What does it take to leave your stable corporate job behind to launch your own business and venture? In this episode of Career Relaunch, Anne Tumlinson, a former Senior Vice President at a Consulting Firm turned Business Owner shares her thoughts on how to recognize when it’s time to change careers, the importance of daily discipline, and embracing the ups AND downs of your career journey. I also share some thoughts on how you can start gaining some traction with your own goals.
3 Key Takeaways
- Making progress toward your career goals is not about talent. It’s about commitment and hard work.
- Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you’re never going to succeed.
- Sticking with a disciplined, daily routine of action will help you make the most progress toward achieving your career goals.
Tweetables to Share
- Visit daughterhood.org & subscribe to Anne’s newsletter and get involved in the conversation of caring for your aging parents at Daughterhood’s Facebook page
- Daughterhood Circles
- Joseph’s TEDx Talk, Reshaping the Story of Your Career
- Elizabeth Gilbert
- Mastin Kipp, The Daily Love
- Tony Robbins on the secret to happiness
- Anne mentioned capturing notes. Here are the apps I use to capture notes and tasks: Evernote, Trello, and Wunderlist
- Jim Collins, Author of Great by Choice on the 20 Mile March
- Jacob Riis Quote on Stone Cutter
Free Tool: Define Your Commitments
During this episode’s Mental Fuel segment, I talked about how defining your daily commitments can help you make steady progress toward your goals. For some help in doing this, you can download my “Defining Your Commitments” Worksheet
About Anne Tumlinson, Founder of Daughterhood
Anne is a self-described public policy geek who has spent the last 25 years working to improve how older adults receive the services and care they need. Anne has testified before Congress, and appeared before the Long-Term Care Commission and the Bipartisan Policy Center. Now she’s turning that expertise into creative and accessible content for women caring for their parents. In 2015, she launched daughterhood.org in order to to help women get smarter about their ageing parents. In 2016, she launched Daughterhood Circles, meet-ups bringing caregivers into the reform conversation, enhancing their understanding of systems of care, and building a community around common caregiving experiences through. If you want to learn more about caring for your ageing parents, be sure to get involved with a local Daughterhood Circle near you.
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Episode Interview Transcript
Teaser (first ~15s): Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It doesn’t mean that it’s not going to bear fruit. It is really okay for something to take time and effort. It’s so much less about talent than it is about commitment and consistency.
Joseph: Anne, thanks so much for being on the Career Relaunch Podcast. I’m super excited to have you on as one of the first guests. I would love to start by having you tell us a little bit more about what you’re working on right now in your life and career just to get us kicked off and understand what you’re up to.
Anne: Sure, thanks. I’m thrilled to be on the podcast with you. To participate in it as you launch all of these new initiatives is really fun for me. When I watched you give your TEDx Talk, all of those points in your career that you’re talking about, I was there. I saw it happen in real life.
The last year, 2015, was a year of taking my day-to-day work life and really structuring it in an even more disciplined way that’s going to take the concept that we invented last year and propel it forward in 2016.
Joseph: I definitely want to hear all about Daughterhood. I know that’s something that you’ve launched just recently, and this is all about bringing caregivers together and helping people understand the various systems of care and building a community around common caregiving experiences, which is really interesting. Before we get to that, I would love to hear a little bit more about how you got to this moment of working on Daughterhood and if you could take us back to a few of the turning points in your career that led you here.
Anne: My whole career has been focused on this role of being an analyst, a consultant, a researcher, a policy wonk in Washington DC, working on healthcare and aging issues. I love that, and I’ve always loved it. It’s a great career, but there were a couple of moments over the last 10 years where I had this experience. I don’t know how to describe it except as like the word ‘tug.’ You feel something tug at you.
It happened for the first time when I was writing something for a client. I got this feedback. They said, ‘You write like a journalist.’ That’s so unusual, and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I really love writing, but I’ve never written for anybody other than a corporate client.’ I’ve never written anything other than memos and reports and analyses. I just felt this tug, like that’s something I really would like to try.
Joseph: Did you feel like you were a good writer before that?
Anne: No, and that’s the crazy thing. Had anybody told me in high school or college that I would be writing as the primary part of my job one day, I would have said, ‘You’re crazy. I’m not a good writer. I don’t even get good grades in English.’ I never really saw myself that way.
