“[Life is] like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E. L. Doctorow
Almost 10 years ago, my life was certain. I had a steady job, with a steady paycheck, and for the first time in my life, I never had to worry about money.
And it was the wrong path for me.
Despite the money and job security, I was miserable and unfulfilled.
However, the uncertainty of leaving my job (and my steady paycheck) was terrifying. So I stayed put, hating my life, but too afraid to do anything to change it.
I was terrified of uncertainty. But then I faced my fears. I stared into the dark abyss of uncertainty…and I leapt into it.
I quit my day job and hustled like mad to replace my paycheck as a freelance videographer.
It didn’t work.
So I leapt into uncertainty yet again. Both Tracy and I did. We sold a bunch of our stuff, and moved 900 miles away from friends and family (and Tracy quit her job, too) so that I could pursue my desire to be a freelance videographer in Chicago.
I had no contacts. I had a tiny resume and demo reel. We didn’t have jobs lined up. We just went for it.
And it worked!
Within two months, I was getting gigs, and Tracy landed a job as a recruiter at a temp agency downtown.
But then everything changed and uncertainty reared its ugly head.
Tracy was laid off from her job. I was heading into the slow season for videography gigs. We were careening off a financial cliff.
Since we embraced uncertainty twice before, it wasn’t such a fearful proposition to do it again.
And this time, we really stared uncertainty in the face without flinching.
We sold everything we owned and moved to Mexico, where we lived for six months. At that time, our website was in its infancy, earning less than $300 per month. We had no other source of income.
I had sold my videography gear, so I couldn’t even fall back on that.
But three months later, we were living off of the income from our green smoothie blog, and we have done that every year since 2011!
And even now, in 2017, I’m facing an uncertain future once again.
After writing about green smoothies for almost 9 years, we want to expand our focus and take our blog in a new direction. We want to connect with people on other levels than just health and nutrition.
We’re re-branding our blog, and writing new content, and I don’t know what’s going to happen.
Is moving away from blogging about green smoothies and plant-based diets, something that has paid our bills (including our mortgage) for the past six-and-a-half years, a huge mistake?
I don’t know what will happen, but we have to face uncertainty once again and follow where our hearts lead.
And as terrifying as it is to face an uncertain future, it’s not the paralyzing fear that kept me stuck in a cubicle, at jobs I absolutely hated, for ten years before I finally had the cajones to jumped into self employment nine years ago.
Yes, I’m still terrified of shit hitting the fan and losing everything because I made a wrong or bad decision. But the uncertainty itself is no longer paralyzing. I will still follow my dreams without having to feel secure.
How did I get here? The first thing I had to learn quickly was how to handle and embrace uncertainty. Learning to love uncertainty didn’t happen overnight, but I never imagined that I would actually begin to enjoy not knowing what lies ahead.
How I Faced Uncertainty
Leaving my job and my only source of income brought a high level of uncertainty into my life. It brought a whole lot of anxiety too!
On top of that, moving to a big city where I had no friends, family, or connections added many more unknowns.
Leaving my job and moving to Chicago would have felt terrifying if I hadn’t done my research first.
First of all, I had been building my skills as a camera operator and filmmaker over the past few years in Vermont. I knew I had a reasonable chance at making money with my camera as I had been getting a few freelance gigs here and there.
While the industry in Vermont is too tiny to support much film and video production, the industry in Chicago is larger, but not too large to make it impossibly difficult to break into.
My research indicated that I could make things happen faster in Chicago than in more traditional production cities like Los Angeles or New York.
Plus, Chicago was more affordable, which was a huge plus since I wanted to be a self employed freelancer. I had to be frugal and I could be frugal without being destitute in Chicago.
Secondly, I had valuable, employable skills working as a project manager with a technical background for large companies at my old job. My project management skills would translate to any other industry. One of my former clients I managed also had a large presence in Chicago which did give me a local connection, if even at a superficial level.
Thirdly, I saved up a couple months of living expenses, so I had a cushion in the bank.
Tracy was completely on board with the move, too. I knew that if things didn’t work out in Chicago, I could always go back to Vermont. My old job would probably be there for me if I returned, and it would be easy to get back on my feet again.
