“Well, what I really want to do is ____________, but since that’s not an option…”
Have you ever caught yourself saying something to that affect?
Whether it's a career change or any kind of life change, so many people have a clear vision of what they want, but seem to quickly brush that vision off and end up settling for what they have in front of them or what is easily attainable — that's usually the much safer option. Are you giving yourself permission to make a change?
In your ideal world, what does your life look like? What kind of work would you be doing?
What is stopping you from achieving that now?
Seriously, what is stopping you?
Here's a hint: NOTHING IS STOPPING US FROM MOVING TOWARD OUR GOALS, VISIONS, LIVES WE DREAM OF…
…well, except for ourselves.
There's this interesting concept about “learned permission-seeking.”
We've been conditioned by parents, teachers, and society to ask for permission to do things.
Now when it comes to change, as adults, we still wait for that permission to make a change.
We look for someone to give us permission or validate our choice to try a new hobby, go back to school, quit a steady job to start our own businesses, flip career paths, or create any type of change within our lives.
Permission stops so many people from moving forward.
Oftentimes, we find ourselves in these situations where we seem stuck because nobody has given us the green light to proceed with our actions — which is crazy, since these are our own lives we are talking about (!). Are you giving yourself permission to make a change?
But, there are ways to create that permission for yourself to be more, do more, and achieve more of your goals.
What to do when you find yourself waiting for permission
STEP 1: Question why you think you need to get permission to live the life you want to in the first place
Why do you feel like you need someone else to tell you that, ‘Yes, you CAN do this'?
Do you feel like someone needs to have accomplished what you want to do first? Why?
You can be a trailblazer. You don't need permission to start down a new path to your own success.
Once you get down to the reason of why you need to get the ‘okay' from someone else, you'll be able to acknowledge the main reason you need permission to create a change and overcome that obstacle to move forward.
STEP 2: Rocking Chair Test
This is where you create some type of leverage for your current situation and what you'd like to accomplish. It usually works in the form of:
“When I'm old and gray, what will I regret more?
Going after my dreams, or settling for what I already have?”
What do you think is more beneficial for you? Finally making that career change, or staying in the same place as you are now?
When you are faced with these little decisions, it's time to take a step back to treat the symptoms of what is paralyzing you to wait for permission.
“The key area for growth is recognizing that it doesn’t have to be certain. You don’t have to have the perfect answer. It just has to be good enough.” – MJ Fitzpatrick
How to move forward to create a life you love
Now that we've gotten down to the root of the issues of WHY you have been waiting to get permission to continue working towards your ideal world, let's move onto how you can start and follow through with reaching the goals you want to achieve.
Most of the time people stop themselves from reaching their goals well before they even take a moment to give it a try. So many attainable goals have been missed because there was a lack of an attempt.
So, challenge yourself to make it happen for you.
Put yourself out there — although it is terrifying, realize it is absolutely normal to be scared to try something new.
Acknowledge all of your feelings of fear. What is it that you're really scared of?
If you're scared of the failure or rejection you may encounter from trying something new, acknowledge it.
We're all truly fearful of failing at things that are important to us. But, you need to give yourself permission to feel that fear and GO FOR IT!
“If you just feel the fear and then run away, then you’re never going to move forward.” – MJ Fitzpatrick
Experiment and explore your options
Think about how easy it is to test out your options. Creating those micro-experiments for yourself is a ‘safe' way to move forward on your goals.
There are so many ways to feel out your options before diving into the deep end.
The most important thing you NEED to do is TAKE ACTION and MOVE FORWARD.
“The biggest thing that I had to learn was that I was the only one that was thinking that I needed to stay where I was. Everyone else around me wanted me to be happy. Everyone else was just looking for me to make the best decision that I could.
I was just walking around with these expectations that I had to be a certain way. So, I really had to give myself permission.”
Most of the time, it's the expectations that we've set for ourselves that keep us locked down on a specific way we think we should be living our lives.
We're afraid to make changes (that we know deep inside our hearts that we need to change) because we are looking for certainty that our changes will be the ‘right' ones.
