Sitting around waiting for something to happen has never been my thing. I’m unhappiest when I am prevented from moving forward with new ideas and plans. When things stall, I chomp at the bit.

This week a LinkedIn status update on two professional acquaintances triggered me to send a “how are you, and what can I do to help?” email to each. One person was facing a layoff at the end of the month because his company had run out of financial gas, and the other’s company recently offered thousands of her colleagues significant buy-out incentives.

The contrast in their responses was striking. One was looking forward to adding new challenges and forming new associations, after a career spanning more than 35 years. We will be getting together to explore some collaborative efforts. The other, in her mid-20’s, indicated, “I’m staying until they get rid of me. Morale is low here.” I couldn’t imagine a more depressing environment.

When individuals are unfulfilled in their careers, they often dream of indulging their passions. Translating them into paying work can present a challenge, but happiness and fulfillment need not be sacrificed in a challenging economy. Certain people have always known how to distinguish themselves within various disciplines to provide value. The key elements to success in any endeavor are interest, belief and enthusiasm.

careerrenegade_book_cover_medJonathan Fields, in his marvelous book, Career Renegade, explains this. By now, you’ve probably encountered one or more reviews of this book from some of the bigger guns in the blogosphere, like Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits (who is mentioned in the book), and others. As I’ve come to know from participating in Triiibes, Jonathan is the real deal. Career Renegade provides an outstanding, comprehensive outline for someone seeking fulfillment.

The good news: accessing a passionate endeavor and making a living from it don’t have to be exclusive. Bold moves and commitment are required, though. What holds us all back?  Fear.

We know we are vulnerable when we’re dependent, especially upon things over which we have little or no control – like companies going out of business, or falling home values. All of a sudden, we’re paralyzed by fear, getting nowhere fast. Some, used to little or no control, are far more comfortable with the status quo. As fearfully depressing it may be, it’s even scarier to shove off and captain the ship. So, inertia sets in.

When inertia comes to visit, we focus on what we can’t do.  Too much negative focus strips away our humor and optimism. We want to retract and contract, retreat, hunker down and ride the storm out. It’s understandable. That’s conventional wisdom. It’s also slow suicide.

Lucky for those with strong principles and a mission to accomplish, conventional wisdom keeps potential competition out of the way. This makes it easier for innovators to eliminate dysfunctional activities in favor of real accomplishments. Rather than lowering expectations and looking toward the sky expecting it to fall, those who are moving deliberately with goals and objectives will be far, far ahead of those who are waiting to see what happens.

stamp-animationThe conversations I had with my two contacts this week reminded me that diversification is more important than ever. I was grateful that Pete and I have taken opportunities to set up several different ventures. His latest, Wedding Wire, is at right in the side bar. His stores on Zazzle and CafePress have been expanded to accommodate data we collected. Pete pinpointed the characteristics of attractive buyer/product profiles in key merchandise areas, and opened up several specialty “shoppes” to become dominant in certain categories and trends.

I’m looking at the potential for diversification in the franchise I operate. It’s clear that relationships will be even more critical as the economy transitions and our competition is affected. I’m grateful our customer base is strong. Still, in that our business is retail, we face many challenges. Because we sell to businesses rather than consumers, we’re still subject to client budget cutbacks and stagnation. Keeping in touch and identifying additional ways to serve will be the most important focus we can take.

Pete and I recently were introduced to another opportunity that seems like a great fit with our goals and objectives, too. We’re currently developing a strategic plan to assess its merits. Should we elect to proceed we want to start strong. We’ll keep you posted.

It feels good to set out tactics and objectives. The more control we have, the more we present ourselves with confidence. Taking action, seeking and strengthening relationships, and acting in keeping with values and principles will not only position us for maximum success, but create meaning in our lives.

Ed Brenegar underscores:

Hard times are a transition point between the past and the future. It is time of purging of old ways that are no longer effective, and the acquisition of new ways that are. We build the future in the midst of transition. Now is the time to change how we will approach everything we do. Now is the time that we become committed to creating an impact in our personal and professional lives. . . You don’t create this impact in your head. You create it in action, in participating and contributing, in doing personally meaningful things that are socially fulfilling. . . . Do this and you will have prepared yourself for the good days that are coming.

