Last week, I turned down what could have been my dream job. Or, rather, what would have been my dream job a couple years ago, but was now almost my dream job, but not quite the more I started to think about it.
I will explain (then tell you what it means to you; skip to the last section if you’re a skimmer ’cause it’s a lesson you need to hear):
Through an acquaintance (networking and word of mouth work, kids), I was introduced to someone looking for an Editor-in-Chief for a well-visited blog. The site was undergoing some renovations, and they wanted someone who could come in and basically oversee the transformation: creating an editorial calendar, recruiting new contributors, cracking down on quality level, brainstorming traffic-driving strategies, and then running the thing from that point forward.
In other words, my ideal job.
Except for one thing: they wanted the position to be full-time.
This is where Me of Two Years Ago (or possibly even six months ago) would have jumped at the position, sans questions or hesitation. It’s also where Me of Today realized just how unfit I am for any sort of “traditional” employment, even the remote kind.
They were hoping to find someone who’d be willing to move to their across-the-country location, but they realized the state of current working affairs and were open to considering remote work. Oh, and they were also offering all sorts of lovely things like healthcare (which we’ve been paying for out-of-pocket for the past six months) and a 401K (which I never had even in my office job). All signs pointed to “Cordelia, take this job.”
Expect for my gut.
Coming from a strictly logical, monetarily driven standpoint, it would have been stupid of me to pass on an opportunity like this.
No longer would I have to juggle multiple projects and clients or worry about budgeting for irregular monthly incomes. No longer would I have to worry when my husband’s COBRA coverage would run out or when the state’s HealthCare.gov site would become functional enough for me to get an idea what my alternate options were.
But I’ve never been one to look at my life’s work from a strictly logical, monetarily driven standpoint. And the more I tried to convince myself why it would be dumb to say “Thanks, but no,” the more it became clear it was the only thing I could say.
I’d told the company upfront that I had a number of current commitments and was hoping to find something that would let me keep them. The Editor-in-Chief position was a new one, and they were feeling out how they wanted to run it, so at least in the exploratory stages, part-time didn’t seem off the table. (I wouldn’t have applied if it was.)
That said, the more we talked, the more it became clear that what they really wanted was, in fact, a full-time staff member, and the conversation ended on the note of, “If you were to go full-time, what amount would you need to ask for?”
What tempted me to even consider this as an option was the fact that, given the responsibilities of the job, going market rates, and my current level of experience, I was justified in asking for a salary that would equal what I’m currently bringing in by juggling multiples projects and clients. I’d be earning as much as I did at my day job when I was full-time. All I had to do was say yes, and I’d be making ends meet, plus benefits, doing work I knew I enjoy doing.
But I couldn’t say yes, try as might to get myself there.
The Sticking Points
Here’s what it ultimately came down to:
1. I’ve worked way too damn hard over the past 3 years to build up this little business, only to ditch it just as it’s picking up steam.
Literally seconds before this particular phone interview, I’d finished another call in which I secured a fantastic new client I was excited to start working for. I was in the process of negotiating a higher rate with another client. I’m currently planning a super-secret (and super-awesome) new site for a third client that will be launching in 2014, which I’ll be helming. I’d already started letting go of a couple lower-paying gigs to make room for these new ventures.
My little biz, after six months, is already transitioning to its next phase. And I did not side-hustle for two and a half years to drop it just as it’s getting hot.
2. If I wanted that salary amount plus benefits, I could have stayed at my day job.
If the only thing really tempting me to ditch everything I’d built up was the voice in the back of my head telling me a nice salary and paid health insurance trump personal happiness, I would have been better off just staying at the day job. Or finding another 9-5 that would give me the same perks.
But it’s never been about the money. Money helps, and I’d like as much of it as possible, please and thank you — but the whole point of this years’ long and still continuing journey always has been, and always will be, about creating a life I’m happy in.
And all the other voices in my head that were quietly screaming “This is a bad idea, you don’t want this, you already don’t like it” told me I wouldn’t be happy doing any job full-time at the expense of all the other opportunities I’d been cultivating up to this point.
3. I am too much of an entrepreneur.
A while back, one of my friends asked me if there’d ever be a scenario in which I’d go back to the 9-5. After some thought, I answered her, quite honestly, that there wasn’t. That even if I got a job doing something writing-related, like working for a newspaper or magazine, I’d still wind up loathing it because I can’t do the traditional “work” thing. It’s not in my DNA.
