In 2012, I had everything I thought a recent college graduate could want from a career: a six-figure income from my Wall Street job, an annual bonus, a high-rise apartment, a car service, and an expense account. But despite the external trappings of success, I was miserable dealing with anxiety, insomnia, and strained relationships with those closest to me.
Today, everything in my life is different. I own the Nth Degree Career Academy, a business dedicated to helping people discover their ideal careers. I work with a talented team that believes in our mission, and I recently published my first book, "Unstoppable," about what I have learned over the last eight years about finding the purpose that drives you, maximizing your value, and creating wealth.
I'm able to choose the hours I work, and while it's not by any means perfect, most of the stress I experience now stems from wanting to expand our reach so we can help even more people.
Looking back on the last eight years, this Bill Gates quote has always resonated with me: "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction."
So if you're looking to transform your side hustle into meaningful, full-time, lucrative work, here is what I've learned about how to take action to build the business of your dreams.
Video by Courtney Stith
When I left my Wall Street job, it was nerve-wracking to step into the unknown. However, I truly believed that I didn't have to sacrifice my health or wealth to do work that I loved. After I quit, I attended Semester at Sea for six months. Then once I was back on land, I lived off my savings and on friends' couches for another six months. The following year, I waited tables and worked retail gigs to get by.
Primarily out of fear, the next year, I got a full-time job as an account manager at a company that created training and development materials for big companies, but I got fired within six months. Then I spent the next three years as a 1099 employee selling behavioral assessments to help fast-growing companies find, hire, train, and develop amazing employees.
It felt messy and full of missteps, but this period of my life was incredibly valuable. It taught me that meaningful work exists at the nexus of personal values, natural inclinations, and learned abilities. Between what I learned from my own journey and the examples of employees at my client companies, I realized that my ideal job and vision of success was helping others who might feel lost, stuck, or confused about their careers like I had once been.
Over the next three years, I put that experience and my degree in behavioral psychology to use and I created and tested a methodology based on those insights that I thought others could use, and that became the foundation of my company, The Nth Degree.
As with many things in life, starting and growing a business looks black and white until the moment you're in it. Unless you're heavily funded or independently wealthy, it's highly unlikely you're going to quit your full-time job and make a living from Day One.
Instead, look for a "bridge job" — something with a flexible schedule that is semi-related to your field so you can have some stability and continue learning while you pursue your dream.
For me, that was the behavioral assessment business I worked for — I was able to sell, service, and train companies on an assessment called Predictive Index, which, in addition to providing income, also provided invaluable lessons that I could apply to my coaching clients in real time. What could a bridge job look like for you?
Video by Courtney Stith
What is success anyway? Is it being able to feed yourself doing something you love? Is it reaching a revenue milestone or some level of notoriety? Whatever it is, I promise you this — on your way to that version of success, you'll get distracted by someone else's definition.
I can't tell you how many times I've done something I was proud of only to look over my shoulder and see someone doing something that seemed "better" than me, which led me to start questioning my accomplishments.
This reaction isn't healthy or productive. Instead, put on your professional blinders, keep your goals top of mind, celebrate your victories, and keep a mentor or trusted friend or colleague on call for the times you begin to doubt yourself. Stay the course and constantly remind yourself of your version of success.
Many successful businesses have a figurehead or architect at the top. But that doesn't mean that person got there on their own. Behind every successful entrepreneur is a team of incredible people who believe in their mission and complement their strengths.
Trust me on this one. I rowed my professional canoe alone for the first five years, and my arms got so tired. It wasn't until I had hit my maximum level of emotional roller coaster tolerance that I started wondering if someone else could be helping with the parts of the business that stole my energy the most. Now some of the best parts of my job are collaborating with my colleagues at The Nth Degree.
My best advice as you scale your side hustle or business is to bring people on board to help now, even if it is only for a few hours each week. When you're not shouldering it at all on your own, you may be surprised how quickly you can reach some of your biggest goals.
Tracy Timm is the founder of The Nth Degree® Career Academy. She has a degree in behavioral psychology from Yale University and studied design thinking with the founder of the d.school at Stanford University. For more than five years, she has worked with hundreds of individuals and over 100 fast-growing companies. Tracy lives in Dallas, Texas. She is the author of "Unstoppable: Discover Your True Value, Define Your Genius Zone, and Drive Your Dream Career." Connect with Tracy Timm on Twitter @thetracytimm, Facebook @thetracytimm, Instagram @thetracytimm and @journeytoyourdreamjob, and LinkedIn. Visit tracytimm.com, nthdegree.tracytimm.com, and unstoppablecareerbook.com to learn more.
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