395: Executive Burnout: Making A Midlife Career Change

A common symptom of people that get burned out. How to overcome the perpetual sense of failure. How to remove tunnel vision in your career. How to let go of limiting beliefs (i.e. “I have to stay in the same industry”). What to do when you feel burned out...



Michael Fagone, Mortgage Broker/Loan Officer

A former finance exec with Sony Entertainment who went from burned out to learning that work can actually be fun!

on this episode

Michael had been an executive at Sony entertainment for many years. It was a great career for him.

Until it wasn’t.

The absolutely crazy thing is that in all his years working for Sony, even though he enjoyed lots of pieces of it, he’d never realized that work could be something that was fun.

He was able to get unstuck and find a new career path that did fit him.

As I talked with Michael, it was evident how much life had changed for him in the last two years.

What You’ll learn

  • How to know whether to stay or go.
  • How to adapt your work to fit your strengths.
  • Why burnout happens and how Michael overcame it.
  • How to overcome the perpetual sense of failure.

Success Stories

I think what helped me the most was focusing on my strengths and the connections that this process, the whole happened here, the career change bootcamp, those connections that basically you're prompted to go reconnect with people right? So, that helped me the most because the roller coaster that I was on with the role that I was in that I was trying to exit from, again, it realizing that people had a positive view of me and that they saw things that maybe I didn't see in myself really helped me articulate who I already was and who I wanted to be in my next role, if that makes sense.

Elizabeth , Digital Marketing Analytics Strategist, United States/Canada

I wanted to thank you because you have helped me land a job that is more fulfilling in every way than a job I thought I could have had before I met you. The work you did and the techniques you taught me literally changed my life.

Eric Murphy, Science Teacher, United States/Canada

Sometimes you just need someone who has done these things before to make it easier. Scott’s advice allowed me to get exactly what I wanted out of my new job!

Andrew Trujillo, Digital Marketing, United States/Canada

My brain always goes 'Well, what's the worst that could happen?' And that was another one of the exercises from Figure Out What Fits and once you realize what the worst that can happen is, it's not really that bad. In the big scheme of things, it might knock it back for a minute or two, but it's not not a biggie. They have not found it to happen yet. So I've just been pleasantly surprised every step of the way.

Mark Sinclair, Photograher, Australia

Getting clear on what I wanted helped me to recognize how perfect this opportunity was when it came along and the choice to switch was a no-brainer. Thanks for doing the work you do!

Austin Marlar, Frontend Developer, United States/Canada

Nadia Career Change HTYC

If you're stuck, if you want to know what to do, go listen to this podcast, it will change your life. And I was thinking, "great, okay." And then of course, I go to the website, and everything that I read, it was like, "Yes, this is what I've been looking for."

Nadia , Support Team Coordinator, United Kingdom

Michael Fagone 00:17
I felt like it was my duty to suffer for this job because I wanted to see my team advance. I wanted to see them get promoted, take on more responsibility, right.

Introduction 00:39
This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:03
Alyssa and I were sitting at Woody's overlooking the beach in San Diego. We had banana pancakes, coffee and breakfast burritos. It wasn't just us sitting there, though. We were actually listening to Michael, tell us what his life was like nowadays.

Michael Fagone 01:18
If work is fun, like what I'm doing now, I find these moments when I'm like, you know, it's eight o'clock on a Tuesday night. And I'm like, should I watch a movie? I'm like, No, I actually really feel like working because, it's not work. It's fun. I'm having fun with it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:32
Michael had been an executive at Sony Entertainment for many years. And this was a great career for him. That is, until it wasn't. The absolutely crazy thing is in all his years working for Sony, even though he had enjoyed lots of pieces of it, he'd never realized that work could be something that was fun. As we were sitting there listening to his story, it was evident how much life had changed for Michael in the last two years. And that was when I asked if he would come on the podcast and share everything that went into his journey to find his ideal career. Here's our conversation.

Michael Fagone 02:09
I never had a vision of my career, finished high school, plan to go to college, family issues, put that on hold. I was very lucky that a friend of mine in town said hey, if you're not going to college, you should work full time at a real job, come work where I work. It was a warehouse shipping company, catalog company. So I went and signed up and ended up working there full time for two years. And I think the great thing about that was I took very well to the structure, the schedule, and I was kind of like fascinated by operations and learning about shipping and receiving and paperwork. And you know, it's sustained me, right. So after a couple of years of that, I went back to I always thought that I would get a degree. I grew up around a lot of people in business and lawyers and architects. And so I went to the local college, because I was paying my own way, signed up for night class. Loved it. Loved creative writing, it was the first class I took just as a general after work. After one semester that I said, I'm doing this, I told them I was quitting to go to school. And they said, "well, are you going to work during school?" And I said, "Yeah, I'm gonna have to pay bills are probably on campus." And they said, "you know, what, why don't you stay part time, keep benefits." And I said, "oh, wow, that's a great offer." So for the next four years, I did full time school, lived on campus. And then every day in the afternoon 4-8 went to work at this company. I've always been good with structure. So long story, but finished my degree. And I decided during school, I still didn't know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted a college degree, but I didn't know what I wanted to do. But in my mind, I said I want something practical and something that's going to allow me to pay the bills and be independent, right? So I started down the economics path, loved macro economics, micro, again, all the business and structure stuff, and then switch to accounting because I really got into the bookkeeping of the numbers. I like math, I'm just not good at the Advanced Math. Like I wanted to be an architect, but the math was like, forget it. I wanted to be an engineer, math, forget it. Like accounting was like, oh, it's math, but just enough. Right?

