High up above the city, I stood in my boss’s office, looking out the vast window. To the left, the tallest volcano was far off but still loomed large over the city. On the right, the sprawling lake lay out before me, its far shore only a faint line of mountains in the distance.
The office door opened, and my boss walked in straight to his desk. He motioned for me to sit down, as he sat down at his computer, peering at his monitor through the lower half of his glasses.
I took my seat in a chair across his desk and took a deep breath, trying to make it as silent as possible. Telling your boss you want to quit isn’t easy, but hiding the anxiety is better than letting it show.
And so I began.
I told him there wasn’t enough work for me to do because I was being blocked off by certain people. I told him that, instead of sitting around idly, I could become a consultant for the company, providing value as soon as there’s actual work to be done.
He tried to convince me to stay, telling me that it was up to me to fix the internal communication problems and get myself in front of clients.
Kindly, I said: “My life’s work isn’t about fighting people for a pat on the back or an award. My life’s work is about reaching people, helping people. If I can’t do that here, I’ll go do that somewhere else.”
He shifted in his chair and brought his feet up to rest on his desk, one beside the other. Sighing, he rested his head on his hand and agreed.
I didn’t know where I was going or what I would do, but I knew that I would figure it out by exploring my options.
As of this writing, it’s been nearly two years since I walked out of that corporate office forever. I still have not received a single phone call from them. Not a single project to work on. I jumped at the right time. Without a single project to work on, they would’ve ushered me down the plank soon after. Instead of waiting for them to open the door for me, I steered clear of their issues and opened my own doors.
I wasn’t sure where my own doors would lead me, but things don’t always have to make sense.
That’s the main lesson I’ve gotten from starting a blog on a whim, writing books, and starting my own company.
Every single time I do something out of sheer exploration (with no real end in mind), crazy things happen.
I was scared to speak at a TEDx event, and I wasn’t too sure what I’d speak about, but I took the stage and had a blast.
My business’s first year was more or less wasted on the wrong kind of clients because I had no clue what services I wanted to offer, but I’ve learned so much now that I’m implementing in a better version of my business.
I’ll be nervous to press Publish on this article, but I’ll feel glad I shared my experiences afterward.
That’s not to say things always out turn out wonderfully. I’ve made huge mistakes (like working with disrespectful clients or letting the wrong people onto my business’s founding team), and I have yet to find the “silver lining” of these mistakes. But these roundabout mistakes have all contributed to where I am today.
If I hadn’t been open to exploring, I don’t know that I’d have picked up all of these different experiences, lessons, bruises and opportunities along the way.
1. Opening Up to Possibilities
The first months after I quit my job were so serene. I woke up and did what I wanted to do each day–I wrote. I’ll never forget how peaceful and zen I felt making my tea each morning, sitting down for two or three hours of uninterrupted writing.
I didn’t rush. I bathed in the possibilities to come.
As time went on, I didn’t always make the right choices, but they were my own explorations of the possibilities. Some of those choices turned out to be incredibly right.
A few weeks ago, I received an email out of the blue from my master’s program in Spain. They wanted to know if I’d get on a plane and come speak to their incoming students? My answer: hell yes!
This is a great opportunity, to be sure, but what’s more important is how quickly I was able to say yes. Leading a flexible and open-minded lifestyle means I am able to switch things up and do amazing things, like going to Spain to speak.
For that, I’m so grateful.
2. Enhance Creativity
When we’re nose-down in tasks and beeping phones and incoming emails, it’s difficult to let our creativity reach its potential.
They say it’s healthy to take a new route home or to brush your teeth with your left hand just to get your brain out of its comfort zone. While I do agree that changing things up can help you do that, I also think its helpful to passionately explore new areas.
That means reading books that are outside of your industry just because they spark your curiosity. That means watching a silly movie just because you need a moment to refuel your batteries. That means calling up an old friend just because you miss who you were when you hung out with her.
Mind-wandering allows the brain to focus its attention on more distant tasks and issues in a unique way, allowing you to approach them in ways you’d never considered.
When we’re trying to perform, perform, perform, we might just be scaring our ideas away.
3. Identifying the “Wall”
Sometimes, I go for a long run. When I do, there is always a moment between the second and third mile that will almost stop me in my tracks. I’m tired, out of breath, and my body wants to be anywhere but here. I call this “The Wall”.
“The Wall” is temporary–every single time.
Not everything in life is easy. Many of the examples I mentioned above (like working with difficult clients) weren’t easy to go through, but they all taught me one thing:
Hitting a tough moment is much easier when you can recognize it as such–because every tough moment passes.
The beautiful part is this: if you start exploring knowing it will be an adventure, you can identify a rough patch as you’re sitting in it and think, “This is that tough moment I knew would come eventually. It will pass.”
And the next moment is much more beautiful.
Allowing myself to explore opened up entire fields of possibility that I never knew existed. Are you interested in exploring more in your life about yourself, your loved ones, and the world? Share your stories in the comments.