This month, March 2019, has meant the turning of a page to a new chapter in my life. While it hasn’t been reflected at all in my surrounding day to day life, it has made a bigger emotional impact than I anticipated.
In Sweden, whenever a full-time job begins we have a 6 month period that is called “trial employment”. It’s mandated by law, and can only be negotiated away in special circumstances.
During trial, the employment can be terminated by both you and your employer under much easier circumstances. It’s a kind of evaluation period where both parties get to get a feel for if it’s a good fit. I can do a trial at a new place while keeping my old employment in the background, and if it doesn’t work out at the new place I fall back to the previous job.
March meant six months had passed since I began my new job. My trial period is over, and I have officially switched careers from dancer/freelancer to software developer. This is no longer a test, it is for real.
This was only an administrative change. Nothing changed in my day, schedule, routines or anything tangible. All those changes happened six months ago. What it did mean though, was that my previous employer terminated our contract and removed me from their website.
And it has triggered an enormous wave of reflection and emotions.
To start my new job back in September has been nothing but smooth sailing. New people, new opportunities, making friends and utilising lesser used parts of myself to solve new challenges. That part has been effortless and fun.
Adding is easy, removing is hard
It’s so much easier to add new stuff, jumping on board with new projects and chasing new ideas. New services, new products. Shiny new object syndrome. What is hard is letting go of the old.
I got the advice from business coach Anthony English last year to use the Kon Mari method on my career switch. (This was before her Netflix series, and today I’m happy she did that because I can talk about her method and everyone knows it). He told me to thank my previous life for what it has done for me and then letting it go.
At the time, the very thought caused a lot of emotional turmoil. I was not ready. But this month has forced me to revisit the topic, leaving me with a bit of sadness and nostalgia yes, but also deep knowledge that I can’t move on if I keep clinging to what has been.
If you count from my first stage debut in a professional-like setting when I was nine until my burnout, I have been performing for 26 years. It’s not easy to leave that behind. Not quite the same as thanking a piece of clothing for doing it’s purpose and then tossing it in the trash.
I’m still trying to make sense of exactly what I’m bringing with me. What I have learnt, how my work has shaped me, and what things I have taken for granted that I really shouldn’t. All this will take it’s time, and I’m sure new insights will continue to pop up for many years to come.
What matters is no longer holding on to the past.
Climbing two ladders at the same time
Pat Flynn gives a great analogy in the Smart Passive Income Podcast episode 337 “The riches are in the niches”. You can see what you do as climbing up a ladder. And when you want to switch direction, you start to climb a new ladder.
What many people do is that they try to climb the new ladder while keeping one leg on the previous one, and it hinders them. They get stuck and can’t move forward on the new ladder.
The image I got in my head when listening was that of rock climbing. I haven’t done much of outdoors rock climbing, but I have gotten some instructions for wall climbing indoors. And something that wasn’t intuitive for me but obvious in hindsight, is that you want to avoid keeping weight on both the right and left side at the same time.
If you make a big reach, you need to transfer your weight there in order to free up the first foot or hand for the next reach. If the reach is too far so you can’t properly transfer the body weight, you’ll end up stuck, flat and sprawled against the wall and unable to go anywhere.
That was the image in my head when Pat talked about having a foot on two ladders. Somebody spread eagled between two places, unable to move because there was equal weight on both feet.
Try it for your self. Put your feet very wide apart to the sides. How can you move forward from here?
You need to transfer your weight to either side first. (Ok so there are some weird ways of doing forward locomotion without walking, but for all intents and purposes let’s stick to walking here)
Shifting weight from right to left
While I’ve frequently said that I’ve had two parallel careers, the reality is that nobody can do two things at the same time. Having two careers really means moving between focusing on one and the other in a relatively short time span. Switching during the same day or same week, instead of one thing for 10 years and the next thing for 10 years after.
So while the reality was that I was constantly shifting between putting weight from the right and left side, I had the image in my head that I actually was moving forward with both feet at the same time. No wonder my mind resisted when asked to fully transfer the weight to one foot!
The fact is that I have never been able to do only one thing. I have always been shifting weight from one side to the other, moving forward in several directions at once.
What this all is, is a matter of identity. What I say to myself about who I am.
Well truth is I am still a dancer. I will always be a dancer. And there is nothing stopping me from doing a dance gig in the future, even though I might possess a business card with another title on it.
An interesting side effect is that shifting gears in this way has cleared up mental space to pursue other things that I also love. This site and my newsletter being one of them. Clearing up mental clutter makes space for the new.
So I will continue just like before, shifting weight from one foot to the next. Now perhaps between different pursuits than the previous ones, but still. I have not magically changed over night to become a completely different person.
Perhaps what my burnout and this career change has taught me is to properly shift the weight from side to side, instead of trying to move forward with both feet at the same time.