career-renegade

Clear-Minded Classic #5: Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields

I’m a big fan of author and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields, and I doubt this blog would even exist if I hadn’t discovered his book Career Renegade a few years ago.

After reading and massively identifying with the aforementioned Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People, I started looking for more, similar information.  I can’t remember the exact path that led me to his blog and to downloading his free PDF The Firefly Manifesto, but I do know that I was blown away by the content and immediately pre-ordered Career Renegade (which at that point hadn’t yet been released).

By pre-ordering I also got access to something called Career Renegade Flight School which was a series of videos recorded by Fields to further illuminate the topics covered in the book, and made me feel a connection with him that the book wouldn’t have achieved alone. I also listened to his brilliant Renegade Profiles podcast series, which was my first introduction to people like Chris Guillebeau and other inspiring bloggers and creative entrepreneurs.

So, what’s so good about the manifesto/book?

Career Renegade came out at the height of the economic downturn. In the Firefly Manifesto however, Fields had a slightly different angle on things to the usual doom and gloom.

He proposed that being made redundant, whilst a painful and difficult process to go through, could have within it the seeds of opportunity. What better time to rebuild your career from the ground up, and make a living from doing something you enjoy?

Now I hadn’t been made redundant at the time, but after over a decade of jobs that had the opposite effect of making me want to leap out of bed in the morning, I was equally ready to try a different approach.

And what Career Renegade does is help you look at your creative talents/interests in a whole new way. It asks: how best can you use your talents to provide value to others?  This is the key to making your creativity sought after, and rewarded financially, instead of ignored and keeping you poor. Here’s what Fields says:

 The simple truth is that you can turn nearly any passion into a big, fat heap of money. However, it often requires mining aspects of those passions you never knew existed or bringing them to life in markets and ways that defy the mainstream.

At the time I was putting a lot of time outside of work into writing about local music and recording a podcast. But I wasn’t the only one – the number of people doing similar things was increasing all the time and soon I didn’t even feel that I was adding anything new to proceedings.

Not only was there a lot of competition, there was nobody there waving a cheque book and offering to pay me, and putting on gigs and running a record label felt too daunting a step to take.

I had never, ever been in it for the money, but as much as I enjoyed the camaraderie and community of what I was doing, it was taking up all of my time outside of work, and didn’t seem like it could lead to me leaving the job I was doing for something more suited to my talents and interests.

Basically, I needed this book.

How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love

Fields’ own story of going from high strung lawyer to yoga teacher and health club owner following a health scare has been well documented elsewhere, and is also outlined in the book. He also highlights several other real life examples of people who have found a lucrative outlet for their passions.

Fields argues that we all need a good standard of living, and being creative doesn’t mean we have to be completely broke all the time. Which was good news for me, as I have a mortgage to pay and shiny gadgets to buy…

The first step is to identify what you love to do. Here, he brings the concept of Flow into play, from the now much quoted book by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.  To summarise this concept crudely, ask yourself what makes you lose track of time and lose yourself in the sheer enjoyment of it, because that’s probably what you were put on the earth to do. There is much more to it than that though, and he goes into further details in the book.

Secondly think about the people you want to have around you. This has a much bigger impact than most of us imagine on how much we enjoy our work/lives.

In the next stage, he talks about a variety of ways we can “move beyond the mainstream” and create a path for ourselves that will lead to us making a living doing what we love.

One of the best examples of this is how to “redeploy your passion in a market that places a higher value on it” – Fields shares the example of an artist who paints vineyards and sells them to the customers of the vineyard, thus targeting her paintings at an audience who are keen to buy them and have the means to do so, rather than letting them languish in her studio forevermore.

Now some might see this as selling out, and prefer to go down in history as the unappreciated genius who never sold a painting. Whilst that may not be as romantic, it does require a lifetime without recognition or reward, which doesn’t really sound that attractive to me – but whatever floats your boat.

The other topics covered are a lot to do with leveraging technology to both identify a market for what you do and to package your existing expertise in a way that’s desirable to other people. It’s a treasure trove of tips and insights and for me was a window into a whole other world of online opportunities and resources.