What are you doing to play offense with your life’s work?



  1. says

    I like this post a lot – it rings true with me, I’m doing this myself (slowly but surely, for I’m a busy fellow) on many fronts.

    I am confident I will get there.

    I’m currently waiting (nay, rubbing my hot little hands together!) for my copies of CR and Triiibes, actually. Come on post office 🙂

    Thanks for the thought provoking words as always.


    (PS – hope the bread was good)

    Brett Legree´s last blog post..ultimate self-help tool – free for a limited time!

  2. Mike Goad says

    Since I managed to finish a career the old fashioned way, I don’t have to manage my “life’s work.” However, I do have to manage the retirement, especially in the current times.

    Even though we don’t NEED the income, I’ve made sure that my former boss knows that I am interested in another 6 month contract later this year. Since I get to do the FUN part of the job, I’m more than willing to go back, even if I get overloaded with the FUN.

    By doing this for a short period where I know the people and know the job, our investments can continue to grow without being touched and it may not be necessary to go to work elsewhere — at least not in the near term.

    How likely is the contract? Well, the class that started in December was told that I would be there for the part of the class that I normally teach.

    Mike Goad´s last blog post..Yellowstone National Park…. and a cool video, too!

  3. says

    Absolutely delightfully insightful post – as always!!!
    The days of an acceptable career strategy consisting of signing on to be a life long “wage slave” ended in sometime last century. Today, even if you’re an “employee” you’d better be managing your career with the same drive and dedication of the solo entrepreneur!

    I’m going to HAVE to pick up a copy of Career Renegade – even though I have no intention of returning to “wage slave” status!

    Kathy @ Virtual Impax´s last blog post..Your Digital Footprints…

  4. says

    Great review, Betsy. I appreciate the incite too on what it is that holds people back so often. So many, it seems, know what to do to get out of their rut, but are afraid to take the chance necessary to get out of it. I am reminded of a portion of the Declaration of Independence:

    “… all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

    We have a tendency to forgo any major decisions to change our current, painful situations in the hopes that there will soon be a better day. We hold out or resist making any drastic changes because it seems easier to wait things out. We “suffer, while evils are sufferable”.

    Andrew Weaver´s last blog post..Foto Finish Friday

  5. says

    Hi Betsy. I had a coffee with an ex boss last week and she told me that people continue to be losing their jobs at our last place of employment. We were let go almost 2 years ago, and recently another 12 or so people have been let go.

    I feel fortunate to have been in the first wave of layoffs. I can’t imagine working under that umbrella, never knowing who is going to be next.

    Davina´s last blog post..Self Help Me

  6. says

    Betsy, LOVE your writing and it’s all just getting better! Saw the mention of “Career Renegade” and have to say it is the BEST book I’ve read in a LONG time…Right up there with Seth Godin’s Tribes, or possibly the next step after you read Tribes. Packed with info, details, examples – Jonathan is an amazing writer – his work sings – this is destined, as the cliche says, “To be a classic.” But his book is NO cliche – very informative. Really. I loved it and plug it every chance I get – it’s THAT good! Thanks for blogging about it. His website, in case you haven’t seen it, is awesome too!

  7. says

    Hi Betsy – I find it fascinating how your two friends had completely opposite attitudes. It’s obvious whose a step ahead.

    I love the quote by Ed Brenegar. Hard times are definitely a transitioning period. How prepared we are for them defines how we make it through. I’ve also found that past experience (of hard times) prepares us for what to expect. Knowing we got through it before is a great reminder we can do it again.

    Barbara Swafford´s last blog post..They Don’t Have To Be Einstein To Figure It Out

  8. says

    I’ve been through two layoffs myself – both due to startups failing and going out of business – and I’ve also seen family members go through similar layoffs and cutbacks, and it always amazes me when people either stay with a job that makes them miserable or become depressed after losing a job they didn’t especially love. Both times I found myself suddenly unemployed, I saw nothing but opportunity and you can bet I seized it!