Scott Anthony Barlow 04:30
The right level of math.

Michael Fagone 04:31
The right level of math. So you know, ended up with an accounting degree. And then I started looking for jobs and I was in Boston and mutual fund accounting was a big thing there. And luckily, I had a very close friend refer me to his company Fidelity Investments, and I got hired as a fund accountant there as my first job out of school, and I loved it. Again, very structured, lots of training, great company. Then for personal reasons. I ended up I'm leaving that job and moving with my partner at the time to Philadelphia for his school, and I got a job at a corporate accounting job at a consulting firm. And there, I was encouraged by my boss to take the CPA exam, he said, "look, even if you're not going to be a public accountant, just take the exam, it means a lot. It shows that you know how to study, you care, you have the ability." So I spent two years doing that, pass the exam, was really hard. It was two full days in a warehouse at a table, four hours a section, but I did it. And I was very proud of myself. And at the end of the two years, we moved to Los Angeles again for my partner's job. But I was happy to do that, because I wanted to try working in entertainment, I thought the best setup for me would be, be an accountant for a movie studio, because I love movies, I love TV. And if you're going to do accounting, I always recommend to people do it for a product that you have interest in, because then you'll be excited about the sales, you'll be excited about the marketing, you'll be engaged in the company, right. And it helps you be a business partner, as opposed to something that you just have no interest in at all right, if you can.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:11
I'm super curious about that. Because I think that's a great bit of advice. And I'm also curious when you made that change, what was, as you thought it would be, and what was different than you thought it would be in working for, you know, in entertainment, working for Sony Pictures?

Michael Fagone 06:27
So the first question, I guess is, you know, accounting is accounting everywhere, right? Bookkeeping is bookkeeping. It's all the same rules. I mean, the rules change, depending on the business you're in, right? Each business has specific accounting rules, right? So one thing is, it's better if you're interested in the product, it makes it easier to research, right? The accounting standards that apply to that particular business, but also the products a company is making has an effect on the culture of that company and the environment. For me, entertainment, I assumed is going to be creative, exciting. It's flashy, it's, I mean, especially in Los Angeles, this was something that was really surprised. It was, you know, again, I moved here with my partner who was incredibly smart and super successful and got a great job with a very well regarded company in Los Angeles, pure a top MBA type person, but we would like go out and about in town, and people would say, "what do you do?" And he would say this, and they would go, "oh, I've never heard of that." And then they would say, "what do you do?" And I would say "I'm an accountant at Sony." And they would be like, "Oh, my God." So there is a thing in LA. Where, if you work for one of the studios, it just... you get a lot of like reaction that gives you a boost, right? But the different part is that entertainments super exciting, and it's super flashy. It's also absolutely insane.

Scott Anthony Barlow 07:56
In what way?

Michael Fagone 07:57
So imagine that if you're a consumer products company, say, you're like Neutrogena, I picked that out of the blue, you launch new products once in a while. But generally, you have the same product lines, you're getting them into stores, you're doing marketing. And it's sort of like happens on a regular schedule. In entertainment? You're launching a new product a couple times a month, every new movie is like, what is it going to do waiting, waiting, waiting, it opens. And then it's to do better than expected as expected or worse. And let me tell you, if it does worse, it is pandemonium for the next month as you are revising forecasts and profit plans and figuring out where you're going to cut expenses to make up for the difference, that goes on over and over and over multiple times a month. So entertainment is a very unique animal in that way. And it has a couple of areas that are very, very challenging. And because they're unique to that business, there aren't a lot of good like industry solutions, right? Another one is like assets, keeping track of film assets, right? No one else does... no other industry has this problem where you need to keep master copies of movies and television shows and the audio tracks that go with them. And all the subtitles and imagine subtitles for 50 different languages, dubs for 50 different languages, right? All this stuff has to be warehouse and accessible as you sell it down the road. And that is the area that I started in with Sony. It was basically asset management. It is fascinating, incredibly challenging. And still to this day, 20 years later, doesn't have any good solutions. It is just a monster of a problem for the studios to manage those pieces of every piece of content and it's only getting harder with the way that we're now doing YouTube, short arm, right. So if you're an accountant, and you want a lot of challenges, I highly recommend entertainment. It's a unique animal. I got a job at Sony. Again, very lucky that a guy from Boston where I grew up was there and he, I guess, you know, keyed in on my Boston background. And he liked the fact that I was from the east coast and I had, you know, passed the CPA exam, right. So I landed at Sony, again, no plan, other than get an accounting job at a studio. I then was there for 18 years. So started out as a senior financial analyst in September of 2001. And I left as a vice president of worldwide distribution finance in the beginning of 2019. And like I said, I never planned on any of this. But once I started at Sony, I could see that the more you could handle, the more they would throw at you, I was very fortunate to have some great, like bosses that really knew how to challenge you. And it just sustained me, it sustained me for, you know, almost 20 years. But at the end, it got to this point where the demands of the job were felt like 24/7 365. And for someone like me, that is a perfectionist, and didn't really realize that it just didn't work anymore. It got to the point where I physically couldn't keep myself going. And mentally, I was just overwhelmed all the time, and just worried constantly about too many things, and not able to fix anything perfectly, or make anything work perfectly, was not a good combination.

