Written on August 16th, 2016. 

I spent 30 minutes this morning simply existing. I watched the water flow from this pond in front of the hotel. The way the water was clear like glass before it made its way over the rocks. Only a few feet from the turbulence, peace once again resumed.

Treat life like water.

Enjoy the glassy moments of peaceful bliss, yet know expect the unexpected. Flow through the turbulence, and regain your calm.

 

4 Stages to go from “I can’t” to “I did”

For each beautiful butterfly, there was once a strange wingless creature that walked the earth. Yet, the caterpillar knows that there is a cycle that it must abide by. A cycle that presents many threats, but gaining wings is worth the risk.

While we are unable to grow physical wings, we are all given the opportunity to fly. The opportunity is there for those that can see the stages in the cycle. A cycle that exposes fear, the lack of action and becoming complacent. In my experience, this cycle has four stages.

Stage 1  : “I can’t do that”

Someone just told you about an amazing experience they had. It could be a trip to another part of the world, a career change, obtaining a degree, or maybe starting a new career. You congratulate them, but follow it up with “I can’t do that” or “I couldn’t do that”.

Remember when you where younger and nothing seemed impossible? You took on any challenge without a second thought. Well, until something happened. Maybe it was the first time that you felt the not so sweet embrace of concrete. Or was it the time when your first childhood crush told you that they didn’t like you? Of course it could have been the most damaging situation; where you’re parents tell you that it’s impossible. 

All of these experiences build who we become as adults. They form the basis of our beliefs and fears. Two elements that can control upward movement in life.

To move past this stage, you challenge your own thought process. When you say “I can’t” you must question why and determine how to change that believe.

Stage 2: “I’m planning on doing that”

You’ve processed the idea of doing something big and moved beyond the fear of change. In this second stage you commonly inform people that you plan on doing that. Whatever your “that” is.

At this stage, you’re friends will respond to your “plans” and state that they are excited for you. Your family will probably try to talk you out of it. Nothing matters though, because you plan to do it.

Oh, but then another shiny new idea pops into your head. Your old plan has gone the way the buffalo, and slowly moved on. I hate to say it but this process will repeat like a broken record.

I know this stage intimately. I was stuck in it for years. I always had ideas and would proudly tell everyone what I wanted to do. Of course, what I wanted to do and planned on doing would continuously change. I remember at one point my wife yelling “You always talk about doing something, but never actually do it”. In a way, that was my wakeup call.

There is only one way to transition from this stage to the next. You have to set a due date on your idea and do the scary part; you have to execute on an idea.

Stage 3 : “I’m doing it!”

My old CTO used to ask me every morning how I was doing. In response I would simple say “I’m OK”. The week after I put in my notice he asked me this same question. With a massive smile on my face I said “I am doing GREAT!”

You see, I didn’t want to do something new. I NEEDED it, but I was afraid to take action. It wasn’t until 3:28PM on a Friday when I walked into my managers office and quit did everything begin to take shape. This was the catalyst for a new beginning.

When you are in the “Doing it” phase, time moves at the rate of a humming birds heart. When obstacles occur, you find a way around them or smash them into pieces. You live, rather than talk about what you want to do.

As you do what you love, new people will enter your world. People that understand where you are as they’ve been there too.

Yet when you speak to the long standing members of your social circle about your experiences you hear that phrase again. I can’t do that. You know it’s coming before their lips part and exhale that first syllable.  In that moment you think back to when you said it. You know what’s going on in their head and can help them; if they ask for it.


Stage 4 : “I did it”

At some point, the rush will wear off. Your experience that changed you, becomes a fleeting memory. All that’s left are photographs, and maybe a few scars. That’s ok, scars are bad ass.

All of this is a cycle. At least it should be, as you have done this before. The problem that we face is getting stuck in one specific stage.

When we are stuck in the “I can’t” stage our self esteem is fragile and we can’t seem to find a way out. Depression becomes rampant and can easily destroy the strongest willed individual.

If stuck in “I’m planning on doing that” we think that we doing something big. Yet, all that’s happening is little bit of lip movement.

Sometimes people end up stuck in the “I’m doing it” stage. This is a good place to be for a while, but all around it’s dangerous. Everyone sticks here for a bit and may not know it. This is where complacency begins to kick in.

We also have those that remain with nothing but stories to tell. Remember the TV show ‘Married with Children”? Al Bundy was stuck in the “I did it” stage. His last exciting moment happened in 1966 at the City Championship game against Andrew Johnson High. Al scored the game winning touchdown with just seconds left on the clock.

At the end of the day, we are all in multiple stages of this cycle. What’s important is the realize where you are, and take action from there. We all have to face our fears, take action, live it, then move onto the next adventure. 

