This review first ran in the March 17th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.
When to Jump: If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want
By Mike Lewis
Henry Holt and Company
What would you be doing for a living if fear wasn’t a factor?
Would you continue doing what you’re doing right now?
Or would you hit the reset button on your career?
Personally, I’d make the jump from PR pro to cab driver in Aruba. I’d shuttle tourists around the One Happy Island and review business books between fares.
Mike Lewis was 23 years old when he went from being a well-paid venture capitalist to a professional squash player. He traveled more than 200,000 miles to 50 countries on six continents on his way to becoming the world’s 112th best squash player.
Based on his own experience and in talking with others who’ve also changed careers, Lewis has mapped out a jump curve with four key milestones. While not an instruction manual, the jump curve can help you figure out when and how to make your move.
You start by listening to the little voice inside your head and telling people what it’s saying. “To keep a jump alive, it helps to tell someone,” says Lewis. On hearing his plans to play squash, one of Lewis’ friends told him that is plan was absolutely crazy. “But there’s a difference between crazy and stupid,” added his friend.
You reduce the risk of doing something stupid by making a plan. Lewis spent 18 months planning his jump. Planning is where you get serious about building a nest egg, getting in pre-jump practice and sewing a safety net. As one career-switcher told Lewis, a successful jump is less an impulsive leap off a diving board and more of a slow wade in from the shallow end.
“Following a dream is lofty and sounds admirable but real consequences follow,” says Lewis. Switching careers is hard work and sacrifices will need to be made.
Letting yourself be lucky is the third milestone on the jump curve. “Once you’ve started to plan, favourable coincidences begin to appear. You have to jump and believe that some good luck will come back to you.”
Finally, don’t waste time looking back. “The people you meet, the story you’ll have, the lessons you will have learned make it an experience worth pursuing, regardless of what happens.”
After achieving his dream of playing professional squash, Lewis went on to found a global community of people who’ve left one path to pursue something completely different. It doesn’t have to be you alone against the world, says Lewis. Many people have already done what you’re considering and they’re willing to lend a hand.
Among the career-changers profiled by Lewis in his book are a mechanical engineer who became a fitness entrepreneur, an advertising executive turned advocate for sexual assault survivors, a lawyer who’s now a firefighter and a former garbage collector who’s designing and making furniture.
Lewis cautions against making the jump if you have a family to support and debts to pay. This isn’t the ideal time to quit a money-making job for a dream that doesn’t come with a paycheque. “But that doesn’t mean you can never chase your dream; it means not just yet.”
You also don’t need a ton of money socked away to make a change.
“The ability to jump is not limited to those who have a college degree or a certain-sized bank account,” says Lewis. “Applying for an internal promotion at work, going back to school at night, teaching cooking classes on the weekends – big jump or small jump, very many of us have something we’ve longed to try doing. A jump is a jump. If you can’t do it now, write it down for later. And if you can do it now? Go.”
@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton, has reviewed business books for The Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and would be happy to drive you and your family around Aruba.