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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

      How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques Back to Basics: Capture Your Ideas The Science of Setting Goals (And Its Effect on Your Brain) Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

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      Last Updated on March 25, 2020

      How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

      How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

      Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes effectively.

      I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

      One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

      Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

      The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

      And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

      What to Write Down

      Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

      Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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      1. Dates of Events

      Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

      For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

      2. Names of People

      Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

      3. Theories or Frameworks

      Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

      4. Definitions

      Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

      Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

      5. Arguments and Debates

      Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

      This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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      6. Images

      Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

      Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

      7. Other Stuff

      Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

      I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

      8. Your Own Questions

      Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

      3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

      1. Outlining

      Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

      Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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      For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

      2. Mind-Mapping

      For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

      Here’s the idea:

      In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

      The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

      If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

      You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

      3. The Cornell System

      The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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      About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

      You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

      In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

      You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

      The Bottom Line

      I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

      I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

      More Note-Taking Tips

      Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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