Walking away from the golden handcuffs

What do I mean by 'golden handcuffs'?

These are the things that keep us tied to a job that no longer stimulates us; things like company cars; health insurance and pension plans.

Everyone I knew said I was utterly mad when several years ago, I walked away from a triple figure income (MY golden handcuffs) as a human resources manager, to set up my own human resources company.

At the time of this momentous decision, I owned a beautiful home set in three acres of bush.

I duly set up my office in a sunny corner of the house, sent out hundreds of gorgeous and expensive brochures to let the world know I was now in business and pottered in my garden while I waited for the phone to ring.

I waited. And I waited. And I waited!

After about eight months and very little income, I began to wonder if my friends had been right - that I was indeed, utterly mad. As my meagre savings rapidly disappeared, I started to realise that if I was serious about surviving in my own business, then what I was currently doing clearly wasn't working, and perhaps the time was fast approaching, when I had to do something drastic.

It was around this time that I had a blinding flash of the obvious - I wasn't in the business of human resources at all; I was actually in the business of sales! This realisation came as quite a shock because:

a. I had never actually considered myself a salesperson, and * *b. If I am really honest, I guess I thought selling was a bit beneath me!

However, hunger is not only a great leveller, it is also an incredible motivator.

At this exact moment in my life, the Universe stepped in and offered me an amazing opportunity - to teach telephone sales for the local Chamber of Commerce. I knew absolutely nothing about telephone sales, however, the previous tutor, a friend and colleague of mine, was flying out of NZ on the Thursday; she called me on the Tuesday and said she was willing to leave me her course notes.

She also mentioned that the Chamber had a full course booked on the Friday and in the absence of any other likely candidate that gave me exactly 48 hours to become an expert in telephone sales. The Chamber said they would give me a one-session trial, and if the feedback from the participants was favourable, the training slot was mine.

I must have done something right that first day, because I ended up teaching telephone sales for the Chamber for the next two years, which served many purposes - not only was I teaching what I most needed to know myself, but in order to have credibility with the people I was teaching, I had to walk the talk by having the courage to get on the phone and 'sell' my own services - an action which created a huge turning point for me as a budding salesperson and actually ensured the very survival of my business, because at the end of the day, we are all salespeople.

That was all many years ago. I didn't starve - though a couple of times I came pretty close. The worst part I guess, was that because I had lost my triple figure income, I had to make the heartbreaking decision to walk away from my beautiful home and seriously downsize.

At the time that move was incredibly traumatic.

I knew my friends were quietly thinking ‘she has failed; she did make a stupid decision’. My daughter was equally concerned – she confessed to a very close friend that she just wished mum would get a ‘proper job’.

Do you want to know how I went from a triple figure income to zero and back up again?

Let me show you how - because if I can do it, you can do it.

Looking back on my own journey, I guess there are four key components which helped me:

1. I had found the work I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
2. I teamed up with like-minded, motivated people.
3. I had to constantly find ways to keep my energy and self belief high - to be able to pick 	myself up after a day of no’s.
4.  Along the journey, I learned the power of leverage - putting my time and energy into 	strategies where I could gain multiple sales and leads, not just one or two.

Let me expand:

1. FIND OUT WHAT YOU REALLY WANT TO DO. There is a lovely saying 'do what you love and the money will follow'. My son knew at eleven years old that he wanted to be a professional golfer, and every day of his life he got up with that knowing. Nothing and no one was ever able to sway him from his path. He was lucky to find his passion so early. Unfortunately, most of us plan our career the other way round, either we fumble around doing a bit of this and a bit of that - not really being sure what it is we would really like to do with our lives, or worse, we know exactly what we would like to be doing, but get caught on the mortgage trap and put the dreams to one side. We think – once the kids are off my hands, or once I have paid off the mortgage, then I will become an artist/sculptor, whatever. And sadly for most people, tomorrow never comes.

There is one other key point I want to make about this 'knowing' - it doesn't make the 'doing' any easier! It's not as if a ray of light comes down from on high and smooths the pathway - it is still hard work; there are still knocks along the way and days when you wonder if you got the message wrong. Knowing what you want to do is actually only 50% of the equation, persistence is the other 50%.

2. TEAM UP WITH OTHER LIKE MINDED PEOPLE. No one is an island. One of the greatest challenges in today's world of stress, massive competition and rampant materialism, is to stay positive. Daily we are bombarded with negativity; it actually takes five positive people to overcome the heavy energy of one negative person in your life, so be very careful who you associate with. Surround yourself with people who are going places; people you can bounce crazy ideas off; people who will support and encourage you on your journey and never, ever say to you 'what a stupid idea'.

3. KEEP YOUR ENERGY AND SELF BELIEF HIGH. Mental and emotional fitness is a lot like physical fitness, you don't go to the gym once and say, "That's it", you have to go regularly.

My work can be very draining and I have to watch my health; I do several things to assist my physical well-being – I eat a healthy diet; go for long walks at the weekend; practice yoga (occasionally), however, I am not a saint - I love coffee and muffins. But I Know I have to keep my indulgences in moderation – I am at that age where a cake on the lips puts an inch on the hips!

Mentally I have to stay sharp - my credibility is on the line every time I stand in front of a team. During the week I set my alarm for 6 a.m. and spend an hour reading the latest information on my topic. It keeps me current but it also keeps me motivated.

4. UNDERSTANDING LEVEREGE. Because there is only one of me, and because there are only so many hours in a day, it is important that I put my time and energy into what works best for my business, and what works best for my business may not work for yours, however, there is one basic golden rule I now live by:

If I can find someone who can do any job better than me, I pay them to do that job.

I now have between 7 and 11 people who work for me. They do the things I either don’t like doing (admin) or the things that would take me so long to learn how to do, its actually quicker and cheaper to find an expert.

So don't put off doing what you love doing. Don't wait till the kids are gone and the mortgage is paid off.

Let go of those golden handcuffs - the things that keep you tied to a job you either hate or a job which you do just for money.