“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Mike Lewis’ When to Jump: If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want introduces us to more than 40 people who dared to answer that question and left comfortable careers to start their personal dream projects. For Mike, that “jump” took place when he was 24, after he decided to leave his “ideal” corporate job with Bain Capital, a leading venture-capital firm, and pursue his dream of becoming a professional squash player.
“There’s a Difference Between Crazy and Stupid”
Mike didn’t quit on a whim. Inspired by a quote from a 2010 Princeton commencement speech given by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to “Build yourself a great story,” he spent “nearly two years and 10 thousand little, unsexy steps of planning,” before leaving Bain. He ate and trained like a professional athlete and took the same vow of poverty as his fellow aspiring squash champions, to save as much money as possible before leaving: “There is a difference between crazy and stupid. The difference lies in knowing when to jump.”
The Jump Curve
During his extensive planning process, the author sought guidance from a wide range of people who had “jumped” and lived to tell their inspirational stories. From a banker who started a brewery, a publicist who became a bishop, a garbage collector who became a furniture designer, and many more, it became clear that there was no formal roadmap or secret playbook to follow. People “jump” for very personal reasons, but within the “common points along a narrative line” that Mike identified during his research, he found four key concepts that formed the “Jump Curve,” “an arc mapping out the phases that accompany the process of making a good jump”:
Phase 1: Listen to the Little Voice. Don’t ignore it as the symptom of a bad day at work, a missed promotion or a lost sale. Start to consider actually doing something about the idea you’d like to jump for. Jeff Arch put his dream of being a screenwriter aside and managed a karate school. After listening to his little voice, he returned to screenwriting and wrote Sleepless in Seattle, which was nominated for an Oscar in 1994.
Phase 2: Make a Plan. Start planning, whether it’s on the back of a cocktail napkin or a fully-fledged business plan. Start “tackling the nitty gritty.” Alexandra Stein passed on her first opportunity to jump, regretted it immediately, and then planned for a year to grab the chance to leave her investment professional position and coxswain the 2012 US Paralympic Rowing Team.
Phase 3: Let Yourself Be Lucky. “To jump means to accept that an unknown outcome awaits.” Trust your preparation, and believe that you’ll find your own luck. For garbage-collector-turned-furniture-designer Greg Klassen, it took six years before an email introduction to a design blogger produced a viral blog post that introduced his work “to tens of millions of people.”
Phase 4: Don’t Look Back. While success may not come as quickly as anticipated, you must push on with this jump or the next. Of the hundreds of “jumpers” the author interviewed for this book, none described remorse for making his or her jump. As Matt Pottinger, a former journalist for the Wall Street Journal who “jumped” to become a United States Marine, observes: “You may have to start new at something; your career arc may reset. So what? That’s part of the fun of it. That’s the journey.”
Build Yourself a Great Story
The heartening stories in When to Jump are reassuring, inspirational and instructive. The author tempers the leap-of-faith aspect of “jumping” with the pragmatic guidance of the “Jump Curve.” It&rsuo;s not written to be “an instruction manual but as a steady hand of support,” featuring the stories of more than 40 veteran “jumpers” who would welcome you into their community.