Scott Anthony Barlow 11:23
What kind of impact did that have on, like your health and wellness?

Michael Fagone 11:30
I think for the beginning time that I was there, it was good for me. Because being at a job where you had to be in a regular schedule, and you were always busy. And it was very structured...

Scott Anthony Barlow 11:41
You had that structure.

Michael Fagone 11:42
I had the structure. And then I would go like, I'm going to work out, three days a week after work. And then I'm going, you know, weekends I have off and or, you know, as I got busier and took on more responsibility, I would get up at you know, 5am and work out in the morning. And then you know, leave my evenings open if work got busier. And but I always was able to make it work, right, I could always fit like I was swimming for a long time, that was my thing, like get out of work, hit the pool, do laps for 45 minutes. And it just I loved being so busy, I felt really important. I felt, I mean, obviously, the money was really good and was getting better every year. And I was just on this like constant sort of routine of keep it going get the next big raise, keep it going get another big bonus. And I had a great team of people under me. And that sustained me for years. And I felt like it was my duty to suffer through this job. Because I wanted to see my team advance, I wanted to see them get promoted take on more responsibility, right. I think the last probably three years I was there, I was doing it out of a sense of duty to the people that worked for me. But I also had the sense of, and I think this is common for people who get burnt out is, you have this irrational sense of importance of the work, like I felt like if I'm not there, stuff is gonna fall apart. If I'm not there, no one else is going to be able to do these things. And they won't be perfect, and they won't be right and they won't be on time, I have to keep going. And I did that until I physically couldn't do it anymore. I lost 20 pounds in the final year I was there. Didn't really sleep much that entire year, obviously wasn't eating, wasn't exercising at all. And it just got to the point where I would get out of there on Friday and just go into a coma for the weekend and drag myself in on Monday. And I did that for the last year, I kept saying it'll get better. It'll get better. It'll get better. I had taken a promotion to a notoriously difficult group. And I believed that because the company wanted me to do this, that I must be able to handle it, you know, and I wasn't thinking that. They're not necessarily and this isn't in a bad way, they're not necessarily thinking about my well being like I'm the one that has to be watching out for my health and well being. The company isn't always going to... no company is going to do that for you. I mean, you can't expect that really, they looked at it and said, we have a need for this big thing to get fix. And here's a person we think can do it. And they're expecting that I'm going to have boundaries and no one to raise my hand. And I learned the hard way that I definitely did not. I said, I'm going to get over the hump. We're going to get this done. It'll get better, it'll get better. But after six months of that, I was like I don't see it. All I see is bigger problems on horizon and things I can't get fixed fast enough. And I can't live in this world of just barely getting it done and poorly, right. It just took its toll on me. But I think the overall, the bigger picture of that was that I never intentionally chose any of this. It was like I stayed in the job because it was well I'm lucky to be working for a big name company. I'm willing lucky to be vice president of finance at a movie studio, I was like, wow, I get to go to meetings with like, head of the studio and these like famous people that are in the news all the time, I'm sitting at a conference table with them. It's like, I mean, that is intoxicating, right. And I have this sense of who am I to deserve all this and couldn't visualize anything better or better for me. So I just kind of lived in this, like, I'm lucky to have what I have suffer and deal with it because other people have a lot less than other people can't get here. And I'm very humble that way, I think, probably too humble. And all of that led me to this burnout place, which ultimately led me to leave, I gave my notice, with no backup plan. I just hit a point where I said, if I don't tell my boss that I'm leaving in two weeks, I'm just not going to show up one morning. And that would be a horrible way to end 18 years of investment in this job, my colleagues, my reputation, and everything. So I gave my notice. And they were incredibly graceful, and said, "don't make that decision yet, take a break, come back, talk to us when you've had some time to think." And I did, I took a couple months off to get my health back and having that space allowed me to go, going back into that environment is not going to serve me, it's not going to work, it's not going to work for them. Because I'm not going to do better the second time around, right? Expecting that environment to change for me was ludicrous. It was never gonna happen. And then I had to take the decision to say it is what it is. And that particular situation doesn't work. So I ultimately decided, it's not for me, I'm not gonna come back. And I am very happy that I did.