My uncertain future didn’t feel as scary since I had a plan, a back up plan, and an escape route.
I also used my imagination to create “artificial certainty”.
Really, what I did was to force myself to give equal, if not greater weight, to the best-case scenario as I did to the anxiety-driven (and often unlikely) worse-case scenario.
Also, I knew that whatever happened, it would be an incredible learning experience. If I did quit my job and move to Chicago to pursue my passion and it didn’t work out, and I had to return to a day job back in Vermont, I would have no regrets and would be better prepared for plan B.
Similar strategies also helped me leave my freelance film career in Chicago to pursue an online business while wintering in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula!
That change, however, truly tested my ability to embrace uncertainty.
I didn’t have an exit strategy or a plan B. Tracy and I sold everything we owned – including the very equipment that paid my bills as a videographer since leaving my day job. We embraced minimalism, and accepted that failure was not an option, at least not a comfortable one.
Once again, we had a small financial cushion from the sale of our possessions. We also fully researched where we’d be living. And we had a plan of action to turn our fledgling green smoothie blog into the six-figure income generating online business that it became a year later.
And even as our blog became our livelihood, we faced uncertainty – as any self-employed person faces. There is no income guarantee. We are 100% dependent on ourselves for our income.
The more I’ve faced uncertainty, the less terrifying it is.
And while my anxiety and second-guessing plagues me with the new direction we’re taking Incredible Smoothies in, I have every confidence that it will work out.
I don’t need to know the how or the when.
Instead, I embrace the uncertainty of it while staying positive, focused, and creating value.
I counter worse-case-scenario thoughts with best-case-scenario daydreams. And if it all blows up in our faces, I have every confidence that we will recover, and go on to do bigger, and greater things by leveraging our experience.
Freedom or Security
I have come to realize that the notion of “security” is a flawed one, and that freedom is so much more powerful and secure.
I have the freedom to spend my time doing what I am truly passionate about.
I have the freedom to pursue that which makes me happy and fulfilled.
In return, I have the security of knowing that I am bringing happiness and abundance into my life.
If I stayed at my day job, I would have had financial security (at least until I was laid off, or downsized, etc…) but I wouldn’t be secure in my ability to bring passion, fulfillment, and abundance into my life, and the lives of those I help.
Instead of clinging to a false sense of security, I’ll steer the ship into the unknown, follow my heart (and passion), and not let fear of uncertainty rob me of the best things in life.
Living in the Present
The most profound benefit that I’ve noticed since embracing uncertainty is that I live my life much more focused in the present.
This is a good place to be. Living in the moment leads to greater enjoyment of life. It promotes conscious decision making.
I find that living in the present while planning for the future brings peace and security into my life.
I always struggled with living in the present. I was always future-focused and needed to know where I was going and exactly how to get there.
My attention would forever be fixated on a future goal or achievement, and I often tuned out and ignored my present situation if it was uncomfortable.
If a path felt uncertain, I’d avoid it, even if it was the path that I wanted to take.
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to enjoy life in this state of mind.
While I was starting my self employment journey, I would get caught up in worrying about the future. I would worry about making the right decisions at the right time.
I’d worry about money, getting clients, and finding enough business.
I noticed this pattern of worry and realized that it was interfering with my ability to focus on what I should be doing to be successful.
I was presented with a choice.
I could either devote all of my energy to future-focused worry, or I can devote my energy and attention to creating value in the present.
This shift in consciousness cleared the way for me to find clients (and create valuable content), build my business, and enjoy the freedom of my new life.
Getting into the drivers seat of my own life has sharply focused my attention on living in the present.
I still worry from time to time. I get anxious.
But I always remember that I can either flee from uncertainty and embrace mediocrity, or I can learn to love uncertainty and embrace abundance.
Right now, I am loving the uncertainty and excited by the adventure of living the life I want.
It’s still scary, but no longer paralyzing. Embracing uncertainty means that you will have no regrets. And you’re more likely to love your life.
About Davy & Tracy
Hey there! We're Davy & Tracy Russell, the husband-and-wife team behind this website. We help trailblazers break through barriers so they can turn their passion into their life's work through entrepreneurship. How can we help you?