Also, it kind of came around the same time that I was asked to participate in this forum. Again, usually, the things I produce feed in are for the expert community. Instead, I was asked to come and speak to a group of women who were taking care of their parents or were being cared for. You toss back a few drinks and talk about these issues that come up around aging, caring for aging parents, being an aging woman in the society, and I was asked to a speaker, not as an analyst but as somebody who knows a lot about this topic. It brings a level of heart to it. That was a pivotal moment because the tug was so strong, I thought, ‘I want to do this.’
Joseph: How much time passed before you actually decided to make the shift?
Anne: A lot. That was probably 2008. This is the thing about those tugs: you can ignore them for a long time. It’s so easy to stay in what you’re comfortable with and what you’re already doing. I would say to people, ‘I really want to write a book. I really want to write a book for consumers,’ and I talked a lot about it.
Joseph: So you were actually thinking about doing it?
Anne: I was thinking about it, but I really could not, for the life of me, get from that idea that I wanted to do that.
Joseph: What do you think kept you from doing it?
Anne: I had no idea. That movement from a job in which I receive a salary that comes into my bank account every two weeks to I’m writing a book is a big leap. I tried to do it sort of as like, ‘I’m going to get up every morning at 5:00 a.m. and start writing a book,’ and I would start writing. Here’s what I learned: I had very little patience or tolerance for that process of writing and scrapping and practicing. I wanted it to come out perfect the first time. I would sit down, and would it be hard and frustrating. I failed. It was hard, so I failed, so never mind.
Joseph: Then that activity would just go away?
Anne: Yes. Life is also happening at the same time. I have young children, I do have a job with responsibilities, and then I got divorced. I think I’ve said this too before. There’s nothing like a divorce to really quickly help you understand where all of your biggest fears and self-doubts are. It’s very traumatic and a big thing to go through.
Joseph: Was that when you started to realize you wanted to make the shift?
Anne: No. I actually was doubling down on my expert career at that point. That was 2011. Basically, the trajectory here was, 2009, I was like, ‘I’m going to write a book. I’m going to do it from between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m. every morning, and I’m going to get it done in a year.’ Then in 2011, my marriage fell apart, and I have to support myself solely. I’m doubling down on being an important professional person with a big title and a pay check and a consulting firm behind my name.
Part of what I was doing during that time was really, I didn’t realize it was seeding the ground for the big change I’d make in 2014 because I was learning about content development, content marketing, and I started doing a lot more writing and a lot more speaking in that context.
Joseph: Can you take us to the moment when you decided to leave that behind and launch Daughterhood?
Anne: In the fall of 2013—this is funny how quickly this thing’s going to happen—I am 100% invested in this particular job at this moment in time. When it’s happening to you, you do not realize what a blessing it is, but the organization in which I was working was also undergoing all of these changes, and these changes were not consistent with where I wanted to go creatively with the product that I was in charge of. I had been in the organization 14 years, and the direction of the organization was going in and the direction that I wanted to go in became intolerable for me very, very quickly.
It was like the perfect storm because I basically had this dream, it was lying dormant, I had been developing my skills, and now suddenly, I had this combustible moment. I’m not a big woo-woo person here, but really, it’s amazing the way in which, when that happens, you get support somehow. I think it’s because deep down inside, you’re reaching out into the world and really unconsciously asking for it, because as soon as I had that combustible moment, it was actually in a meeting presenting my vision and realizing, your stomach just sort of dropping out of the bottom, ‘This isn’t where this organization wants to go.’
That combustible moment, about a week later, you called me, and you said, ‘I’m launching this thing, and I’m working with people who want to make a career change.’ Do you remember that?
Joseph: I do remember that, yes. Serendipity.
Anne: I was like, ‘Wow, what a coincidence.’ About a week after that, I had a meeting with a really great colleague of mine who said, ‘It’s funny. I’m looking for somebody to help me with something.’
Joseph: Why do you think that happened, that things started to come together? Was that just the universe kind of coming together? You mentioned you’re not a woo-woo person. What do you think made it work out for you to have these support mechanisms come your way?