I am unemployable, as far as standard jobs go. I’d quit within weeks.
Yes, this gig I was considering would be remote, so I could still do it in my PJs and set my own hours, but I’d still be someone’s full-time employee. I’d work for them, and them alone, unless I wanted to do some of my own stuff in the hours I had left over. I wouldn’t be in control of 40 hours of my week; they’d already be set for me.
Everything about this made my stomach sink.
4. “Security,” for a self-starter, does not equal “a steady paycheck.”
I love how Farnoosh Brock worded it in a recent post for Career Attraction. Outlining the signs that you might be an entrepreneur, she wrote:
You See a Job as a Risk, Not a Source of Security
You consider having a traditional job to be the ultimate risk because your security is completely out of your control. Someone else could decide your faith tomorrow based on some numbers, and that thought scares you to death. You are fiscally conservative, but not in the sense that you want a steady paycheck from someone else — rather, you want to take your income into your own hands.
While I’d of course rock this new job as much as I possibly could, and hopefully they’d like me for that, the thought of one employer holding all my income cards shared the shit out of me. What if their strategy changed in a few months, or their budget? And even if things kept on keeping on, I’d still have the bulk of my time committed to them, with no potential to scale it.
Working for myself, I not only manage my time; I manage how much I can get for that time. From the time I started side hustling to now, I’ve been able to steadily increase how much my hours are worth by maximizing my efficiency and strategically raising my rates. That growth potential would halt the instant I took a full-time job. My income, like my hours, would be set in stone by someone else, unless they decided to change their mind.
5. I simply would not be happy.
That sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I tried to talk myself into why this gig would be the smart thing to do meant that it wasn’t. Plain and simple. Sometimes the choice is easy to make in the end, even when it takes some time to get there.
So, what does all this mean for you?
Quitting Something Doesn’t Mean It’s Bad
When you’re clearing certain things from your life, not everything you have to let go, turn down, or get rid of will be obviously (or inherently) bad. Clearly you should toss things that are, like smoking or letting toxic people bring you down. But sometimes saying no to something just means it’s not right for you at that point in your life.
That guy you need to break up with is lovely, and you like spending time with him, but he’s clearly not your be-all-end-all, and it’s not fair to either of you to keep investing time as if he is.
That career you’ve thought you wanted since you were a kid isn’t what you dreamed it would be, so even though you’ve put all your time and energy into achieving it, the best thing you can do is acknowledge that and learn how to change course.
Those projects you have to drop are interesting, and the clients are lovely, but they’re not giving you the ROI you need as you grow your business into something bigger. You hate doing it, but it needs to be done.
These things, in and of themselves, could be a part of your life, and they wouldn’t do you any outright harm. But they will keep you from being able to do things that are even bigger and better.
And you deserve bigger and better. You deserve nothing but the biggest and the best, to be exact. So even if something isn’t inherently “bad,” going after it can still mean settling. It’s like buying a sugar cookie when you’re head-over-heels for triple chocolate, because the bakery you’re at is out of triple chocolate.
Will you hate eating the sugar cookie? Of course not; it’s a cookie, and cookies are yummy. But will you love it? Will it make your day? No. So even though it’s yummy enough, it won’t really satisfy you, not deep down.
And that, dear readers, is not enough, I don’t care what anyone else tells you or even what you’re telling yourself.
If you’re craving something else, freakin’ go for it. Find another bakery. Run to the store. Learn how to make the cookies yourself.
Do. Not. Settle. Even for things that are decent enough.
Insist on your purpose in life. It’s the only thing you were put here to do. Everything else is just filler.
If you liked this, be sure to check out:
(Assemble your own trending keyword title here!)
In blogging, and in life, there are certain rules people expect to follow for guaranteed “success.”
In blogging, these rules include such things as: maximizing your title with the top trending SEO keywords (estimated time to accomplish: 15-30 mins./post), micro-analyzing your site stats to understand every possible way your audience is finding you (30 mins. – 1 hr./day everyday), and A/B split testing your email subject lines to make sure every single message you send out reaches the highest percentage of your email list (15-30 mins./post).
