Lessons learnt while making the decision to change careers and pursue creativity.




Hi I am a regular person who worked a regular government job even though I knew deep down it wasn’t a good fit for my personality.


I most likely have a similar story to a lot of other creatives growing up. During my school years my parental/guardians wanted me to pursue what they thought was good for me. I always enjoyed tech studies, art and home economics but for some reason my parents saw that as a useless pursuit. I bowed to what they wanted and chose to do a bunch of maths and science subjects that I never enjoyed and really didn’t pay attention to. Subsequently I dropped out of school in year 11 and disappointed my parents/guardians again. My stepfather a military and government man thought it was time for him to pull me in line and set me in the right direction. Once again I found myself listening to someone give me advice based on what worked for them and signed up as a trainee for the Education Department and as a solider in the military reserves.


Although I knew deep down that it wasn’t for me, I started to work for the Government because my parents thought it would provide me with financial security and most likely because it is what they have chosen to do in life. From my point of view I was sold on this advice because at the time this institutional lifestyle had made them comfortable in life. At first I tried to make it exciting and really tried to excel eventually finishing my traineeship and getting a few promotions and gaining the ‘discipline’ I needed in the army. This made my parents proud and gave me some more money.


Deep down though I knew I was not really happy.


This unhappiness was noticed by a bunch of other people in a similar position and I eventually joined their way of dealing with it by going to the pub night after night to drink away the unhappiness, so that I could face the next day and make more money. This pattern seemed to work for a while, but eventually I got involved in several relationships which always seemed to fail because I was never really happy inside. I was doing what made my parents happy not what I wanted to do and this eventually seeped into my relationships.


Words spoken by your family members are powerful if you allow them to have power over you.


One time after my first marriage was burnt to the ground and a massive downward spiral, I will never forget a conversation I had with my mother and step dad. They took me out to dinner after my marriage failed and their first words to me were “We just want you to know how disappointed we are in you". A subsequent telephone conversation with my mother did not start with “I hope you are OK” but rather “You haven’t quit your government job have you?”


I made the mistake of expecting my parents to get their head around or understand what makes me happy in life, and tell me things that would help me pursue these things.


It was around this time that I knew things needed to change. I was back at zero, unhappy with my current career, alone, broken, not wanting to be a victim I chose not to get advice from my parents anymore. I was standing on my own two feet in a position where I was looking forward into complete uncertainty and darkness. I knew that if I kept on going in the previous direction that I will be unhappy for the rest of my life. I was sabotaging myself, my relationships, and my mind was mostly cynical and negative. I found myself at the pub listening to the same people say the same things every week and thought I was caught in a loop, going round and round in circles, and I even started to attract women who took more delight in abusing me than taking an interest in me. I had hit rock bottom, which I would later work out was because I was choosing to be a victim and this led to making all my choices in life based on other people’s opinions, subsequently placing myself into these positions which were setting me up for failure. A lot of these decisions got me into trouble, made me feel worst off in the long run and added to this self-sabotage mentality.


When I reflect on this past it is amazing to note that during the darkest point in my life I rediscovered my passion for art, music and creative writing.


Exploring anything creative saved me from this darkness and provided me with light and moments of happiness to keep me moving forward. I found myself spending most of my spare time meditating, drawing, painting and listening to music. My drawing and painting became somewhat of an obsession and I knew in those moments it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It helped me realise my own worth and I stopped hanging out with people who didn’t serve me and started to once again attract good people back into my life.


Creating works of art was not something new to me, but something I had removed from my life to do what my parents wanted me to do. In their mind there was no money in this career and I had decided to take on their beliefs and mindsets which were probably good for their personality type not mine. I also found it to be a common belief shared by a lot of others working in an institutional environment. After a year of spending a minimum of 3 hours per day doing artwork I was starting to get good at it to the point other people were starting to notice and make comments like “You are really talented”. Even though I was getting this encouragement from so many around me I was still clutching onto my government job because of the mentality ingrained in my mind that I couldn’t make money from art. The more I created paintings and pieces of art the more the passion inside of me would burn.


This passion became so powerful inside and I made my first mistake.


Instead of quitting my job and finding something that more aligned with my passion I started to take on the personality I had witnessed growing up and looked at everyone around me through my own eyes. I started judging everyone and thinking they were like me, talented people who had given up on life, who really didn’t enjoy their jobs and were too pathetic to do anything about it. Although out of the thousand people there might have been one person like me, I was essentially projecting my own feelings about myself onto everyone around me. I was using everyone around me to express what I felt about myself.


This is where it gets interesting.


The moment I admitted to myself that I was projecting my own unhappiness on others and made an effort to stop doing this, the entire universe shifted


Based on a lifetime of listening to advice that served me second to the person giving it, I was at first hesitant to receive this new advice. I had to learn quickly that people will always give you advice based on their own experiences, however if it doesn’t align with what I value or desire then I should just nod politely and do what I want to do anyway. All of a sudden I was waking up to a different reality and my mindset was starting to shift. Bit by bit I was leaving behind my old conditioned self and starting to discover my true essence. I was moving away from being a victim to discovering my power to make my own decisions in life.