If you're in a career that you know you don't belong in, or you're burnt out and looking to make a greater impact with your work, don't let the unknown stop you from moving forward and giving yourself permission to make a change.
Try out your options before you come to the conclusion that a career change isn't for you or that the shift is something that you can't handle.
Society creates a FALSE feeling of certainty. You'll never be sure on the outcomes of anything, unless you actually take the actions to try and experience it for yourself.
And even then, you'll learn something.
It either works for you or it isn't your cup of tea.
If it doesn't work out for you, the next thing you do is cross it off your list, and move on to the next thing.
And, if it just so happens to fit you perfectly, the rewards for stepping through that fear to try something new are so incredible, that it is worth it.
If you find that you need an extra push of support to go down a new, unknown path, we've got the resources for you. Check out the Career Change Bootcamp program as it was created to guide you to build a strong foundation in finding the right path to your next career.
Transcript from Episode
Scott Barlow: Welcome to Happen To Your Career. I’m so very excited to be back with you as always. I’m particularly thrilled because of our guest today. I have someone you are going to love, not just from what they do now but where he has come from and his past story. Welcome to Happen To Your Career MJ. How are you?
MJ Fitzpatrick: I’m fantastic and very happy to be here. Sometimes when I recording podcasts I have to get up at 2 or 3 a.m. but it’s a lovely, beautiful 10 a.m. here.
Scott Barlow: A balmy 10 a.m. Because you are on the other side of the world from me. Where are you?
MJ Fitzpatrick: I’m staring out into a beautiful city as we speak and it’s a lovely winter’s day.
Scott Barlow: I sometimes forget the winter summer switch thing.
We are going to dive into your story. How do you describe what you do now?
MJ Fitzpatrick: I help people make decisions. Everything from someone in a career that they’ve been in 10 to 20 years moving to something else, people trying to improve their relationships, to people who have been through tough times trying to move forward. Anyone open to moving forward I help get clarity, a deeper sense of self, grow emotional intelligence and use those skills to move forward.
Scott Barlow: You aren’t a decision maker but maker of decision-makers?
MJ Fitzpatrick: Something like that. I try to stray from the term coach because it’s not what I do. I help people think through their life and what is important and reading people well enough to know when they are talking about what they really want to do and help them move the obstacles to move forward. It’s a cool job. I love it and it’s fascinating. You are always seeing new things and every time you think you have a rule someone breaks it. It’s a lot of fun and there are times when I heavily persuade someone to a decision, but I can’t ever truly get them through the door just as close as I can and remove the obstacles. If the person doesn’t step through the door themselves the change won’t stick and I’m not doing what I should.
Scott Barlow: I love that. You can’t make people get up in the morning. They have to shut off their own alarms or go through the door. Pick your analogy. I absolutely love that and think you have a unique perspective. Where does that start for you? Have you always been a maker of decision-makers?
MJ Fitzpatrick: If you can come up with a new word for what I do I will pay you all the money in my bank account. I’ve been struggling for a number of years and we’ve had the conversation.
Scott Barlow: Challenge accepted.
MJ Fitzpatrick: I think I was an extremely analytical kid growing up trying to analyze social situations and stuck in my head the majority of my adult life. Over time, as I started to learn social skills and emotional intelligence and who I am, whether it’s a natural skill or I have somehow put a lot of work into it, I seem to be able to hear people speak or see and quickly see what is important. When I do my job I meet a new person, they talk to me for five or seven minutes where I listen and look at how they speak and their facial changes. It’s the skill to say you have said five minutes’ worth of words to me but it’s the three words you said in the first two minutes that we need to focus on. I think that is what my mind is good at and what I’m good at. It’s transportable to many arenas.
I love people; human beings. I love them so much. The second thing, the key competitive advantage, is I’m not trying to diagnose people or pull them into my world and tell them how to live. I go to them and their world and appreciate how they look at the world. Evolution has given us millions of years of advantages communicating with each other and to feel what others are feeling and mirror neurons so I can understand what they feel while they are speaking. I trust that and I try to be as empty as I can and be as present in the conversation. I think when those are your mindsets I don’t think it’s that hard to really understand people and see what is quite obvious. It’s extremely rare I’m speaking to someone and they don’t already have the answer. Maybe 80 percent of the time I’m there just to give them permission to think through what they want to be doing. About 20% are really blocked from the answer and I help them glide towards where they want to go.
Scott Barlow: I want to come back. One thing I wanted to talk about is the concept of permission. I want to come back to that but before that if I recall you had a number of things happen in your late teenage years that cover a lot of this for you.
MJ Fitzpatrick: Yeah I had a couple fun experiences. I was a willful and very intellectually aggressive kid. I didn’t really have a lot of self-esteem and confidence and tried to compensate with bravado. I don’t have physical strength so I used intellectual bravado. I went to a boarding school in Sydney and played rugby, which is a different version of American football with no protective gear. It is awesome. In one of the snaps I had my head in the wrong position and broke my neck. You have seven bones in your neck and pieces of rope that connect the bones together so they don’t move too much. If you put your chin on your chest and put your hand where your nipples are my chin was where your hand is now. That is how far my neck got pushed. The bones bent so much one piece of rope snapped. The bones slid together. They are there to support your structure and protect your spinal cord. My bones started going down the path to be a quadriplegic. The referee blew the whistle and I fell on my back. The likely outcome was death.
The second most likely was being a quadriplegic. I could have talked, which I like talking, but everything below my neck down would be a piece of meat. I spent the next five months in the hospital. I was on significant amounts of drugs to help the pain. Developed post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety. Take a kid who is already very anxious, and very logical, analytical and not a lot of confidence and put him in a neck brace to wear all the time.
Scott Barlow: The perfect storm right?
MJ Fitzpatrick: Yes exactly. The bullying in school got worse. My nickname was shit neck. Sorry for swearing, but it was the name they called me. It wasn’t a good place. I was operated on two days after my eighteenth birthday party. I couldn’t have a party because I was in a neck brace and didn’t have many friends. I left there and went to college. Because of the trauma and being in the hospital where I was the youngest patient by fifty years I was struggling with many existential questions: What is the quality of my life going to be? How often do I have to be in pain? Why did this happen to me? Why did I get caught in this? Why did God decide I was the person who had to have their neck broken? I was surrounded by young people that just wanted to have a good time and I was stuck in my mind with deep and intense questions. I spent the next year struggling to get along with people and it wasn’t going well. My college had people choice awards and I was voted the least liked person at my college.
Scott Barlow: That is a thing to vote to?
MJ Fitzpatrick: I was telling this story at a school and some kid put up his hand and said why did they do that? Evidently it’s just something we decided to do.
Scott Barlow: I wonder if that is still a thing. I kind of want to google it.
MJ Fitzpatrick: Hopefully not. Hopefully kids have grown up.
Scott Barlow: Oh man. What happened from there? After you go the Facebook thumbs down?
MJ Fitzpatrick: I was in my second year and I woke up one day and had a pain in my calf. No explanation. It became a numbness down into my foot, up to my knee and to my hip. I had ruptured a disc in between my back. No trauma but one leg was longer than the other. It was bound to happen eventually. It was the perfect storm because of how big my spinal column is and how big the canals are. The disc burst pushing on my sciatic nerve. 10 out of 10 pain for the next 11 months of my life all day. Back on pain killers and to see the neurosurgeon. I was told I had to have a second spinal fusion and I was only 19 years old.
I got to this place where I gave up. I couldn’t fathom living past the age of 21. My 21st birthday was one of the weirdest experiences of my life because I didn’t think I would get there. I put on 35 kilos of weight – depressed, anxious, PTSD, and addicted to many substances. I decided that my hand dealt by life was so bad I wasn’t going to play anymore. To cut a long story short that was my life and who I was: fat, smelly, few friends. I had to get away and try to process everything. I had such low emotional intelligence and awareness I didn’t realize I had been through trauma. It was normal. No part of me decided to take a step back and think about what happened to me.
I moved overseas. I had a friend develop social anxiety. We would go out and we would have to leave the club because he thought people were talking about him. I was confused because he hadn’t hurt his neck or back, nothing is broken so your brain must have created this. There is no causal link between your physical body and mind. You must have caused this. As we talked about this over the next months it was my starting position. My starting proposition was I don’t believe that this is set and who you are, we can change it. He was eventually able to let it go and he thanked me and my life changed. What I had been through taught me lessons. If I could figure those out and teach them to other people they will be happy. That sounds lovely but it was selfish because I thought if I could make them happy they would thank me for making them happy and that moment would allow me to feel joy. I learned of the growth mindset and realized I didn’t like anything about myself but I could work on all of it which was exciting to me.
Scott Barlow: Curious, when you are in that moment, in that place, clearly it was a progression, when you learn of the growth mindset what caused you to realize you could change?
MJ Fitzpatrick: I was reading blogs. I can’t remember the name but I was reading the story of a guy who had changed. He was really insecure in the past but now he was confident. The idea you can get better as a human being makes me smile like a four year old boy. That idea. It was salvation to me. I looked at my life and didn’t like a single part but saw that wasn’t important. What is important is you can change.
It seems simple but it goes to show you how unemotionally intelligent I was. I was 22 years old when I learned I could get better. It was salvation. I looked at my life and realized I was in the hole. I am overweight, I have mental health problems, I am addicted to a lot, but there is a way out. I just have to work on myself.
Because I was in such a hole there was no ego involved. I wasn’t so fancy that I wasn’t willing to put in the work and have the brutal conversations. I was able to let go of the past: my anxiety, depression, lost weight, learned social skills, all because I realized I could get better as a person. I could teach the lessons to other people and they will be happy and I will have joy. That is where my life started.
Now I am in a place where I started thinking why didn’t anyone teach this to me in school. My life started changing and I saw resilience. Confidence is a teachable skill. We in self-development land understand it quite well. There are five to seven principles that if you practice and use you will become a confident person. Why did no one teach me this when I was thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen?
Scott Barlow: This is something I think a lot about. I’m curious on your opinion. I’ve had the same thoughts so many times. Why don’t we teach this in school? Obviously. The one thing I keep seeing that tugs on me on the other side is it seems like to absorb those lessons, a lot of times, not all the times, but when it gets the best absorbed is right time, place, and context. When there is potential loss or something else creating that time and space and willingness to listen. For you, you were in the right time and space. You didn’t have anything else to lose and you found evidence that created hope that was the light at the end of the tunnel causing you to know you could move forward. That is how I think about it, you looking at the end of the tunnel.
MJ Fitzpatrick: It’s something I think about a lot. The way I look at it if I sat down with a 10 or 12 year old and told them I could teach you how to be confident I think they would be so open to it. There is something about this transition. You go through puberty and your parents stop being the most important thing in your life in regards to your identity. It shifts to your peer group. There is something in this period between – I don’t know the ages – I’m not a developmental psychiatrist. There is something in this period where kids are developing their identity and they think it’s set in stone. I think and believe that if we teach kids in a way they can understand and create leverage where they are open that we can get through to them.
Even if that is false and what you say is true, that they need to be in the right time and place. The whole point of what I am doing is trying to give them something so compelling the growth mindset gets buried in there somewhere. They can live the rest of their life, and even if its five or ten years along, and they go through that challenging experience they remember they heard about it and can change as a person. I’m trying to approach it from both sides.
There is truth in what you say, but I wonder if that need for it to be the right time and place is something our society has conditioned over time because the way we educate kids. Is there is one answer? Don’t look at the back of the book or collaborate. Change is impossible, you are who you are. Or is it an actual fundamental principle. I have no idea. Maybe in 80 years I will. I really look at the work I’m doing at schools and I think I get half of them, when I’m on form and pay attention I think I can get half of the kids and make an impact. The other half I can at least, maybe I’m not helping them see themselves in a different way, but I present it in a compelling enough way that they will remember something I’ve mentioned so they will have a path forward when they are ready.
Scott Barlow: It’s possible. Just like when you discovered it, it was possible.
MJ Fitzpatrick: I’m not sure. It almost doesn’t matter which is true. I’m going to keep doing it.
Scott Barlow: I don’t know if it’s one or the other based on the research or application. I haven’t seen evidence that it is just one or the other. I was super curious on your take because of what you’ve done and been through. Your insight is interesting.
MJ Fitzpatrick: Sorry for interrupting. The most curious thing happened after speaking to a school on Monday. I was speaking to fourteen and fifteen year olds. I finished my speech and a couple people shook my hand. This one young man came up and shook my hand and said thank you for not patronizing us. That piece of feedback fascinated me so much. Whatever he is going through and perceives the world for that to be the thing he wants to say of all the things. It gives me a window to see what it is like to be fourteen and fifteen. I try to angle everything I do to that. I’m exactly like you, I’m not a teacher. I’m exactly like you and I have a message that has taken me a long time to learn and I can save you some hard times if you are open to it. If you aren’t it’s fine but take notes because one day you will need them.
Scott Barlow: That is fascinating. That particular message. That one tiny message says so much about what is going on in not just his life but other kid’s lives and how they look at it. I’m fascinated. Where for you, going from having the neck brace, to the second downhill, realizing that there is light at the end of the tunnel, being able to connect with schools and youth – How did it all come together for you?
MJ Fitzpatrick: I started improving. I spent about two years, still at the University, I took a year off overseas where I lived with my friend. Came home still at university and realized that someone should teach this in school. I thought maybe I should do it. Maybe it could be my purpose. I was absolutely terrified. It was so terrifying because I’d have to leave university and have a conversation with my parents and better myself. None of that. That was option A and it was not possible because it was too scary. I can’t do A what is option B? I love people and want to help. I’ll go be a doctor. Because obviously of all jobs I could choose that was it. I convinced myself I should be a doctor. I spent two years studying and taught myself science. All the things. I got into a medical school in Sydney. I was stoked my first day of med school. Everyone was talking about being a doctor. This is where I was supposed to be. It’s weird about med students when you tell someone you are one they say congratulations. You are surrounded by wonderful validation.
Scott Barlow: I’m laughing because I haven’t been saying congratulations all these years and I realize I’m missing the socially acceptable way to do it. I didn’t realize it was a thing. It explains the validation.
MJ Fitzpatrick: These people you’ve never met ask you what you are doing and you tell them you are studying to be a doctor and they say congratulations or well done. You have these beautiful systems to make you feel amazing. First day of school I’m going to be a rock star. My second day, first genetics lecture, my stomach says Matthew you are in the wrong place. That was terrifying because the sunk cost of two years of my life getting into med school was huge. That feeling and nagging that it wasn’t what I was supposed to do would not go away.
I spent the next five weeks, and I want to press pause here, I teach this for a living and it’s easy to listen to my story and think he had it all together what a beautiful progression. I realized I wasn’t supposed to be in med school my second day and it took me five weeks to drop out. I’m the person who helps people think about decisions for a living and even in my own life it didn’t happen instantaneously. It took time.
That first day I had the feeling the question was this the right thing for me? After five weeks it had improved. Is this right for me? Is this the best way to help people? Am I really supposed to be a doctor? Eventually at 11 o’ clock on a Thursday evening it became am I willing to live the life of a fraud? Because I know I’m not supposed to be a doctor and I’m supposed to help kids learn confidence.
The second the question became that, I dropped out of med school 20 minutes later. Courage only lasts a certain amount of time. You don’t get courage and just walk around thinking you are the most courageous person in the world. You get courage for literally 20 minutes. You say I’m going to do it, I’m going to quit. You have twenty minutes to quit. Write your resignation letter. For me it was going on the online portal and dropping out. If you don’t do it in that time and commit when you have courage it will disappear. All emotional states are transient and fade. You will lose the courage.
I dropped out of school and worked at a gym as a personal trainer three days a week and built my business on the side. Now I do two things. I spent a day a week in schools and I have another company called One Scope that places me in schools and I spend the other five to six days a week working one-on-one with people or with corporations or speaking. I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted to do.
I dropped out of school with the idea of being a confidence person even though I didn’t know what that meant. I knew enough of a direction that if I took action, and because I knew it was my purpose I went in that direction and over time it became clearer and clearer. It was a messy process. I spent the first six months of my business trying to teach university students. I realized they don’t care and they didn’t have enough money to make a business there. I didn’t waste my first six months, just made a mistake.
I shifted to entrepreneurs helping them think about business and themselves in a more effective way, that was the progression. Now it’s helping people think about their life better and going into schools and giving them what I think they should have been taught in school.
Scott Barlow: Let’s talk about this concept of permission. From what you just described at some point, as the question got better, you had the pressure in med school and sunk costs, you felt the pressure and it’s simmering over five weeks. Where did you find the permission, not just the courage, but the permission for yourself to release from that?
MJ Fitzpatrick: I think it was the power of the language of the word fraud. I know that may sound strange but it’s a different question if I ask myself am I willing to live a different life? A safe life? Versus am I willing to be a fraud? I didn’t have an option but to drop out because I knew I wouldn’t be doing what I was supposed to. You can create a mission for yourself and there are a lot of different ways to do so. You can speak to friends or a parent that will give you good advice or have your back. If you are 80 what will you regret the most not doing and give yourself permission that way. The big thing for me to realize was that I was the only one that was thinking I needed to stay where I was. Everyone wanted me to be happy and make the best decision I could. I was the one placing the pressure on myself to live up to the expectations of being a doctor and had to be a certain way. I had to give myself permission.
Now when I look back and see with the people I work with there are two ways to create permission. Many people are looking for someone to say you can do this. We get inspiration and then say now I have permission. I see two ways: The first is to question why you think you need permission in the first place. One of my clients thought she needed her mom to be proud of her and that was her definition of permission. I told her to have a conversation with her mom who she was close with and ask her if she is proud. Her mom said yes. She was suddenly free and didn’t need permission.
The second way is to try and create some form of leverage. The most famous way is how Jeff Basil created Amazon. He thought about where he was. He had a nice job as a management consultant. He wanted to start a business. When I think of my life when I’m 80 and 90 which will I regret more? He called it the rocking chair test. He was allowing himself to have permission to go for broke and see what happens by thinking about the future. The other way people use it: For most people currently in a job and want to start a business or shift heir career, usually the worst possible outcome is they will end up exactly where they are. They will have spent some time and money but if it doesn’t work they can just go get another job somewhere. Permission is so important but mostly it’s us just walking around with this belief that we need permission when in actuality there is nothing stopping us from moving forward.
Scott Barlow: That is super interesting. And relevant. I am fascinated by this concept of permission because I see it stopping so many different people and I know there are people that are listening that have been unintentionally waiting on permission for one thing or another need. I love the rocking chair test in particular. I didn’t realize it was a Jeff Basil thing. I use a variation of that all the time when I get stuck on something. When I’m on my death bed which would I do?
MJ Fitzpatrick: It’s the most common form. It can be called permission or leverage. Getting a reason to make a change that is more important than your reasons for staying where you are. It’s the most common form. People talk about it all the time. You’ll hear someone say just what you said. I thought about ten and twenty years from now which one would I regret?
Scott Barlow: One of the things I hear constantly is people saying “well, what I really want to do is ___. But since it’s not an option” they just roll right onto the next thing. “I just can’t figure out what I really want to do because what I really want to do is ____. But since it’s not an option.” It’s almost like we need some level of permission to stop ourselves from settling. When it’s right there in the first place. I’m curious, when people find themselves there in that situation where they think they can’t do something for a reason what do you recommend?