In life, these rules include such things as: schlumping through a mediocre job to pay the bills (40-50 years/life); marrying someone, producing children, and paying down a mortgage (the rest of your life from your 20s-onward); and incurring lots of debt to keep up with the Joneses (life + infinity years).
In blogging, and in life, plenty of people have found “success” with these methods—some of that success being legitimate and snarky-quote-mark-free. And plenty of other people have wasted hours to whole lifetimes chasing formulas they don’t even care about, for results they don’t even want.
Real success (the snarky-quote-mark-free kind) comes from knowing what your ultimate end game is. Defining what success looks like you to, then reverse engineering the steps it will take to get you there. That’s the only thing to really guarantee a semblance of happiness.
All the rest? Is a completely waste of time.
The Blogging Application
There are plenty of blogs whose sole purpose is to gain market share, ascend the Google page ranks, and then monetize like crazy. I moonlight as a digital ad broker, and I’ve got a portfolio full of sites that accept sponsored posts on casino gambling and banner ads for whatever will pay them. And I am totally cool with their doing this. Because they’re running their blogs as revenue machines, and it’s working. More power to them.
There are also blogs that aim to be the go-to resource for subject matter expertise (see: Copyblogger, etc.). For them, researching top SEO keywords and extensive audience analysis is just smart business. Copyblogger is a damn fine site, and hella useful. They walk the line nicely between massive traffic-capturing and the importance of quality content, and for what they want to be, they are killing it.
Then, there are blogs that couldn’t give a crap about SEO relevance and have done pretty darn well on their own strategy of being unlike anything else that’s out there (see: The Middle Finger Project, et al.) I doubt Ash Ambirge sits down with Google Analytics before writing each post to make sure she’s speaking to 83% of her audience instead of just 82%. I doubt she cares that she’s a page rank 4 instead of a page rank 7. She writes what she thinks needs to be heard, and she writes it in a way only she can write. And because of that, she’s the first answer half the bloggers in existence give when you ask them who they aspire to be like.
As long as you know which kind of blog you want to be, go forth and conquer. Rock the hell out of that strategy, as long as it’s what you really want.
The trouble comes in when you don’t know what kind of blog you really want to be (or you don’t think the kind of blog you want to be is good enough). When you secretly long to share a life-changing message with the world, but you get tied up spending your writing time researching THE hottest Twitter topic right now so you can write a blog post around it in the hopes it gets you a few new readers. When you obsess over analytics and bounce rates and split testing rather than infusing the most awesome you-ness you possibly can into each and every post.
When you get caught up in all the ought-to-be-doings and lose site of why you even began blogging in the first place, that’s when things get shitty. That’s when your blog reaches no one, and you have no fun doing it.
The Life Application
Much as above, a case can be made for any or all of these life paths/events: working a traditional 9-5, climbing the corporate ladder, going to college, going to grad school, getting married, having kids, starting your own business, buying a house, living out of a backpack, buying super-cool gadgets, owning nothing but 1 pair of pants and some sandals.
All of these are perfectly valid ways to go with your life, and any combination of all or none of the above has the potential to make some people legitimately happy.
You just have to know what kind of person you are.
Because life, just like blogging, is not a paint-by-numbers equation. You can’t assemble the right number of items in the right order like The Game of Life (which, by the way, sucks) and expect to be magically happy.
Because there are no right items, and there is no right order. It’s all about knowing what you define as a “successful” life, and choosing to pursue the things that will create that success.
That’s the one and only way to go.
So, what’s your success? And how’re you gonna chase it?
Image: Curious Expeditions
If you liked this, be sure to check out:
Things have been a little messy behind the CCIQ curtain lately.
First, it was my annual “I just got the flu shot” para-flu that had me on energy saver mode for nearly a week. Then it was a bout of wicked headaches. Then it was several weeks of mild-to-horrid withdrawal as I slowly step myself off a med that was doing me no favors. (Still a couple weeks away from freedom. Heaven help me if I ever get addicted to crack, because I am no good at this game.)
Sprinkled in between these larger plan-screwing issues were the usual, everyday disruptions that keep you from getting all your to-dos crossed off in neat and orderly fashion as hoped for: clients with sudden emergency projects, computer glitches, electrical issues that render your furnace useless on a blustery day, pups getting sick in the middle of the night and leaving you draggy and half-speed the next day.
You know, life.
