To have two hands is both a blessing and a curse.
The curse? We are limited.
The blessing? We are forced to focus— we have to be extremely selective about what we do, who we serve and what we create in the world.
Behind many desks, there is a struggle ensuing between what people want to be doing and what they are actually doing.
It seems everyone is fighting a silent fight every day: How much of yourself do you sell to simply get by or fit someone else’s model of success at the expense of what you really want to do? Hopefully, there is no difference. But…
I’ve been fighting and the struggle is real. The ebb and flow of the fight often left me doubting if it was winnable. But I gathered my strength and won a major battle last week: I quit my job to follow my dream and hopefully fulfillment of who I am [insert happy dance here].
How & Why I Quit
And so I begin the story of how and why I quit my job, in hopes that it will inspire those of you with a burning desire to answer the call to kiss risk, drop what weighs you down, face your fears and fully actualize the stamp you are here to put on the world. Signed. Sealed. Delivered.
How do you know if this is you? Well, if you feel anything like I did, there is an alarm sounding off inside you, pleading with you to stop doing what you are doing, to take a U-turn from the daily routine, and stop putting focus, talent and energy into work you do not truly believe in or love—imagine Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder whispering, “if only you would listen.”
The addiction starts slowly. The rush of a new position, responsibility, financial security. Over time it becomes you: “What do you do?”. “I’m a Senior Account Executive, a Director of Something Fancy…..” What you do becomes who you are. You actually describe yourself in terms of what your job is.
The tragedy is that the conversion of self to job can virtually be true as you build your life around those precious vacation days, the bonus, and the expectations of others. Your dreams may dissolve, sense of adventure evaporate, and you settle. The current of external pressure is powerful enough to drown your intuitive, all-knowing inner compass and passions, until they are broken and unrecognizable—if you let it.
It’s true (and I’ll be the first to tell you) that a consistent paycheck is an intoxicatingly powerful thing – but the truth is it can cost you more than you get. If you’re leaving behind the opportunity to do work that is meaningful to you, you’re paying a high cost. The tradeoff denies you the process of creating from a place of passion, and ultimately, it costs so many of us our happiness and sense of self.
Finding Gold In The Experience
It was in the process of losing connection with who I was at my core that sparked a fire to do something about it. So late one night, along with my co-worker, we launched HeySoul, a gift experience startup with products and workshops themed around areas of life we get disconnected from amidst the hustle: Love, Adventure, Creativity, Purpose, Joy, Gratitude, etc.
I wanted to create something for people lost in the fog of routine. People that need a positive disruption in their lives to wake up, look at their life and change their behavior to move toward what they want, not what is on everyone else’s agenda.
The experience of disconnecting from who I was, was without a doubt, one of the most intense and challenging times in my life. Little did I know this experience would be a diamond in the rough. Without feeling and living who I didn’t want to be, I never would have found who I really was. It actually inspired the name HeySoul. I imagined myself saying “Hey, Soul!” I forgot about you! Let’s reconnect.” I started to look around and see the same desire in the people around me, all wanting to connect to who they are.
Without this chapter in my life, HeySoul would not exist. Sometimes we need to go to the depths and climb our way out to see, feel and create new light.
So day-by-day, week after week, I worked on HeySoul with my partner. Late nights. Early mornings. Day-by-day, week after week, my husband and I started saving – aggressively. The value of creating and funding my own opportunity while I still had a job was thrilling, satisfying and an efficient way to test and validate the idea, while I still had the safety net below me. It was two years ago when we sent the first HeySoul boxes out into the world, selling out within 24 hours.
Every sale, email response, re-tweet, and video share pushed me to continue going, moving forward, saving, investing, and creating. And so, the day came when I had reached my savings goal, had enough market validation to understand the problem we were solving, and see the impact we were making on people’s lives box after box.
This combined with an intentional plan and a stunningly supportive husband is where I found the magic and the strength to let go of the consistent monthly deposits. I was digging my hands into work so deeply threaded into my DNA that a tornado in the Midwest on a hot summer day couldn’t stop me. And so…
It took me 8 years to say it.
Looking back, I began the job as an eager beaver soaking up every droplet of knowledge around me. The company was a work hard, play hard environment with a thriving culture, targets set on aggressive goals and focused on the hustle, the dollar bill and the booming industry of digital marketing. This was pure excitement in the beginning; full of great opportunities, travel, big clients, mentorship, quality friendships and priceless experiences.
My feeling of need to separate grew over time as my path of awareness started to unfold. My muse, my intuitive gut, 100 million neurons strong, some days louder than others, began telling me to pause and ask myself what I was doing.
I had to ask, did I want a job that didn’t fulfill me anymore?
The question echoed in my core and every part of me reverberated with an audible HELL NO.
