I have had many folks ask how I made the transition from corporate work to work that is centered around my passion or, as I like to say, what I was put here to do.
A vital part of this is, of course, figuring out what I was put here to do. But that’s an entire post of its own (or a book ;), so I’ll focus on what I did once I knew that. I’ll talk about my mistakes (next post) as well as what went well (this post).
Once I figured out that something HAD to change (I got as close as I ever want to get to a nervous breakdown), I was lucky enough to be able to leave my regular, full-time corporate job and move to part-time freelance and stay with the same company. This was a huge, HUGE benefit for me. It was an easy way to make a smoother transition between the two lifestyles (whatever that new lifestyle would be), and I’m indebted to the folks at my old job for allowing me that opportunity.
So then, figuring out a way to not have to leave my corporate job cold turkey was a big part of it. The next step was finding work in my new lifestyle–and all I needed to do was figure out what that was 😉
My frame of mind when I went to freelance part-time work with my old employer was I needed to figure out “what was I put here to do”. And it sounds simple to say it but here it is: I knew that my favorite parts of my old job were the teaching and mentoring that I had done. So I thought, “what’s the thing I’m most qualified to teach?” And for me, the answer was easy–drumming! What I was put here to do has since expanded from teaching music to teaching AND performing music (for me, I can’t have one without the other–the performing makes me a better teacher and vice-versa), but this is where I started.
Right around this time, an opportunity basically fell into my lap. And thankfully, I had the good sense to jump on it, even though there were some strong reasons not to.
My daughters best friends dad, John, was the principle of a K-8 school. One day, practically during the same Christmas vacation when I was transitioning from regular/full-time to freelance at my old corporate job, I was picking up my daughter at his house and John asked, “we want to start a West African drumming class–do you teach that?” And I said, “euh, yes?” 😉 And that was the first step on my path.
And this is interesting on a couple of levels. #1, I knew nothing about West African drumming. I might have been able to find the region on a map ;), but I knew nothing more than that. #2, I knew that they played hand drums, and I had never played hand drums seriously before (playing with sticks is very different than playing with your hands). #3, I had never taught in a classroom setting before. Groups yes, but not a classroom setting where everyone was compelled to take your class whether they wanted to or not.
So…lots of reasons why I could have said, “no”. And only one reason to say yes–I had a suspicion that this kind of thing was what I was put here to do. This is a very important point.
The thing that was important for me to understand about this is, once you start down your path, things are very likely not going to develop in the way you envisioned it at the outset of your journey. This is not necessarily a good nor bad thing–it’s just how it seems to work out for many people.
Back at that time, the idea I had in mind about teaching drums was that I would give private drum set lessons and drum set clinics. Certainly, my vision did not include West African drumming, nor did it include Brazilian drumming or working with folks with special needs–all of which became core components of what I was to offer in the next year or so after taking on my first teaching gig. So, it was very important for me to be open to opportunities as they presented themselves.
The big lessons as I see them about getting this far in the story are:
1. Do what you can to leave your regular, corporate life gradually, instead of cold-turkey. A change like this is not only a shock to your income stream, but don’t forget that it’s a whole new lifestyle, and you’ll need time to acclimate yourself. (Taking your vows of poverty is one thing, 😉 but actually being able to live that way is another thing entirely.)
2. Once you begin down your path, be open to new and different ways of achieving your new lifestyle and vocation. From what I’ve seen, it’s pretty rare that things go exactly as you envisioned, and in a transition like this, it’s very important to take what the universe is providing you, and not run aground on the expectations you had at the beginning of the journey.
So yes, I got to choose the path that I’m now on, but precisely how that manifests itself in the universe was mostly beyond my control. In fact, it’s based in what others need, which makes it a form of service that I am providing to the world.
And this service idea is a critical thing. This idea of changing lifestyles to do what you we’re put here to do can easily become self-centered. The most successful lifestyles like this are focused on helping other people in some way, shape or fashion.
Next post: we’ll talk about the mistakes I made along the way, and what you can do to avoid them.