(by Andy Beck)
How many times have you heard that saying? And how strongly do you resonate with it? Not everyone does. And nor did I, for a long time.
Until a few years ago, I knew intellectually what “you only live once” meant. But I didn’t feel it. This was probably due to my very “normal” upbringing and early adulthood. Preschool, primary school, grammar school, university (where I studied languages), and then a series of 40-hour office jobs that took me through the rest of my 20s.
Sounds familiar, right? Yeah, keep reading.
Around the time I hit 30, I started to question where the hell my life was going. As competent as I’d always been in the office, I didn’t wholeheartedly care about the work I was doing. Friday afternoons were always welcome, and Monday mornings were a bitch. In my teens, I’d always dreamt of being a musician, and I’d dabbled in creative writing. Now, although I was nearing 30, those dreams were still there.
A few months later, back in late 2016, I went into work one morning and learned that my then-employer wanted to put me back into my old department. I appreciated their trust in me, but I really didn’t want to do that. It involved doing work (and talking to clients) that didn’t sit so well with me, and had—in the past—even kept me awake at night.
Worried, I considered my options. I couldn’t stay in my then-department, as my transition there had only been temporary. I didn’t want to return to my old role, of course. But I couldn’t really quit altogether either, not without some kind of plan. I had rent to pay, groceries to buy, utilities to afford, blah blah blah. I tried asking my employer for a 30-hour contract (instead of 40), but was told quite flatly that I didn’t stand a chance.
The days that followed involved some soul-searching, but I decided—finally—that I was done with the 40-hour corporate work week. For the first time in my life, I knew what I wanted. What I wanted, for now at least, was a job with reduced hours that would cover my bills, but give me the time I wanted to build up a side career in music and writing – kind of like strategy B, “The Strategist’s Path”, from Joe’s book Do The Work You Love. What I certainly didn’t want was to retire in my 60s and regret not having lived the life I could have.
And so, in December 2016, I took the leap and quit my job.
Now let me ask you something—has life ever struck you as humdrum? Emotionless? Devoid of meaning? Well try quitting your job. That’s not humdrum. That’s real, baby. 100% real.
Of course, not everyone liked my decision. When I told my parents and close family what I’d done, they were horrified. One of them told me I was “making the biggest mistake of my life”. That’s not an easy situation to be in, when those who you love criticise you harshly.
It took me two months to find a new, 30-hour job. But I got it. And I began to use my new-found free time to craft the life I wanted. A life of Irish/Scottish folk music, and later, of writing a novel on the subject.
Some three years on, I’ve put a CD out, made some money from guitar tuition and gigging, and released my debut novel Folk Springs Eternal, which is gradually selling copies and garnering reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
Fair question. What have I learned from abandoning the beaten path and taking the road less travelled? Well, I won’t lie to you, dear reader—I’m still in the 30-hour job I mentioned above, because I’m not earning enough money yet (underline the word “yet”) to do music and writing 100% of the time. Nevertheless, I’ve grown so much over the past four years. Here are the most key things I’ve learned.
That little voice in my head that used to nag, saying things like “this is a pipe dream, Andy” or “stop lying to yourself”, is a damn sight quieter these days. Three-and-a-half years of finding myself, getting to know my weaknesses, and getting better at eliminating them, has helped with that. It’s true that developing mental fortitude is not a five-minute job. But don’t fret; it’s all part of the journey along the rocky road to success.
2. Asking for help.
Never, and I mean NEVER, be afraid to ask people for assistance. I was afraid to do so, for several years, and it held me back. Don’t make the same mistake I did; the worst that people can do is say no (or ask for too much money). Other than that, start getting people on your side who don’t laugh at your ideas, but believe in you and see the value in what you do. Think of ways that these people might help you with your own ventures. You will benefit from their skills, and learn from their feedback.
This is a big one. Hang out with people who believe in you, not with people who don’t. There are some inspiring and enthusiastic individuals out there; if you’re a bit clueless as to where to find them, Joe’s Success Club (of which I am also a member) is a decent place to start. Once you find some people who resonate with you, ask them to be your accountability partner. This is basically where you each set goals, and check in with each other once a week to see how you’re progressing. In other words, you hold them accountable to their goals, and they you. The likelihood of you achieving a goal is 65% higher if you’ve promised it to someone, because you won’t want to let them down. Book an appointment to check in with that person, and the statistic goes up to a staggering 95% .
My own journey towards Doing The Work I Love might not have been smooth so far, but it’s been truly exciting. It feels good when a contact calls you out of the blue, wants some music written, and pays you for it. It feels good to get emails here and there asking for paid translations (another little side venture of mine). And selling 50 copies of my first novel since it came out in September? That feels particularly nice. The results and the social proof will start to come for you, as well.
My story is relatable for anyone who’s just getting started, because like you, I’m not all the way there yet. On the figurative expedition to conquer the figurative Everest, I’m still climbing at around 2,000m (it’s 8,848m to the top). But as Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante once said, “you don’t lose anything for any other reason than if you just give up on yourself.” And giving up is not what I intend to do. Come Hell or high water, I am going to get to the top, motherfucker.
So now…what about you? What step will you take next en route to your own peak? I want you to tell us in the comments. When I die, at least I can say I’ve done something that truly matters to me. If you want to be able to say that about yourself, then remember this: no-one knows what happens next.
In that sense, you really do only live once.
Andy Beck is a devoted husband, musician, multilinguist, and author of Folk Springs Eternal. More information on Andy, and his book, can be found at his website here