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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

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) How to Admit Your Mistakes How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart

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      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

      This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

      The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

      The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

      Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

      Curiosity

      Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

      People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

      Patience

      Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

      When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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      Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

      A Feeling for Connectedness

      This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

      A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

      The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

      How to Self-Taught Effectively

      With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

      1. Research

      Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

      Learning the Basics

      Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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      Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

      What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

      Hitting the Books

      Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

      Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

      Long-Term Reference

      While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

      My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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      2. Practice

      Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

      A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

      Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

      Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

      3. Network

      One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

      These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

      Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

      Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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      4. Schedule

      For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

      Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

      Final Thoughts

      In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

      If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

      At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

      More About Self-Learning

      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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