Build Your Rengade Career

Jonathan Fields is an extraordinary sort. A corporate lawyer by training, a severe illness – Jonathan says his body “rejected his career” – led him to quit law and follow a path of his own making.

After a stint as a personal trainer followed by the founding and eventual sale of a successful training business, Jonathan found his true passion in yoga and opened Sonic Yoga, one of the most successful yoga studios in the country, with an also quite successful line of instructional DVDs. Not content to realize just one dream, he started advising first friends and later clients on marketing and PR, eventually launching his own marketing and copywriting business.

Still not content, he decided to share some of the lessons he’d learned in blazing his own trail, starting his blog Awake @ the Wheel and eventually writing his new book, out this week: Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love.

What’s a Career Renegade?

20090116-career-renegade A career renegade is someone who takes charge of his or her career and makes it work to fulfill their own passions. That may mean starting your own business, as Jonathan has done several times – but it doesn’t have to mean that. It could mean switching careers and going to work for a different company, or it could mean reshaping your attitude towards the job you already have – whatever it takes to transform your work life into a meaningful career – one that won’t eat you up from the inside out.

Finding Your Passion

Being a career renegade is all about the passion. If you’re not passionate about your work, even if its work other people would kill for, you’ll eventually start resenting it.

The problem is, a lot of passions don’t seem to offer any reasonable ability to make a living. That’s where Career Renegade comes in – in a nutshell, the book advises you to stop looking for the reasonable opportunities and start making unreasonable ones.

Consider Liv Hansen. Liv is a formally-trained artist whose career seem to be following the same path thousands of other newly-minted BFA graduates have followed – out of college, into unemployment and desperation and, finally, a McJob with no hope for advancement. Meanwhile, the artistic drive withers on the vine, frustrated for lack of money for materials, time not spent job-hunting, and calmness for reflection.

At the end of her rope, Liv took a job in her parents’ bakery. Soon, she realized that the cupcakes she was decorating could be her canvasses, and icing and melted chocolate her paint. Customers lined up just to look – and ultimately buy – her creations, to the point where her family was able to drastically enlarge their business and Liv was able to assume the role of artistic director and cupcake visionary.

That’s a renegade career, one that simply didn’t exist until someone thought it up or stumbled into it.

Getting from Here to There

Make no mistake, Career Renegade is about careers. That is, it’s about (as the subtitle says) making a living at something you love.

To that end, it is packed with detailed information about transforming your passion into a money-making concern. Fields breaks the opportunities for career renegades into 7 categories:

  1. Redeploying your passion in a hungrier market. That’s what Liv did. There are already plenty of markets for the arts, and they’re hard to break into. Liv turned her passion loose in a market that hadn’t previously had much use for artists, the baking world.
  2. Refocus and mine the most lucrative micro-markets. Produce a product aimed towards a small but wealthy audience, who will pay a premium for the distinction. Think Apple.
  3. Exploit an information gap. Find out what people need to know about some activity and provide that information. That’s basically what Jonathan Fields did in writing Career Renegade; people want more meaningful careers but don’t know how to create them, so Jonathan shows how.
  4. Exploit gaps in education. The world doesn’t just need information, it needs skilled teachers to convey that information effectively. If you can teach something there’s a demand for, you’ve got a great opportunity.
  5. Exploit gaps in gear or merchandise. Invent or bring to market a product that doesn’t exist but will make a big difference to people pursuing some activity. Jonathan discusses a woman who invented a non-slip yoga mat for high-intensity styles of yoga (where people sweat a lot). Or think of the after-market in iPod products – a market that was invented out of thin air when the iPod became popular.
  6. Exploit gaps in community. People are social animals in a society that more and more works against social behavior. Provide community and people will love you. Liz Strauss, for example, has built an incredibly popular forum for people to just talk at Successful (and Outstanding) Blog – which has grown into a very successful conference (SOBCon) and speaking engagements.
  7. Exploit gaps in the way a service or product is provided. Make it easier or more compelling for people to use your products, by delivering them where everyone else ain’t. Think on-site car washes, online education, aerobics videotapes way back when, and so on.

Regegade careers aren’t only about having ideas, though – they’re about implementing them, and to that end Career Renegade is packed with information about researching, launching, marketing, and running your own business.

Someone to Lean On

Being a Career Renegade doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. In fact, one of the reasons people choose renegade paths is to escape the isolation and lack of connection traditional career paths often engender.

The last section of the book is all about getting support. Jonathan devotes a whole chapter to tips on how to convince your family and friends that you aren’t crazy – a key step that too many soon-to-be-failures ignore. You need your family’s support – especially if you are the one who supports them financially and you’re about to imperil their standard of living, or even just seem to. They need reassurance that you’re not going through a mid-, quarter-, third-, 3/8th-, or other-life crisis. You need them have that assurance so they can get behind you and help you get where you’ve got to go.

Another chapter deals with finding mentors and advisors, people who can provide you with the information and know-how you need to run your renegade career, or can help you find that information on your own. Jonathan pays special attention to the new social media and social networking platforms that are re-shaping the modern working world, and helps the reader leverage those platforms to build their renegade careers.

Conclusion

Jonathan Fields’ Career Renegade is well-written, thoughtful, and ultimately good, solid advice. Parts of it, the parts dealing with launching and running your own business, read like a saner, more profound Tim Ferriss, but there’s enough new stuff here, especially around social networking, to offer even die-hard 4-Hour Work Week devotees something to chew on.

Beyond the practical advice, though, Jonathan offers a mindset, a way of looking at the world. Career Renegade isn’t about starting your own business or finding a new job, it’s about mastering your work-life so that what you create and build leads to a more meaningful life for yourself and those around you. It’s about taking charge of your career and refusing to dance to anyone else’s music. It is, in short, powerful stuff, and comes highly recommended by this writer.

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