Every so often, I open my mailbox at the post office and have the surprise of a check I hadn’t known was coming. I always think of Bill Bryson’s observation, “Is there anything, apart from a really good chocolate cream pie and receiving a large unexpected check in the mail, to beat finding yourself at large in a foreign city on a fine spring evening?”
Happily, I also have had the pleasure of a fine chocolate cream pie and springtime evenings in foreign cities. Except for the chocolate cream pie, the unexpected checks and evenings in Venice were not part of my life before I became joyfully jobless.
In fact, the pre-entrepreneurial life I led bears little resemblance to the post-entrepreneurial life I’ve created. And I’m not the only one who is aware of the differences.
In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes, “The moment an artist turns pro is as epochal as the birth of his first child. With one stroke, everything changes. I can state absolutely that the term of my life can be divided into two parts: before turning pro, and after.”
Seth Godin echoes that in Small is the New Big. He says, “For the last six years, I’ve had exactly one employee. Me. This has changed my life in ways I hadn’t predicted. The biggest changes are:
“1. The kind of project that’s interesting is now very different. It doesn’t have to be strategic or scalable or profitable enough to feed an entire division. It just has to be interesting or fun or good for my audience.
“2. The idea of risk is different as well. I can write an e-book and launch it in some crazy way and just see what happens. Because my costs are nothing compared to those of a large organization, there are no boundaries in the way I approach something.”
Like Pressfield and Godin, I’ve been thinking about my own before and after story. For instance, in the before part of my life I didn’t know anyone who loved their work. Now I hardly know anyone who isn’t passionate about what they do.
In my previous life, I only dreamed about traveling. Today, I’ve filled up several passports.
Before I was self-employed, I had never been to New York, Seattle, Toronto, Victoria, the Lake District, Boston—or dozens of other wonderful places. Best of all, I not only have gotten to see the world, I’ve gotten paid to do so.
So, of course, I identify completely with Peter Mayle’s observation: “I would rather live precariously in my own office than comfortably in someone else’s.”
The After version of me knows something the Before version didn’t even suspect: Mayle just defined perfectly what security really means. I can’t imagine ever wanting to trade this life for the one that came before.
This isn’t just change…it’s transformation.
I believe this calls for a celebration. How about a jamboree?