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.”
Friends, welcome to Work Life Play. I'm your host, Aaron McHugh. I'm here to help you find work you love, learn to play and live adventurously, become curious, and live your life with joy and purpose. Ready, Set, Go.
Friends welcome to another episode of Work Life Play. I'm excited to tell you a story today about betting my life on what I believe. By way of intro- I'll just give you an update on what's been real in my life the last few months and why firing up this mic for the podcast has been so, I guess, out of wack or unusual, is I heard, a friend once, Pam Slim, she wrote a book called I think it was called Corporate Prisoner-Escape from Cubicle Nation. That's what it was. She talked about this idea of being in a season when you're inhaling versus when you're exhaling. And what she was contrasting was when you inhale, you're taking in a big deep breath, and then in some seasons, you're exhaling.
And I've been in a season of inhaling. And what I mean by that is there's so much that's brand new in my life right now. My works are brand new, and My life rhythms are new; as I'll describe here, our finances are new. My e everything is new. And as a result, it's just this big giant inhale, and it's super fun and exhilarating. But what's very different is in seasons when I've been in an exhale where I'm going through and releasing all this internal air that I've been carrying. Well, that's very different. So a lot of the times when I've been in seasons where I'm able to send one or two podcasts a week and do all kinds of writing and shipment stuff, those are often exhaling seasons for me where I've been mulling on thinking about I, these ideas chasing down guests, whatever it may be.
And then I've exhaled to then share it with you. So the good news is in this cool, fun inhale season there, I'm, I'm storing up lots of great ideas and content stories to share with you, but it's not, for now, is what it comes down to. So one of my goals is to live an honest, soulfully honest life, which means I have to call it what it is. And right now, I'm in an inhale season. That said, today, the story I want to share with you is about this inhale season that I've been on, this journey that I've been on. Let me start by letting you know this was a blog post I put up a couple of weeks ago titled; I Bet My Life On What I Believe. And I was writing it on an airplane coming back from New York, and I kept writing this one sentence repeatedly.
And then I kept deleting it and then kept going back and rewriting it. And the opening was my savings account just hit zero. We better live on what we believe, and I'd like to shoot straight with you about what it's been like the last seven months. And I kept rewriting it because the truth is, you know, it's on the one hand, I'd rather have these stories to tell you that we're always like these, Oh, this is so great, it's going so awesome, and it's easy, but it's just, I prefer the non BS version. So let me tell you this story. The reality is, seven months ago, I opted out of the career I'd been in for 13 years and decided to go my own way. The big theory was that it was time for me to leap with the support of my wife, family, and friends.
It was a good time for me to align the work I do every day with the person that I've become. And really, they have this big bet, like, can I do work, create output daily for this? Cause causation of good. And it was this, I felt assured that it was true, but definitely, people say, Hey, what, what's your new job? What are you going to do? I'm like, Well, I'm not looking for a job
But the bottom line is I was attempting to not just stay in that world of commercial enterprise-class software work that I've been doing forever. So when I started writing this post, and even in sharing the stories with his friends or people, you know, at a cocktail party, say, Hey, what are you up to? Oh yeah, I'm trying to align the work I do every day with the person I've become. It just sounds vague and lacks any strategy, especially like a textbook business, how to find a career. And, the truth is with no more specificity than just that prayerful mantra, like, I'm not going to live in compartments and categorize my life anymore. So what I loved about this was that I did have the support of my family and friends. But even then, I realized it's, you know, it was, my wife was like, Let's do it.
It'll be a great adventure, but I need to figure out what that would mean. But let's do it. Let's go for it. So when I was writing this post, I could hear, I guess, maybe my voice of disqualification and just kind of, even as, as you listen to it, you know me. Still, for those who don't know me, I left this cushy career and the, but the truth is, I had gone so far down that road that I knew exactly where it led. I knew exactly what the next gig would look like. I knew what the challenges would look like. I knew what, you know, what the work would look like, the satisfaction meter would look like. And the truth is, it wasn't that great. So I've learned that at age 46, my greatest fears are less about what they used to be, which was I was always afraid of poverty.
I was always afraid of scarcity. I was always scared of not being enough and being raised by a single mom, and we had food stamps and limited resources. My mom and I remember cashing in nickel deposits on aluminum cans to get us some lunch money. So for a long time, that's been what I've attempted to avoid. Today at 46, my greatest fears are now never fully living my life, playing life so safe that I earn a lot of money, but I never experience the wealth of truly living my life and going for it. There's a great post that I've identified with a lot that a hospice nurse wrote, and she's Australian. Bronnie Ware, I can't remember her last name at the moment, but it's on the regrets of the dying. And that was one of the things that she talked about is that in regrets of the dying, she interviewed, I think there was maybe over five or six or eight years, these different people in hospice care that were dying and asking them about what their biggest regrets were or in organic conversations she did.
And it was then distilled down into this famous post, which became a book. And so, for me, it came down to going for doing meaningful work and receiving financial rewards for that, whatever that may be, than just making financial rewards—my predominant gain and goal.
