If you’re a business that’s not doing so hot, and you decide to radically change the direction your business is going, perhaps by entering a different market or changing up your product selection, that’s called a pivot. If you’re with a couple friends and you’re trying to get a couch up an angled staircase, that’s also called a pivot.
Although I can’t get the audio clip of Ross yelling, “PIVOT!” out of my head as I write this, I’m actually going to appeal to the first definition for my analogy of choice today. No, I’m not changing Steward and Slave’s direction, and no, Rachel and I are not quitting our Total Money Makeover. But I’ve begun thinking about making decisions for my personal and professional life as though I was running a company, and I think it’s time for a pivot.
If you were the CEO of You, Inc., would you fire you?
Dave Ramsey likes to pose the following question during Financial Peace University: “If you were to run your life like a business, and you handled money in that business the same way you handle money in your day-to-day life, how long would it be before you were out of a job?” Chief Financial Officers can’t mishandle money or they don’t last. What if we upped the ante a little bit? What if you were the CEO of yourself? Are you making tough decisions that are necessary to ensure your company’s survival? Are you constantly striving to give value to your shareholders (the people around you that are invested in you and care about you)?
I think for quite a while, I’ve been coasting as CEO of myself. I’ve been in a somewhat unfulfilling job that I can do well for several years. And the thing I’ve come to realize recently is, I’ve been too scared to do anything else. I’m safe where I’m at, and for a long time, that’s been good enough. Writer Jon Acuff puts it this way in his book Start.: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters (affiliate link):
It was easier to hide when I was working at a job I didn’t love and not chasing my awesome. I could say things like, “Someday I’ll write a book. Someday I’ll speak. Someday I’ll pursue all these dreams.” Until that day came, I could ignore all the other issues in my life. I had a target for my distraction.
Jon apparently knows me very well, which is really creepy. As long as I’m at the job I’m in and not working towards something I want to do for the rest of my life, what he refers to as “my awesome,” I can conveniently blame all my problems on the job, my hiding place. I can’t afford to go on that vacation because I don’t have a huge salary. I can’t join you for breakfast this morning because I work weird hours. I can’t celebrate the holidays with family this year because my job gets in the way. And on, and on, and on…. But can you imagine what would have happened if Apple took the same approach with smartphones ten years ago instead of stepping out of their comfort zone with the iPhone? “Oh, well we know that people are increasingly moving away from using their desktop computers in favor of these awesome little devices in their pockets, but we don’t make phones, so we’ll just let BlackBerry take it from here.” Given enough time, settling for “good enough” is almost certainly a death sentence for every company in existence, so why would it be any different for people? People don’t go out of business like a company does, but if they’re not chasing their awesome, they can certainly lack fulfillment and burn out, which in turn translates to strained relationships, frustration, and maybe even depression.
Alright, cool. I’ve figured out that this job isn’t where I want to be forever. What should I do as CEO? I think I’d do well to listen to some age-old wisdom from business owners that have gone before me, like Oscar Rogers, the premier financial expert at Saturday Night Live:
The problem: unfulfilling job. The fix? Get a fulfilling job. I’ve always had a love for computers. I like tinkering with them, figuring out what they can do, fixing them when I do a little too much tinkering, and especially using them to make my life easier. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that computers very well may be my awesome. If only there was some sort of way to make money playing with computers all day… Oh, wait a minute. Information Technology is literally one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the country! And there are so many different fields under the IT umbrella, perhaps one of them has an opening near where I live? I think that’s a pretty safe bet. But aren’t I too old? Don’t I need a degree, which costs money and time, neither of which I have? Don’t I need to know every single step before I take it? Shouldn’t I have at least three years of experience in a job field before I try for a job in that field? Or are those just more questions designed to keep me from branching out and doing something scary? I’ve been hiding in safety for too long, doing something that I grow more unsatisfied with every day. Anything IT-related is completely unrelated to what I’m doing now, but so what? If I can pull this off, it’ll be better for my life satisfaction, it’ll be better for my marriage, it’ll be better for my family, and it’ll certainly be better for my finances. And if not, I can pull back, reassess, and try again. So what have I got to lose? Mediocrity? The ability to complain all day?
Nothing’s on fire. I don’t have to figure out the perfect job to pursue tomorrow. Which makes now the best time for a pivot. Well, actually the best time would have been ten years ago when I was graduating high school. But I didn’t do that. All I have is the time I’ve got left, however long that is. So I can either shake my fist at Past Me and wonder what could have been while I spend the next however long doing something I don’t really want to do, or I can tell Future Me, “I got you.”
What about you? Have you ever had a pivot in your life? What was it, and how did it go?