Scott Anthony Barlow 16:47
I think this is, first of all, I really appreciate you sharing that journey that led up to that. And I think a few things, in particular stand out is I am hearing you tell this story. I've actually heard pieces of it for several times over since you and I have had numerous conversations, I guess, at this point. But the part that really stands out to me now that I don't know that I connected together and before this is that, you know, at one point, it was a great thing for you. It was, you called it sustaining you, in a variety of different ways. Not just one way, but a variety of different ways.

Michael Fagone 17:22
Challenging me, learning opportunities, a lot of fun, a lot of really fun people and honestly wonderful people that I met along the way and growth opportunities like crazy. I mean, yeah, for the right person, it offers tremendous opportunities for great work and challenging work.

Scott Anthony Barlow 17:41
Yeah. And then at some point along the way, you started shifting into more of these, I'm just gonna say opportunities to use the word loosely, where it in some ways no longer fit all of what I would say your strengths are. You talked about that perfectionism earlier. But I think that that is even though we're calling it perfectionism. I think that that stems from a place of some of your strengths as I've gotten to know you over the last year or so. When you put someone like you in an environment like that, it is like perpetually setting you up for what feels like perpetual failure, which then had those huge impacts on everything else. I don't think I quite connected that in that exact same way until I heard you tell the entire story from the beginning to end. That's really, really interesting and amazing.

Michael Fagone 18:26
Yeah, it kind of dovetails with this whole Happen To Your Career, the way you say that, right? When I found your podcast, when I understood what you meant by that. I said, "Yeah, I've never happened to my career, I have let... I got to this place without any intentional decisions, right?" I mean, there were some on the way like, I obviously decided to move and change jobs. And I decided to go for this or that or the other thing. But once I was in Sony, it was sort of like, take whatever is offered to you and be happy about it. Right? Be thankful, be grateful that they're offering you this new role, or whatever. And I never was intentionally designing what I wanted or thinking about, like, I want this in my workday, and not this or right. And we'll get to this as we go through the story. But yeah, it was a great job for a long time. But as the the roles changed, and the responsibilities got bigger and managing more people and complexity and then there was a whole component of organizational change that had nothing to do with me it was just the way the market was going and the way the world is turning, it all culminated in just an untenable situation that I tried my best to do for almost a year. But it ultimately wasn't so.

Scott Anthony Barlow 19:46
So before we talk about what happened from there. I'm curious, you know, for somebody who's been in that situation where it was a good thing and then turned into over a course of years, no longer great thing. What advice would you have for somebody who is finding themselves in that situation, right now?

Michael Fagone 20:04
Right now, I would say to the extent you can try to build a little safety net for yourself, right? Financially, try to have a little room and your budget and some savings, so that you can take time off if you need to, right? Because it's very hard to focus on making big changes like this, if you're, you know, working all the time, and you're tired. Not everyone can do that, I know. But it's just, you know, if you can, I would also say, when I was in that place, I could not envision that anything could be better, I could not imagine any other job that would pay the bills, I could not imagine and going to another workplace, I was very nervous about giving up after so many years at a company, so I had that fear. So I guess I would say to someone who is in my shoes from back then, it can be a lot better. I mean, I'm blown away by how different my life is now, and how I will never go back to that kind of situation again, I mean, for the rest of my career, I will never approach a job the way that I did before. And it's just, you have to take a leap of faith, that it can be different, you're not going to be able to see it from where you are, but hopefully listening to people like me or other people on this podcast or other career change sites, you know, just believe it, there's enough people out there that have done it, that, you know, the proof is there, you just have to take that, that leap.

Scott Anthony Barlow 21:35
There's a paradox, I totally forget the name. I wish I could remember it off the top of my head. However, it's the something paradox. And the idea behind it is that when you're in the situation, you cannot actually see what a different situation could fully be like. And because of that, it becomes difficult to believe that there could be a different situation. And we convince ourselves as human beings, the way that we're wired, we convince ourselves, we fill in the gaps, that well, there must not be a different situation out there. So it's especially hard when you're in that situation that you described for that reason.

Michael Fagone 22:13
Yep, it is. And you also can't open your blinders up, right? You have tunnel vision, or I did of what I mean, I can't be in this role anymore. But I need to go find something exactly the same in a different place, which it wasn't going to be any better. Right? So you know, again, you have to kind of get out of that headspace in order to envision what might be a better fit, right. And that's where I learned so much going through the kind of skills investigation and learning about my strengths and kind of thinking about a better work life and a better way to put my strengths to use because once I learned about my strengths, I was like, oh, wow, this is crazy. Like, I can see exactly why I was successful there, right. And I can see exactly why it was miserable for so long.

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:03
What's a couple examples of that? Because that's a great point.