Anne: I guess maybe I’m a little woo-woo. I didn’t used to be, but it was too freakishly coincidental. I just want to clarify something I think is so important right here, because sometimes you hear a lot of people who go out into the world and create new things talk about this experience of having things move into place to help shine the light on the path right in front of them, but that is all it does. It only shines light on the path right in front of you. It doesn’t make it easy.
Despite the fact that you called in, despite the fact that I went out for sushi with my friend Gretchen, who needed help managing a big project that was right up alley, and she needed it to be on an independent basis, and it was a perfect bridge, nevertheless, 99% of my emotional experience during this time was fear.
Joseph: It sounds like some of the pieces were coming together, but most of the time, this thing was really scary. What was the hardest part of making this transition then?
Anne: I see this all the time now when I look at my friends who are employed. This is not to denigrate being employed by an organization—hopefully soon, people will be employed by me—but it’s very hard to believe in yourself because you’re not really being tested to believe in yourself. When I made this transition, it put in to stark relief, the degree to which I had really very little confidence in myself. I spent these first few months really doubting and questioning myself. I mean it was waking up in the middle of the night and thinking, ‘Who do you think you are?’
Joseph: Like the impostor syndrome sort of thing.
Anne: ‘You are only as good as the organization that you were attached to. That was your identity.’ It’s an identity shift. You’re going from being identified with an organization that provides you all kinds of cover, no matter how dysfunctional it might be, and most organizations have dysfunction. You have that devil you know, and then you’re out on your own, creating your own income, and the rubber really is hitting the road, and you have to trust that you have what it takes.
Here’s the thing, and now it’s funny: I feel like I crossed over to the other side, and I often now am in the position of counseling friends of mine who are really talented, brilliant, amazing people, and I’m always shocked at how uncertain they are about making the same transition. I feel like, ‘I wish you could just see this the way I see it. You are going to be more than fine.’
Joseph: I hear that so often from people when they’re looking from inside an organization and they want to launch off and do their own thing, that we are really afraid of it, which I was too when I was in that situation. It’s really terrifying. Do you feel like people have to go through it to believe that it actually does work out? What do you tell the people when they are on that cusp?
Anne: I do think there’s a certain amount of going through it, and it’s really normal to be scared and nervous, but what I tell people is that it really does help to have a coach or a counselor. The reason is because you are believing things about yourself, and you taught me this: there’s that voice in your head that is trying to protect you, but it’s very loud.
It’s not reasonable to expect that you will be able to combat that voice by yourself, and that’s where you really need another person, a coach, or you need a community, interacting with, engaged, and talking to people who can be your voice of reason as you did with me many times, like, ‘You seem to have a lot of evidence for why this won’t work. Let’s talk about the evidence for why it would.’
Joseph: So having somebody provide a different perspective to get you out of your head.
Anne: Yeah, because I think there were a few really pivotal moments where I really was losing faith or confidence, and there was no particularly good reason for it except that it’s just really hard to describe how unsettling it could be to go from a 25-year career where you’re getting a pay check every two weeks to one in which you’re not and you’re not married.
What I would say to people is you will be shocked at how much you can do on your own. You don’t even know because you’ve never been in that situation.
Joseph: By going through it, you’ve actually been able to experience what it’s like to trust yourself, to rely on yourself, to create something from nothing. Now that you’re further along, do you still have those moments of doubt or does that come up as much as it used to?
Anne: It really doesn’t. I would say I spent a year really wondering where the next project was coming from, and it always came. For a whole year, it was like, ‘I got a project. It’s going to give me this much money that’ll get me through the next three months,’ and right about the time that that project will be over, in will come the next project. I should say, that was happening at the same time that I was really trying to develop the Daughterhood concept, so kind of the same thing was happening on Daughterhood.
Joseph: How surprising was that to you to have these things continue to be in the pipeline without you having to necessarily go and proactively seek it out?
Anne: I was completely shocked. I mean I would always be shocked. I really did spend a year going, ‘I can’t believe people want to hire me. This is so great.’
Joseph: When you say that you couldn’t believe that people would want to hire you, what was making you think that?
Anne: I think it was this shifting identity that I had something of value to contribute. I didn’t realize how reliant I was on that organization that was behind me in my previous job. There, I was like, ‘Of course you want to hire us. We have 100 smart people here.’ There was something inherently valuable about working with me that people would be willing to pay for. It took me a year of continued evidence of it to believe it. Then I would just like to say, I spent another year still consistently undervaluing it. I worked very hard last year because I didn’t charge enough.
Joseph: How did you overcome that undervaluing, undercharging?
Anne: There was no choice. There’s so much work coming in. After a year of this sort of like, ‘What? There’s work? That’s great,’ then it started to really come in. I just got to follow this year, and I realize I cannot because I’m not charging enough. It’s affecting Daughterhood. It’s affecting my kids. It’s affecting my health.
I can’t explain it, and again, this gets back to the woo-woo stuff. There’s a chemical, an alkanol process happening internally as you’re going through all of this. There are forces inside of yourself that start to shift, like this moment, this fall where I thought, ‘People will actually pay money just for me to give them advice. I don’t have to produce the perfect product or paper. It’s enough. I am enough in the experience that I have and the knowledgebase that I have and what I’ve been involved in.’
Joseph: Knowing what you know now, Anne, because it sounds like you now are at a point where you feel comfortable knowing that you have a lot of value to offer, what advice would you offer to the past Anne as you were making this shift into Daughterhood?
Anne: Just because something is hard doesn’t mean that you’re failing. It doesn’t mean that it’s not going to bear fruit. It is really okay for something to take time and effort. It’s so much less about talent than it is about time and effort and commitment and consistency, and that’s where the magic happens. Not to sound like Elizabeth Gilbert, but she’s right. It’s that butt in chair every day. That’s 99% of it, and it doesn’t really have that much to do with you personally. It’s just, ‘Are you committed? Are you all in despite your fear?’
I once heard Mastin Kipp say something that I actually wrote down and taped to my wall. He said, when he was starting out writing The Daily Love, that he was living I guess in some suboptimal situation and a tiny, little room. He said he heard this voice—he’s very woo-woo—he said, ‘You know, your face is the size of this room,’ which is a very small room, and then he said, ‘But that’s enough.’ It’s enough. You don’t need that much courage. You just need a little bit of courage and faith and comfort in that place of not knowing, and then everything else is just showing up.
Joseph: Just making sure that you’re putting in whatever you need to do each and every day, day in and day out, and putting in the hard work and figuring out a way to make it happen.
Anne: I think the advice I would give my earlier self would not be to do anything differently. It would just be to suffer less. I don’t have advice in terms of I really feel like it’s unfolded exactly the way it was meant to. I think I suffered more than I needed to.
Joseph: That actually is a nice segue way into one of the last questions I’ve got for you here, which is when you look back on this career change, is there something you wish you had known that may have allowed you to not suffer as much as you just mentioned?
Anne: I wish that I had known just how amazing it is to be in the process of doing something new, because I was very goal-oriented – not that there’s anything wrong with goals. Goals are great, but my goals are like, ‘We’ll be able to launch the new business with X million in revenue by 12 months from now.’ It was all about getting to that end goal instead of being in that process that, ‘This is your new life, Anne. You better be really sure that this is how you want to live.’
I wouldn’t have done anything differently, but the job now is creating and building, always. The job is not, I’m going to invent something, and then that’s going to be done. It’s always a process of invention, and that’s the job. I wish I had known that because I think I would have used my time more effectively in the beginning. It took me nine months of you and a couple of other people saying, ‘Just start.’ It’s like, ‘I can’t start because when I start, then the clock is ticking.’ Now I understand, ‘There’s no clock. This is what I do now.’
There’s a painter whose painting started getting shown in her 90s. She’d been painting for 60 years. You really have to love painting. What I wish I’d known was that this was about loving this process of doing this. It’ll be nice if there’s commercial success. It’ll be nice if there’s a scaling and an appreciation of the work, but that’s not why I’m doing it. I didn’t know that 18 months ago or two years ago. Two years ago, I thought it was about writing that book and getting it finished and off to the publisher and then spending the rest of my life in the Bahamas.
Joseph: I see, yeah. I guess it goes back to the whole enjoying the journey along the way. I think it’s Tony Robbins who talks a lot about not achieving to be happy buy happily achieving it, enjoying the journey as you’re going through it. That is, in and of itself, really gratifying.