So my wife, when last summer about approaching this time, the company I'd worked or for many years, about five years, was acquired by a private equity group and great people, you know, great campaign, they were on to do some fun things with the company, but it was just time for me to go. And I knew as soon as the transaction closed that it wasn't for me. It just wasn't signed up for it. And a lot of what, for any of you that work in that world, private equity, they're looking, or any times you get a new owner, they're looking for who's signed up for the mission, who's going to sign up for the campaign, the quest to take this hill.
So another excellent conversation that I had that fueled me was last fall. It was the first week of November after I resigned from my company and started making this transition. I decided that before I get after this, I better get a job and fix my life,
So our son lives in California, so I decided to take the bus and aim at West without knowing if it would travel that far. It, you know, it's 40, it's got 180,000 miles on it, and it was awesome. My brother ended up joining me on this trip, and there's a podcast about it. It was called 3000 Miles in our VW bus to clear my head after I quit my job. So my brother and I had this great conversation, and we returned to our childhood home in Bishop, California, the Sierra Nevada, near Mammoth Mountain. And we had not been there since we were, I, I think we decided it was 36 years ago that we were there in the same place when we moved in 1981. So it was extraordinary.
And he joined me for the second half of the trip. I picked him up in LA, we cruised to Bishop in the bus, saw some friends, family friends that we've been friends with for all these years, and just had a beautiful time. Well, we had this conversation by the Owens River, and I was telling him, " Man, I hope, I hope I know what I'm doing here. Like this sounds now that I've had a few days
You're going to do great. And he's like, You're one of the most motivated people I know, so this is going to be just fine. Don't, don't sweat it. So my point in telling you those stories is that I benefited from people believing in me. I had the benefit of waiting a long time to make this leap, but the bottom line is it still took me rolling the dice, and they were waiting on me. So fast forward to today, back to today, seven months later. What's fun now is that our check register and calendar tell a pretty life-giving story. When I, when I see where now our, our check register genuinely is, is pretty low, as I mentioned in the opening, you know, our, our savings account, which I've worked for 20, let's see, I think we decided in January for 24 years, I had earned enough money in the current month to pay for that current month.
So whatever the money we spent, I had consistently earned enough to cover our nut. Well, January was the very first time we had savings we were living on, but if January, for the first time in 24 years, the money that came in the door wasn't equal to what went out the door. So it felt so liberating. Now, it has supposed to be so liberating to be betting, believing, causing, being part of a partnership, divine causation to say, You know what? It's just time when I look in the eye myself, in the eyes, even looking in the mirror, I can tell that I've got a smile restored in my actual eyes themselves. Have you ever done that before? I've just looked at myself in the mirror, eyeballed, and just observed how happy, sad, content, anxious, scared, and nervous I am.
Well, I have, I've seen all those things in my eyes, and today it's fun to see a smile back. So after a couple of months of interviews, back and forth to Europe, unexpected bills and car repairs, tons of uncertainty, and countless invigorating moments, I can now appreciate how inspired, how much clarity, and how crisp this original goal and the objective was. I want to align my work daily and the output of what I create with the person I've become, and I want to cause good in the world. So today, I'm working for two different consulting companies, and I'm leaving here in just a few hours to head to Chicago for the week. And what's super cool is both of them, in their particular way, are at complete and absolute convergence of all things of my life, all in one causation.
So what I do is I work in the corporate space, the corporate world as a consultant, helping people with wisdom and insights evaluate their transformation as leaders. So as they work with clients, as they work with people, really helping them see behind the scenes what's going on in their life, what's going on in their thoughts, mindsets, behaviors, and beliefs, similar to what we do here, right? Same kinds of conversations. And for any of you that went through our reboot workshop and experience, it's super similar. So the work I get to do every day is, is actually aligned, and it makes me smile and joyful. And I knew it was out there, and I didn't know what form it would come in. So I'd love to distill down my current to-date lessons learned for your kind and share these with you.
The first one is who you choose to become. Who we choose to become is more important than anything else. And I want to read a Teddy Roosevelt quote that I'm sure you've heard, but it is worth listening to again because, in the context of choosing who we become, it's telling. It's not the critic who counts. It's not the man who points out the strong, how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who's actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes up short again and again. But there's no effort without air or 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.
It's about being in the arena. It's about choosing who we become. And there's timing important when taking these giant leaps, which we'll mention here in a minute. In my case, this is my life right now is stumbling forward. Yeah, you were scuffed valiantly who comes up short again and again. And here we are. I'm in the arena. Number two lesson learned. Nothing is wasted. Every experience in our lives, every success, every story, every mishap, every misfortune, every crummy job, tyrant boss, ex-husband, second-grade teacher, volunteer project, hobby, favorite books, your stories, your love of photography, longing to teach, all of it is a valuable raw material for your next gig, your next season, your next future relationship, your next big project, your next fill in the blank, nothing is wasted. When we approach our life with this mindset that everything is useful, even the refuse of our life.