5 Lessons from being unemployed

5 lessons from being unemployed

Every moment in life is a learning opportunity. I believe that the best moments of growth and education occur when you force yourself outside of your comfort zone, face your fears and live.

It’s been three months since I left my job of six years. I walked away from job security, a steady income, benefits and more. I did all of this to take a risk, smash my comfort zone and “reprogram” my life.

It was worth it.

Taking this risk was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. Of course, there are lessons that I learned over this period of time. Lessons that can benefit you.

Here are 5 lessons that I learned during three months of being unemployed.

Professional relationships are powerful.

Everyone has “technical skills”. Many people, especially those in highly technical fields stop focusing on building professional relationships. They bury their face in a book, or laboratory environment for the majority of the day and stop communicating with others.This is a dire mistake.

Face it. Networking is a pain. Most people want to ask you a few questions to see if you are qualified to purchase their product. If so, they pester you until you buy or tell them to take a hike.

Between the wasted moments of small talk, you WILL meet good people. People that realize that value can be created in a professional relationship. These individuals will help you along your way. It’s worth the challenge and frustration to find these people. Having a professional network was a major factor in finding my next opportunity.

Working from home is…meh.

While working at Vonage my commute was twenty seven miles each way. Depending on traffic and road conditions I could spend two to three hours in my car five days per week. Occasionally I would work from home and be far more productive.

As I write this I am hiding in my bedroom closet sitting on a large floor cushion. It’s not that I enjoy working from this cramped space. No not at all. I’m stuck in here because there are far too many distractions. My mother-in-law is watching CNN with the volume cranked up in the downstairs living room. My daughter is watching a ridiculous Youtube video of people opening surprise eggs in the loft. My office space is between these two sources of noise and I cannot concentrate in there.

I’ve realized that it wasn’t working from home that helped increase productivity. It was a change of work location. Now I find productivity increasing tremendously when I work from a local co-working space such as Gangplank. Every major city should have a co-working space. Find it, use it, and love it.

Traveling is the best education.

Did you know that English is considered a West-Germanic language? Neither did I until I traveled throughout Europe this summer. Scots, English, Frisian, Dutch, Low German, and German are all part of the West-Germanic language family. Our current version of English has many borrow words from latin languages, but at it’s core; it is Germanic.

Traveling can teach you a lot of pointless trivia, but it can also open your eyes to the world. When you travel you are given the chance to meet people from all walks of life and see the world from their perspective. These are lessons that you cannot learn from a book or the internet.

Plus, international travel is surprisingly more cost effective than you may imagine.

Changing careers is not difficult.

When other telecommunication providers found out that I left Vonage my phone didn’t stop ringing. I was in high demand based upon my knowledge of a specific platform. Of course, this is why I have a very restrictive Employment Covenant Agreement (Non Compete) in place.

I turned down thirteen interviews because the proposed role would violate my ECA.

It became clear that my best option at this point was a career change. I interviewed for various roles in sales, marketing, and technology leadership. I eventually choose to accept the opportunity with an amazing company in the midwest.

It’s easy to waste money when working full time.

Going out for drinks and meals with friends quickly adds up. While working full time many people fail to see exactly how much of their income is spent through leisurely activities. I have a few sources of residual / passive income which helped out during my break, however it was not enough to sustain my previous spending habits. I also had no desire to completely drain my savings account either.

When you do not have a steady paycheck to rely on, you are forced to budget and be creative with your spending. My grocery cost went down and I wasted far less food. I also changed my source of entertainment to walking the dog, and taking my kids to the park. It was a win-win situation for everyone.

What about you?

Have you recently been unemployed or on a sabbatical? Tell us in the comments below what you learned.

Lifestyle Photoshoot: A glimpse into my luxurious life.

Have you heard of a lifestyle photoshoot? I had not heard this term until about a month ago. Now the Badder-Meinhof Phenomenon is kicking into overdrive.  I can’t go a single day without seeing a “sneak peak” from someone’s lifestyle photoshoot.

For those that have not heard the term. A lifestyle photoshoot is where a photographer follows you around and takes pictures of your daily life. I call bullshit on 99% of these photoshoots from “daily life”. Where are the pictures of kids throwing a tantrum? Where are the photos of you cleaning up the “gifts” that the dog left for you in the back yard? What about pictures of you while you snore through the night. Yes, I know it’s creepy. I’m sure you can find a professional photographer to take pictures of you sleeping. If not, Craigslist to the rescue!

Now that I’m back in the USA I thought that some of you would like to see the luxurious life that I live. To accomplish this I followed myself around with a camera for 20 minutes. This is about as real as life gets.