MJ Fitzpatrick: I had this happen all the time. The most recent was when I was out for coffee with an extremely successful lawyer who wants more. I was having a conversation with him and said clearly you want something more, what do you want to do? And he said I don’t know. I said if you did know, in a hypothetical world, what would you want to do? And immediately he said interior design. That’s fascinating, why don’t you go start a business? He said I’ve given myself five years to do that. I stopped him and said where did you get the number 5 years? I can tell you what people are doing when they say that. They are looking for certainty.
When you grow up in the corporate environment with a stable paycheck and easy career progression, and I’m oversimplifying, but you have so much certainty. You don’t worry about your paycheck and things you worry about in your own business. You are 15 to 20 years in an environment ruled by certainty and the most uncertain thing you can do is leave your job and start a business. It’s bonkers to most people. When he said I’m leaving this for five years. What he was saying was I believe if I think about this for five years then I will create enough certainty that I can go pursue it. When people say they want permission they want certainty. They want to know for sure. The key area of growth is recognizing it doesn’t have to be certain. You don’t have to have the perfect answer. It just needs to be good enough.
I left med school knowing I couldn’t get back in. There is a gentleman’s agreement with the medical school people in Australia where if you leave once you never get to come back. They don’t say congratulations and you are on the bad person list.
It was so vague. I want to help people be more confident. That was it. I had no idea what that would look like but I knew I had a reason to leave more than to stay. My reasons to stay were not as powerful. The moment it flipped, I had permission to leave. The key point is two-fold: One, you have never actually tried. People say I want to do this but I know it’s not possible so I’m going to do something else. But have you actually tried? If they write it out and work out and challenge all the stories and meanings you’ve created about yourself. The second thing is how easy it is to test these things. My friend that wanted to be an interior designer had this giant business plan in his head; I need a website, I need to study.
Scott Barlow: Business cards. You need those.
MJ Fitzpatrick: Okay, back up a couple of steps. Do you have friends who are renovating their house? Yes I have two. Great ask one of them if you can design their house for free. They pay for all the furniture, you treat them like a client, and you won’t charge them anything. If they like it you can take photos and put it on a website. If not then its fine. There is zero risk on their end and maximum upside on your end and you are heading toward starting a business. You are taking action and moving forward. The key point in that moment is he is terrified of that because he is putting himself out there and immediately all the people that live in his current world that think it’s crazy to start a business and to quit being a lawyer to become an interior designer will challenge him. It’s a strong argument he will get feedback.
The second thing is he could get a no, get rejected. I think the fear of rejection has killed more new businesses and careers than anything else because it’s terrifying. You are putting your heart and soul out there and people could tell you it’s ludicrous but deeper you are putting your heart and soul into the world and someone could tell you no it’s not good enough. I can see that fear and help people through it. Just because you feel fear doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You should investigate that fear. It’s not a superpower or mythical fear investigation process. Just ask yourself what am I afraid of? Figure it out. Once you know your fear, try to move through it. If you just feel the fear and run away you will never move forward.
Scott Barlow: I love that and what you are talking about with the fear. Sometimes it’s a good indicator you should lean in, especially if it is important. We do not feel fear for things that are unimportant. We don’t feel nervous or afraid. We have a coach Lisa Lewis and she calls it being nervcited. You are nervous and kind of excited and it’s important to you that is why you are nervous. I love what you are talking about with feeling that out and exploring it. You have to lean into it to know what it is.
MJ Fitzpatrick: I think the other thing is it is normal. You are going to be scared.
Scott Barlow: You are human.
MJ Fitzpatrick: Obviously I will be terrified if I’ve been a partner at a law firm for fifteen years, everyone in my life knows me as a lawyer and thinks I should be a certain way. I want to leave that and not do a law start up but be an interior designer. Of course that is going to be scary. It’s fine and normal. You are who you are. The only reason you are scared is because decisions you have made unconsciously and the environment you were raised in. It is what it is and it’s normal. You can move through it if you want. The only person stopping you is you. There is no master step. It’s messy and not easy but the key thing is that the rewards are so worth it. I’m preaching to the choir but the rewards of stepping through that fear and carving out your life and career, the rewards are so incredible that it’s worth it. It’s hard to see what it will be like on the other side of the door. If you haven’t stepped through yet you look at it as though it’s scary and you can’t see it.
