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The Art of Starting from Scratch

by | Jun 6, 2020 | Lifestyle

According to the International Labour Organization, the COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in the loss of 305 million full-time jobs globally, with the young bearing the brunt of the lost jobs.

Many of them have had their lives turned upside down and start again from scratch. Be it moving back in with parents or looking for a new job, starting over can be daunting in this economic context.

I left my job as an executive at a leading pan-African digital communication agency, a couple of weeks before the coronavirus outbreak changed the way we live. I did so because I wanted the freedom to spend more time with my family, that is spread in all corners of the world, and to take on a new challenge.

From moving to the United States to study at the age of 17, to working in different industries and continents, I have had to re-invent myself many times. It is never an easy process but, I am slowly getting a hang of it.

There are three core principles that have helped me every time that I have embarked on a new adventure. Think of them as a checklist, to give yourself the best chance to transition into a new phase in your life:

1. Take stock of your current situation

Take an honest look at your current situation. Ask yourself: what would you like to be doing for the next five years? Maybe you want to work in a completely different industry or launch that business you could not stop talking about during your last Tinder date.

Firstly, use the Pareto principle to focus on the essential professional skills that you have built and figure out your goals. That is what I have done in my spare time over the last few weeks, since I am stranded in Cote d’Ivoire

Next, reach out to people in your network who can give you advice and help you think through this process. It is never easy to look at ourselves objectively as we often are confronted with aspects of our lives that we do not like.

Lastly, do a complete inventory of what you need to let go in order to start off on the right foot. This could mean getting rid of physical items (clothes, for example) because you decided to move to a new country or choosing to replace old habits. It is essential to start with a clean slate and an open mind, in order to give yourself the best of chances to succeed.

2. Take responsibility for what happens next

Following this principle will actually help you achieve your new goal. Like Friedrich Nietzche said, “Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves.” Knowing that puts you in the right mindset to being able to achieve your goals.

With that in mind, you realize that it is up to you to seek out opportunities that align with your goal. You have to ensure that you put everything on your side to obtain the outcome that you want. You are on the hook for the plan that you came up with when you audited your life.

I spent the summer of 2005 as a door-to-door salesman near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The first couple weeks were rough: I was struggling to close out sales; I missed my family and would have rather been relaxing on my parents’ comfortable couch in Paris.

I remember chatting with Brian, my Team Leader, and he told me something that has stuck with me ever since: “Control the controllable.” This meant that I needed to focus on the part of the process I would influence: the number of hours that I worked, the number of prospects that I contacted and continuously improving my sales pitch.

With this idea in mind, I put my head down and worked as hard as I could for the next seven weeks. I consistently clocked 80+ hour weeks, contacted more prospects and practiced my sales pitch (and jokes) every night before going to sleep. As a result, I was able to generate over $11,000 in personal retail sales and learnt an important lesson that has served me throughout my career!

3. Take action and keep moving

A friend recently told me over lunch, that I sometimes think too much. She told me to trust my instinct more because it is usually right, but by overanalyzing the situation, I often freeze instead of taking that first step.

It is important to not allow yourself to procrastinate because you want things to be perfect. Accept that things will not be perfect and that you will make mistakes on along the way. The most important thing is that you’ve got to start your journey now.

You will never have the benefit of being 100% sure, but you can always learn, make adjustments, and pivot, as you move forward. The key is to keep your eyes on the prize and take one step at a time. With time, this will give you the confidence to make bolder moves to achieve your goal faster.

Take the time to periodically look at the progress that you have made and celebrate the not-so-small wins. It could be the first sale on your new e-commerce website or getting contacted for your first job interview. These milestones are vital and will help you keep the momentum going.

Starting something new is never easy but having the right tools will allow you to do it successfully. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@JonBoafo) and share your story.

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