The resistance toward the work I was doing became heavier and heavier. I felt like I was in a boxing match. Every. Single. Day: Jab. Upper-cut. Left-hook...phew...and the job always won just enough to convince me to stay another day. Over time the gap widened between the work I was doing and the work I yearned to be doing.
In this complex process of existing, we miss the point of existing.
We take on jobs that support a lifestyle, fit a mold of success, or make our LinkedIn profiles shine. But at the end of the day, once we’ve done everything the world is telling us to do to be whole and happy, we are left empty and questioning the meaning of our days.
This is why I needed to make a change and it came down to this: It’s not you, it’s me.
Often we blame a situation or external force for our unhappiness. Once I looked in the mirror at yours truly I began to realize the company had stayed the same all this time, true to its vision, values and culture. It was me that was changing.
I started thinking about what I valued, what I stood for, learning about what was going on in the world and unfolding myself like an onion, discovering things that opened my eyes. I got married and experienced what love and partnership really meant. I gave birth to a sweet baby girl. All of this changed my view on the world, how I viewed my job and the work my hands were doing.
Who we choose to be and not be is exactly that, a choice. The clock is ticking and constantly challenging us, second by second, to do the most with what we have of this lifetime and present moment. And thus, the pursuit of a thriving life with important and meaningful work became more urgent than ever before.
There has been no greater teacher of this lesson than my 1-year-old. At this young age she is absorbing and internalizing the basics of behavior and communication. She mirrors my words, gestures and yes, my dance moves (lord, help her!). As she grows, she will also be absorbing and internalizing whether I do work I love, whether I am happy, and whether I believe and invest in myself to add value to the world. Just as she is teaching me, I am teaching her through my choices.
As she sways her arms in the air like a bird, chirping and running around in a circle, mimicking my imaginary flight, I think, in 20 years, will she mimic my choices like my wings, will this be her following her dreams, just like mom did?
The most revolutionary opportunity that exists as a mom and parent is to be a model for the next generation. We are here to do this work so they may be empowered to do what sets their heart aglow, dream bigger, tear down taller walls and soar higher and farther than we ever could.
Taking action is the most powerful way to teach and be this model.
I realize now that I was following the path of least resistance—maybe you are too—and don’t know how to peel away from the sticky flypaper that is your job, your relationship or fill in the blank of an area of life of which you know deeply you need to turn the other direction.
It all comes down to one decision: When will you end the tug-o-war between your greatest desires and your current reality?
To answer Oprah’s famous question, what I know for sure is we are not here to just live “okay” lives or do work that is “fine”. We are here to be extraordinary. We are here to rumble the world in our own unique way; through our art, service, talent, voice, and parenting.
It took 8 years for me to stop this inner battle. Whether it takes a month, 4 years, 20 years, 50 years… listen to this: IT. IS. NEVER. TOO. LATE.
Take a step as big or small as feels right to you. Start saving. Start investing in you. Start believing it’s possible! Whether you shift your thought process or chart out your next transition, there has never been a better time than right now. Just start.
Start with what you know. If you know where your feet are planted today is not where you want to be, that is awareness. It’s the first stepping stone and it’s a big one: Once you realize what you don’t want, you begin to make space, to find the treasure of a life you do want.
The past is the past. It is what you do now that will drive your future.
So here I am, week 1 after my last day at the job. I pulled off the covers, stretched my legs to stand up and instead of there being stable ground and a routine to plow through, I am free-falling. I leaped. It is a new world. It is the first step in a vastly different direction from the road I’ve been running down the past 8 years.
I will be pursuing my startup and dream, HeySoul with passion, fervor and an insatiable desire to bring something good to the world. There is much work to be done and many challenges ahead, but it is worth it.
So, it is my hope that we all become allergic to anything that is just “fine” and that you start big or start small by accepting the risk of trying and moving forward as you can.
Perhaps this is what the walk of life is all about, to physically step forward and say yes to what we are here to do, to be, and to bring to the world.
There may be a fight between the work you do today and the work you really want to be doing. But know that you have the opportunity to step into the ring and win, every day, by taking one jab and one step forward to get that much closer to the life you want.
The most important thing you can do with your hands is to fill them with work that is meaningful to you.
So hold out your hands and ask yourself, where will I put these two hands to work today?
If you are fighting this fight and need support, a conversation, a boost of confidence or a figurative push into the ring, leave a comment below to start a discussion. It would be an absolute honor to discuss this audacious and worthy endeavor of doing what YOU love.
Jessie Gardner is the co-founder of HeySoul, an inspirational gift and workshop business, founded to create experiences that inspire people to pause the hustle, engage in quality “me-time” and reconnect with their happiness and truth. She recently quit her 9-5 to walk the walk and pursue the dream.
Prior to HeySoul, Jessie worked for a global digital marketing company for eight years focused on client services and employee happiness.
See the magic she is creating at www.heysoul.com
Jessie is also on instagram @HeySoul__ and blogs at http://heysoul.com/blogs/news