Today’s special blog post is part of WordCount’s 2012 Blogathon challenge to share a second act or life reinvention story.
As the curtain rises on my third SecondAct, I’m reminded of a book that was helpful during my second, second act when I changed career paths from working full time as a public relations and marketing professional to freelance writing and teaching. The book is a helpful guide for anyone wondering if they can succeed independently.
Spare Room Tycoon by Philadelphia consultant James Chan (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2000), is recommended reading for anyone thinking about embarking on a second career. The author tells of his own experience as a entrepreneur and shares the personal stories of many others who have started encore careers by stepping out on their own. Each story illustrates how taking control of one’s career leads directly to taking control of one’s life.
“Spare Room Tycoon” is less about starting a business from a spare bedroom and more about the need for work to be a means of self-expression.
The book is not “a how-to-succeed book, or a how-to-do book. It is more a how-to-be-book,” Chan writes. Being your own boss isn’t just about an independent work life. It’s about an entire lifestyle.
One of the most valuable parts of the book is a framework, instead of a formula, for finding a new career path. Chan devised this framework based on the acronym SPARE and its five steps include:
Each step is an important part of the continuous cycle of discovery. For example, self-knowledge leads to the decision to become self-employed in the first place. Passion is the sum of one’s talents and experiences that can be put to work. Action is “making the leap” into self-employment. Realization is being in tune with what the marketplace is telling you. And evolution means you have to keep reinventing your business in order to stay in business.
One exercise in self-knowledge it to write a list of all the things you want to do, things you enjoy doing and have a passion for, whether you think you can make money at it or not. Then set your list aside, Chan advises. After a week or so, go back to the list and see what people have paid you to do in the past.
“Looking at why previous employers have wanted us should be an affirmation of our talents and a way to gauge the talents the market will pay for,” he says.
An important lesson from the book is that an entrepreneur’s “main payoff comes in personal satisfaction, in autonomy, in deliverance from office politics, in the freedom to make our own mistakes instead of being forced to execute the misjudgments of others.”
While reading Spare Room Tycoon the first time, I remember nodding in agreement to nearly every lesson explained in its pages. I also gained some new insights. In the chapter “You Are a Brand,” Chan explains that “Nearly everyone with whom I spoke saw their business as an outgrowth of their own talents, their own values, their own commitments.”
Whether your second act will find you becoming your own boss or not, Spare Room Tycoon may help refine your vision.
“Self-employed people are not just in it for the money, fame, power or glamour,” Chan explains. “We have an urge, a desire, a dream, and to realize that is really the core of self-employment.”