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Labor Day Special: Shifting Your But
Issue #36 of The Two But Rule
The votes are in from last week’s poll, and so we’re moving to Monday mornings at 7am US Eastern, starting next week. And as promised, we’ll have some great announcements then. But for now, given it’s the Labor Day holiday in the US, here’s an excerpt from the upcoming book, The Two But Rule that’s all about careers and career change.
The Late Career Change
There are few situations that paint a clearer picture of the need for the Two But Rule than the challenge of course-correcting your life.
Have you ever wanted to change careers? Even if you’re reasonably content doing what you’re doing, take a second and consider whether you have a dormant desire to do something different. Start adding up the buts. But… But… But…
So many gaps between where you are now and where you want to go. Are you seeing all the missing qualifications, connections, and know-how to succeed in something new? If you’re like me, you’re feeling a significant amount of discomfort looking at all those impossibilities. Here’s the thing. Most of the time, you aren’t wrong about the challenges ahead. And all the optimism, all the anecdotal success stories, all the willpower in the world will not change certain realities. This is a factor for everyone, young and old alike. We’re going to look at several career changes here. But if my experience is any guide, buts get bigger as we age. So let’s consider the late-career change.
Leading With Your But: The Non-Negotiables
Let’s say you’re responsible for providing for a family and want to end your career as a corporate executive to pursue acting. You don’t get to say, “I’m going to move the family from Des Moines to Los Angeles and start auditioning for movies, and I’ll succeed if I just believe in myself enough.” No. Sorry. There’s a better way.
Start by listing everything that’s non-negotiable. Everything you won’t give up. Don’t say you can’t give it up. You can decide to sell the house and have your family live out of a station wagon while you go on auditions. But you won’t. At least--I’m with your spouse on this one--I hope you won’t.
Starting with your list of non-negotiables is strangely liberating. It disabuses you of magical thinking that keeps buzzing around your change fantasy. The problem is that most people stop there. For those unacquainted with the Two But Rule, this list is scary. It’s the end of the line: “I want to change careers, but I won’t give up the loss in salary that would certainly come from me starting over at the bottom with no experience, connections or reputation.” That’s a big momentum killer.
So what do some career gurus tell you to do instead? “Think positively. Believe in yourself.” That’s “cruel and unusual” advice, really. It’s a guaranteed headache. It solves nothing, and the lapses in judgment you’ll make in pursuing your dream with a positivity-blindfold on could easily land you in that station wagon … likely alone, because your spouse is going to take the kids and go live with their mother.
Most people won’t take action and pursue their intentions if they look at the obstacles, but remaining willfully blind to them is a good way to fail. Worse, it can become a path to quiet desperation as your dreams take flight while your unexamined, subconscious awareness of unacceptable tradeoffs keeps you miserably rooted in place.
BUT this isn’t a problem when you know how to apply the Two But Rule. You know that the non-negotiables are just grist for the mill--the start, not the end. You’re going to take all those big 1Buts and relentlessly find 2Buts, even crazy ones.
Here’s one you can try on your spouse: “I want to give up my six figure job and become an actor, but the non-negotiables are that you won’t give up being a stay at home parent, we won’t give up our house, and we won’t stop contributing to the kids’ college fund, BUT is one of your non-negotiables that you won’t change your approach to living? What if there are other families in the community facing career changes? Would you consider multi-family home living? It’s a choice that was featured in the documentary Happy about a twenty-family community in Denmark that cooks for each other and jointly takes care of the kids. Is there a story in your future about forming the “Actor’s Enclave,” a co-op community in Los Angeles made up of former corporate executives that banded together to raise families and support each other as they pursued their dreams of breaking into the movies? Maybe not, but who knows where this line of thinking might lead you.
Ken Jeong’s Journey
Everyone’s story is different. Consider the case of actor and comedian Ken Jeong. Ken was a practicing physician for over a decade. He wasn’t willing to give that up, so he started performing standup on the side. First in North Carolina while studying at Duke, then in New Orleans during his residency. But, breaking into the comedy big leagues was going to be tough while working as a physician in Louisiana, BUT doctors are in demand everywhere. So he moved to Los Angeles and joined Kaiser Permanente as an internist. Then he got married. Later, Ken decided to quit his job and become a full time comic actor, but they had just got pregnant … with twins. That might have been a reckless move, BUT Ken had continued performing standup in LA before the kids came and had landed a few television roles. He got his big break when he was cast as Dr. Kuni in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up. The rest is history.
Ken had become a successful actor and comedian, but he didn’t want to give up being a doctor. BUT he managed to maintain his status as a licensed physician. He frequently uses that experience in his comedy. And who knows? Maybe he has a lucrative side hustle treating fellow actors on set and writing marijuana prescriptions when shooting in states that only permit medicinal use.
Hold Onto Your Buts
Whatever your age or situation is, before taking that big leap, be sure to embrace your buts. Know what you’re not willing to give up. And don’t let that stop you. Use it to find the creative path to where you really want to go.
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