wrote that letter to the head of my PhD course, formally ‘resigning’. It was a prestigious research position that I had worked hard to get the previous year. Hey – isn’t getting paid a full time wage to go to be a student everybody’s dream?
Yet 9 months and way too many academic papers later I had just quit. So, although the university was great, and I had the world’s greatest supervisor (no man has ever had to correct so many typos), I was unmotivated, uninspired and the thought of another 3 years of a PhD just made me think it stood for: Pretty heart Destroying
So my career outlook said: Academia – my soul was shouting: ENTREPRENEURSHIP!!!! Something had to change – I had a difficult decision to make. And I made it by quitting and jumping on a plane to Australia.
1 year later
A year to the day I boarded that plane, I have just finished my first week working in what I can only call my dream job: Marketing Manager of an Online Soccer Game. They’re a funded, kick-ass startup, with inspirational management in an area which is high risk but has potential for huge growth – it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
In that year I had achieved my ultimate Personal Pivot – and I’ll share how you can do it too.
There are times in our lives that we go in directions that, although initially seemed sensible, we discover are not right for us. How do you know? You just do – it starts with a niggling feeling at the back of your mind, grows into more regular reminders and eventually it dominates your thoughts. You usually can tell by how you describe these things to friends and family – unless you’re describing your work/hobby/relationship with a raw, infectious passion – it’s probably time to pivot.
But what is a Pivot?
In his fantastic book, The Lean Startup, Eric Ries coined one of the most used words in modern day entrepreneurship: To Pivot. (BTW Eric is also one of the few authors who’s a legend BEFORE his book was even released – if you’re in anyway interested in entrepreneurship, I highly recommend you check both his book and his blog out).
To Pivot is change one’s approach based on some clear intelligence, read more about it here. In startup world ‘intelligence’ usually means data.
For our personal lives we have our gut.
How can I Personally Pivot?
Here’s how I personally pivoted from a place where I was in a place I didn’t want to be, and now I do want to be.
1. Correct goals/roadmap
You’ve got goals right? Not in your head, but specific ones you have written down and you refer to it regularly. Without creating this map of where you want to be – how can you possibly expect to get there?
There are an untold number of places that can tell you how to set goals correctly; I’ve found this to be the most complete and beneficial of them.
Do not pass go until you’ve this completed. See my goals here
2. Re-read your Goals regularly
Once you’ve created these goals – reread theme regularly. I see this mentioned in many legendary books but I always wondered why. For me, the reason is it teaches your subconscious where you want to go. Which leads us nicely to……..
3. Trust your subconscious (aka ‘gut’)
Once you have these above two, if there’s anything in your life that’s not aligned with your goals – you’ll know it. This is where gut feelings come in.
For me, it starts with a gut feel, then it begins to transfer to my mind telling me more and more vocally that things aren’t right. If I haven’t acted on it by this point it builds into a loop playing over in my mind. There’s no hiding from it.
Derek Sivers has a ‘scientific methodology’ to help you judge what you gut says. Quite simply everything you do either make you feel ‘FUCK YEAH’ or no. If you’re not feeling FUCK YEAH about your idea/work/relationship/whatever, why are you doing it?
If there’s one principle that I try to follow to make decisions in my life, it’s this one. See more about it here:
Hell Yeah or No from Derek Sivers on Vimeo.
4. Become Manically Obsessed (interchangeable with no.5)
Focus on being the best you can possibly be in your area – read, learn and study. One of the fears when changing anything is that we’ll suck at it as it’s new to us – this applies to everything from a new job to dating. Do whatever it takes to overcome the initial period of change by jumping into it and failing as fast as you can.
You’ve got to make the mistakes before you realise how to succeed, so you can either do that slowly of fast. I call this leaning into change. Don’t be passive. Be proactive, fail fast and learn quickly.
Learn, try, change, and gather feedback. Eric Ries calls this iterating.
When I set down in Australia I decided I was going to be a MASTER of online marketing – so when I was involved in startups I could bring real value. I read books, watched videos, bought courses, listen to audio books (I still do) – become manically obsessed with it!
5. Make the difficult decision
Yep this is the hardest bit: Quit the job/drop the idea/lose the relationship.
With every pivot, there is invariably a difficult decision to make. Although all the decisions I made were difficulty and I had fear and doubts in the lead up to doing them, not once have I looked back and regretted the decision.
Keep this in mind when you’re thinking about making yours.
6. Take actions
If you’re hoping I’m going to tell you some secret tip how you can achieve your perfect pivot, I’ve bad news for you. There aint no short cuts.
It’s going to take some of the most difficult decisions you can make (you know those ones in your mind you’ve been putting off – yeah those).
It’s going to take time
It’s going to take hard work
There’ll be lows
But you’ll get there. And once you’re 150% committed to making it happen, it’s the very trying to get there that is the fun part. It’s totally worth it.
Will I have more future pivots? Sure. There are plenty more pivots and iterations to come, but as long as I’ve a healthy supply of cinnamon swirls, I’m ready for them.
Have you done a personal pivot before? How do you recommend others achieve theirs? Leave your thoughts in the comments below: