What It's Really Like to Leave Your 9 to 5

by Betsy cardenas


 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to leave your 9 to 5? Have you ever wondered what it's like to take on something new and unfamiliar? I used to wonder too. Except now I did it! In fact, it's been 6 months already! Before you make the leap read about the top lessons I learned in my first months as a solopreneur.  

While these focus on my post 9 to 5 life, they really apply to any massive transformation we undertake. 

1) Learning New Things Takes Time: Don't measure yourself against your old self. Whether it's a new job, a new career or a new baby. Learning means that you might work a little slower, you might have to stop and research things. I am teaching myself a bunch of new skill sets. 

2) If You Don't Know, Ask or Google It: The most important piece of career and life advice. How much time do we waste trying to figure stuff out ourselves? I asked my friend how she started her LLC and she told me she used Legal Zoom and so then this gave me a place to start my research. I ended up using Legal Zoom (btw) 

3: Read, Read then Read Some More: The truth is education shouldn't stop at any age. Bill Gates dropped out because he was learning a ton of stuff on his own and was at the forefront of a revolution. Being self-employed for the first time at 33 feels like I'm going to IRL college. I spend a lot of time reading, researching and then doing some more of that. (Note: I still think everyone should go to college unless you won the genetic lottery. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard because he already knew what he was going to do.) 

4. You Will Be Uncomfortable: Oh yeah, every week I'm in a new situation or in a room with a new person. I'm doing new things or feeling new things. It's a bit terrifying and exhilarating all at once. Again, this is like jumping off a plane with no parachute. There will be weird, awkward days and then there will be days when you will remember why you did this in the first place. I feel like when I first graduated school with a degree in Political Science and everything was new and exciting, but my boss made me cry and I wanted to vomit because I was nervous about things. 9 years later I was managing people and discussing politics in front of room's full of strangers with ease on a regular. New things are scary, just own it.  Because of my experience, I also know that eventually we master things and it gets easier. 

5. Enjoy the Ride: If you think of this as an adventure then the stakes will seem less scary. Often times we focus on those who have "made it" and ignore the trajectory that happens before. The parts of the biggest growth are the ones that happen in between. The people we become in the process of reaching goals. Something I'm working on is focusing on the things I want and not on the things I'm terrified about. I try to prevent myself frompunishing thoughts like," I should have done this by now."

That's why I wrote this piece because the moment I realized I had been living my dream for 6 months and literally thought, " I have accomplished nothing." 

But then I remember I walked on fire, started an LLC, co-produced a major event, radically changed my diet, did a full wardrobe transformation and of course continued to produce my newsletter! 

 

Mental Health Awareness Month: The Truth About Burnout

by Betsy cardenas


 

The struggle is real and exhausting

Millennial burnout is hot topic. A quick Google search generated 80,000 hits! A recent Fast Company noted that women are leaving the workforce in high numbers and it’s not necessarily because they are having children but because of burnout.

In a world where being “busy” has become synonymous with being important and productive and getting into college has become a competitive sport it’s easy to see why we burn out in our 20’s. We’ve been running non-stop since high school!  

This overscheduled lifestyle continues once we enter the workforce as we compete for promotions, work on our side-hustles, and take on volunteer roles.

A Georgetown study found that about 40 percent of college undergrads work at least 30 hours per week. In college I had a full calendar. I attended school full-time, interned for at least hours a week, and had job as a tutor. I was fortunate that my internship was paid, that my tutoring job offered me flexibility and that I had a reliable vehicle to get me places. Even with all this it was hard to manage at times. I worked hard in the hopes that I would land a coveted job after college.

At the age of 27. I woke up one day and felt like a permanent fog had permeated my life. I was clinically depressed, anxious and feeling the effects of running non-stop for 10 years. I didn’t understand why this life I had worked so hard to have was causing me so much misery.  

Then I felt guilty for not being satisfied with the things others would have killed for. I felt guilty for having such mundane problems. My parents never sat around wondering if they were “satisfied,” they were busy surviving. I felt awful that they had put so much hope in me and here I was miserable while seemingly having achieved some elements of the American dream.

I was exhausted, mentally drained. I had not taken a vacation since I was 19. I didn’t even think I was allowed to vacation until I was “successful.” I thought that taking breaks meant I was a slacker.

