I quit my job | Thinking Out Loud No. 31
It's time for new self-directed adventures
|Michael Ashcroft||Dec 12, 2020||10||2|
In the last issue of Thinking Out Loud, back on 5 October, I wrote about my experience of 2020 within these four walls.
This year has been transformational in many ways, for good and bad.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found the whole day job thing particularly difficult. The social disconnection from colleagues, the utter breakdown of spatial boundaries between work and play, the lack of connection to something bigger than myself.
When I joined KPMG (surprise!) in July 2019, I was looking for a fresh start. I had burned out horribly at my previous job at National Grid — something I plan to write about — and was hoping that the move would give me the reset I needed.
I don’t regret it, but the job wasn’t what I hoped it would be. But, while it wasn’t the reset I wanted, it finally taught me the lesson I truly needed: ‘another job’ is not the path for me.
So I quit.
I’m confident this is the right move, because something else has been happening within these four walls over 2020: I’ve been making things and connecting with people around the world.
And in so doing I discovered who I really am…
The Architect and Archeologist models of personal transformation
Consider the different approaches taken by architects and archeologists.
The Architect designs buildings up front before construction can begin. The design may be adapted along the way as things come up, but the frame is that the building follows the design.
The Archeologist, on the other hand, discovers something hidden underground, makes some guesses about what it might be, and then starts the process of uncovering it. Whenever the truth of what they find differs from their idea, they update their idea.
I’ve long harboured creative aspirations, but never fully stepped onto that path, and this year I figured out why. I was seeing my creative journey through the lens of an architect rather than as an archeologist, trying to design it rather than discover it. The absence of a clear design stopped me from building.
Now that I've made this reframe, I've felt free to create, safe in the knowledge that the more I create, the more I'll discover. Each thing I make is like a brushstroke that exposes more of an ancient city beneath my feet. I expand on this idea in a YouTube video, which frames this concept around ‘finding your niche’.
But I realised that this goes much further than finding my niche: this model also applies to self-discovery…
Since my teens I’ve been trapped by the belief that I have to create myself. I needed to know exactly where I was going before I could move — and that prevented me from moving much at all.
This year has finally taught me to trust that it’s only by moving that I’ll discover who I really am. I don’t need to control or design, I can watch as something else emerges and follow that instead.
As it turns out, this journey of self discovery is closely tied to the creative process, at least for me. I’ve always been someone who ‘does all the things’, and 2020 has dialled that up to 11.
Not counting the full-time consulting job, in the last year and a half I have:
created two newsletters (43 editions in total) and written several essays for my website
figured out how to teach Alexander Technique online and built and launched an online course (I also managed to convince ‘my part of Twitter’ that Alexander Technique is interesting in the first place)
been interviewed on several podcasts to talk about Alexander Technique, including a session at The Stoa, which I never thought would happen to me
made hundreds of new friends on Twitter and watched as my number of followers grew from c. 500 to 4,200
coached several private clients, some on a long-term weekly basis
co-founded the Carbon Removal Centre, where I am also a Non-Executive Director
had a huge amount of fun
That last bullet point is crucial. It’s been fun. Waaaaay more fun than the day job (not that I haven’t enjoyed that, but the contrast has been stark).
Throwing myself into all this creativity has unlocked the idea that, actually, I could just keep doing this. It feels much more ‘me’ than anything else ever has, and it sort of just emerged while I played.
And by building all this ‘on the side’, I’ve managed to get to a position where I feel confident that I can survive, and hopefully thrive, on my own. To honour my newly emerging self, I will be self-employed from February 2021 and will focus my attention on a couple of projects:
Writing essays and making YouTube videos
This one goes at the top, even though it won’t directly support me financially, because it’s the reason I’m doing all this. I want to make things, and this is where making things starts.
Although I’ve been neglecting Thinking Out Loud recently (👋), this is where it all began. I can read through the archives of this newsletter and watch my journey unfold, which I think is just magical.
For those who choose to stick around after this email, you can expect massive increases in quality and quantity of output here from February. What that will look like I don’t yet know, but that seems to be the point. I’ll also be putting much more love into Expanding Awareness and writing essays for my website again.
I’m really enjoying YouTube so far, and I’ll aim to create 1-2 videos every week. Feel free to join me there as well!
Building my Alexander Technique online course
I launched version 1 to 50 people earlier this year. Those fifty seemed to like it and lots of people have expressed interest in the next round.
If you’re interested I’ll be launching again on 3 January — you can hear about it over on my Expanding Awareness newsletter. I see huge potential for this, but I’ve lacked the time to really go into it.
As I expressed over in Expanding Awareness #8:
My journey in 2020 has been one of continual testing and iterating with an increasingly large and diverse online community (hello!). I’ve now come to believe that this represents the next step not only in teaching Alexander Technique, but in really discovering what it is.
I plan for the course to be the on-ramp in the online world, one that I will continually refine based on feedback from people who take it.
Behind the ‘first lesson’ course will be a community, a place where people can hang out, discuss their experience of what works and what doesn’t, and bring in ideas and disciplines of their own. Imagine an ever-growing, crowdsourced library, where everyone knows the basics and discussion is encouraged — that’s what I’m looking to build here.
So I’ll be doing that 🙂
Helping to grow the Carbon Removal Centre
Despite being a co-founder and Non-Executive Director of the Carbon Removal Centre, I’ve had very little time to really be of much use. There are already plans for me to get much more involved there.
More broadly, I’ve long wanted to get more involved in the carbon removal discourse, and this will be a great opportunity to do that. I’m excited to have more time and headspace to dive into it. I see carbon removal as a crucial pillar in restoring the Earth’s climate system and ensuring we can keep playing this human game as long as possible.
I haven’t talked about it much, but I’m a trained coach and have been working with private clients throughout 2020 (enough to be eligible for the “Associate Certified Coach” credential from the International Coaching Federation, which I’ll be pursuing).
I plan to be much more deliberate about my coaching work, take on more clients and hope grow a lot as a coach. It’s something I really enjoy, think I’m good at, and it fits in very nicely with the other things I hope to be doing. I finish every coaching call with more energy than I start, which I take to be a good sign.
And last but not least — and, yes, I know there’s still a pandemic on — I will probably end up doing the digital nomad thing for a while, because I’ve always wanted to, and that’s reason enough. Taking occasional two week holidays from work to visit places is not my style, and I’m looking forward to seeing the world slowly.
That’s it for now. I’ve wanted to write this newsletter for so long. I’m thrilled to have finally done it.
Thank you to everyone who is here, whether you’ve been here from the start or joined recently. I really, genuinely, couldn’t have done this on my own. You’ve changed my life.
And I hope you’ll follow along for what comes next — I have a feeling that 2021 is going to be a real adventure.
With kindness and excitement,
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