Gargantuan

Almost singlehandedly, this book inspired me to completely change the way I thought about my writing and my work. For over a year I went heavily into R&D (research and development) mode and read a huge number of blog posts, books and info products, all of which provided more proof that making a living doing what you love is possible. Now I just had to take some action – not always my strong point.

Eventually however I have taken slow steps towards creating a more rewarding career. Of course I wouldn’t claim that it’s been an easy process or that I’m all the way there – as Fields himself puts it:

Creating your life and livelihood to deliver maximum passion and prosperity is a gargantuan challenge.

But since starting out on this path I’ve been promoted to a job where I work with the web and digital communications, started working as a freelance copywriter and have started this blog, so I have a lot to be thankful to Jonathan Fields for.

As do a lot of other bloggers and creative types – I’ve seen his book mentioned many times by other people I admire as being a key inspiration to them also. Of course that just means that the competition out there is even greater than ever. So what are you waiting for?

Do you feel it’s possible to earn a decent living doing something you love? Have you read the book or do you intend to? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Download the free Firefly Manifesto (updated version)

Buy Career Renegade at Amazon.com: paperback Kindle edition

or Amazon.co.uk: paperback | Kindle edition

 

And look out for the next book from this author on the topic of turning uncertainty into creative success which is due out later this year.

Disclaimer: This page is littered with affiliate links, which means when you buy the book I get a small percentage of the profit. And by small, I mean miniscule, e.g. if 100,000 people were to buy a book via one of my affiliate links, I might be able to buy an iPad (this is not based on any actual calculation).

CMClassic 1

Clear-Minded Classics #1: The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People

"We're not like the others."

My attorney saw the hitchhiker long before I did. “Let’s give this boy a lift,” he said, and before I could mount any argument he was stopped and this poor Okie kid was running up to the car with a big grin on his face, saying, “Hot damn! I never rode in a convertible before!”

“Is that right?” I said. “Well, I guess you’re about ready, eh?”

The kid nodded eagerly as we roared off.

“We’re your friends,” said my attorney. “We’re not like the others.”

O Christ, I thought, he’s gone around the bend. “No more of that talk,” I said sharply. “Or I’ll put the leeches on you.”

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

The quote “we’re not like the others” from the above passage has always stuck in my mind, and it’s a remark that could easily be shouted from the rooftops by many of us creative types. We often feel like a square peg in a round hole, especially when it comes to work.

I’ve worked numerous jobs where I’ve felt seriously miserable, yet others around me seemed to be fine. I mean they would probably prefer not to be there, but it wasn’t seriously messing with their soul or anything.

I felt isolated and wondered if this was some terrible personality flaw of mine. I will own up to having my fair share of such flaws. But it’s not just me who feels like this at work, there’s a lot of us out there who feel the same.

Let me out.. yeah, let me out by meddygarnet

Stuck in a rut


A few years back I realised I was going nowhere fast. Ok, I’d gradually moved up the ladder in the civil service and got better paid jobs with more responsibility, and it looked fairly realistic to say I could continue to do so in the future, but the fact was I didn’t want to. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything worse.

I decided a career change was going to be necessary but I wasn’t sure what exactly to do. I wanted to make sure I made the right choice – I’d already spent four years doing a Communications Studies degree and didn’t feel it was at all worthwhile in career terms as it was a pretty vague and woolly subject with little in the way of vocational training (also I was very young and unfocused at the time).

I decided to research possible careers as thoroughly as I could before making the decision to go back to full-time or part-time education. Especially as I couldn’t afford it and was reluctant to get back into debt.

The truth is, I’m still working the day job, and still researching, still trying to learn new skills in my free time, from books and the internet. But some of the resources I’ve found have really helped me on my mission to become either more clear-minded or more creative, and in this new series I want to feature the best of them.

When looking into changing careers I first read the Guardian book How to Change Your Career, which gave me some initial encouragement. They even have a quote from psychologist Dr Charles Johnson who says: “being stale at your work is a way of ageing quickly.” At last, an explanation for my receding hairline and premature grey hairs. They also said that age shouldn’t be an obstacle to changing careers, so being in my 30s wasn’t necessarily a problem either.