    Melissa Donovanq´s last blog post..Why Proofreading Matters

  9. Betsy Wuebker says

    Hi Kathy – Do get a copy of the book – lots of great advice and resources that can be passed on – even to those who have “escaped from cubicle nation.” 🙂

    Hi Brett – I’m off to try and walk off the bread this morning. I hope your books come soon, not that you need inspiration in your endeavors. Sometimes it’s a great help just to know others are out there, finding and wearing the t-shirt. Thanks.

    Hi Andrew – Welcome to PassingThru! What a thrill it was to read the quote from our Declaration. You are so right – even then our forefathers recognized the evil inherent in inertia. Thank you for coming by and all the fun tweeting!

    Hi Mike – A truly pragmatic approach, and why not? It’s something you enjoy, you have expertise to share. It reminds me of that comedian who always said, “And I get PAID for doing this!” 🙂

    Hi Becky – Thanks for the compliments! I was remiss in not linking again to Jonathan’s site, which is really excellent. We had referenced it earlier in our post back when the book was available for pre-order. I’m subscribed to it and his content and interviews with folks are amazing.

    Hi Davina – Amen! Look where you’d be if you had stayed. Instead you’ve embarked on CrimsonCompass, your writing is amazing, and you’re collaborating and making connections. It’s all good! 🙂

    Hi Barbara – Isn’t that amazing? I would have expected the younger of the two to be more intrepid. Instead, the older one is acting like he’s been handed a get-out-of-jail free card.

    Isn’t Ed great? His blog is filled with prosaic jewelry. Perspective is something that can go by the wayside when we’re fearful, and his has been so grounding. Thanks, Barbara.

  10. Dot says

    This is such a weak area for me! My parents (and grandparents) didn’t do well in their careers, and I’ve never known much about business and grew up feeling I didn’t deserve money. I’ve been working on the money feelings, but meanwhile worrying about possible layoffs at work, even though we’re assured it won’t happen.

    I was hit with an unexpected layoff in 2002, and it took me 14 months to find a new job in the poor job climate of that time (partly because I was at the same job for 18 years and had no interviewing skills). I’m so afraid of that happening again.

    “Pete and I recently were introduced to another opportunity that seems like a great fit with our goals and objectives, too. We’re currently developing a strategic plan to assess its merits.”

    The idea of having my own business(es), which I want, is so frightening, too. I have no idea what “developing a strategic plan” really means in this context. The idea of playing offense is something I wish I knew how to do. While I feel strong and competent in other areas of my life, definitely not so much in this one.

    Dot´s last blog post..Welcome to Washington, Mr. President

  11. Betsy Wuebker says

    Hi Melissa – Welcome! I’m with you. Long ago I worked for a company that sucked out people’s souls. They went through people like crazy and had a notorious reputation for doing so. Yet, I only escaped when they fired me. They did pay exorbitant amounts of money, but the important lesson was for all the fun and glamour there supposedly was living the high life, it was ultimately void of things that are more precious. They did me a huge favor. Thanks.

  12. Betsy Wuebker says

    Hi Dot – I hear you. My parents were raised during the Depression. My mother could stretch every penny wafer thin, and she was extremely risk-averse. My dad would give you the shirt off his back and spend every dime in his pocket. Two very different styles out of similar circumstances. The counsel and example was you were lucky to have the (perhaps crappy) job and you did everything you could to stay there forever. It was a set-up to be an employer’s doormat.

    It took me a long time to separate independence from loyalty and to develop a comfort level with variable income that was tied to performance. Commissioned sales will get you there more quickly and that’s what ultimately happened with me. I remember feeling very disoriented when I realized I didn’t need to be in the real estate office from 9 to 5, too. The freedom, instead of liberating, felt scary. I was accountable to myself.

    Scary stuff comes with the entrepreneur’s territory. For me, it’s a scarier prospect to realize you should’ve taken the plunge. I want no additional regrets.

    Strategic planning in this particular case means we are devising a strategy: what we think an appropriate launch will entail, what we might reasonably expect to sell, and how much time and money we will need to invest, then recoup.

    It’s not rocket science, but not everyone does it, either. I’ve started at least one business without much forethought. We intend to be a little more circumspect than that with this. 🙂

    You might want to get your feet wet with a side venture that could serve as your Plan B. It would do a lot to alleviate your worries about being laid off and competency. You’re in a great place in your life to get something going!