“It was football time, apple time, harvest time, hunting time, school time. Footsteps quickened. It was exciting to be in transition. It seemed more like the beginning of something than like the end of it.”
Well, it’s official, friends! I am now officially the Chief Strategy Officer at the XPrize Foundation, a company that manages highly leveraged, incentivized, $5 million+ prize competitions that push the limits of what’s possible to change the world for the better. XPrize captures the world’s imagination and inspires others to reach for similar goals, spurring innovation and accelerating the rate of positive change, and I’m on the leadership team!
Now, self congratulations aside, this opportunity would have never happened if I hadn’t quit my job in order to travel the world.
And with this post, I encourage you to take the risk and do the same (or something similar that is on your dream list).
So, how did things come to be this way?
First, after meeting the love of my life and deciding to get married, we worked on a dream list together. I’ve had one going since 2005, but we built in additional dreams that we hoped to accomplish together. And a big section of that list was to travel the world and make babies.
- Lesson Number 1: Build your dream list. Fewer than 1% of the world ever writes down their goals, dreams and ambitions. Fewer than 1% of those ever look at it more than once. But 98% of those who do will accomplish them.
So, we thought, why not do both at the same time?
We both agreed in December to quit our jobs in the Spring, sold our houses, cars, and gave away everything else we owned, set a budget ($3,000/month combined), and took the leap!
- Lesson Number 2: Don’t be afraid to quit. Most employers see a long-term trip as an asset rather than an issue. If you are feeling stuck, you aren’t serving them well and they aren’t serving you well. Do them and yourself a favor.
- Lesson Number 3: Simplify your life. Get rid of your shit. Sell your things. De-clutter your battlefield. You can’t be ready for what’s next if you are held back by existing baggage.
- Lesson Number 4: You don’t need much money to travel. All expenses included (particularly if you are headed to Asia or South America), you can live on $1,500 per month, including hotel, food and flights/transportation.
We left with the intention to remain completely open about what would happen after our honeymoon. While we had discussed moving back to Boston, we made sure not to set that in stone, and we agreed to 1) say "yes" to every opportunity and 2) not even think about work for at least a month. During that time, I considered changing careers completely, going back to school full time to get my PhD in Behavioral Economics, teaching at the university level. Everything was allowed to come into my head and hang out for a while.
- Lesson Number 5: Give yourself time to wipe the mind-slate clean. Don’t jump right back into the job search. Allow yourself time to think, to breath, to consider new paths.
Then, out of nowhere, Andrew got a call from a company he interviewed with nine months before. They had looked forever for someone with his skills and couldn’t find them, so they offered him the job again in LA. And when he explained that he was traveling the world, they said, “It will be here the day you get back," AND "You can work from abroad," AND "My wife and I will be in France next month. Let’s meet up for dinner!” (And we totally drove three hours to meet them for dinner.)
Andrew got a dream job in a booming new industry making significantly more money than the job he had just quit.
I committed at the time that I didn’t want to think about work until September 1, but cheated and started looking on LinkedIn on August 1st. And, magically, a company had reached out to me via my profile in May, recruiting for a CEO position in Atlanta. I returned the email and began to interview.
- Lesson Number 6: You can totally handle the interview process from abroad. I was working with no wifi in many places and even no electricity, and yet it all still worked out. It makes us more interesting candidates than everyone else they are considering!
As the interview process continued on, I started to think that, if we really plan on getting pregnant, commuting to Atlanta from LA every week might be tough. I also thought it would be good to get a competitive offer to help negotiate salary. So I looked through my rolodex to see who I knew in LA. An old friend was the founder of XPrize, so I shot him an email, asking if we could rock the world together. And he said, "YES! We are going through a major organizational restructuring and could really use some strategy help!"
- Lesson Number 7: No matter how famous they are, how much you admire them, or how inaccessible they seem, reach out. They are looking for you as much as you are looking for them.
- Lesson Number 8: Set up a competitive playing field. Create urgency. When everyone wants you, your target will want you.
After two months of conversations, I ended up getting offers from both companies, and was able to negotiate the ideal salary AND role with my ideal company! And it’s in LA!
I am so grateful to so many people for sharing these lessons with me over the years (a special shout out to my efficiency coach, Brad Telepo, and the book, Vagabonding). And I am literally feeling on top of the world. I share this experience because all of this is within your reach. It is all possible.
It is October, the beginning of the beautiful fall season, and the beginning of a world of possibilities!