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Build Your Renegade Career! A Review of “Career Renegade” by Jonathan Fields

Build Your Renegade Career! A Review of “Career Renegade” by Jonathan Fields

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.

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    What’s a Career Renegade?

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      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.

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      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.

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      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.

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      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.

      More by this author

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works) Building Relationships: 11 Rules for Self-Promotion How to Become an Expert (And Spot out One Nearby)

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      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      What happens in our heads when we set goals?

      Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

      Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

      According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

      Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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      Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

      Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

      The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

      Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

      So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

      Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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      One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

      Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

      Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

      The Neurology of Ownership

      Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

      In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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      But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

      This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

      Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

      The Upshot for Goal-Setters

      So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

      On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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      It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

      On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

      But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

      More About Goals Setting

      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

      Reference

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