OK so I wasn’t actually alive in the ’60’s, but I did just listen to part of an interview with Bob Timberlake (a NC artist) that I could totally relate to. He told the story about when he first became inspired, in 1965, to leave his day jobs (all 5 of them) and become an artist at the age of 33. This was no small decision since he was raising a family, including 3 children, that relied on him. He also worked in various family businesses including finance, sales, construction, and so on, making the prospect of leaving work that much harder. But it was wearing him out, and it wasn’t his calling.
The first inspirational moment came when he read a Time magazine article about Andrew Wyeth, a popular American artist, that totally resonated with him. Andrew was painting the same things Bob liked and saying things Bob thought, and this really intrigued him. So he started painting in his spare time, and shortly thereafter, he took a trip to Pennsylvania to attend a museum (the first art museum visit of his life) where he ended up befriending some important people in the art world. They looked at his work and told him that he needed to be painting, which was the validation that he needed to hear. There still was the whole convincing his family thing, but he was now on a mission.
This is the part I love. On the way home, his mind was racing with such excitement and the possibilities that lay ahead that he ran out of gas at the Virginia state line on the way back to NC! Can’t you just imagine him driving down the road with the miles flying by and endless life trajectories flashing before him? The feelings of uncertainty and wonder and fear and relief and joy all alternately resonating in his mind?
Bob didn’t tell his family about his plans at first, but rather painted in his spare time and later prepared a detailed business plan to explain to his family what he wanted to do and just how he could make a living selling his art. Luckily they were supportive, and he started painting full-time in 1970. He was instantly successful, and one year later moved to NY, totally engrossed in his new world. He sold out show after show and…that’s when my car ride ended so I’ll have to read up on the rest of Bob’s life some other time. 🙂 But there are a few lessons that I want to extract from his story and share with you.
1) Don’t Settle
Bob didn’t figure out what he wanted to do for his career until he was in his 30’s and only after working many different jobs. Can anyone else here relate? I sure as heck can! If you know you’re destined for something else, don’t settle.
2) Surround Yourself with the Right People
When asked how he could explain his meteoric rise to success, he said he didn’t know, but that he had always been surrounded with the right people. People that knew about the world he wanted to enter. People that were influential and knew other people. That hasn’t always been the case for me, but now that I work for myself I’ve found that a professional network is HUGELY important. When you are an entrepreneur you often find yourself in uncharted waters, and hearing from someone who has been where you want to go can be extremely valuable. A 15 minute strategy discussion can save 6 months of wasted effort.
3) What You Don’t Know Can Help You
Bob said his biggest strength during the transition was his naivety. My interpretation of that is that if you follow your heart and don’t see the obstacles that others see, amazing things can happen. I also recently spoke to a successful business owner who said she was glad she wasn’t always fully aware of her company’s income statement because otherwise she wouldn’t have gone out on a limb with some of her creative decisions – risks that ended up paying off in the end.
4) If Your Passion Burns and the Time Is Right, Make the Jump
And here’s where I can relate the most. Once he felt he knew what he wanted to do, Bob just needed validation that it could be done in order to give him the confidence to make a major life change. I got that same validation through looking at Pat Flynn’s income reports. It gave me the courage to plan for and work toward the day that I would quit corporate America. Five months later I jumped out of the airplane, so to speak. Things have been getting better ever since, with knowledge building on top of experience and each relationship opening new doors.
But I do want to stress that the jump only makes sense if you feel it is your calling, something you are passionate about. I’ve tried the whole “it looks good on paper” route, and it resulted in mostly dead ends for me, although the process did build skills and experience and forced personal growth.
So when have you stepped out of your comfort zone in a major way? What happened? Tel me about it in the comments.