It was around this same time that my government job was offering packages to downsize the workplace. I was suddenly given an opportunity to get a year’s wage to quit my job and pursue the direction I had in some form or another dreamed of pursuing all my life. While this sounds like a once in a lifetime opportunity the thought of changing my life and career scared me. I still hadn’t let go of the rhetoric that was repeating in my mind “You are a talented artist however; artists do not make money while they are alive”. I have also spent 20 years of my life up until this point doing something completely different to what I wanted to do, with little energy or time dedicated to pursuing what I knew made me happy. This negative mindset also crept into my artwork. There were many times I would have to battle with this darkness before I could create something I thought was valuable and beautiful.


I was now in a position where I had to face my limiting beliefs and mindsets.


Everything I had suppressed was coming to light, reminding me of why I had never pursued what I loved. Every bad piece of advice ever spoken into my life was tempting me not to take on this opportunity and just give up and do what hasn’t been working for me the last 20 years. I spoke to my wife who saw straight through this negative mindset I had built up over the years and she advised me I would be stupid not to take on this opportunity. After hearing her say this it lifted the dark cloud long enough to push the button and apply for this package from work. A few weeks later my work offered me the package. My dream of pursuing a different path was now a possible reality.


I started telling people around me about the decision I had made.


The responses were mixed. Some people were really supportive making comments like: “Well done, you only get one shot in life, might as well pursue what you love”. Others quoted sayings like “What if I fail, Oh darling what if you fly”. Others projected fear with comments like “I have just heard you are about to make a bad decision” or "I hope you know what you are doing" or "we are really worried about you right now". Once again I was faced with everyone else’s opinion about the decision I had just made, and once again I was reminded that other people’s opinions about me do not matter if they do not align with what I value in life.


I decided to pursue a better understanding of what I value to ensure that other people’s opinions have very little weight in my life.


My current wife suggested I go to see a career counselor to help take some positive steps into my new future. I signed up to a career counselor / psychologist who had worked with creative people previously and had really good reviews on google. This was one of the best decisions I have made. He sat me down and had a conversation with me and got me to do the Strong test. This test has an extremely high efficiency score due to the high number of people sampled to come up with the results. There were no surprises when the results came back and stated that I would be extremely happy pursuing a creative career. It provided a list of things I am more likely to value over others and after going through these with a fine tooth comb to ensure I felt congruent about them I was certain this test was 99% accurate for me personally. Not long after this weight was lifted from me I realised that although these values are good for me, others might have values they hold highly that are low on my list. This opened me up to the understanding that just because I don’t value something doesn’t mean others think the same way and we all value different things. Definitely a good thing in a society that needs different types of people to do different types of things so we can each contribute different things to our society.


It was at this point along the journey that I had moved to a position where I:


· Woke up to the fact I was unhappy because I was pursuing what others wanted for me

· Found what I am passionate about

· Changed my mindsets to make decisions on what I value rather than other people’s opinions

· Was congruent about what interests and values would better serve me

· Found a new way of looking at society as a whole realising we are all different and have something to offer.

· Am open to the possibility that I can make money doing what I love

· Have several new resources, friends and mentors to support my new direction moving forward


The two major things I have had to face to get where I am are fear and accepting my own personal truths.


Some people have said to me during this part of my journey that I am very courageous to make these life altering changes. A wise person told me that I would be more courageous continuing to do what made me unhappy. Fear of the unknown while real and common for most became a doorway to discovering new things which better serve me as a person, providing me with more joy and peace.


After walking through the illusion of fear the next thing I faced was myself. I noticed that I was using everyone as a mirror to see my own insecurities and things I had suppressed or ignored in order to do things I really didn’t want to do. As I started to acknowledge these insecurities and release them one by one people started to cease being mirrors and I started to find it easier to accept others for who they are. Everyone has their own ‘demons’ (Insecurities) to face and Instead of wanting to change them I started to appreciate they had a different view and this was ok. This in and of itself made my experience in this world a lot easier, and opened up more possibilities moving forward.


Having worked through the issues I originally faced, I was rewarded with the following outcomes:


· Standing up in a pivotal point in my life, excited about what is going to happen.

· Having very little doubts about things working out in the long run even though I cant see how it will come to be.

· Firstly discovering myself and now being in a position to create myself.

· Realising that every day we have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves or keep on doing things the same way.

· Realising there are plenty of people who have already made money doing what I want to pursue so there must be a way of doing it, I just have to learn.

· Realising the only thing that limits what I can achieve is myself.


My personal story aside I believe that the following points are important for anyone facing change in their life:


1. It is important to establish what you value in life

2. It is important to understand that you are in control of your own life and make decisions that match your values based on what you are capable of achieving at any point in time.

3. It is important to understand that you can choose to reinvent yourself at any moment in life.

4. There is most likely someone who has achieved what you believe is un-achievable based on your circumstances meaning that the only person limiting themselves is you.

5. There is a process needed for change which includes facing your fears and yourself, failure to go through this step will leave you chasing your tail and never evolving.

6. People in life will give you bad advice. This doesn’t make them bad people just bad mentors for your own life and what you value, including those people you valued or maybe even love at some point in your life. Including family.

7. When everyone around you seems to be making the same mistakes it is most likely you using them to view your own version of reality.

8. The only way to stop being a victim is to walk away from people who make you feel that way, and pursue a life surrounded by people who empower you. This includes family, ‘friends’ or other associates. Your real friends and good family members will understand this and will be there for you.

9. No-one but you can change your circumstance in life

10. Every decision you make today will affect some result in your future. If the result does not turn out the way you hoped you have the opportunity to make another decision later.

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© 2020 by Stephen Zanker