Michael Fagone 23:06
So once I kind of went through the strengthsfinder, that piqued my interest, right, just taking that and seeing what my... I mean, look, in that old job, I had taken so many profiles of Myers Briggs and Emergenetics. And you know, I had gone through all those trainings, and they were good, but it never opened up my eyes to anything, right. And then when I did the strengthsfinder, one, and I saw what my top five were, and I did the work with a coach to really kind of dig in and understand them. My number one strength is harmony, which is crazy, right? So on the good side, it served me in that job because I was always looking to make things work and get people working together and systems working. And I wanted things to be handled and covered and no surprises. But in that environment, we didn't have harmony in anything, everything was impossible. And so I was it just... it just drove me crazy. Because you could never get anything working right? Or anybody on the same page. You know what I mean? So my number one strength was not being used. It was being used, but it wasn't in a way that like made me happy. My top five is analytical, right? Super important for an accounting job and I got to work on analytical stuff all day long. That was amazing. That kept me going. I'm looking at them right now. Responsibility, relator and deliberative, right.

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:33
I think it's their responsibility too, is especially big one because you're the one to take on everything. And if you don't know, the strength finder definitions of strengths that don't worry about that here. And the most important part is that if you're ever trying to identify your strengths, if you're listening to this now and you want to try and identify your strengths, that you have an understanding and can articulate what those are, but Michael in your case, you know that, that responsibility one, the fact that you... you're gonna take on the responsibility for everything that's going on, in a near impossible situation. Just creates... What you even call that?

Michael Fagone 25:11
Great for the company, because I am like, you know, I will try my hardest and never drop the ball and always deliver on my commitments. And I take that extremely seriously. And again, this is why I was successful in that role. It's also why I was miserable, because there was just no end and no...

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:29
No side to the same coin.

Michael Fagone 25:30
Exactly. And deliberative is another good one. I like making decisions, right? I take pride and making good decisions with data. And carefully you need to have that in accounting, right? You just, that's critical. And this is why I like that kind of work. So that one serve me and it hit my buttons, it let me use that strength, and it was needed for the job. So that was good, analytical, same thing. Relator, I don't, it's interesting. I'm an introvert. And everyone's always surprised by that. But I can turn it on and be sociable in the service of work. But then I need like downtime to recover. And I really liked my quiet time. So in the relator, strength, being part of a big company, it felt like I was almost at a college campus every day, you were eating at the commissary, you saw people, there was lots of you know, things to do happy hours, like it was cool. Like it was a cool place to go to work every day, right? You would see stars every once in a while, there was filming going on. But it did hit my relator thing because I felt connected. I didn't feel alone, right. But then I realized that all of these relationships are first and foremost work relationships, and could go away at any moment. Because people leave, people get laid off, like things change. They weren't true, like personal connections. And it's so it kind of, it was pretending to serve that strength. But it really wasn't.

Scott Anthony Barlow 26:53
That's interesting.

Michael Fagone 26:54
Those getting clarity on those things. Again, it showed me why I got to where I was. And it also showed me why I wasn't happy. So that was amazing. And I think that's what led me to call you and go okay, I want to like talk to somebody about what this really is about and how this works. And is it, am I just signing up for a bunch of like online classes? Or is this actually going to do something for me, and that's what I think led me to call you or email you guys and get on the phone with you and Phillip. Because I was like, I can see this, there is a path here. I don't know how to use it. I don't know where it's gonna lead me, I need a lot of help and pushing to believe that this will work. And yeah, that's how I got to where I signed up with you guys.

Scott Anthony Barlow 27:38
So tell me a little bit about, trying to identify what was going to be a great next step for you. What was some of the hardest parts of that process?

Michael Fagone 27:48
Well, I think the hardest thing for me was like, again, breaking out of the tunnel vision of thinking that I had to go back to a Monday through Friday corporate accounting finance job. And I every time I tried to lift my head up and go, I'm going to start putting my resume together and start applying this stuff. I just couldn't do it. Because it felt so wrong. I needed someone to open my vision, I keep thinking of tunnel vision and someone opening up the blinders.

Scott Anthony Barlow 28:21
Like where you're going, you're on a train, if you've ever been in a train, and it goes through a tunnel. And then at the end all of a sudden, like everything is super light.

Michael Fagone 28:28
Yep, I needed coaching, I needed help on possibilities. I kept asking my coach, okay, I took the strength test. So now you should be able to punch those five into a computer and tell me the perfect job that I should be applying for. And you guys were like "no, not worked that way." And I kept saying, "But why? Come on? I want the easy. I just want the easy answer." But it kind of didn't work that way over time. Right? Because it led me to look at other things, like other career paths, right. And it took me a year to decide. But I finally did and I'm very, very excited about where it potentially is going. And along the way, I did some fun jobs too, just to play, right.

Scott Anthony Barlow 29:14
I know some of them but...

