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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.

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      The Gentle Art of Saying No

      The Gentle Art of Saying No

      No!

      It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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      But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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      What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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      But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

      1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
      2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
      3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
      4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
      5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
      6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
      7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
      8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
      9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
      10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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