The Secret to the Ultimate Life Hack

ultimate life hackIt all started when I said “I want her life.” I was working in my cubicle in Seattle when the person who would one day become one of my best friends walked into our downtown headquarters all sunshiney and happy. She was the marketing manager, in town from the Idaho ski resort (I worked at the parent company in Seattle) for her quarterly planning meeting.

I went about putting the pieces together so I could have that life: In the mountains doing work I love and walking out my front door to access trails. I didn’t look at it as life hacking and I didn’t put a process in place like I’m going to outline here, nor did I really give it a lot of thought other than, I want that life so how can I get it?

According to Wikipedia, Life hacking refers to:

Any productivity trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life; in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem of a person in a clever or non-obvious way.

The Ultimate Life Hack, therefore, would refer to life in general that is more efficient in maximizing doing what you love.

I might have been out with a friend this past weekend and over drinks, she might have confessed she is in a job she doesn’t like but with her skills, there are no other options for her, so she does it. This post is inspired by that conversation. She gets benefits, she lives a good life, and she puts up with her less than satisfactory career. To which I said, “That can’t be true. I’m sure there are many possibilities for you.” To which she said I’m being idealistic.

I’m not idealistic. Nothing is perfect. I miss the city sometimes so I go back for my fix. I feel isolated sometimes, so I do things to fix that.

In other words, there isn’t a perfect life hack – remember, we said “maximize doing the things we love.” and we never actually arrive at the ultimate life hack. BUT. You can do better. We don’t have to settle.

Here is what I did. Maybe some of this will work for you.

Write it down. 

I actually didn’t do that at first, but now I do. At first, I had a vivid mental picture of what I wanted in life. I wanted a small town in the mountains where I could ski, mountain bike, and trail run without having to drive hours to get there. I pictured my house (a cabin in the woods), my work (some kind of creative work – I thought a graphic designer that I do independently working on my own schedule), and what a Saturday morning looked like (Some kind of Jack Johnson or Ani DiFranco on with a mug of coffee standing in my front porch looking out at my nice garden.)

Several years later, I’d have Donovan Frankenreiter playing (whatever happened to him?), standing on my front deck at my house in Sandpoint, Idaho looking out at my crappy garden (I really can’t garden and I have since given up trying) and it hit me – Holy crap! remember that vision I had? This is freakishly close to it!!!

Talk about it. 

If you are afraid or ashamed or shy to talk about it, it’s going to be hard to make it happen. You need feedback and relationships to achieve what you want to do.

I began reconnecting with people I thought might be able to help me – contacts in Park City, Denver, and more. I looked for any and every opportunity to share my plans via email and personal encounters. Sometimes people had ideas or people to introduce me to. It was like being an investigator. I was always looking for new leads. I even told the vice president of my company about it one day. And that’s what got me out here to the mountains. One step closer, but I still had a job. I wasn’t yet working on my own.

Refine the plan. 

With the feedback and ideas, I started to connect the dots. If you’re interested in nutrition, connect it to something else – is it sporting teams? Is it technology start-ups? Private schools?

Find the need in the marketplace. Match it with the things you love to do. Determine what problem you solve.  As you talk to more people and get deeper into your potential market, you’ll  have a better understanding of what service/product you can offer employers or clients. This is definitely more work than it sounds. It took me a year to get to the mountains, another three years before I quit my job, and I’m still reiterating.

Don’t accept that there aren’t options for you. 

I meet people almost daily with crazy specific jobs I’d never even think existed. Do not sit in your bubble assuming you have no options. It might take a lot of work on your end. But start with the first three steps and get more specific.

It might mean you have to work evenings and weekends on it to keep your day job. You might have to create your own job, or you might have to build your own business.

I saved up my vacation time to take time off and focus completely on launching what I thought would be a graphic design business. But. I don’t have talent and it turns out you can’t just teach that to yourself in your spare vacation time. What I did love about my job was the PR part of it. So I went to my boss when I got back from “vacation.” I told him I was unhappy. He already knew this anyway. We talked. I told him what I wanted to do. He agreed to be my first client. Done. That was enough to scrape by if it took me a few months to get more business.

Examine your excuses.

Throughout this process, I can hear you thinking “but…” That’s totally normal. But I can’t leave here; my friends are here. But I have to pay the bills. I can’t take a hit in income during the transition. But but but. It might be a truly valid “But” and I’m just going to challenge you to analyze them and make sure they are. Or knock them down if they are just excuses because you are afraid.

I get being afraid – I’ve hyperventilated at 11 o’clock at night weeks before I left my husband and dogs to temporarily relocate to Chicago for a job opportunity I didn’t want to pass up. I cried the entire drive over to Sandpoint when I left my friends in Seattle to move here.

Somewhere there is a breakthrough, like there was for me. It won’t be easy. This isn’t a four-step process you can outline in a 1200-word blog post. (Wait. what?) You might not have the opportunity I had with my boss. But you will have a different one as long as you think about it, figure out what you want, talk about it, and get it out there.

Next, I need to figure out how to live part-time in France.

I know many of you have either done this or are thinking of doing this. I’d love to hear your take.

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  • Bob Phillips

    “Love” button depressed!
    Thanks, Lisa.

    • Lisa Gerber

      Aw. Thanks, Bob!

  • Frank Traylor

    i think that 90% of us want to do this. it just takes courage and motivation. Thanks for the motivation! i’m thinking you should pick Chamonix.

    • Lisa Gerber

      You’re going to make it happen. I know it. It also takes time and perseverance. :) And I was thinking the Rhône Valley. But I wouldn’t say no to Chamonix.

      • Frank Traylor

        Ok, we’ll compromise; Annecy.