Career coaching: midlife career change to starting a new business

 Career Freedom Coaching

"Moving to career freedom via the entrepreneurship road."

Myths about moving to freedom via the entrepreneurship road

When I contemplated starting a business, I got lots of horrible advice. I still refer to one advisor as "the coach from hell." As I attended classes and talked to various advisors, I kept hearing ten myths that were often presented as core wisdom.
In my own coaching, I encourage clients to (a) use intuition as a filter to evaluate advice and (b) be especially skeptical of arrogant advisors who dismiss your concerns. In my opinion, the following statements are myths that should not be trusted.

1. Career freedom means starting a business.
Often my clients assume the only way to career freedom is through starting a business. I know dozens of people who feel very free in a corporate setting. They swim easily in the corporate stream. They like the steady paycheck and they know how to navigate corporate politics without hassles. Most important, they separate their jobs from their lives. They have regular outlets for creativity, self-expression and close relationships.

Writer Lawrence Block once wrote (I forget where) that people do not have an obligation to write. If you feel that you should write but keep putting it off, he says, don't bother. The world has enough books and writers. They do not need yours.
I found this perspective very comforting. For years I did not try to write. When I did, I realized it was something I truly wanted to do. And nobody has to start a business unless it's something you truly want to do.

Marilyn began her own business when her company outsourced its human resource function. Her boss helped her set up the business and became her first client. She earned a good living but, when business slowed, sought a corporate job. She has no regrets: she likes getting the matching income from the 401(k) plan, the broad health benefits, and freedom from worrying about her next client.

2. "Don't worry, be happy." Some advisors believe their mission is to encourage you and build your confidence, even if they secretly think you are pursuing a hare-brained idea. I asked one advisor, "Do you level with people if you think they'll never make it as a coach?" He said, "No. I let them discover the truth for themselves. After all, I might be wrong."

I disagree. There is considerable evidence for the self-fulfilling prophecy effect: if your advisor does not believe in you, you might fare badly. If your advisor believes in you, you have a better chance. I also believe that, if you're going into business, you need to face facts. Your advisor should be able and willing to comment on your chances for success or refer you to an expert in the field you want to enter. You may want to get second and third opinions, but each opinion should be honest.

Find at least three advisors who will help you assess your skills and temperament against the requirements of your career. If there is no consensus, dig deeper.

3. "Visualize success." Some advisors will encourage you to be positive, pursue visualization and/or follow the law of attraction: Think about what you want to bring into your life, they say, and it will appear.
While I support visualizing and attracting, I do not believe you can attract business from a non-existent target market. Try to attract money and personal fulfillment rather than success of a specific business. You might also try to attract knowledge and discernment so you can evaluate your various advisors. And you still need a business plan.

4. "If you can dream it, you can do it." In her wonderful book, Finding your own north star, Martha Beck debunks this myth with a simple example: She once dreamed she found herself in a bathtub with ex-President Clinton and an owl. Other people dream of meeting the Queen of England or connecting with people who lived ten centuries ago. You may have a very clear, detailed picture of what you want, but still fail to reach your goal. Those who advised you to dream will no doubt say, "Well, it wasn't meant for you." True, but useless.

The reverse is often true: "You must be able to imagine yourself successful in order to reach your goals." Still, I know people who were catapulted to success far beyond their dreams; they missed the ride but managed to enjoy their arrival.

5. "If other people can have a successful business, you can too." Not so! You may be smarter, more creative and more energetic than your friend James, but James may have that special spark that makes him a successful entrepreneur. James may have a truly supportive friend or family, a trust fund that gives him ten years to get the business going, or a charismatic personality that draws people to him. I once had a colleague who would get unsolicited offers of consulting jobs whenever he gave a talk to a group or even a college class. He had a unique combination of expertise, confidence and charm. Most of us do not.

6. "You will probably fail." Some advisors will say outright, "Most people who follow the path you're on are doomed to fail." You have to decide if they're using a scare tactic to motivate you or if they're being honest.

There is a story, possibly legendary, about a surgeon who encounters a famous musician. "Maestro," he says, "I played for you at a master class. You advised me to stop playing professionally. You said I would never be great. I want to thank you. I listened to your advice and became a doctor."

The maetro peers at the surgeon: "I do not remember you. I tell all my students that. The great ones ignore my advice and continue anyway."

7. If you feel energized about your goal, you will be successful. Nonsense! I once knew a guy I will call Richard. He had a vision of himself as an entrepreneur and consultant. Over the years his expertise changed: he purchased a scale to measure job stress, he kept books for a few companies, he wrote marketing plans. He wasn't very good at any of these activities. Nobody was interested the job stress scale, the CPAs had to save the books from his creative accounting, and his marketing plans read like an undergraduate term project.
Richard was rescued by interim teaching jobs and temporary jobs, where he was on the payroll of an agency. He loved what he was doing. Perhaps he felt truly free. But success always eluded him. Last I heard he was renting a room and continuing with temporary jobs, thirty years after striking out on his own.
Feeling energized just means you enjoy some aspect of what you are doing. Figure out what you enjoy and then decide how you can incorporate your enjoyment into your career -- or your personal life.

8. You can always go back to what you were doing before.
After you spend several months or years trying to build a business, you will be different. Your former career will be different. Some careers operate like closed communities: If you leave, you are an outcast who will be shunned. Truly, for most people, "you can't go home again."
I would say, "Take a job at the start of your business, or keep the job you have now. If your profits soar, you are in a very strong position to bid farewell to your day job. You can use the extra cash to grow your business faster, have some fun or save for the next crisis. But you will be free. If you take a job later, out of need, you will not feel as free and you may even feel trapped."

9. You have had a successful career so far and you'll figure out how to be successful now.
Basketball players do not always thrive on football teams and volleyball is a different game altogether. Enough said.

10. You need to have more confidence in yourself.
If people typically describe you as lacking in confidence, you need to explore this question before you move forward with any career change. You may need to consult a licensed psychotherapist. But if you are normally viewed as a strong, confident person, your lack of confidence in your entrepreneurial skills may be based on reality. Listen to your intuition. Your concern should be considered a warning, not a sign of weakness.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.
Author, Career Consultant, Speaker
*Fast Track to Career Freedom* 505-534-4294


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Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast move to career freedom. Visit her site or call 505-534-4294.
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Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.
Author, Career Consultant, Speaker
*Fast Track to Career Freedom* 505-534-4294


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