Heyo! Quick life updates from me:
- I just quit my job after 3 years of working with MMT. I was a community builder, experience designer & facilitator, content writer & manager, people manager, operations... and everything in between. I had an amazing experience but it was time for me to move on to my next chapter.
- I’m still suffering from post-COVID symptoms. Fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath. I’m running on a 60% gas tank on most days. I can’t work out or focus like I used to. It really sucks and there is no guarantee on when I will be back to “normal.” Long COVID is very real.
- I have to leave Canada, again, because of VISA issues. All I can do is wait to hear back on my permanent residence application with no guarantees if I’d get accepted or not.
Lots of change! Lots of things outside of my control. I’m sure you have gone through your fair share of obstacles too...
In this month’s issue, you will find my thought process on deciding what to do next after big life changes, working in seasons, and what to do with your privilege.
It’s 2017 and comedian Aziz Ansari had just finished creating and starring in Season 2 of his Netflix show, Master of None.
Fans who binge watched the season flock to Twitter to ask when they can watch Season 3. In an interview with Vulture, Aziz had a message for the fans,
“Chill out a minute. We just finished.”
In an interview with GQ, he shared his experience going off the grid.
No social media. No email.
He lived in Paris for one month. Traveled to Japan for a summer.
When asked about his desire to create more stuff, I loved his response.
“I don't need to make more stuff. I've made a lot of stuff! I'm financially okay. I'm not gonna make stuff just for the sake of making stuff. I want to make stuff ’cause I'm inspired. Right now I don't really feel inspired.”
I’ve first read this interview five years ago when I used to be a digital marketing consultant and course creator.
While I was not nearly as successful as Aziz, I had worked for many years to achieve what I thought was impossible: to work alongside people I admired, make a decent living, and travel the world.
But there came a point where I felt like I was just going through the motions. Doing work just for the sake of doing work. These were all signs that I really needed to take a break.
I didn’t plan on this but I mysteriously found myself at different cafes across Chiang Mai watching chess lectures on YouTube. ♘
I used to feel ecstatic to do the professional work I was doing. But during that time, I felt more ecstatic to study chess instead. To explore a childhood game that I once loved but never had the time to play.
It was such a weird feeling, not being laser-focused on my work/career life society expects of us, but I knew I had to lean into this chess adventure.
To keep a long story short, I finished all the projects with my existing clients, flew back home, and embarked on a 7-month chess sabbatical.
As I was studying chess and competing in tournaments every week, I had no doubt in my mind that this was the right decision for that stage of my life.
Working in seasons
I didn’t know it at the time but what I really needed in my life was a nice ebb and flow, especially when it came to working.
Writer Nat Eliason describes it beautifully as working in seasons.
It could look like:
- six to nine months of focused output, a period of rest, a period of reflection and planning, then another push forward.
- a month of 12 hour days followed by a month of 4 hour days
- working for three years and taking a 6-month break (what I did before).
Or whatever you want! Some even have this structure built naturally into their schedule like teachers or Europeans.
How you decide is based on your earning potential, privilege, costs/expenses among many other factors.
What’s the best option for you? You won’t know until you try it out.
You can even experiment with this for free by simply noticing the times in the day you are most productive. If you love to do your creative work in the early mornings and late evenings, adjust your schedule accordingly if you can.
The ebb and flow could start with your days and weeks. You could have four intense days and a three-day weekend. You could have two very productive weeks and one chill week.
I don’t believe that we could realistically live balanced lives all the time where we are always on top of all our habits and hitting that optimal flow.
I believe that life will always be out of balance because the things happening in our lives are always out of balance. Knowing this, we can consciously choose our imbalances with confidence that we will adjust again when it’s time.
What to do with your privilege
While I have some real setbacks going on in my life, I still feel incredibly lucky because at least I get a chance to play the game.
- I had the opportunity to live and work abroad.
- I had the opportunity to live a very active lifestyle.
- I have the opportunity to take time off between jobs to rest and do what’s best for my health.
If I could never live in Canada long-term or never work out again... it would obviously suck, but I can be grateful that I had the opportunity in the first place. It’s like that cliche quote, “It’s better to have love and lost than to never have loved at all.”
The tricky part about anyone writing life advice (generally) is that no one’s situations and circumstances are the same.
In regards to changing your schedules: I know that taking a sabbatical or working in seasons is not accessible to everyone.
But if you have the privilege and want to adjust how you work, explore what feels most exciting to you and do so without shame or guilt (something I’ve struggled with a lot).
I’m in the belief that those with the privilege to do their part, big or small, to help others have the opportunity to get off the sidelines and play the game of life too.
What’s next for me?
I’m fortunate to be able to take time off.
My body needs rest to recover from long COVID so I don’t plan to work or do anything intensive. Lots of yoga, meditation, Netflix, slow walks and last hangs with friends before I leave Canada.
I’m also craving adventure and novelty after experiencing these pandemic lockdowns. I haven’t traveled outside of North America in four years and I’d like to visit Mexico to explore and learn more Spanish! 🇲🇽
While the old me would want to keep hustling and grinding for the next big opportunity... But I realize that my body needs to focus on my mental & physical health above all else.
When it’s time to “work” again, I will know (or my bank account will know 😆), and I will be ready.
Below the fold
- 📜 While it may be sexy to start your own business and achieve ultimate freedom... there are MANY advantages to being a FTE. I loved reading my friend Heath’s transparent piece on his transition from seven years as a founder to being an employee again.
- ✏️ If you dig my newsletter, you will dig Mohnish’s Discovery Magazine newsletter. His tag lines are pretty epic. “Find the stuff you will remember for a lifetime” and “Read more books. Have more fun. Live more life.” 😍
- 🎧 I know I’m super late but I just discovered Kings of Convenience. Is anyone a fan!? This song is currently on repeat.
🙂 Final Thoughts
My hope with Tam's Jam is that you (1) learn something useful and (2) live a happier and more meaningful life.
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As always, let me know what you're reading (or watching). I'll share my favorites in the next issue of Tam's Jam.
Tam Pham's Blog
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