Three weeks ago I attended a workshop where our charge was to wrestle with a question: “What breaks your heart?” It was led by Dr. Tererai Trent, who shares a central message: “What breaks your heart is part of your destiny.” (Yes, she is amazing, and yes, the weekend was intense.) Though I hadn’t used these exact words till meeting Dr. Trent, I’d been asking myself some version of this question for the past two and a half years. It was then that I’d made one of the boldest steps of my life by walking away from a job I’d loved for nearly 15 years.
What breaks your heart is part of your destiny. –Dr. Tererai Trent
I was a curriculum designer at a well-respected history museum, and it had become my identity. For more than a decade I got to tell people how much I adored my job. I was surrounded by curious collaborators, dear friends, groundbreaking technologies, and projects that cultivated critical thinkers. Walking away was so painful that it still backs up on me sometimes. But my leaving a single job isn’t what breaks my heart. Instead, I’ll tell you what does: Not the fact that I left, but the reason why I chose to do it.
What Breaks My Heart
As Arjan Van Den Born posits in his book, The Fuzzy Firm, we are experiencing “the imminent transformation of our firms from stable hierarchies to fluid networks.” As this occurs, employees and employers are becoming less interdependent. In The Gig Economy, Diane Mulcahy puts it this way: “In just one generation, the corporate gravy train full of plentiful, progressive, benefit-rich, and secure full-time jobs has left the station.”
As Stephen Warley points out on his blog and podcast Life Skills that Matter, “The mass-market economy valued conformity. It promoted an ethos to consume more and more stuff, so each of us felt like we fit in and felt accepted. The market of infinite niches does not value sameness. The new status is having the courage to be yourself and to be unapologetic about it.”
So here I am, a self employed instructional designer who wants to change the world. My mission is to combine my longtime skills as an educator with my newfound love of entrepreneurship. Teach Your Thing was born after months of reading books, listening to podcasts, journaling my thoughts, surrounding myself with people who inspired me, and–finally a four-month intensive branding course called ArtMark, led by Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder. (I highly recommend this collaborative experience, which guides participants to live its message that “Do It Together” outshines “Do It Yourself.”)
Education has always been my best tool for sparking empowerment, which is why I’ve dedicated my career to it. Now, I’m leveraging that same tool in two new ways:
- To serve as an ally to the 21st century changemakers who have already embraced the gig economy, and
- To act as a beacon to those who are adapting to it