How to live a breakout life

photo by Adrian Olguin,
Used by permission

I was speaking with one of my employees, a retired Air Force officer, when I mentioned some of the countries we had visited and what we had done there. My visits were seldom for tourism. Most always I was working. The retired officer then made what I considered to be a remarkable and provocative statement.”You are,” he said, “one of the 3%!” When I asked him what he meant, he explained that 97% of us will live lives of extraordinary ordinariness. We will live and die in a routine of normalcy and sameness. We will work at jobs given to us by someone else. We will watch the same things on TV and at the movies. We will listen to ordinary music and buy what our neighbors buy. Most will live in the same town or state. We will eat the same food our mother’s fed us.

Only 3 people in a hundred will live a breakout life. In their minds they will live on what Denis Waitley (hyperlink this) has termed “Someday Isle” meaning they someday hope to go here or there, do this or that, and experience this  thing or another. Their lives remain routine while their secret wishes may wander.

When I owned a business and lived in the Caribbean, a number of people living on the mainland told me how lucky I was. If I may be contrarian, luck had nothing to do with it. And I told them so. We did not find ourselves magically transported there. We did what had to be done to get there. When I challenged them that they could live there too, they just looked wistful and shrugged. the 97% find such adventures impossible.

But they aren’t!

Now I am not suggesting that you or anyone else pull up stakes and relocate to the Caribbean. I am, however, strongly suggesting that you can live a breakout life in whatever terms and conditions mean breakout to you. Here are ____ principles that will enable you to breakout, to leave the 97% behind, and join the 3% whose lives are a testimony to their rejection of normalcy and sameness.

1. You, and only you, are responsible for your life. It is not up to your employer or any other company to provide for you and your family. Staying in your present position and hoping things will somehow get better will prove to be an expensive fantasy. You may have fallen into a job or forced to take one due to circumstances you could not control. You may have been a victim of circumstances but if you are not careful and deliberate, you will settle in to a routine and any breakout ideas will simply vanish. At that point you have volunteered to join the ranks of the 97%. May I suggest that even when economic times are bad, you can make changes. The prospects ARE NOT LIMITED!

2. Attitude is important, but neither hope nor ‘Hope so” are valid strategies for breakout living. One can be analytical, can find the results of their analysis to be negative, and not err. A creative and promising response is based on the premise that A = A. To look at a B and call it an A invites doom. One of the fundamental components of responsibility is to analyze correctly. If its bad, its bad. Calling it good will not make a bad thing better.Yes, the economy is lackluster. But some are making lots of money these days and they are not all Wall Street traders. A wage earning job makes one comfortable, lulls one into a false sense of security, and reinforces the thinking that this is all that’s available. Breakout of that thinking and look higher, broader, farther. It is your privilege and your responsibility to manage your own life. At the risk of sounding like a seminar guru, can we say that to be responsible is to be “response able,” to possess the capacity to make an intelligent and active response to whatever you encounter?

3. Measure two components within.  What do you do well? Take a clear and accurate assessment of your talents, skills, experience, ability, and ambitions. Whenever I interviewed prospective employees, I looked for two things. The first was competence. I wanted to know if the person under consideration could actually do the work. It’s amazing how many people are in jobs they are not especially suited for or they don’t particularly like. But there are things you do well, some things you do very well. Look beyond this context and apply that skill set somewhere else. Get a tablet and list out your abilities then generalize them. Then focus them on certain arenas and start looking there. Knock on every door, look down every avenue.

Next, assess your self-confidence. If you’ve come to your present circumstances and job (or lack of a job) as the result of a business failure, your self-confidence has probably taken a hit. Suffering a reduction in pay or status has a way of ever-so-subtly eroding self-confidence. Even though you may not be the cause of your present circumstances, you can harbor deep-seated doubt and somehow accept well-disguised internal blame for something completely out of our control. Look at that list of innate talents you’ve made. You’ve come a long way in life, learned a great deal, and have weathered the proving ground of experience. This has value to an employer and, most critically, to you! Look at your list again! One of the biggest hurdles I faced when I started my first business back in the day was accepting the reality that the work I did had real monetary value. Your work does too. Your abilities, responsibility, attention, skill, and intelligence have value. We might have to discount prices to make a sale. We do NOT have to discount ourselves.

4. Venting is worthwhile but letting off steam can drain away power. Give yourself one week, seven days and no more to feel angry and unhappy. Then displace those feelings with resolution.  Plan to change. Plan a change. Do more than wish you could find a different way to make a living or live somewhere else. Resolve to do something about it. I make lists, draw diagrams, compose possibilities. I find that the tangible and visible effects of lists, diagrams, and compositions turn the conceptual into the practical.

5. Set a date. If you want to get ahead, work backwards. On a calendar, plot your day of redemption whether it is a departure from your present job, getting a second job, making a return to school, or whatever. Be practical. We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in 1 year but way underestimate what we can do in five. Look at your lists, plot possibilities, decide on a course of action. If you don’t care where you’re going any road will do. Pull some more or less concrete idea out of the fog of possibilities and plot it on a calendar. Then, work backwards.

What intervening events must take place before your day of redemption can take place? How long will it take to reach and complete those events? Add up the time and determine if your ultimate date can be or must be adjusted? Then, and this is very important, determine today what you have to do tomorrow to make this happen. Then, determine what to do the day after that…and the day after that.

Do it!

6. If you do nothing, you have decided to let life happen to you. Your victim status will be fixed and certain. You will become a permanent member of the 97%. I can be certain you will be worse off in a year if you do nothing. I can be equally certain you will be better off tomorrow when you put feet to the frustration you now feel and start the long walk out.

Some people resist putting plans to paper. Perhaps they dislike the accountability that written objectives bring, perhaps they are uncomfortable with trying to make predictions in an unpredictable world. But, we are not Moses and we are not carving our ideas into stone tablets. We are, however, giving tangible structure to intangible ideas. Those plans will doubtless need adapting. However, no plans almost always means no progress.

Let me know what you’re doing. Let me know what you need help with.

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