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This is a guest submission by Cara from 17000-days.com

We all want to love our lives, do meaningful work, and enjoy ourselves. It’s strange and unfortunate that so few people actually do that.

If you’re like me, you probably think it’s something for other people, not you–only special, magical people can make a living doing what they love.

I’m here to tell you, there’s no magic about it. In July, I quit my job to be a writer, and I’m about the least magical person I know.

The Beige Existence

I was working at a university as a researcher. The atmosphere was casual, and expectations were pretty low. I had great benefits: lots of vacation time, good health insurance, and a real live pension plan through the state. If I had stayed 25 years, I would have been set for life.

So what was my problem? Despite my cushy life, I just wasn’t happy. I sat in a beige office with beige walls and beige metal bookcases, at a beige desk doing beige work eight hours a day. It was harmless, just not that interesting. Once in awhile I’d get on a project I enjoyed, but overall, nothing I did had any real meaning for me. It was a lot easier than my previous jobs, but I felt like I was wasting my life.

I read countless stories of other people leaving their mundane existences to sail around the world, open an art studio, start a surf shop, follow their dreams. I wanted to do the same but didn’t know how or even what I would do.

I started writing, something I loved as a kid but hadn’t done in years, and I read more stories about people quitting their jobs to do what they loved. This time, they were all bloggers. That started the wheels turning in my head. I still didn’t believe it was possible for me to make a living online or as a writer, but I became increasingly certain that I wanted to.

Over Christmas, I read Reclaim Your Dreams by Jonathan Mead. As I read what he had to say, I realized I was holding myself back with my doubts, fears, and assumptions. I did the accompanying workbook and got excited about making reclaiming my dreams and making things happen.

A few weeks later, Jonathan opened up a coaching program to help people start a business and quit their jobs. I wouldn’t have even considered it if his book hadn’t just been a huge game-changer for me. But not only had he already made a big fan girl out of me, but he was guaranteeing you’d be able to quit your job by the end of six months. I signed up.

Taking The First Leap

Making that decision represented a major shift in my life. Instead of doing the expected and continuing my beige existence, I was betting on myself. Instead of attenuating the weird and outrageous parts of myself, I decided to harness them and see where they would take me.

I won’t lie to you, I started working harder than I ever have. Launching a business takes a ton of time and energy, and I still had to do my regular job as well. I dropped all of my hobbies, including sleep at some points. But I really wanted to make this happen, so it was worth it to me.

I learned how to run a business, how to attract web traffic, how to sell stuff. But more importantly, I learned to overcome fear.

The Transformation

When I started my business, I was afraid of people. I was afraid of approaching people with bigger audiences because I didn’t want to bother them, and I was afraid of talking to my readers because I didn’t want to drive them away.

I think at a fundamental level, I didn’t feel worthy to do this work. When friends asked me what I was doing, I was embarrassed to say that I was writing about making the most of your life and how to be happy. Who was I to write about that?

But I wanted to make it happen too much to let that hold me back. My coach, Jonathan Mead, gave me guidance and told me what to do. It was up to me to do it, and as I did each scary step, I realized a strange thing: the things I feared were not that hard, and when I tried them, it went well. There were a few missteps along the way, but to my surprise, almost everything I tried was a success.

By doing one scary thing after another, I trained myself to realize that fear doesn’t know everything. Many things seem scary but are actually no big deal. And as I conquered each one, my confidence and excitement grew.

My ideas no longer seemed too big for me. I’ve always had big ideas, but I always dismissed them before. This time, I was open to them.

  • I had the idea to put together a huge package of personal development products to help my readers (and everyone else) grow and unleash their inner awesomeness. I approached Karol and Baker of Only72.com, and together we built the Rock Your Life sale. It sold 1130+ copies, grossed over $100,000, and raised $5,500 for charity.
  • I had the idea to write a guide to fixing your relationship. In 11 days, I wrote over 38,000 words and changed the whole concept into a 25-module self-guided workshop in a box. I structured it so that people could start with their biggest problem and immediately get the most critical information for solving that problem. Within a month, it was in over 1,000 buyers’ hands.
  • I had the idea to help people with their fears, so I put together a 12-week online workshop on overcoming fear. I included written content, worksheets, a forum, weekly coaching calls, and interviews with the most awesome fear-conquerers I could think of. I recruited an all-star cast, and amazingly, only two said no.

I stopped thinking, “I couldn’t possibly do that,” or “That’s scary–I’m not going to try,” and started thinking, “How could I make that work?” or “That sounds terrifying–let’s do it!”

ย The Grand Escape

To my amazement, it worked. My summer vacation fund quickly became my freedom fund. Between that and some audacious and profitable business moves, I accumulated enough money, confidence, and momentum to quit my job in July.

This is what I do now. No more telecons, TPS reports, alarm clocks, or boredom headaches. I think up crazy-big ideas and work my butt off to make them happen. I help people remember that life is short and make their best days a common occurrence. I love what I do.

I made that happen, and the only “magic” involved was this: taking the risk to try, learning what works, doing scary stuff, and working really hard. It’s spell that will work for anyone.

About Cara Stein: She is the founder of 17000 Days, a blog about remembering that life is short and making your best days a common occurrence. She’s a big believer in self-reinvention and building your ideal life for yourself.

She’s written two ebooks: How to be Happy (No Fairy Dust or Moonbeams Required) and The Less Hassle, More Harmony Relationship Guide. Her latest adventure is Beyond Fear, a workshop on overcoming your fears. Contact Cara on Twitter @cara_stein or Facebook.

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