The Art of Not Knowing

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Freedom in the present moment comes from letting go of the need to know what will happen in the future.

From trusting that you will make the right decisions if you listen to your heart, your gut instincts and feelings, and ignoring the constant chatter of the “monkey mind”.

Freedom comes from letting yourself ‘be’. Accepting who you are. Not forcing yourself to be something you’re not.

Caring for others is an essential part of life, but can’t we do that without sacrificing our own happiness in the process? We shouldn’t be required to live up to other people’s expectations if they are no longer in alignment with who we are and what we want out of life.

The Uncertain Creative

Photo: Nicu Buculei (Creative Commons)

Photo: Nicu Buculei (Creative Commons)

Society expects us to decide definitively what we want to do with our lives by the time we leave school, or university.

But being a ‘Clear-Minded Creative’ doesn’t mean you know exactly what you’re doing. That wouldn’t be very interesting!

It means you accept that you may never know – but that you keep trying and experimenting anyway.

I’ve Just Run Out of Excuses

Yesterday I left the civil service after almost exactly 10 years to the day I started. You can read some background to this in one of the previous newsletters. Somewhat spookily, given this was my last day of repeating the same routine over and over again, this happened on Groundhog Day.

Another coincidence – on the way to work, I was listening to a playlist of 120 cheesy songs and ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe came on just as I was approaching the building – at which point I started singing along at the top of my voice, obviously!

Man with a Plan or Unemployed Bum?

Because I voluntarily accepted redundancy, I will receive a decent lump sum. If I’m careful, I can survive on this for a year, even if I didn’t have any other money coming in.

My plan though, is to continue to work as a freelance copywriter, which is something I’ve been doing since I cut down my working week to four days at the beginning of 2011 – but now it will need to be on a much bigger scale because this time next year it will probably be my main source of income.

I also want to ramp up my blogging efforts again. The point of this blog was always to help other creative people find focus and achieve their potential – and I’ve only just scratched the surface so far.

Developing a new business as well as blogging is going to take a lot of focus and discipline, even though I’ll no longer be working a day job at the same time. Key to this is establishing productive habits and spending my days wisely.

I also want to ensure I have time for exercise and my own creative projects/experiments, whilst I have the luxury of being able to structure my own time.

Every Moment Counts

Every moment counts for me this year. It’s hugely important. But what’s new? I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t have done some legwork. I couldn’t have done this if I was heavily overdrawn or in credit card debt for example (I do have student loans but it was under the old system which means I can continue to defer them for the time being).

If I hadn’t already been paid for my writing and other work I might not have had the confidence to take the leap (even then it was a tough decision). My previous job, whilst it had it’s frustrations, did mean I got a lot of experience with digital media and marketing, and the fact I’ve been writing, blogging, using social media and producing audio and video content for many years is also a bonus.

Also worth pointing out is that over a year ago, on the advice of  Jonathan Mead, I set a very specific goal: to ditch my day job by 31st March 2012. This was before I knew the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy would arise. In fact, I forgot that I had done this until I looked at my calendar for 2012 a few weeks ago, but the intention was always at the back of my mind – never underestimate the power of committing to clear and highly specific goals.

One of my leaving gifts

Everything you do is a step in either the right, or wrong direction to achieving what you really want out of life. That’s what this blog is really about. Whatever situation you’re in right now, it’s a good thing to remember. Of course we can also put too much pressure on ourselves – rest and relaxation, enjoying life and HAVING FUN has to be part of the plan too.

This is an important post for me, and I’d  be really grateful if you would share it on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus or wherever you see fit using the handy buttons below.

Oh, and why not join over 100 people who already subscribe to the newsletter and like CMC on Facebook, and over 1000 people who follow me on Twitter: @milomclaughlin

p.s. I know I dropped the ball with this blog last year but I’m back now, and I’ve got no more excuses – so expect big things :)

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).