Michael Fagone 29:17
I was fortunate in that I was able to take a sabbatical, right? I decided 2019 I am not applying for any work. I'm taking a year off. I'm going on road trips that I've never been able to do, seeing family catching up with friends. I lasted about six weeks. And I said okay, I need to do stuff, I need I cannot just be chilling out, right? It sounded like a great idea but I got my fill of it pretty quickly. I decided to take care of some health stuff. I had a shoulder surgery to correct an injury that had been painful. And I figured do that while I have time before I go back to work. But once I was out of that I got my road trips done, you know saw the West Coast, a bunch of national parks. It was awesome. But I was getting antsy. And so I always... I'm a car fanatic, right. I'm just a car enthusiast. I don't want to sell cars for a living. It's not a kind of thought about it. But it just, I'm not super into sales. But I want to do some car related. So I googled car related jobs, Los Angeles, and this test driver job came up. And I just for fun sent him like a super thin resume. And they called me back. The job was driving cars, eight hours a day on a test route to collect data, and you just like fill out a report. And so I did that for six months. And I loved it. It was I mean, the pay wasn't sustainable. It's not a job for like a full timer. It's good for retirees, or like students who need you know, spending money, but I loved it. I like it was like seeing all of LA driving nice cars. I had my camera with me all the time. So on my breaks, I would take pictures of you know, San Diego, the ocean, like whatever, right? I listened to podcasts. So in that time, I love driving, I love being behind the wheel. So I was able to get paid to be behind the wheel. And I had eight hours of time to myself. And that's when I found your podcast, I would listen to news in the morning. And then career change podcasts or meditation podcasts or true crime. I was having a blast. It was like you know, I love... It's nice to just do work for fun and not for money or because it looks good on your resume or right. It's just forget about it all just do something interesting. So I learned a lot, I met some cool people, I learned all of LA driving, I got to listen to great inspirational media, right? So I guess, long way to say play around with it a little bit. The other job I did was Lyft driver, if you can believe it, my friend said to me, he goes, "Boy, Michael, one thing I can say about you is you have no pride or no shame about taking different kinds of work. And that's amazing." And I said, you can learn and I don't know where I heard this. But somebody... there's a famous person that explained this, "you can learn from any job you do. It doesn't matter how entry level, doesn't matter how unglamorous. You can take pride in it, you can learn how to do it well, what's required, you can then train people how to do that job, teach people you can learn how to improve that process, right?" So I kind of looked at it as I'm going to forget that I was a studio executive technically for 18 years, blah, blah, blah, and I need to stay on that path. And I'm just going to go play around in the automotive world, right. So I did the driving job. And then I did Lyft driver. And that was just for fun, because I had read an article on a blog about a guy who said he just did this part time to honestly to cure boredom. He's like, I love being in the car. I don't like just driving around aimlessly. And for doing lift, gives you like a purpose, right? You're picking up a ride, you're taking them to your destination, I learned that I'm an ambassador for LA, I can pick up a lot of tourists, and they would tell me what they were going to do. And I would say if I've been there or not. And I loved it for the fact that again, I'm an introvert, but I not totally, I loved the interactions of like, you're going to get in my car, we're going to talk for 15 or 20 or 30 minutes, and then our relationship is over. Right? It was perfect for me because I felt connected to people, but they were like really short interactions. And I took a lot of pride and being you know, polite, safe, offering good information, knowing my way around. And I just honestly, it was fun, because I was getting to explore the city. And I had rides all the way down to Laguna Beach, San Diego. I mean, I had like some long haul trips, and then I would end that trip. And I'd be like, Okay, well, I'm in San Diego, I'm gonna hang out down here and see what's going on. And then I'm gonna do rides all the way home. It was awesome. But I also learned that it's really hard to make a living doing that. And we could have another whole podcast on my opinions about rideshare. And...

Scott Anthony Barlow 33:59
I didn't ask you about that when we got a... few weeks back.

Michael Fagone 34:03
But again, amazing experience six months working for Lyft I learned a ton. I have very strong opinions about that industry. And the fact that you know, it is not sustainable for drivers. It's a fun pocket money job. But it is really not sustainable for a real like full time thing. It ends up I think costing you more money in wear and tear on your vehicle.

Scott Anthony Barlow 34:27
It's really fascinating in many wonderful, in many terrible ways at the same time. Michael quick check in here because we're just about at time that we had scheduled. I have about 15 minutes where I can go longer, but didn't want to assume that you do. Do you have... are we gonna stop?

Michael Fagone 34:44
Okay, no, I'm fine.

Scott Anthony Barlow 34:45
All right. Let's put one in for 15 minutes. So here's what I'm super curious about then for you and your story where, you know when you think about the transition, and when you think about you know what works really well, for you to identify your next step and amazing next step for you, a step that I don't think you probably would have thought about, if we would ask you three years ago or so, at all, you know what worked really well for you?