But the thing is, lately I’ve been forgetting to allow for the fact that life happens.
I’ve been kicking myself (and the universe) lately over the fact that I cannot for the life of me seem to ever get all my shit done in the time I’ve allotted for it.
Some of it, granted, has been a matter of getting used to a self-dictated schedule and learning to prioritize and time-block instead of trying to do ALL THE THINGS at once in a manic idealistic tailspin. Some of it has been taking on way more than I can realistically chew, then having to acknowledge (begrudgingly) the constraints of reality and do some serious trim work.
But some of it—the better part of it, lately—is me refusing to realize I’m BSing myself by saying I’ll get caught up “when things get back to normal.” Because there is no “normal.” Life includes interruptions and sidetracks. That won’t change.
Sure, some weeks will be better than others. (Not jonesing on a regular basis will be phenomenal once I’m done with this detox.) But no day will ever be without its distractions, emergencies, and other general pains in the arse.
And the sooner I accept that, the better.
Oh, hai, little frustrations!
All the frustration I feel over things not going according to plan stems from the fact that I’m assuming things will ever go according to plan. If I acknowledge, at the outset of every day, that Murphy’s Law will rear up to amuse itself, viola! Frustrations decimated. I can keep to my course, nonchalantly tipping my hat to any annoyances that pop up the way a debonair flying ace would laugh at a little cloud coverage.
I was very good at doing this in the 9-5. One of the myriad ways I kept my sanity intact while building my escape (in addition to a healthy dose of bourbon the instant I got home each night) was by picturing myself and my officemates as characters in an Office-y type show, where every copier jam in the middle of a deadline and every computer freeze at the most inconvenient time was a well-played joke to remind the audience not to take any of this too seriously.
While my colleagues lost their minds over faxes that wouldn’t send, I laughed at both the situation (of course it was the most important fax of the day! how did you not see that coming?) and the manner of said mind-losing. Crap like that was the running gag of office life, like the “that’s what she said” joke you just know Michael Scott will be making once an episode.
Once you realize that, you can enjoy a good laugh whenever things go awry. Sometimes because a good laugh is better than being a grumpypants, and sometimes because a good laugh is better than dissolving into tears. Either way, it’s the more enjoyable option.
Shit, as they say, happens. No sense in letting that ruin your day on a regular basis.
The best only kind of day
So, I am done getting annoyed when a client adds yet another task to my growing list of to-dos. Mo’ work means mo’ money, and if I ever don’t have the time for mo’ work, I can polite decline. You can do that sort of thing when you’re your own boss. I do not need to do ALL THE THINGS, especially when life is inherently structured to guarantee I’ll only get to some of the things.
I am done kicking myself when I need an extra hour of sleep in the morning and that puts a crunch on my morning productivity. Yes, being your own boss requires hella hours of work, but that work is done in order to grant yourself the freedom to do things like sleep in an hour when you’re ill. No point in doing the work if you don’t also allow yourself the rewards of that work.
And, I am done uttering a silent (and sometimes audible) growl when: I can’t keep up with all my filing; the pups won’t come in from outside (or won’t go outside from inside); the laundry needs doing; dinner needs eating; my head hurts; my house breaks; the husband’s band practice is cancelled and I’m tempted into watching a selfish night of TV with him instead of continuing to work my tail off; or the new editor I’m dealing with on a client’s behalf inundates me with 27 18-point Courier New questions (several of which she winds up answering herself before I’ve even finished responding to the first emails she sent). (Still a little irked over that? Maybe.)
Life is life, and that is messy. What matters isn’t how neat and tidy my days are, but how much fantasticness I’m getting out of each day.
It’s time I re-read my own shoulder, embrace a little chaos, and let the stupid frustrations of the day roll off me, because as much as I’d like to imagine running your own business means being in control of everything, that is not the case.
That isn’t what happens, in any area of life, for anyone.
Things will come up. Things will go wrong. The real measure of whether the day’s been a success? If I laughed with my husband. If I thoroughly pet my puppies. If I got done the projects that immediately needed doing to keep my bills paid and my clients happy.
Everything else is just filler, and—if you look at it right, with the universe’s puckish sense of humor—rather amusing filler at that.
Embrace the copier jams. Embrace the fire drills. Embrace chaos. Laugh.
You’ll find it oddly freeing. Give it a try.