I was mistaken. Don’t be like me.

I had been running so fast I forgot to assess if I was running in the right direction or why I was running at all.  

Burn-out is terrible. It also makes you realize that your career will never be enough to sustain you.  In my case it took a depression and anxiety diagnosis to get my full attention.

I tend to need to mess up and crash to make changes in my life. I still tend to take on too much. But now I always stop to assess if i’m doing things that I love. Even on a week when I have deadlines, dealing with family issues, and managing a home remodel writing this column brings me great joy. Writing gives me life and vitality and it helps me make sense of my life. Writing also gives me the solitude I sometimes desperately crave.

While I never regret working hard in my 20’s I know try to say no to things if i’m too tired. Time is a scarce resource so I only agree to go to things that I know I will truly enjoy or learn something from. I used to say I was “busy” but then I assessed time I wasted doing things I didn’t really want to do.

I am not telling you to stop pursuing your dreams. But just know that a lifestyle of endless hustle and bustle might leave you exhausted a few years into your career.

If you are thinking well I don’t have time for self-care. I will tell you it doesn’t take too long. But more importantly there is a cost that comes with not taking care of ourselves. 

Take a few minutes TODAY to assess what bring you joy. It might be making 15 minutes a day  for your hobby, it might be spending time in nature, it might jetting off to a new place, it might be finding a significant other, it might be giving back to your community, it might be spending time with family.

Be deliberate about finding time for those things. Believe me time won’t just magically appear in your life. You have to fight for it!

As Latinx’s we can sometimes carry the weight of the expectations of others on our shoulders. We want to maximize every opportunity. For some us it will never be enough, we will never be satisfied, we will always want to be more successful, and have more accolades. This ambition can be a motivator but it can also feel like a sickness when it leaves me feeling burn out.

My challenge is to make my sure desire to pursue new opportunities doesn’t come at the expense of my well-being.

The comes the hard part. Saying no to things that will intervene in this time.

I schedule coffee with a friend. I set a special date with my partner. I plan an activity with my son.

If this time feels like a waste remember that you need time away from your work to nurture your creativity and re-fuel your personal reserves.

Now it’s your turn. Go look at your calendar and schedule something that gives you joy!

Keep that appointment with yourself. You matter too. Sometimes it’s ok to just exist.

For Mental Health Awareness Month I am sharing my favorite pieces on the topic of Mental Health. This piece was originally published on Be Visible Latinx. 

 

The Currently: Here's What I'm Reading and Watching This Week

by Betsy cardenas


 

We are so bombarded with content that it takes a lot to capture our attention these days. I started a newsletter in part because there is so much to consume on the internet it can be hard to choose what is worth reading. 

This week, I was captivated by Hulu's latest addition, The Handmaid's Tale and the book "Plan B" by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.

The Handmaid's Tale is about what happens a society that takes away the rights of women, minorities, and LGBTQ people and aims to return to "traditional" values. It is based on a book that was written during the 1980's by Margaret Atwood. It has climbed to the best seller list ever since you know who and Mr. I Can't Have Dinner with Women were elected. It's not a political show but it is a show about what happens when we forget that, "every time we get rights somebody wants to take them away." The story is told from the viewpoint of a woman who finds herself trying to keep her sanity in the face of loss and tyranny. 

I started listening to Plan B on Audible and cried in the first 10 minutes. It's a story about how we choose to move on even in the face of devastating personal loss. Maybe you hate Sheryl Sandberg and think she's just a rich, white lady who runs Facebook. She is, but you know she's very aware of it and constantly reminds us that we need systemic changes so that we all have access to therapy and paid leave when we lose a loved one. Adam Grant's research on how we can become more resilient and not let setbacks deter us from our dreams is the perfect balance to Sheryl's story about losing her husband in 2015. 

Both this show and the book talk about the human experience and how we push through even in the face of tragedy, trauma and turmoil. How do we deal with loss? and how do we support each other through these circumstances? What systems of support do we need to survive and thrive? 

There's nothing I love more than books and stories that make me think. It's why I started this newsletter, to share that passion with all of you. 

Click here for more recommendations and to subscribe to my newsletter

Have a Great Week! 

