I learned about bouncing back from the diet industry. This is not surprising. All the best research about personal development comes from the diet industry because there’s so much money to be made if you can figure out how to help people lose weight. One study that I have never forgotten is that if you are trying to lose weight and you have a bad eating day, you’ll be fine if you just tell yourself “I’m good at my diet” and you go back to eating well the next day.

Same with exercise. If you stop exercising and you tell yourself “I’ll never do it again. I’m hopeless,” then that will be true. But if you tell yourself “I’m good at being active so I will go back to exercising,” then that will be true. I’m really banking on that being true because I’ve been saying if for five years. I told myself coronavirus would be a great exercise time because I felt like the only way I could be alone was to walk the dog, so I’ve been walking him a lot.

Wait. Did you see the video of Italian mayors trying to get people to stay home? People in Italy are only allowed to leave their house to walk their dog or get groceries or medicine. One mayor is on a video screaming, “Your dogs are exhausted! Stop walking them!  And do not lend your dog to a friend. Dogs cannot walk all day! Just get back in your house and let your dog rest!” I would not say my dog is exhausted, but I have ignored him ignoring me when I said it’s time for a walk.

So I told myself I have to walk two hours a day without the dog. And I have trouble doing anything on a schedule that does not involve money, so I called someone who wanted to start a business and I created a job for myself where I worked with her on the phone, while I walk, to get her business off the ground.

It turns out that like most people who think they want to start a business, she really just wants a career change. And since everything is changing now, a career change is not as intimidating as it would usually be. Life is slower now and that allows you a chance to think about what big thing you want to do next. Should everyone walk two hours a day? I don’t know. For sure I need better arch supports in my sneakers. But here are some career change ideas I’ve thought of while walking:

We are not close to the end of the pandemic, we’re exhausted from screens already. After coronavirus people will crave is a real-word experience. So sign a lease for a storefront when everything is really cheap and build a storefront business now when there are so many financial perks to keep local businesses afloat.

Now that schools are all online, kids have no patience for bad teaching. Compete with professors by taking their online course material and making it good. They don’t own the course info for Biology 101 and kids want to learn it from a YouTuber. Use John Green’s channel as an example: Content is a commodity, delivery is the differentiator.

Before coronavirus people didn’t trust the cloud and stored important things locally: After coronavirus, everything anyone does is on the cloud so we can share from home. Before coronavirus, there was a shortage of people who understood cloud development. Now there’s a massive shortage. If you have developer chops to learn cloud development do that.

During coronavirus, there was a doctor shortage so state laws changed to allow nurse practitioners to function much more like doctors. The combination of doctors getting lower and lower pay and nurse practitioners having more medical authority means you should become a nurse practitioner.

Traffic engineering. City planning. Zoning board. Take back your city. It’s really difficult to get cars off the streets. But once they’re off you can be very conscious and careful about what you allow to come back and when. Cities have clean air and the open empty streets are beacons of possibility for a more humane, sustainable lifestyle. Work for a city protecting what we’ve discovered during the pandemic and save our cities from automatic reversion to what we had before.

During the pandemic, many academics are not waiting for peer review before they publish their data. More people will publish their own research and not wait for peer review. The online arena taught us to judge the quality of information without gatekeepers and it’s time for academia to catch up. Also, there is ivory tower mayhem right now because schools can’t survive without students paying for room and board. Mayhem is always a good time for opportunists: jump in here and make your mark so you’re ready for a research career when the ivory towers of academia come crumbling down.

This is a time to set yourself up for something new. And just because you’ve had trouble doing that in the past doesn’t mean you can’t do it now. Tell yourself you can do it now. Hire someone to help you; if you skip the gym it helps to hire a trainer for one or two sessions to get yourself back. Tell yourself you are a person who can make a change. Remember: good self-talk keeps people on a diet.

And keep trying things. If you try one new thing a day, you open up your possibilities. I would have never thought this was a good time to help someone create a business until I needed someone to walk with who wasn’t my dog.

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14 replies
  1. Jane Carnell
    Jane Carnell says:

    Dear Penelope– as usual your posts are brilliant but this time you are even more brilliant than ever. -Jane

    Reply
  2. Marlo
    Marlo says:

    I’ve missed this sort of post from you.

    What is “this sort of post”?

    Hmm.

    Gets at a deep truth. Adapts it so it’s immediately relevant to the current time. Provides insight nobody has quite said yet, though in hindsight seems obvious. Offers a way forward (aka hope).

    Stellar.

    Reply
  3. me
    me says:

    “If you try one new thing a day, you open up your possibilities. ”

    This zombie apocalypse has made me so damn lazy. I cant sleep at night (thanks, Anxiety/Panic) so I’m exhausted & listless during the day. So I dont work out anymore. Or try new things (because I’ve been stuck at home alone for past 7+ weeks and cant shake the loneliness and all the dread about the future).

    Thanks for the slap upside the head: think I’ll go take a walk now. Maybe inspiration will strike ?

    Reply
  4. rentbocaoffices
    rentbocaoffices says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. The “Big 5” reasons why people remain unhappy are:

    1) Their job.
    2) Their career path.
    3) Their financial situation.
    4) Their romantic relationships.
    5) Their health.

    Very easy for even just one of these items to negatively influence the others.

    The biggest mistake you can make is to confuse your “Job” with your “Career Path”. If you have been wise with your career, your effort, energy, and money have been invested in your Career Path, not your job. If you have made a big mistake when choosing a particular job, no big deal. That career mistake is very easy to do and happens more frequently than you might imagine.

    Reply
  5. Alex Green
    Alex Green says:

    Thank you for sharing this it has left me with a lot to think about as I have been thinking long and hard about a career change from my last job before I had back surgery.

    I feel that a lot can influenced by what other people do around you when you need actually need to find a gap in the market and try to exploit that gap to you maximum potential.

    Not only that you have to be willing to accept that you are going to make mistakes and carry on instead of just giving up.

    Thank you again for the inspiration.

    Reply

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