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Betting My Life on What I Believe

Aaron McHugh

My savings account just hit zero. We’ve bet our life on what we believe, and I’d like to shoot straight with you about what its been like the last seven months.

In October, I left my cushy $six figure career. It was intellectually challenging, but it wasn’t soulfully and purposefully satisfying. With the support of my wife, family and close friends, it was time to leap.

My big life experiment- the big bet, was to align the work I do every day with the person that I’ve become. If it sounds super vague and lacking textbook, strategy-you’re right. With no more specificity than this prayerful mantra, we stepped out into the unknown. For our family, it was time to push all of our chips into the middle of the table and spin the wheel placing bets on “cause good every day.”

Writing this, I realize how ridiculous this might sound. “Guy has a great career, so what if it doesn’t turn his crank every day, and then he leaps without having another job, to live on their savings while he looks for his dream career to “cause good in the world”?

I’m laughing too, LOL but it’s true. What’s also true is that I’ve transformed as a person. I used to be afraid that if I took a significant career risk, I would go broke and I’d have to go back to selling radio ads and living with my mom.

What I fear most

At age forty-six, now my greatest fears are never fully living my life, playing life so safe that I earn a lot of money, but never experience the wealth of living true to myself. (Read palliative care nurse Bonnie Ware’s regret of the dying).

My wife is a saint. “I hope they fire you so you can get on with your life.” were her bold words last summer after new owners purchased my day job company. My friends came over that night that I opted out of the private equity quest, “You just received a Kingdom promotion.” On my 3,000 mile trip in VW bus to clear my head, my brother reminded me, “You’re the genuine article.”

They were waiting for me to roll the dice and bet on myself.

Fast forward seven months

Our check register and our calendar tell a more life-filled story. When I look in the mirror, I see my smile restored in my eyes. After months of interviews, two trips to Europe for training, unexpected bills and car repairs, tons on uncertainty, and countless invigorating moments, I can appreciate how simple, yet inspired my soulful drumbeat was for creating good.

Today I’m working with two consulting firms and yesterday I collaborated with five classical musicians facilitating a workshop for business consultants to help raise their EQ. Monday, I head to Chicago to finalize my facilitation training to deliver leadership transformation workshops to business leaders.

The story is far from over, but here are my soundbites and learnings.

1) Who you choose to become is most important

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Teddy Roosevelt

2) Nothing is wasted

Every experience in your life, every success, every story, every mishap and misfortune, every crummy job and tyrant boss, your ex-husband, your second grade teacher, your volunteer project, your hobby, your favorite books, your stories, your love of photography, your longing to teach-all of it is useful raw material for your next gig, your next season, your future relationship, your next project, your next….

When you approach your life with the mindset that everything is useful and nothing is wasted, even the refuse, then you can begin to more readily connect dots and threads of your life and work together. I can tell you twenty stories from the past six months. Loosely fragmented elements of my experiences coming to the surface today as ingredients that are highly valuable for my work today.

3) God is with us

I know I’m not doing this alone. I’m in partnership actively co-creating my life.

4) Timing matters

No timing will ever feel perfect, but I believe you’ll know when it’s become impossible for you to keep waiting to make your move. Pay attention to the difference in sudden emotional impulses versus deep soulful unrest calling you forward.

5) Expect most people not to understand

Some people won’t get why you’re taking such a significant risk. Other’s will envy you. What’s most important is that you have one or two (or more) people that you can call during your low moments to talk you out of the pit of despair.

6) It will take longer than you think

For reasons I don’t fully understand, starting something new always takes more time and more money than you initially think. I’ve seen this is with startup companies, culture changes, launching products, repairing relationships, and big life changes.

7) You’re more powerful than you know

The people who inspire me most are the people who live true to themselves. Mike Field, Rob Bell, Ryan Miller, Steve Fortunado, Onsite Team Two degrees, Miles Adcox, Jim Tracy, Holden McHugh, Averi McHugh, Leith McHugh, Tess Vigeland, Vince Renando, John Eldredge, Morgan Snyder, Jon Dale, Alex Burton, Jim Bear, Sam Ainslie, Carl Richards, Seth Godin, Pam Slim, Ben Moon, and Bart Hanson (and tons and tons of others).

In the great words of singer-songwriter Glen Hansard, “May your winning streak never end. Roll the dice boy, cause my money’s on you. Take my advice now put your money down too.”

Keep going-
Aaron