Joseph: Thank you so much, Anne, for taking us through your journey and giving us an insight into some of those challenges that I know a lot of people go through when they’re trying to make a big change. I’d love to wrap up by hearing a little bit more about Daughterhood and how people can find out more about Daughterhood. Before we do that, I got three quick questions for you just to wrap things up. The first, is there a specific tool that you’ve used that has helped you keep yourself on track?
Anne: The one thing I do really recommend that everybody do is it doesn’t matter how you do it, but you do need a way to keep track of your ideas because ideas do not like to come to you when you are sitting at your desk, I’d found. Inevitably, I’m walking somewhere, and I have to stop and pull out my phone. I just use my notes.
Joseph: The notes app on your phone?
Anne: Yeah, and I just type in whatever phrase or idea or thought that comes to me. I think one of the most challenging things about this is that you’ll find the more creative work you do, the more creative work you will want to do. You start bringing things into the world, and it opens up some hatch in the back of your mind, so just be prepared. You don’t have to follow every thread, but I have an ‘idea book.’ I give every idea one page to express itself, and then I leave it there because then I feel less pressure to execute on everything. That’s how I keep some discipline.
Joseph: What about the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Anne: Right when I was leaving, this mentor of mine, he sat me down. He goes, ‘You’re just going to have to get in the boat and start rowing. Just get going. Just start.’ You hear a lot of people say that, but it was really true. That was great advice. Then if one path doesn’t work, you just go down another. There’s no such thing as failing. You’re not failing. You’re trying.
He said he was an army ranger, and he was in that ranger training that is so bleak. All these guys washed out, and he said the only reason he stayed was not because he was big or strong or tough or brave. It’s just because he would wake up in the morning and be like, ‘Okay, I’m just going to get up.’ I think that might actually have been the most valuable. I found that to be such a relief. You don’t have to be brilliant. You don’t have to be Mark Zuckerberg. You just have to get up.
Joseph: I guess it goes back to how you said, just showing up and just doing something, anything each day. It will help you make some progress.
Anne: Amazing how that all worked out.
Joseph: Finally, what’s one habit that’s consistently served you well in your career?
Anne: I think it’s a mental attitude of just not staying down too long. Here’s the funny thing: I don’t have great habits just in general. I have tried so hard to get up early in the morning or meditate or run, exercise, you name it. Whatever it is, I’m not good at habits. The thing that I am good at is deciding that whatever the setback is, I’m more committed than ever to moving forward in spite of and because of things that haven’t worked out. It’s like a mental process that I go through that just says—and maybe this is harping on the same theme again—just always get back up. It’s like the theme from Rockies playing in the background now.
Joseph: With that music in the background now, I want to wrap up by talking a little bit about Daughterhood. You launched that. You’re organizing these meet-ups, and you’re building more awareness for your community, and it’s all about caring for aging parents. Can you just tell us a little bit more about the meet-ups and what you’re focused on right now?
Anne: The meet-ups are a huge initiative of mine right now. I am launching a recruiting effort to get community leaders all around the country to start Daughterhood circles in their local communities. We kicked it off in San Diego last year. It went really well, and we learned a lot. One of the biggest things we learned is that it takes commitment and leadership at the community level in order to create community around this issue, and that it’s really needed. It really is all about providing women with the information, resources, and support that they need to do this job, which is a hard one.
All these things we’ve been talking about with starting your own business, family’s experiences, this is very, very, very hard, caring for another adult. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re a failure, and that’s our message. I think bringing communities together is going to help spread that message.
Joseph: If there are women out there who want to get smarter about their aging parents or they want to learn more about Daughterhood or they want to get involved with one of these communities, where they can go to follow you or to find out more?
Anne: Go to Daughterhood.org, and you can subscribe to the newsletter, which would be really fantastic. Feel free to follow me on Twitter. Facebook though is really where the community is coming together. If you’re in this situation, please, please, please, come visit us. I feel small enough that if you have a question, just write to me through the website. I love to hear from readers. I have a really fun and growing Q&A with readers that I really value. I learn a lot and love the interaction.
Joseph: Thank you for making yourself available to those people, Anne. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your journey with us and for telling us about Daughterhood. I really appreciate you being willing to talk through not only the highlights but also some of the lower moments throughout your journey, because that’s what we all go through when we’re trying to do this. Thank you so much.
Anne: Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.