 

 

How Getting Rid of My To-Do List Helped Me Launch A New Career

by Betsy cardenas


 
Photo By: Annie Vovan 

Photo By: Annie Vovan 

Inspiration can sometimes strike us at the worst possible times. In the shower, when we are driving, or when we are on a deadline for something else. But this piece isn’t about inspiration. It’s about why we put off things that we love to do because there’s so many other things to do.

This got me thinking of Toni Morrisson who wrote her novel in one hour chunks before heading out to work everyday and eventually this became the book that propelled her to literary success. What if she had never given herself that time?

There’s a lot going on in all of our lives. Last year, I actually stopped using to do lists. I started doing something I called a “success list” I would just do the MOST important things at the office on any given day.

But now it seems that there’s more things on my list that are MOST important. It’s hard to quantify what matters most.

I think there’s a few ways of tackling to do lists. There’s the people who will do the hardest thing first, then there’s people who will do the easiest things first just so they can cross them off the list, you can also prioritize based on things that others need from you, and then there’s the procrastinators who will avoid the most tedious things and then stress about having avoided those things.

But lets be real, a lot of us just stop and look at our phones in the middle of this and forget what we were doing.

I’ve got some strategies i’m implementing to help me combat this. First, I took a note from Tony Robbins and came up with all the priority areas of my life. I came up with 20 areas! But it was important to make sure i’m actually accounting for everything I care about. Thinking of them in this way forces to do what my old boss called “ruthless prioritization” where I do the things that are BIG and important. There’s a theory that 80 percent of your results will come from 20 percent of your actions that backs up my mindset.

When I was a managing a team, I learned that investing time in my direct-reports had tremendous benefits. Sometimes I would even take their calls after hours and I rarely skipped our 1:1 meetings. I made my best efforts to be attentive to all their needs. But here was the trick, the more supported they felt the better they performed at their own jobs and their confidence increased. This freed up more of my time to do other things. Because lets be real the inbox can be a time sucker at any office. I don’t need to read emails about the Summer Potluck right away. This method is how I managed to do my own job well and build the side-hustle that allowed me to actually leave the job later to pursue writing and creative work.

Now that i’m this new stage of my life, i’m learning everyday how to prioritize what’s important. I’ll give you an example, last week I filled the paperwork to formalize the business my partner and I have already been operating behind the scenes. Now, we could keep operating without the LLC designation and avoid paying the fees, but instead I was spending time trying to figure out how we were going to keep track of personal and business expenses.

We always knew we were pursuing self-employment not just to be “freelancers” but to be business owners.

This paperwork wasn’t urgent, no one was asking us for it and it’s not required we do it to serve clients. But it was important. It is the foundation upon which our business will be built!

Sometimes we find ourselves in a flurry doing things that are urgent but not important.

Here’s an example from another area in my life. It was Saturday morning and we had not made my son or stepdaughter Easter Baskets. (I know, we are monsters) At this point, this had become an urgent task since Easter was the next day. I could run to the store and try to make baskets, but I had to make a values based decision and accept that making Easter baskets just wasn’t the most important thing to me. It was urgent but not important based on my personal values. (Also grandma makes them kick-ass baskets with expensive candy)

Now we could argue the night I spent filling the LLC could have been spent on baskets. But this is the point, don’t let the urgent get in the way of what’s important to you.

Another way of thinking about this is that if things are super important to you, then planning ahead for those things will make it more likely you get them done. If sending your friends birthday cards is something you do to show love, then maybe put those in your calendar and put a reminder to send a card a week before. This way it won’t become a stressful task and you aren’t trying to remember where you put your stamps. (If not, you will end up with a bunch of cards you buy and don’t send like me)

After all, the way we spend our time is a reflection of our values and beliefs. These small and big decisions make all the difference in our lives.

How much time are you spending in the things that you care about the most? Are you letting others dictate where your priorities lie? Pay attention to the things you constantly procrastinate on or put off. What would happen if you changed that? What are the categories you want to work on that you are ignoring?

If you think there’s room for improvement think about one thing you can change starting today.

If you like what you read, and want to receive a weekly piece like it, along with some suggestions on what to watch, read, and the occasional political action. Subscribe to my newsletter -The Currently.