Without further ado, I present 20 minutes of my life.

Here I am sitting on the couch. I’m eating awful tortilla chips. They are only $1.00 at Fry’s so I can’t complain. Other than the ones that cut into the roof of your mouth. Don’t you hate that feeling? There is a good chance that my mouth is bleeding profusely from chip shrapnel.

Lifestyle Photoshoot

 

Oh Oh! Something exciting happened on the show. I’m watching Lifetime because it just makes perfect sense. You watch Lifetime while doing a lifestyle photoshoot, duh.  Please observe that I am still eating these horrible chips while holding the remote. Like a REAL man, I cannot allow the remote to be removed from the grip of my phalanges.

DSC01362-2

 

My camera is full of 658 photos of me sitting on the couch. I’ll spare you the agony. 

Here I am plucking an eyebrow. I can’t allow this unibrow to get out of control.  I need to be “on fleek” or whatever the these kids say nowadays. Kids! Ha! Now I’m starting to sound like a cynical old man.

If you look closely you can see that my skin is being pulled up as the root exits the dermis.

Lifestyle Photoshoot

 

Now I’m setting up the tripod. I captured this incredible moment before plucking my eyebrows. If you look closely you can see a pool floatation apparatus on my bathroom counter. My four year old refuses to take a bath with out it. Don’t judge!

Lifestyle Photoshoot

 

While taking these photos my wife came home from the store.  The old taste buds started to go crazy as I saw her unloading an armful of cookies. Upon further exploration my heart shattered. The cookies are not gluten free :(.

Lifestyle Photoshoot

Alright, alright I know you want to see more of this crazy life I live in the USA.

Next up you can see me working!

HAHAHA Just Kidding! I don’t work!

Please enjoy this picture of me looking like an idiot instead.

Lifestyle Photoshoot

 

Why I quit my $100k/year job. The reason why will surprise you.

June 3rd 3:28pm

It was two minutes before I normally pack my bag and start my hour commute home. Today something big was going to happen.

I clicked on the print icon and quickly ran to the printer in the middle of the building. I didn’t want anyone to intercept this document. I nearly ran over a project manager as I rushed around the corner.

I picked up my printed resignation letter and held it close to my chest. I hustled like an Olympic Power Walker back to my seat.

The clock now reads 3:30. It’s time.

I admired the cubical that I spent that last few years of my life sitting in. All the hours of creating routes for voice traffic to enter and exit our network. Troubleshooting issues, writing scripts, helping others create solutions. All of this in a five foot section of sound dampening walls and metal drawers.

I took a deep breath and thought to myself “Am I really going to do this?”. I glanced at the resignation letter, then quickly panned to my manager’s office. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Just breathe.

I reset my mental state and said “I’ve got this”.

I turned around and walked toward my manager’s office. “Hey do you have a minute” I asked as I walked in and shut the door behind me. Over the next two minutes I gave the news to my slightly shocked manager.

Fast forward three weeks.

When I leave the building today I will no longer be employed by Vonage. I say goodbye to that steady paycheck that is directly deposited every two weeks. I lose the health insurance plan, 401k matching, and other benefits that I’ve become accustomed to. I lose a sense of security knowing that I am providing for my family.

So why do it?

It boils down to one simple fact : I’m too comfortable in my current position.

This is a huge problem for me. I’m not pushing myself beyond the limits that I’ve set. I don’t wake up excited and ready to work. I simply started to exist. I come in, I do my work, I go home. It all became so routine.

The comfort zone can be deceiving. You may be in a position making minimum wage, and barely making ends meet every month. Sure, you may complain, but do you really do anything about it? Do you pick up a book, enroll in a class, join a networking group etc? If not, that’s your comfort zone keeping you complacent.

It could be the opposite too. You may have a high salary, a massive mansion, six cars, all the newest gadgets and a huge entourage. If you aren’t really pushing yourself though, that comfort zone will sneak up and take you by surprise.

I’m done making excuses that keep me in me confined.

That’s why I am taking a trip to Germany. My wife and children are joining me on this adventure. I cannot think of a better way to break out of my comfort zone than going to a foreign land where I speak ten words of the local language.

When I return to the US in a month (or two), I have no clue where I will end up. Yet I’m not worried about finding a job. This became extremely clear with the surprise going away party that Vonage planned for me. I was shocked to see how many people came to wish me luck in person, over the phone or over a video feed.

I stepped into Sr. Voice Engineer role a little over four years ago when my predecessor made his exit. The torch was passed to me. Now it’s my turn to pass it on.

Auf Wiedersehen,

Keith Croxford

P.S.

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