Michael Fagone 35:14
The first step for me was letting go of, I have to stay on the path I was on, I have to stay in entertainment, I have to stay in finance. Because I've spent so much time there. If I don't do that, I'm throwing everything away. And I'm starting from the beginning, I had to let go of that belief that was really, really hard to do. The second, I think thing that helped me was doing those kind of fun jobs and air quotes. Because it helped me get out of the rut that I was in, or the tunnel vision again, and go, you know, here's I'm learning how to do other things, even though they're not like career things. It just helped me feel excited about working again, and curious. And then I think the other thing was what was really, once I did the strengthsfinder, it was spending the time to go through the exercises that you guys explained to me through coaching, and then having my coaching sessions with Mo to really drill down on the value of stepping back and doing the assignments basically, right? where it was so hard for me to believe it. But it's before you start looking for your next role. Decide what you want your life to look like, like lay out, pick how you want your life to be structured before you start looking for a job in a company first. And I was like, whoa, like, who does that?

Scott Anthony Barlow 36:36
Why would you do that?

Michael Fagone 36:37
Why would you do that? Like who does. And then I was like, oh, maybe this is how successful people are so happy as they do that. But boy, did it take me a long time to come around. Belief. But once we got through it, and it took me a good probably two months of encouragement and pushing. That led me to the job that I'm doing now. Right, it led me to start looking for work that would fit what I wanted and company culture and I'm blown away and stunned that I am where I am because I found a company that is so helpful, encouraging, nice people, I have a flexible schedule, I work when I feel like it pretty much. It's crazy. I never would have believed that if I... if you talk to me three years ago.

Scott Anthony Barlow 37:25
One of the things that stood out to me when and I wish I could meet like every single person we worked with in person over the entire world and everything. However, you and I got to meet in person, you and Alyssa and I have breakfast together just a few weeks back and not that long ago in San Diego. And you were kind enough to drive down from LA, which was super fun. But one of the things that stood out to me during that conversation that we had is we were like overlooking the beach at this little, you know, kind of funky little breakfast place. Yeah. You said something along the lines of you know what, I still find that I am struggling with the fact that like work can also be enjoyable.

Michael Fagone 38:09
That's so true. Oh, my God. I don't know why. I don't know. I think it's like Catholic guilt or something. I don't know where this comes from. But it's so true. I always had a belief that work needs to be hard. If you're not suffering at work, then you're not working hard enough, right. I don't know where this comes from but I had to let that, boy, I have to let that go. And that's critical. I think that's really, really important for people to just think about your attitude towards work. And do you have that belief, right? Because if work is fun, like what I'm doing now I find these moments when I'm like, you know, it's eight o'clock on a Tuesday night. And I'm like, should I watch a movie? I'm like, No, I actually really feel like working because it's not work. It's fun. I'm having fun with it. You know? And I'm like, it still feels weird. Wait, I'm not watching TV every night because I'd rather be doing my, you know, my job. Crazy.

Scott Anthony Barlow 39:07
Well, let's be honest, this is weird. But it's good weird.

Michael Fagone 39:10
Yeah, it's good weird.

Scott Anthony Barlow 39:11
So that is, that's awesome. First of all, let's just acknowledge that right there. And, you know, when you think about other people that are getting ready to make a change, like if we're going back to where we had talked about, you were at before where you had decided that you were going to make this change in one way or another. What else would you advise people to think about or what worked for you to let go of some of those beliefs that you talked about?

Michael Fagone 39:38
I think it was a lot of listening to career change. People who have gone through career change was super helpful, right? Talking to Mo and sort of having that accountability partner of like, you know, we talked about I was going to do these things before next week. I don't want to let him down.

Scott Anthony Barlow 39:57
Responsibility, right?

Michael Fagone 39:58
Responsibility and accountability partners, I mean, that's always a good thing. No matter what you're doing, exercise programs, you know, dieting, like accountability partners are really powerful. You asked about other things that people could do that were in my shoes, it's focused on those strengths. And then again, do a lot of, you know, researching. What helped me a lot was some of the tools like I can't remember the name of the database, it's the government database of jobs, oh, occupational... What is that thing, the OCC or something.

Scott Anthony Barlow 40:30
There's a C ni C's. And then there is, oh, my goodness, I used to... when I used to work for the government. And when my career changes along the way, I use this all the time, I think I put it out of my mind.

Michael Fagone 40:41
There's a database, the federal government runs this database of job titles, like for every industry, right, and you can kind of search around in there for different, I was looking for ideas to spark, like spark areas for me to look out. So and that's how I got to my current job, right, which was, if you have these, if you're looking for these skills, or to put these skills to use, these are some industries or jobs you might consider.

Scott Anthony Barlow 41:06
Were you thinking O'Net?

