So as I made the decision to step out of the 9-5 rat race and work for myself, I realized that description is completely inadequate for the scope of what I’m really trying to do here.
I don’t see working for myself as simply a shift in careers, I’m looking at it as an entire lifestyle change. I’m an inherently creative guy, so the idea of sitting somewhere – anywhere – from 9-5 every day has never been appealing. But more than that, there’s something that seems inherently wrong with the idea of giving away such a large slice of time to mediocre employment in order to enjoy the scraps of time we get at the end of the day. Call me greedy, but I want more.
So how is this a lifestyle change and not just a career change? I’m not just going into consulting, I’m trying to find a life balance that feels right for me. My goal is living a lifestyle that is sustainable – intellectually, physically, emotionally, and in how I’m connected to the world around me. I’m not sure how that will look five years from now, but I’m starting by trying to split my “working” time into rough thirds.
One third of my time will be spent consulting on customer experience, product strategy, and social media engagement. Connecting business-side goals with innovative online solutions has always been my creative strength, so I’m ditching the distracting management overhead that exists in enterprise operations and focusing on using my strengths to help others succeed. That’s probably what will pay the bills (at least for now).
Next, I’m going to spend a third of my time working on my own ideas, start-ups, and helping friends/colleagues with their start-ups. I have dozens of ideas that I’ve put on hold because of lack of time, funding, etc. CitizeNYC and GovTechNerd are two good examples of ideas that I think have potential but I let fall by the wayside. Plus I have lots of friends who are starting their own ventures. I’m going to start pursuing those ideas more aggressively.
And the final third of my time will be spent writing. Like I said last week, I miss writing entirely too much to not make it a big part of my new life. It’s always been a hobby that sometimes got me published in cool places, but now I’m going to treat it as an important part of my life. I’ll be spending time writing about topics I find interesting and trying to get pieces published.
To me, this seems like a nice life balance. I’m sure it won’t be exact, and I’m not measuring it that way. But as a rough idea, this is how I’d prefer to spend my time, and the mix I think will help me develop the most as a person and as a professional, and maximize the value that I have to offer the world around me.
It’s unconventional and it’s probably a bit audacious, but we shouldn’t abdicate how we spend our professional or personal lives to external forces. We decide for ourselves. Sure, we’ve got to compromise sometimes, but we should never forget that the decision is ours.
(P.S. I wrote this sitting under a tree in Central Park, where the weather was a perfect 75 degrees. If I hadn’t consciously made this lifestyle change, I’d be sitting in a seemingly endless string of meetings in one of the world’s biggest bureaucracies.)