A Buddy of mine says it takes a lot of manure to grow a good thing, or a lot carries a lot to produce something good, then you can be more zeal full in just over time, connecting dots and seeing the threads of our life work together. So I can tell you 20 stories from the past six months of how this has all come together. Like how in the world is even that helpful? I just did a podcast a few months ago about my markers that I've been dragging around for the last three years, and the story about feeling like I'm a zebra with the wrong kind of stripes or polka dots instead of stripes. But these loosely fragmented elements in my life and all these experiences came together and surfaced as precious ingredients in the work I'm doing today.
So I knew this work was out there, I knew there was room for me in the world to be a different kind of zebra, but it has taken a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of clinging to that belief that nothing is wasted and it's all useful. Number three, God is with us. I know I am not doing this alone and am in a partnership and active partnership in co-creating my life. I used to think that, you know, it was, I've always believed in, in God's life, in my life, but I felt a lot more of it was a lot more binary, a lot more logical, a lot more linear, a lot more like, I don't even know, I guess predictable, you know, the story's already been told. I'm just my job to try and find the path already there for me.
And as I mature in my own life and have more life experience, and grow in my faith and spiritual life, I see this, and this thing is super pliable. This is like, wow, we got a lot more latitude than I ever knew, and we get to co-create. So I find that super fun, and it also comforts me that I'm not doing this alone. I'm not just out here on edge make, making this leap even with friends and family, but I have a partnership with the life of God moving forward. Number four, timing matters.
No timing will ever feel perfect, but we'll know when the time has come. And for me, you may need to
So I find it's important to know. The next thing is number five, expect most people not to understand. So again, go back to a cocktail party, go back to, you know, outside of immediate friends and family, even coworkers. Oh, hey, so what are you doing? You make X
And I'm like, Oh, you're so sweet. And this is on purpose, like I, me too. And it's okay. It's going to be okay. So most people just don't get it. And some of it is culture. Some of it is modern culture. We better stay on the treadmill and keep the inertia of our careers going. Because if you don't start a job on Monday after you leave a job on Friday in our western world, something must be wrong with you. And I view it as if I'm playing a different game—number six- which closely follows this. Yeah, finding a gig will take longer than you think for reasons I genuinely don't understand. I was starting something brand new takes longer. It takes more money. It takes more time. I've seen this in startup companies.
I've seen this in career changes, and only some things will go according to plan. So when we launch out on this, we'll live on savings.
We forecasted, okay, great, and we can probably make it 4, 5, 6 months. And then all of a sudden, we had these significant huge unexpected expenses and investments that were required that took what we had and carved it in half within the first two months. Here we are. We're still staying, and it's all, we just did our checkbook and checkbook register yesterday, and we're fluid for a while. And the reason I even share this with you is I get tired of the stories out in career and workplace and podcasts and books, and everybody's always crushing it. And they're full of is, I know there's a lot of people that are, but they forget that to be human is also to tell the stories of how thin and scary and gnarly it got, how their relationships got strained.
So I'd instead tell you a whole story, a complete story as it's happening so that it's honest for myself. It's honest for you that it isn't yellow brick road and just easy and everything just cruised in and every, you know, everything was just, Oh my gosh, you dreamed this dream, and you went and drove on your bus, and then you're magically off doing No, it's not, it's not like that. It is like that, and it's not like that. So I'd rather keep it real with you. Number seven, you are more powerful than you know. Yeah, and I'd love to. A great quote says, Yeah, what are our greatest fears? I think it's Marion. I can't remember her last name. And our greatest fear is that we are more powerful beyond measure. And the people I know who live most true to themselves, who are willing to bet on themselves and their future, inspire me the most.
So in honor of this short list of folks that kind have come to mind in the last few months, I'd love to rattle a couple off. So those who inspire me most, those who live truest to themselves from my view, my friend Mike Field in Hawaii, Rob Bell, Ryan Miller, Steve Fortunado, my onsite friends with team two degrees, Miles Adcock, Jim Tracy, my son, Holden McHugh, my daughter Avery McHugh , my wife, Leith McHugh,
Tess Vigeland, Vince Renando, John Eldridge, Morgan Snyder, John Dale, Alex Burton, Jim Bear, Sam Ainsley, Carl Richards, Seth Godin, Pam Slim, Ben Moon, and Bart Hansen.
And, in close, in the great words of singer and songwriter Glenn Hansard in a song called Winning Streak. Here's the closing quote, May your winning streak never end. Roll the dice, boy, because my money's on you. Take my advice, boy, and put your money down to you friends. Keep going. Keep chasing this mystery of our life, of drawing closer, of seeing behind walls, of choosing abundance, excitement, intimacy, adventure, connection, of selecting the dangerous thing when it's the time to choose the road less traveled so that we can find work we love, connect, live authentically and true, go deeper and live adventurously.
Let's keep going. You've been listening to work-life Play. If you like what you've heard, please do us a favor and rate us on iTunes. It does help. You can get more information about this and other episodes at aaronmchugh.com. Thanks for listening. Thanks for being part of this adventure, for being part of braving the pioneering work of discovering sustainable work life. Play rhythms, love your work, live your life, and play much more.
I'm Aaron McHugh.
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