I see this most when working with people who have motivated themselves to prove other people wrong in their whole life. Those people bet me that I couldn’t do it so I’m going to go do it. It’s their modus operandi. When I ask them what if you didn’t motivate yourself from that place but motivated yourself because you wanted to do something rather than running away? In one hundred percent of cases they say I wouldn’t do anything I’d be a bum or hippy. You wouldn’t do anything because the current way you look at yourself and life has been motivated this way. To change to something else you have no clue what it looks like. But you can decide what it’s going to be. There is no blueprint. You haven’t made decisions yet. You can decide what it is going to be like.
Yes you feel all this fear and quitting may be the scariest thing you do and you shouldn’t quit until you have a plan and money. Don’t just quit your job today and send me an email unless you have a lot of money in the bank. I take zero responsibility for quitting your job. But you are terrified what your life will be like because you don’t know what the new world is. The second you step through you can decide.
I’m getting goosebumps talking about it because I love it so much. It’s easy for me to talk about the process now because I’ve been through it. If you had seen me during those five weeks in med school I couldn’t sleep. I was a mess. Now that I’ve stepped through and understand the process and courage and giving myself permission it’s easier because I can understand the process. I’ve done it. I’ve jumped off the cliff and other cliffs are now easier. It’s possible. It’s radical acceptance. This is who I am and what I’m feeling now. It doesn’t mean you have to stop. You can keep moving forward.
Scott Barlow: You can get better at cliff diving. This absolutely fantastic. One quick question. For you, it seems you intentionally went away. That is what I wrote down. You are talking about deciding who you are, and I’ve done the same thing like five to seven years of my life where I’ve gotten away and the act of doing so gives you permission to evolve yourself as someone different. Have you seen that be the case in a lot of people? I haven’t explored it or seen research. I’ve just observed it and you’ve mentioned it.
MJ Fitzpatrick: I copied this from Bill Gates. Twice a year he does a thinking week. He goes away for a week. It’s no phone or internet. Just him and books. He thinks about himself and his life. I’ve seen it work in other peoples’ lives but the key variable is time. A weekend is not enough. It has to be 4, 5, 6 days. Your mind is built to have an internal and external ward that are always interacting deciding where and what you should do because of your environment. When you make a radical change in your environment after three or four days your brain stops doing all the things it’s supposed to do because of the old environment and you get to look at yourself from the environmental pressures, shoulds, and meetings to make and you are free and can decide how you want to be when you go back into your world.
You have to make habits and decisions or it will force you back. Anyone listening and thinks they need permission to start a new business: number one I give you complete permission to do what you need to except quit your job without a plan. Number two is go away. Spend five days. Leave your phone and computer at home. Take a journal and books, book an Airbnb in the countryside and just go be. Massive epiphanies will happen if you allow your mind to think about your life.
Scott Barlow: That is super cool. I appreciate you making and taking the time. Coming to us from the other side of the world. I am curious for people that want more MJ how can they get more?
MJ Fitzpatrick: My website MJFitzpatrick.com. I give away 99% of my content. That isn’t just me saying it because it sounds nice but it is literally 99% of my content. You can’t buy anything on my website. Go there and I give my work away to people that take action. Click on a button that opens a box to send an email and introduce yourself. You will find all my podcasts, videos, and speeches, except the ones in schools I can’t film, all my blog posts, a bunch of guides. There is enough life changing material and you don’t have to pay a dollar. Anyone listening that feels I’ve given them value or want more stop at my website I’d love to start a conversation and build a relationship.
Scott Barlow: Very cool. Head on over there. Great place to be. Been there myself. Thank you so much again. This has been awesome. Thank you for all your thoughts on permission and sharing your story. Super cool.
MJ Fitzpatrick: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.