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For fulfillment fanatics interested in traveling deliriously, living deliberately, and working virtually.

On Working Virtually – Find Your Strengths

NVR Guys

Here's the scene. We're on a relentlessly rocking ship (see last week's post), heading across the treacherous Drake Passage as we make our way from Antarctica back to South America and then (finally) home to Seattle. Visiting Antarctica was the capstone experience of this journey, bookending several months of volunteering and exploring in the Southern Hemisphere. It was now time to head home. Ugh. A blurb from our journal:

After several months away, we're heading back to Seattle. Time to finalize the reentry plan. Everything seems to be more clear - manageable and within our reach. Our biggest roadblock is figuring out the perfect way to secure an income (surprise, surprise). It’s especially tough when we validate the fact that we absolutely don’t want to sell-out; we don't want to do something just to make money. If that was desirable, we wouldn't have left in the first place. Ideally, we'll embark on something that is fueled by our passion and makes sense in the context of our other goals. No more living to work. Glad we figured that out before hitting old age.

Now that we're paying attention to the news again, we're also pondering (owning up to!) the fact that the state of the economy appears to be sliding fast. Housing prices are dropping and unemployment is rising. Shit. So, we sort of need to incorporate that reality as we put together the puzzle that is our new life. Here we go. Goodbye South America.

Returning home.

At some point, most travelers – even long term adventurers – come home. For some, that means going back to the place where it all started, and for others it means choosing a new place to land. For many people who have been exploring the world for several months, perhaps on a career break, the mere thought of heading home can be painful. After all, the decision to travel is often motivated by wanderlust and less than ideal circumstances at home – circumstances that the traveler does not want to return to.

Frequently this annoying circumstance is work.

We tend to have a soft spot for blog posts that get into any turmoil surrounding the return home. We just read a really heartfelt one written by a guy who had been trekking the globe for six months. He was grappling with the idea of having to return home and, more specifically, dreading the idea of returning to days comprised of unfulfilling work.

Sound familiar? It certainly does to us, which is probably why those posts resonate so deeply.

Getting clarity and facing our dreams.

Our transition back to Seattle a few Januarys ago was rough. We were clear on what we wanted out of life (which was a huge step, given the befuddled state we were in when we left), but we had no clue how to make it happen. We had bucket loads of hope and positivity, but those warm fuzzy feelings were countered by huge doses of uncertainty and worry.

At the time, it all seemed like too much - like a dream. We not only wanted fulfilling jobs, we wanted fulfilling jobs that allowed us to work virtually. As if the former wasn't enough of a stretch in a brutal economy, we were also shooting for office independence. Add to the mix a whole bunch of other non-work-related ambitions, and it quickly became clear that we had a lot of dreams that needed addressing.

What we were thinking.

Embracing our dreams.

Turns out.... we were thinking just how we should have been. You see, what is often said about dreams  – as annoying as it can be – is true. It's a really good idea to go after them. We tell you that with a great deal of experience. If you don't, it's quite likely that you'll live a life accompanied by that constant nagging feeling. You know the feeling... the one that likes to remind you that you're out of sync. The one that gives you that feeling in the pit of your stomach. The one that sometimes makes getting through the day difficult.

Somehow, when you embrace your dreams, that feeling goes away. Here's the even better part. It remains idle even if you're not yet "successful" in your dream. That part doesn't matter as much; it's the "embracing" part that's critical.

Taking steps towards your dream – even tiny, zig zagging steps – honors the vision you have for your life. When you're doing that, the rest is secondary.

We embraced our dreams and all of the uncertainty that went with it.

Living our dreams.

So, we leaned into the unknown and made the leap from corporate madness to independent bliss with a virtual HR consulting business. We're frequently asked how we did it and how it can be done. We've always resisted giving too much advice on the topic because people are looking for quick fixes (and we're still kind of amazed ourselves). Real success – fulfilling success – starts by examining what's going on inside and not by what you're doing on the outside.

In these situations, it's easy to be tempted by money. We can relate. After months and months of not working – and an absence of backup funds – simply making money was a prime concern. There's a place for that; you've gotta put food on the table.

Problem is, too many people make quick fixes or the desire for money the driving force behind their lives without even examining what's up on the inside - without examining their strengths and natural talents.

How to: get clarity and face, embrace and live your dreams.

So, if you want to work virtually (or have any kind of truly fulfilling career), start with the basics. First, examine your strengths and begin to focus on what you're supposed to be doing. A few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Consider the dream you have for your life; it's a good place to start your exploration. What is your dream pointing you towards?
  • Keep a list of the activities in any given day/week that 1) energize you and 2) deplete you. You'll be surprised when you see where you're putting your effort.
  • Examine what parts of your prior education/work experience resonated the most with you? When were you "humming" along?
  • Think about what you would do if money/time were not a concern?

Even if you are currently working to put money on the table, commit to taking small steps forward. All of this heavy lifting will come to great use. We promise, and we'll demonstrate why in future posts.

For now, know that by doing this instead of looking for a quick fix, you'll be diluting the power of that aforementioned feeling that likes to remind you that you're out of sync. Don't contribute to the "white noise" of life by avoiding the tough questions and submitting to ungratifying work. You're better than that so raise the bar.

It can be tough, we know. But we also know that if we had given into the voice that said "just make money" (and contributed to that white noise), we never would have jettisoned that nagging feeling. Heck, we'd probably be back at corporations.

Your turn. What's your situation? Are you a traveler who wants to work virtually (or works virtually)? Do you feel like you have a handle on your strengths?