To be fair, I didn’t QUIT work. I moved to a smaller creative agency and a four day week with the freedom (intellectual and physical) to thrive.
The “bonus” 5th day is MINE, not owned by work or responsibilities. A space to rekindle lost interests, fine-tune life’s vision and celebrate meaningful achievements. An “innovation lab” of one.
So what have I learned over the last three months?
1. FREEDOM COMES FROM LETTING GO OF FEAR
Despite the fact that I loved my last job, and the people I worked with, I’d outgrown my surroundings. This realization came about three years ago but I was paralyzed to act on my insight. Terrified that leaving a “secure” work environment would make me homeless, hungry and unable to provide for my child–it was easier to plod along treading the rhythm of someone else’s drum.
The thing is, since leaving big agency life to pursue a routine with less structure and perceived security, I feel completely at ease. FEAR has been replaced by FREEDOM.
2. OPPORTUNITY CALLING IS MORE LIKE A “NUDGE” THAN A FANFARE.
Most people can do absolutely awe-inspiring things. Sometimes they just need a little nudge.” TIM FERRISS, 4-HOUR WORK WEEK
Impetus for change came when I was presented with a job offer that had huge potential but also risk. A small agency meant less security, but also less stress and more flexibility. No opportunity was going to fulfill all I was looking for…it gave me the chance to have more autonomy and explore personal projects.
3. SLOWING DOWN DOESN’T MEAN SLOWING UP.
Agency life can be manic. Productivity is often mistaken for progress. Being overworked and reactive is not a sustainable path for success. Having time to step back, assess situations and explore new approaches is where real growth comes from–and ultimately innovation.
4. PEOPLE ARE EVERYTHING
Surround yourself with talented people–and those who share similar beliefs. It’s a lot easier to thrive in a place where your values aren’t shunned–but are celebrated instead.
Leaving a job doesn’t mean leaving your colleagues. That’s what coffee shops were invented for (oh, and LinkedIn).
5. THERE IS LIFE ON MARS…AND OTHER PLANETS
When you work for a company for an extended period you absorb its culture, process and language. Like a family (sometimes nurturing–sometimes dysfunctional) it defines our role, contribution and validation in the workplace. However, agencies are not that unique.
Beyond their walls hundreds of other creative worlds exist. After conducting an audit of over 100 agencies in SF alone I concluded that there’s really not much difference between them–most offer combinations of advertising, branding and digital (with different clients and emphases). The trick is to find an agency that is congruent with your values and delivers what excites you.
6. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
Don’t underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.” TIM FERRIS, 4-HOUR WORK WEEK
A while back I discovered the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias that showed how unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. It miraculously explained much of the frustrations present in client-agency dynamics.
What is more “Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.”
Suffice to say, I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my own abilities.
7. TRUST YOUR INTUITION
In an industry where statistics, data and research second-guess creativity – intuition is often overlooked. From judging solutions to evaluating the next career move–instincts count. Always trust that what feels right, is right. This also applies to sales and account management–engage conversations from a place of authenticity and you can’t fail.
Also, don’t let other people’s limitations limit you.
8. GROWTH HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE DISTANCE
When you’re in the maelstrom of constant deadlines and deliverables it’s hard to breathe. Having the time to step back and focus helps to improve efficiency, juggle priorities and be truly creative. It’s the difference between getting shelled in the trenches vs. strategizing the next assault from a safe range.
9.TIME IS WORTH MORE THAN $
A recent publication by the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA report) suggests that money isn’t the #1 factor for employees. The top three motivations are:
- Interesting work
- Work/life balance
I second that. Time is the new currency for success.
10. LIFE REALLY DOES BEGIN AT 40.
Since turning 40, I feel more confident, validated and invigorated than ever before. Experience brings clarity to unhelpful behaviors; wisdom provides insight to making better choices. 40+ harnesses this knowledge while still having the energy to pursue dreams yet realized.
And guess what? You get to pay it forward.