I’m starting a new interview series where I’ll be catching up with people at various stages of a career transition or reinvention. In some cases, the subjects will be folks I’ve profiled before, as is the case with my first guest, Jonathan Fields. I met Jonathan in the Fall of 2001 when I interviewed him for this New York Times article on businesses that were thriving in post-9/11 New York City. At that time, Jonathan had recently left a position as an associate with Debevoise and Plimpton to open Sonic Yoga, a yoga studio in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen.
In 2003, I wrote a follow-up story on him for the Times, this time focusing on Jonathan’s path from corporate lawyer to entrepreneurial yogi.
Jonathan is in the midst of yet another identity shift as he has just published his first book, Career Renegade, which is steadily climbing the Amazon rankings.
Marci: What are you doing now?
Jonathan: I think I’m going to change my business cards to say, “Perpetually in Motion.” A few weeks ago, I sold the yoga studio I owned and my first book, Career Renegade, just came out from Random House. These days, I’m all about writing and blogging.
Marci: How is this latest transition is going?
Jonathan: Great! I’ve actually been setting it up for the better part of two years, so the recent upheaval in the economy and, especially, the publishing industry has been an interesting challenge. But, as a lifelong entrepreneur, I am pretty much relentlessly focused on finding the opportunity in every challenge.
Marci: What has been the single most helpful thing that you’ve done since you decided you wanted to make a transition?
Jonathan: Build my personal brand. Blending blogging and social media, I’ve been able to grow my own community and that’s great not only for feedback, but support. And, the coolest thing is the community goes where I go. Good economy, bad economy, the tribe stays united.
Marci: What has been the biggest challenge?
Being present and creating balance. I tend to be working on a bunch of different adventures at any given time, but family is still the single most important thing in my life. So, I try to check in on a regular basis to make sure my time and energy aligns with what I hold dear. And, where needed, I’ll put certain projects on hold or delegate them out so that I can focus on what matters most.
Marci: Each time you changed careers, how did you know what it was you wanted to do?
Jonathan: I’m someone who has many interests and passion, so it’s always been more about narrowing the field, rather than figuring it out. And, this is going to sound goofy, especially coming from a fairly empirical guy, but I feel it, physically, in my body. It makes my stomach spin with both the anticipation and anxiety that goes along with the opportunity to do something that means more than just a paycheck. It’s just plain visceral with me.
Marci: Most people worry about how they’d pay the bills while pursuing something new. How have you handled the financial side of things?
Jonathan: Oddly, I am not all that freaked. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time building that personal brand. Maybe it’s that I launched my last company in NYC a few weeks after 9-11 and found a way to not only survive, but thrive. But, let’s get really practical here. When I first left the law, I knew I’d take a hit, because I was going from six-figures to $12 an hour, so I saved up enough to live on ors about six months as a buffer. Now, I’m in the midst of yet another major evolution from yoga studio owner to writer/blogger/marketer. I was fortunate enough to have built my last company into a successful venture over the prior seven years and sell it, giving me a substantial pay-out to help fuel my next adventure.
Plus, fact is, and I actually speak to this a lot in my book (as did you in yours), it’s now become so easy to test ideas and build on the ones with legs by leveraging technology and the web. You can literally build your next adventure on side until it’s big enough to prove it’s viability, then either step into it or create a blended path, if that’s what joneses you.
Marci: What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career change (other than reading your book and blog, which of course I’ll suggest!)
Jonathan: Get on Twitter. It’s fast becoming the influencers’ after-party. It’s like a worldwide water cooler, where you can search for conversations that are going on around topics you care about in real time, connect with the people talking and join in. You can hook up with people on twitter that would be hard to get face time with in real life. It’s been a huge benefit to my business adventures over the last 6 months.
Marci: Finish this sentence, “When I first started this process, I wish someone had told me. . .”
Jonathan: It’ll never end.