On August 11, 2017 I got the most important email up unto this point in my life. But of course, I didn’t know it at the time. It came from my longtime friend Kelli who is a career counselor at UC Davis. I was asking her for some resources for a person beginning to look into a career transition (me). Alongside some very helpful questionnaires and worksheets, she recommended the book Pivot: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One by Jenny Blake.
Holy smokes. Where do I begin to say how significant this book has been in my life? It was very different from any other career literature I had ever seen. And it was exactly the kind of different I had been longing for. Typically, these types of books deal with far-off big ideas that seem really un-relatable and unattainable. Pivot contains extremely down-to-earth, practical, concrete exercises and ideas that met me right where I was at.
The most transformative exercise had me reflect on a peak time in my life. My mind immediately leapt to the trip I took to Peru with my brother between Christmas 2007 and early January 2008. Blake has the reader recall the specific smells, sights, tastes, sounds, and feelings in the present tense. As I placed myself back in that time, I remembered so many amazing senses, including the amazing food I got to experience—long before I ever thought about cooking. And I ultimately identified the underlying sense of freedom that unified all the components of this elevated experience. I wrote:
“I felt a sense of freedom and that the world was that young man’s, that anything was possible: we could be 4,500 miles from home and go anywhere and do anything, money wasn’t a concern, the start date of winter quarter didn’t matter, I was close with my brother, and I was journaling and writing poetry and music in my head.”
This was the first step on a journey of coming to a new understanding of myself, which led to a comfort with who I am, which is morphing into really liking myself. And that is some seriously powerful stuff. I don’t think too many people genuinely like themselves. In my work and life I want to be a voice that guides people toward self-love.
In the exercises that followed, I developed a list of my core values. After refining them, I came up with a list that I set as the wallpaper on my phone. I ended up calling the second item on that list “Solution Sleuth,” meaning that I don’t give up until I find something that really works. I have tenacity. I’m not easily deterred. I had no idea how powerful those words would be. It was more like I wrote them for Future Mark than that guy right then.
This past 6 weeks have required an absurd amount of tenacity from me. During that time I committed to creating my first cooking course, then I proceeded to spend the 100 hours it took to complete filming the videos. Then I edited those videos and learned how to do more advanced techniques in the software that I learned only a few months ago. Then I built a website where the course can be sold. Never done that before. I knew I had to just dive in and do it. In building the site, I came up against a number of hurdles, but I knew that’s all they were. And I had to jump. I think that’s what tenacity is at its core: seeing accurately that obstacles in our path are nothing more than that. We debilitate ourselves by framing those obstructions as utterly insurmountable.
Now I’m learning email marketing and customer support. It’s all new, and I don’t have a roadmap to follow. There’s a moment at the beginning of each day when I can choose to believe that all of this stuff is out of my league and I have no business even attempting it. Or I can recognize that all of the people who are masterful at this stuff are humans just like me.
I’m so thankful to have that affirming list of attributes to look at every time I pick up my phone. I have Mark from the past and Jenny Blake to thank for that one. I look forward to living even more fully in those truths of who I am.