Do you ever look at others who have achieved great things and think, “They’re different from me. I could never find the courage to take such bold steps?” Don’t sell yourself short. Often, it’s a matter of determining the right career fit and breaking your goals down into attainable steps.
Take Todd and Blair Maus, for example. Todd was in the furniture business and his wife, Blair, was working for a nonprofit. They both knew that they weren’t doing what they wanted with their lives. Blair acknowledges, “Making a dramatic life change isn’t an easy thing to do. There are a lot of questions, uncertainty, stress and fear around it. In our eighties, we didn’t want to say, ‘What if we had done this?’ You can live your life by going day to day, just letting things happen to you or you can take control of it and decide what you want it to look like. We really wanted to pursue our dreams and live life as fully as we possibly could.”
“We hired [a career coach] to help us figure out, strategically, how to do it the right way,” says Blair. Through their work with their coach, Todd’s passion for wine stood out. After moving to San Francisco, Todd caught the “wine bug” and started taking classes in winemaking and grape growing in Napa. The coach encouraged him to call up a winemaker he had never met and ask to spend some time learning about his life and business. Todd admits, “I never on my own would have called some random winemaker and see if he could give me a lift,” but that’s exactly what he did. “We expected it to take 10 years to start getting our feet wet and we wound up buying a property with a vineyard on it, so it instantly catapulted us into being grape growers.” In time, they founded Deering Wine, a small, family-owned winery in the verdant hills of Sonoma Valley.
Following their passion has reaped great rewards. Deering Wine’s 2008 Ideal, a red blend, recently won “Double Gold” at the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, a contest that set a new American wine competition record with 5,500 entries. The award is just one in a long list that their winery has amassed, including “Best of Class” at the 2011 Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition for their 2008 Zinfandel. What do these awards mean to them? “It’s vindication that we’re doing the right thing. You’re dealing with the really big wineries and a lot of winemakers. It’s really great to be able to compete on that level,” says Todd. Blair adds, “We love the wines that we make and we make wines that we love to drink. On top of that, to win the ‘Double Gold’ and have all these judges love it, too, is really an incredible experience.”
Or, consider Jeff York. Movies have been a passion of his since he was young and, as an adult, they became his hobby, with at least 100 trips to the movie theater each year. A few years ago, while he was a creative director at an advertising agency, he had an idea for a film. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I just try to put it down on paper?’ I dabbled with it here and there. Then, I thought that I’d try to write a full script. I read some books and gave it a shot. My first script was a horror movie called ‘Incurable.’ Out of 1,000 spec scripts that Script magazine evaluated in 2008, mine got the only ‘Recommend’ rating. That was really encouraging, so I thought maybe this could go somewhere. Then I decided to write another one and another one after that.”
When the agency closed his satellite office due to the recession, he considered it an opportunity to make a change. “I had been in advertising for 20+ years, but I was unhappy the last couple of years I was in it. It was not as much fun for me. I thought, ‘Let me maybe start to think of something else.’ But I wasn’t exactly sure how to go about doing that and somebody had recommended [a career coach]. We identified what I wanted to do, some ways to do it and what it would take to make that transition.”
Jeff’s decision to pursue his love of movies has paid off. One of his screenplays, “Fiend,” won best script in the thriller category at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival Screenplay Contest. With that honor, his script will be given to 8,000 industry decision makers, including directors, producers and actors. In addition to Sundance, his scripts have been finalists in 11 other competitions, including Script Pipeline’s Screenwriting Competition, Creative World Awards and Final Draft’s Big Break contest, with all five of his scripts earning finalist status in at least two contests each.
To others considering a career change, Jeff advises, “If you’re feeling the nagging sense that you want to try something else, that’s really your way of telling yourself to do it. Rather than fighting it, put your energy toward finding out how.”
“No one should wake up every day and go to a job that they hate or don’t like or isn’t fulfilling. Our careers are so much a part of who we are and they should fit with what you want out of life,” comments Blair. In the end, it’s not about finding the job that will pay the most or the one that will make your parents happy. It’s about pursuing your passion and doing what you love. By staying true to your vision, success is sure to follow.