The book has some useful info in it, with lots of details about specific jobs/career paths. But none of them seemed right for me. I mean journalism was the obvious choice, but I’d already done quite a bit of arts journalism in my spare time and found it hard to find work, and I wasn’t interested in news or sports. Plus, the journalism industry was now in disarray due to the ubiquity of the internet.

The next book I picked up at least made me feel a lot better about myself. The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People, by Carol Eickleberry, spoke directly to my experience. (note this is an affiliate link – for more details see foot of post).

Eickleberry focuses much more on the psychology of finding the right career/job and for me this was a breath of fresh air compared to most other career books which only really skim the surface. On the first page the author invites the reader to start their own personal adventure. She says: “the adventure begins when you set out to develop your own unique potential instead of following conventional expectations to become like someone else.”

This was a different approach to careers than those I’d seen before which you could paraphrase as ‘pick a profession which sounds like it might be ok and risk years of your life and a small fortune on the chance that a) you might enjoy it and b)  there might actually be some jobs available in the field’.

Holland’s Theory

Jool's Theory, by Milo

Eikleberry goes into detail about Holland’s theory, that “there are six basic personality types in the world of work, and six corresponding work environments”. She provides exercises to help you determine which type you most closely correspond to (please note that the theory comes from a psychologist named John Holland, not Jools Holland, former Squeeze musician turned TV presenter).

Arty

It wouldn’t take a genius to work out that I scored most highly in the ‘artistic’ category. I also scored fairly highly in the ‘social’ category, which included possible job roles such as counsellor or teacher. Eikleberry explains that knowing this second category is useful if you’re confused about what artistic avenue to pursue or are drawn to a number of different directions.

She also quotes statistics which show that there are a lot more artistic types out there than there are artistic jobs. Again, I started to understand better why I hadn’t yet found a job I really enjoyed.

The Reasons Why You Hate Your Job

In fact the book goes a long way towards explaining my seemingly incurable workplace malaise:

“Creative work requires a very high level of skill. It feels bad to have a high level of ability but not use it. One major study found that underutilisation of abilities is positively related to job dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and depression.” I certainly felt this way about the lack of writing/creative opportunities at my job at the time.

She also says that non-artistic types (the majority) can consider artistic types (the minority) in a negative light, or even choose to ignore their talents and accomplishments completely because they’re unwilling to see an alternative to their own value systems and beliefs. This lack of understanding, whether intentional or not, can mean constant misinterpretation of what the creative person is all about:

“Many creative people look like chronic malcontents to outsiders, because they are always searching for what can be improved.”

Coupled with our desire to do things our own way, and therefore difficulty in bowing to authority, it’s no wonder some of us don’t fit into traditional workplaces! And the news wasn’t good when it came to mental health either:

“Because psychological adjustment is defined, in part, as the ability to fit in, it’s not too surprising to learn that artistic types as a group demonstrate the least confidence and the greatest psychological distress of all six types.”

Composing Your Ideal Career

Once it has laid out the reasons why a traditional job is not suitable for creative types, the book goes on to give plenty of advice on working out your abilities, interests and motivators (there are plenty of resources for this on the accompanying website) as well as how to ‘compose your ideal career’. Eikleberry also suggests some specific roles you may want to look into further, based on what you find out about yourself.

The book didn’t give me all the answers by any means, but most importantly it made me realise I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t ‘broken’ in some way, I was just different. And it’s made me determined to find work that suited who I am, instead of trying to fit into to a role which someone else expected me to fulfil.

Was this post useful? Let me know what you think.

If you’re interested in buying this book, I’ve included links below to Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. These are affiliate links which means if you buy it I will receive a tiny amount of money for recommending it, but it won’t cost you anymore than it would otherwise.

amazon.com
The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People – Paperback

amazon.co.uk
Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People – Paperback
The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People – Kindle Edition

Main image by meddygarnet