Every other Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a career, entrepreneurship, personal productivity, or personal development book.
Perhaps it’s just my perspective, but there seem to be a lot of books out there right now that seem to encourage people to make a radical change in their careers. I think these books all come from a general sense of dissatisfaction with the old style of career path, where you give your loyalty to an organization in exchange for some degree of safety. Today, obviously, the “safety” part of the bargain is gone, so where does the loyalty go? I think people begin to feel loyalty to themselves – a healthy response – but it can also easily foster a general unhappiness with the sacrifices expected of them by the old career model. You’re expected to be loyal to the organization, but you’re given nothing in return but a paycheck and a lot of stress about what tomorrow brings.
The solutions seem to go in a bunch of different directions. Perhaps adopting different attitudes and mores in the workplace is a way to go. Maybe hands-off entrepreneurship is the right thing to do. Maybe it’s hands-on entrepreneurship… or perhaps self-employment/microentrepreneurship.
It’s impossible to say what direction is right or wrong for a given person. Different paths suit different people well.
One avenue that I think is quite strong, though, is the path espoused in Jonathan Fields’ Career Renegade: make yourself into a personal brand that has a lot of inherent value. His argument is that by putting a lot of effort into making your name well-known to people in your field and associating it with a lot of usefulness and positive value, you’ll get your foot in the door in countless places and your career choices, whatever they might be, can be much easier.
Obviously, this takes a lot of work. Career Renegade focuses on how to make this possible. Let’s dig in.
What Makes You Come Alive?
Every career has people that somehow rise above the fray, creating some sort of niche for themselves where they can earn a healthy income no matter what their field is. This is fueled by passion, but it’s fueled by something else, too: they simply stand out from the crowd. How? Fields points out three key factors: experience, flow, and people.
Experience simply means that you’ve put in the hours to learn your craft. Diligent and deliberate practice have made you good at what you do, and a wide variety of situations have shown you countless ways to apply that practice.
Flow means that you can get yourself into a mindset where your full concentration is devoted to that work. You’re able to shut out external inputs in your life and can simply bury yourself deep in the area of your expertise. The maximum amount of your mind and your soul are engaged in it, opening the door to creating great things.
People means that others are aware of the work that you do. You’re not hidden from the world – in fact, you’re open to it. You make an effort to make it as easy as possible for them to discover the good things you do. You surround yourself by people that bring out the best in you, and you allow that “best in you” to shine as brightly as possible so that many can see it.
What Kind of Renegade Will You Be?
All of us have a pool of passions and skills and knowledge to draw upon in our lives. We’re passionate about some things and have well-practiced skills in other areas, as well as information worth sharing to others. The way to stand out is to find a unique or rarely-used combination of these skills, knowledge, and passions that others might find value in.
Fields shares examples of a passionate artist who was raised in a family of bakers. She took a skill she thought she’d never use again (baking), combined it with her passion for art, and began selling artistically-designed cupcakes. Another story involves a woman who was passionate about wines and had a natural skill for painting landscapes, so she combined the two, painting vineyards for display in wineries.
I combined passions for personal finance and writing, a skill for turning out decent writing at a high volume, and tossed in some experience with designing websites. The end result? The Simple Dollar.
There is no pre-set formula for this. You just need to start throwing things together.
How to Master Your Passion and Build a Worldwide Following
You’ve found this perfect unexplored niche and you’re seeing a bit of small success. Now what? Now’s the time to get the world’s attention.
The best way to do this is to go online and start talking up what you do. Make videos of your work, take pictures of your work, and share them. Make useful instructional videos. Start a blog. Join Twitter and talk about your passion. Share all of this material with your already-existing customers/fanbase and encourage them to talk, too.
If you’re actually putting some value out there, people will start to look. They’ll join in the conversation. They’ll see what you have to offer and they’ll become customers/clients/fans/job offers.
This takes a lot of work and a lot of dedicated patience, but it works.
Let the Revolution Begin
It’s a long, hard road to get to the point that Fields describes. How do you get from where you’re at now to that point?
Fields offers a ton of tactics to help with the transition. Three I liked:
Imagine the consequences of not trying. You stay where you are, stuck in place, in a job you hate, for the rest of your years. Your ship is not coming in. Why not seek something better?
Visualize your dream outcome very day. Keep the big dream in mind at all times. It’ll make all the little steps, stumbles, and challenges quite a bit easier.
Don’t do it alone. Find others that are attempting to transform their lives, too, and share experiences and ideas and leads. Doing it alone makes it very difficult in every dimension.
Is Career Renegade Worth Reading?
Career Renegade is a solid read if you’re willing to spend your spare hours building upon what you already have. To follow what Jonathan suggests, you’ll have to go through some painful years of a lot of work without much reward, but when you come out the other side, you’ll have built so much intrinsic value in yourself that doors will open for you.
In some ways, this is what I did, just without a guidebook. For years, I burnt every minute of my spare time writing and communicating with readers and communicating with other writers. Over time, I got my name out there and people kept coming to me. Eventually, I was able to make a shift and live life on my own terms – but the path to get there was hard.
If you want a new path but are afraid to just walk away from your career as it is now, give the ideas in Career Renegade a try. You might find the path you’re looking for.