“I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life she/he has imagined, she/he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
- Henry David Thoreau
Life transitions are ridiculously fragile times.
Especially when they involve being laid off or quitting a job you’ve had for years. Emotions often go crazy. Feelings of fear, excitement, uncertainty and panic start to flood. We’ve all been there.
But it also happens to be the most powerful opportunity many of us are given when it comes to doing work we love – if used properly.
The problem is that we tend to make awful decisions when grounded in fear. Long-term thinking flies out the window and we immediately start thinking survival. “What can I do right this second to solve this seemingly terrible problem?” But in sprinting for an immediate solution, we can completely miss the chance of a lifetime.
We need to change that.
It’s time to talk about the smart thing to do the moment you decide it’s time to go (and what to do in the weeks and months leading up to it, so you don’t panic when it’s time to change).
One morning I happened to be having breakfast with a close friend. He had just gotten laid off from a finance job he was very proud of and that he worked his ass off to get.
We spent the next hour talking next steps – the advice I gave him is not typical and very contrary to human nature.
You deserve the same.
After endless experiences of my own and those close to me, I’ve realised there is only one thing worth doing the moment you quit, get laid off or make any big transition. It’s something I tell every one of the now hundreds of folks who have faced this challenge and come to me for help. Ready for it?
But first, an important disclaimer: Everyone’s situation and needs are different, so obviously do what’s right for you, your family, life, etc. The important point here is to get ahead of the panic and do whatever you can to create the space to make the right long-term decisions going forward. Ideally you get proactive and do most or all of these things long before you quit or get fired.
OK, so the one thing everyone must do the moment they quit or get laid off is…
Don’t do a damn thing. Nothing at all. Got that?
For at least the first 2-3 weeks (and ideally a few months) DO NOT do any of the following:
- Find any job you can get your hands on
- Start interviewing like crazy
- Take the first offer that comes to you
- Panic and run around in circles
- Start a new business
- Worry about your answer to the question, "What are you going to do now?"
The worst thing you can do, and what almost everyone does, is scramble to immediately find something else.
Avoid the temptation. All this is going to do is put you in the same place you were before you left. That is not what I call progress.
First off, deal with the fear by realising a couple things:
- It’s never as bad as you think. You’re not going to starve and go homeless. And there’s likely something a lot more interesting in store
- You have more options than you realise. If you got laid off, then you’re likely getting severance or unemployment. Okay great, you’re not going to die of hunger. If you quit or otherwise chose your transition, remember you saw this coming. So calm down. Take a breath or two.
Now that you’ve stopped freaking out, realise that you have the rare opportunity to be unhurried and intentional about what you do next.
You have a clear and open window to actually understand what you’re here to do. To slow down, think, reflect and take stock of what you’ve learned and do something meaningful with it.
This opportunity is better than gold. The problem is that most people piss it away.
Respect it. Then do something with it. Here are a few ideas…
7 Ways to Do Nothing (and have a chance at finding your purpose in the process):
1. Travel. Take off and get as far out of town as possible. I still trace my year and a half in Sevilla, Spain as the most defining experience in how I see the world. Without experiencing an entirely new way of doing things, I would surely still be listening to what everyone else says, and Live Your Legend definitely would not exist.
Go alone or grab someone close and just explore. The more foreign your destination, the better. Get out for as long as you can. At least a few weeks, but ideally a few months or even a year. You’d be surprised how much cheaper many places are around the world than your hometown and regular fixed cost-filled routine.
2. Check out a meditation retreat or and advance. Have you ever felt what it’s like to sit and do nothing for a few hours, a day, or a week or more on end? Now that life has finally slowed down, take some time to embrace it.
Check out spots around your area or maybe find one out in a place like India or Bhutan and tie it into your travels. If you want to get really into doing nothing, pick a silent retreat. It’s time to get in touch with parts of our minds and bodies that have long gone neglected.
3. Write. Buy a journal or open up a blank doc on your computer and begin to write what comes to mind. Make it a daily routine. Better yet, do it on your meditation/travel adventure. You’re welcome to use a blog or forum if you’re used to it (here’s a video I made on how to start a blog in under 10 minutes with zero tech experience).
Start in the morning when your mind is clear and take notes throughout the day as things come to mind. Maybe you’ll come back to what you wrote. Maybe you won’t. What matters is you start to reflect. The key is to constantly get your ideas out of your head. Only then will you be able to make real sense of them.
4. Do a cleanse or take on a physical challenge. Do something you haven’t done but have always wondered about. Maybe a Master Cleanse, a juice fast, eating vegan and raw for a few weeks or attempting your first urbanathlon or half or full marathon. Push yourself. See how you feel. Write down some thoughts as the experience unfolds.
5. Get inspired. Surround yourself with people you admire or go off all alone with your favorite music or motivating movies. Dust off Rocky I or Vision Quest if the underdog story is what fires you up. Listen to one of Tony Robbins’ CD programs such as Get The Edge or attend one of his seminars like Unleash the Power Within. Pick anything that’s been on your list or you know will get you inspired. Take note of where your mind takes you.
6. Dream. When was the last time you sat down and dreamed huge, without someone telling you were crazy? Go out in nature, maybe lie out on your back and stare at the clouds. Think of the craziest, biggest (and smallest) dreams you’ve ever imagined. What did you use to imagine before the world told you it wasn’t possible? Go back to your days as a five-year-old if you must. Write everything down. No filtering. Notice how it feels.
7. Learn about yourself. All these steps are designed to help you better understand who you are – to help you find the things you may have never realized you were looking for. To understand your values, strengths, natural talents, passions and figuring out how you actually define success (instead of the BS scripted societal version most of us are running off of). Something that most people never make the time to do. That’s not going to be you. Learn with no expectation and no agenda. Only under those conditions is where one’s purpose can emerge.
“Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.” – Washington Irving
Realise you have the biggest opportunity in the world.
Losing your job is not a disaster. Quitting is not the end of everything certain in life. There is a better path for you. Now you get to find it. Take it seriously, and it just might change your life.
Or you could just roll right into whatever comes your way next. That’d be the easy way. But I think you know better by now.
And beware, many of you will read this and perhaps feel inspired for the moment, but when the sh*t hits the fan you’re gong to be tempted to scramble in a fury. This is normal. Recognise it, but don’t give it control. It is not as bad as you think. Find a reason for it. Let it serve you and be inspired to do something with it.
Be intentional. The sleepwalking has gone on long enough.
When I left my soul-crushing job seven years ago, I went straight to the ATM to get some money out for dinner that night. That’s when it really hit me – that was the biggest my bank account would be in a long time. It was at that moment when I wish I had the advice I’m giving you.
After some painful worst-case thinking, I accepted my situation (which I had created). I embraced it. Then I promised myself I wouldn’t do a thing for 3 months – no matter what. All I did was read, learned and explored.
I want the same for you.
After our breakfast, the next stop for my buddy was a four-day mountain biking retreat. I wonder what he’ll realize while he’s out there… It’s impossible to know. But doing nothing is the only way to find out.
Update: A couple years later, he’s now running a successful mountain bike touring company in Northern California. Beats the hell out finance. 😉
I give you this advice because there’s nothing I care more about than helping people take the steps to live a life and create a career of meaning. Often this means acting against human nature and against what the majority tell you.
Get used to it. Where we’re going, there’s no room for average.
So, are you ready to do nothing?
It’s time to start doing what matters. When is now a good time?