Over easter I was sitting with my 8 year old daughter having a little chat. She is currently learning about money at school, so I was explaining that as we grow up we have to work in order to earn money. Right in the middle of me explaining what it is that I do and what her mum does, she blurted out something that I thought, well needed to be corrected; She said that “mummy had quit her old job".
I’ve been running my own business for over two decades, and my wife who is fiercely independent has always worked too. She’s in finance and worked for one of the big four banks. She worked her way up the ranks, building an enviable portfolio of high-net-worth clients.
But once we added a couple of kids to the mix, the commitment of full time work was starting to take its toll on all of us, and no matter what their ‘feel good’ websites say about the work-life balance they offer, in reality, they really don't live up to it. It was obvious that there was simply no way she could fulfil her role part time, so with much coaching, and to my absolute delight, coming up on a year ago she made the decision to walk away and start her own business.
Now having a visceral response to an 8-year old for simply using the word ‘quit’ might seem a tad weird, but to me it just felt so wrong to describe what my wife had actually done. I often find many people have no idea how much courage making this leap of faith actually takes — especially true if you’ve been an employee for your entire professional life, which is why I guess I felt I needed to correct my 8-year olds opinion that her mum was a ‘quitter’.
I found myself trying to explain it to her with an on-the-fly metaphor:
“Imagine you are on one side of a really wide, bottomless canyon and everyone who has a job is on one side of the canyon, and if they want to start their own business they must first have the courage to first leap over this giant abyss. Your mum ran and ran as fast as she possibly could, 100% committed. She leapt across the canyon, only just making it to the other side. It was one of the bravest and hardest decisions she’s ever made.”
My daughter responded “Well of course people don't jump because they're afraid of dying.” Possibly a little harsh a lesson for an 8 year old, so I added a little more to the good old ‘leap of faith’ chestnut.
“What people don't realise is that there is actually a trampoline at the bottom of the pit, so if they fall, they’ll simply bounce straight back to where they started.”
To which she said “Oh good so they can try again?" I said;
“Of course, but unfortunately most will now never make it, as they will never run with the same conviction as they did before they knew about the trampoline."
I thought myself quite clever for being so deep and engaged with my daughter, and cobbling together such a meaningful message, so I waited for her to respond.... She looked up at me and simply asked if she could have another easter egg. Clearly I had overestimated the attention span of an 8 year old.
Anyway, thought I’d share my little exchange and some advice for anyone considering working for themselves — you've already made a huge leap in your mind. There is no safety net in life, we don't get out of it alive, so if you are going to leap – leap as though your life depended on it, as in the end it may just be the difference between a good life and a great one.