Michael Fagone 41:07
O'Net. Thank you. O'Net, yes, I love databases. And I love playing around with websites, right? So O'Net was a little playground for me. And it actually helped me kind of generate that list of like, what I had asked earlier was, okay, take five strengths, put it into a thing and tell me the perfect job, right. So that doesn't exist. But O'Net was kind of like something you can sort of do that with just to kind of break out of the tunnel vision to go, Okay, I don't need to be a corporate finance person anymore. These are like five other things that might work. And that's what led me to what I'm doing now. Right. So it's research, it's research and sort of open mindedness about other ways that you can, other careers that might work for you, you don't have to stay where you were before, do what you were doing before for a different company, right, which I think is what a lot of people end up doing is the default, it's either find the same job in a different company, or find the same job in a different industry. But that's probably not going to lead you to a much different place. You really want to take the time to just brainstorm a little bit, throw a bunch of ideas up at the wall, go to O'Net, and go don't be judgmental about every option. Right? Look at the thing, and then think about them and start marking them off and flagging the ones you want to kind of explore more. That would be my advice.

Scott Anthony Barlow 42:28
That's fantastic. And one last question for you. Before we go, before we wrap up. How has your life changed now? Like what is different for you now compared to two years ago, three years ago? How would you describe some of those changes, especially for going from what was no longer a great fit for you all the way to work in an organization that really lines up with much more of what you defined intentionally?

Michael Fagone 43:00
So I guess I would say the big... the shortest way to answer that is prior to this change, I believed that I had a lot of security because I had invested so much time in this company in this role and had so much experience. But I think underneath that I always felt stressed and concerned and it grew over time. That all of that could change in an instant. Because management changes, business slows down, layoffs happen, like and I had heard this before, working for a paycheck. There is no security in that right. Some people do make it all the way to retirement working for the same company. It's much rarer these days. But at the end of the day, if you're working for someone else, you're in their hands, really, right. Flash forward to today, the money is not what it was at my old job. And I missed that regular paycheck for sure. But the potential is there to be doing even better than I was before. But it's up to me, and only me to do that every day, right? to work on finding business to network to make sure that I'm doing everything I can to on social media on phone calls, to find work, you know, and that I never envisioned myself doing it. But now that I'm doing it, I never want to go back to sitting somewhere and getting paid by the hour, you know, or an annual salary. Because I am in control of my time now, I'm in control of my volume of business to some degree, I can take a break when I need to. I can... it's just I don't know I'm just in love with it right now because I am learning so much that I never expected and I'm being challenged in sales and marketing in just discipline and I'm pretty disciplined but this takes a whole other level of discipline. Like running your own business. I'm sure you know this, right. But I just I love it, I have so much more energy now and hope and optimism. And like I said, I managed to find a company, I'm an independent rep for this company. I'm not getting paid a salary by them, I'm getting paid by the deal. But the people are so great, and the most helpful, supportive bunch, I'm like, how did this happen? I just love it. I'm loving it. So it is possible, but you got to break out of all the way back to you won't be able to see it from where you're sitting until you step back, get some help, you know, even if it's just listening to a podcast like yours, like routinely, scheduling a couple coaching sessions, what you know, whatever, just believe in it, give it a try, and you know, break out of that rut, you know, how do I say this, I want to say this more concisely, just take a chance, take a chance on doing something different than you've done before. And don't just try to look for something similar to what you were doing,right? Try to shake it up. Because there's so much possibility out there. If you can just give yourself that space to look.

Scott Anthony Barlow 46:09
Quitting might just be one of the most overlooked and most useful tools and the process of discovering the work that you were meant to do. When the realization hit, Lynn Marie Morski, as a graduate student in multimedia design that she actually loathe coding, which was a skill she needed. She quit. When being a sports medicine doctor turned out to be a dream job just not her dream job. She started planning her exit route.

Lynn Marie Morski 46:37
Get a list, you know, written or in your head or otherwise, of exactly what you want. And she didn't mean what position, she meant characteristics just like we were talking about. And she said, just don't let that go, focus on that.

Scott Anthony Barlow 46:51
Lynn Marie Morski is a doctor lawyer powerhouse with multimedia background. She's also a self described hippie who gushes about Burning Man festival and is quit just about every career she started. Next week right here on Happen To Your Career. We'll get deep into how Lynn Marie was able to leverage quitting through her entire career. Until then, Adios. I am out. My goal is to perk up your day in an otherwise ramble lockdown type situation.

Michael Fagone 47:27
Yeah, I've never done a podcast before. So

Scott Anthony Barlow 47:29
I'm glad that I could be your first.

Michael Fagone 47:32
It's a virtual background of a famous house in Beverly Hills, actually. It's called the Sheats Goldstein house. And it's in a lot of movies and stuff. But I got a tour one time through a continuing ed class I did. And I just love... this is a picture from a master bedroom.

Scott Anthony Barlow 47:47

Michael Fagone 47:52
It's super... it's a John Locke, I think designed super mid century.

Scott Anthony Barlow 47:54
Oh, wow. That is awesome.

Michael Fagone 47:57
Yeah. So people always think they're like, "are you... is that your house?" "Maybe someday."

Scott Anthony Barlow 48:02
Not yet, but...

Michael Fagone 48:03
Yeah, but we'll see.

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