Jun 192013


Self-Employment: 10 Lessons Learnt From Following a Big Dream

As I sit in the lobby of a bank’s headquarters, waiting to deliver a talk, it’s just hit me that this month is my 3rd anniversary of leaving full-time employment.

Escaping the land of jobs had been a big dream of mine for at least 5 years before I actually took the plunge. It was one of those dreams that I’d packed away into a ‘nice but too scary’ box and left it there until the effort of staying in employment was literally making me sick.

In my last year of employment I ended up in hospital no less than 5 times. It sounds so dramatic until I explain that 3 of those times were due to a sore throat (!) and the other 2 were due to suspected appendicitis. Despite the benign nature of my maladies, it was clear that my immune system was sending me huge signals that something needed to change.

My escape started by taking a year off to travel, which soon turned into 18 glorious months of exploring this beautiful and crazy world of ours. It was the experience I needed to set me free and the fulfilment of another of my biggest dreams.

Upon my return to London I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do but I was very clear that I was going to be self-employed. I’d just fulfilled my big dream to travel and decided I was on a roll, I’d check off the next big dream – self-employment.

The first few months were a mixture of huge excitement as well as serious bouts of anxiety. I had a rough plan of doing freelance work for my ex-employers, but I had no guarantee I would earn enough to pay the rent.

Although it was scary, this very clear departure from the land of jobs meant I focused my energies on making it work, rather than on whether I should do it or not.

It turned out that the risk paid off. I’ve worked less, earned more and had a lot of fun doing work I love. No Sunday Blues, no stress and best of all no hospitals.

Better yet I’ve learnt some valuable lessons along the way. Here are my top 10 in no particular order.

  1. Worrying about the future or the past, is all wasted energy. Focusing on what you can do about it is what helps you get through.
  2. Action rather than planning is what gets you results.
  3. Surround yourself with like-minded people and what you’re doing becomes the norm rather than the exception.
  4. Keep investing in your learning and growth.
  5. There are days when you just need to give yourself a break – that’s ok.
  6. It’s important to stop and consider if you’re being a lousy boss to yourself.
  7. Don’t let the paperwork pile up.
  8. When we say ‘yes’ to things we don’t particularly enjoy, we’re also saying ‘no’ to opportunities that might be a better fit.
  9. You don’t need to do it alone. Teaming up with someone makes the whole project easier.
  10. Following these ideals is tough, but it’s worth the effort.

What lessons have you learnt from following a big dream?


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