Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jason over at Tribe.ly
72% of us dream about living life on our own terms, escaping the day job, breaking down the cubicle walls and adventuring into business for ourselves. Since you’re reading this blog, I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that you are part of this overwhelming majority. I was too.
In late 2004, I was approaching 9 years at my job. I worked in a management position for the largest privately held corporation in Philadelphia. I was being compensated well with a 6-figure salary and benefits package.
I managed to make a 1 hour commute through traffic into the city in the morning.
I spent an average of 10 hours in the cube daily.
And then another 1 hour commute through traffic back out of the city in the evening.
50% of my life during the week was dedicated to growing someone else’s business.
33% of my life during the week was sleep; replenishing my energy to grow someone else’s business.
That left me with 17% of my life to split between my wife, my two young children, and myself.
I sold 83% of me so I could try and “live on my own terms” 17% of the time.
I was comfortable, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming about what it would look like to live life on my own terms 100%.
You know the dream. You reject the identity of being a cog in someone else’s wheel. There is something inside of you drawing you into a greater purpose… be still; listen.
The Search for Fulfillment
I enjoyed my work, my coworkers, my compensation and quite honestly it wasn’t a bad company to work for at all. I was young, and in a position to be groomed for higher responsibilities and next stages of leadership. My accomplishments and achievements for this company were something to be truly proud of. I was the youngest person in company history to ever be recognized by the President personally for an award. When times got tough for the company, and others were being laid off around me, my job remained. I was really very fortunate to be in the position that I was.
Yet, there was something very wrong. Something inside of me. There was an emptiness and a longing to enter into something bigger. I was completely unfulfilled. I felt underutilized, limited, and held back by corporate politics and ceilings of positional career growth. I had ambitions of offering my talents and strengths to the world outside of the limitations that I felt at the company.
Fulfillment to me didn’t look like a paycheck, or a benefits package, or a stable job, or a career path.
Fulfillment to me, was the pursuit of the dream. I didn’t really have a choice. I was compelled to respond to that spark inside that was calling me into something greater.
The Overwhelming Chasm
As I took inventory of my situation, this is what I saw:
- Young family, dependent on me as “bread-winner”
- Big house in the suburbs = big mortgage
- Debt that we accumulated early on but were chipping away at
- All savings invested in retirement plan
- Limited extra time in the day to invest in building my dream
- Early signs of an economy moving downward
The visual that I was left with was this huge gap between my dream, and my current situation. Imagine standing on the edge of one side of the Grand Canyon. If you’ve ever been there, you know the feeling… your heart skips a few beats and you find yourself breathless as you approach the edge. A massive chasm, very wide and very deep, standing between you and the other side.
The reason most of you will never quit your day job, statistically speaking, is because this chasm will always be insurmountable in your mind. Most of you will systematically attempt to eliminate each item on the list. Everyone’s list of challenges standing in the way is different, and the list is ever-changing with the ebbs and flows of life. In many cases, new items are added faster then you can remove them. It’s only natural for you to work toward eliminating all obstacles; narrowing the chasm so that in the end you can simply step across, without any risk at all.
After 6 months of deliberation, standing on the edge, heavily weighing my own chasm of obstacles, I came to a profound realization. If I’m ever going to go after the dream, and get to the other side, I must jump.
So I jumped.
A Big Shock: After Taking the Leap
We had a little bit of a parachute… some savings and some clients that would give us a bit of time before crashing to the ground.
But it wasn’t enough.
2 years after taking the leap, my family and I watched our house get foreclosed on, our cars get towed away, and our debts climb to unbearable heights. Our marriage was on the rocks… we were both suffering through heavy bouts of depression. We had crashed into the bottom of the canyon floor, and found ourselves completely broken.
If my story ended here, with my family and I in pieces on the ground after a long fall, I honestly do not believe I would be here to write this today. It is critical for you to understand how far we fell and how messed up things got as a result of our choice to jump. Without that perspective and understanding, you wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate what happened next.
You see, the shock wasn’t that we found ourselves crashing, and later picking up the pieces on the bottom floor.
The shock came as we started to piece our lives and ourselves back together… we stumbled upon a remarkable discovery. As we began to help each other up, and stand again, there was something very different about us. We were changed. We had wings. We could fly.
So we flew.
We experienced a wholeness as a family, and wholeness as individuals that we’ve never experienced before. The story that developed and grew out of our brokenness and our newfound ability to fly became a platform, and a place where we could help others. You see, that original dream that we so desperately wanted to reach was replaced with something greater. As we spread our wings and flew up above the canyon, we were able to see life from a new perspective, and were able to recognize that the original dream was too small. Inside of us, existed a new strength and power, an incredible flame, that rose out of our story. The flame has compelled us to inspire, and help people in the various stages of their own process of following their dreams.
It all starts with the spark.
Your Small Spark Can Change the World
My hope is that my story will not scare you from taking the jump into the chasm in your own life, but that it will inspire you into a realization that you have wings to fly. Everyone has their own journey, and yours will look different then mine. Doors will open and they will close. Some will need to be broken more than others, and some will learn how to fly before they reach the bottom.
The small spark inside of you is trying to get your attention. May you respond and allow it to grow into a flame that will compel you to step into your purpose and change the world around you.
As you enter into the next steps in your own journey, I’ve prepared a gift for you to offer further inspiration and support — its a free eBook, “The Tribe Builder’s Manifesto — Your Small Spark Can Change the World“. Please download and share it. I would also love to hear about your story and your spark — please leave a comment below!
About the Author: Jason writes at TRIBE.LY, a blog about building tribes that can make positive change in the world.
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photo courtesy of jpoage