We all take risks. Some of us are real daredevils, taking big risks all the time. I know that my tolerance for risk is higher than that of some of my friends. Of course it’s less than that of others! One of the biggest risks I’ve taken in my life has paid off in ways I never would have imagined; my decision to leave my job as a high school chemistry teacher and become a full time dog trainer. I hesitate to say ‘dog trainer’ because I’m still, first and foremost, a teacher of people. Of course, my own dog training informs the instruction I pass on to those people who come to me for help solving their dog agility training challenges.
I’d been a high school chemistry teacher for seven years. While I loved teaching, and loved chemistry, what I really wanted was to live, breathe, eat, and sleep dog training.
When the opportunity presented itself to make the jump (see what I did there?), it was either I choose to take this risk, or choose to stay safe.
I chose to get out of my comfort zone – waaaay out of my comfort zone. I decided to take the risk and move from teacher of chemistry to teacher of dog training because it was all I could think about. Anything NOT dog training was a distraction from thinking about dog training. As I mentioned, I loved teaching chemistry. But, as soon as my chemistry teaching day was over, I was thinking about dog training!
I didn’t make the jump from high school teacher to fully self-employed instructor right away. My first step away from public education was to work for a large veterinary hospital and training facility in Washington State. It was amazing, and worth the risk. But, it wasn’t as big a risk as becoming self-employed; I was still a full time employee, and with health benefits (which was what allowed my husband at the time, and myself, to take that big step in the first place).
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though.
Pretty soon, I realized that if I really wanted to follow my passion, to blaze my own trail, I’d have to be the business owner as well as the employee, and that was the biggest risk – to become fully self employed. To be fully in charge, but also, fully responsible. Successes would be more fully mine, but failures would also be more fully mine.
When the time came to take that final step, I felt afraid, but also determined, and energized, and empowered. I had no idea what the future would hold for me, but I really, really wanted to find out!
So, what happened after I took that final step, that big risk, to become fully in charge of my own business endeavors? To become fully self-employed?
Well, a few things happened:
- I worked more than I’ve ever worked in my life – when your work is your passion, and when your passion is your work, it infuses every aspect of your day, and every minute of every hour! For me, there isn’t much difference between working and not working – which is amazing but also requires an increased sense of self-discipline to avoid burnout. Yes, you can get burned out, even when you’re doing what you love just about every minute of every day!
- I gained freedom and responsibility – When you’re self employed, you can go any direction you like, really. It’s totally up to you. You can think outside the box, go your own way, and be a trailblazer. It’s incredibly freeing. On the other hand, while it’s freeing to not report to a higher up, becoming my own higher up, my own boss, meant that I had to report to me. Any step I take, I am ultimately responsible for, in a way that I was at least partially shielded from when working for an organization or another person.
- I got a lot more risk resilient – ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ is the saying, isn’t it? As a result of becoming self employed, I learned to get a lot more resilient about risk, and about failure. Some things I’ve tried have resulted in success, and other things have completely flopped. I’ve gotten a lot better about not letting successes go to my head, and not letting failure get to my heart. I’ve gotten a lot better about picking myself up, dusting myself off, and trying again.
That last point is probably the most important point, and it’s why I’m sharing all of this with you now. Building The Online Classroom, as well as The Agility Challenge, and all the courses I’ve made available online over the years (as well as the books I’ve published!) has taken a lot of hard work, sweat, and tears. It’s been a labor of love, a labor of passion – a calling, if you will.
Why should this matter to you?
You may not be starting your own business, or working to become self-employed. But, when it comes to your training, YOU are ultimately the big boss. YOU are the one who has to take risks, sometimes without any guarantee of success. And, sometimes those risks pay off BIG. Sometimes they fail and you’re left face down in the dirt wondering if you can possibly pick yourself up again. Sometimes they LITERALLY end up with a faceplant on course! But, it’s often much easier to pick ourselves up from an ACTUAL faceplant in the dirt than it is to take a risk when it comes to what to train, how to train, etc.
Every time we get a new dog, or embark on training a new behavior, it’s a risk.
It might work, and it might not. In my twenty years of dog agility training, only one thing seems for certain: progress will NOT be linear. There will be obstacles, there will be hard work, sweat, and tears, there will be dusty faces and scraped knees. But I know that for you, as for me, it’s a labor of love, and a labor of passion. And, when I do get it right, that feeling of connection with my dog is just incredible.
I started out with this online teaching thing waaaay back in 2011. I did it all from scratch, all by myself (I still do!). From content and curriculum development, to lesson presentation, to video lessons (shooting, editing, producing, etc.) to marketing. I had a teaching degree and a lot of desire and experience, but no budget to speak of. I had no assurance that what I was going to do would lead to anything anybody would benefit from, and that includes me! BUT, I firmly believe that if I can do this, and chase after my goals, then so can you! I’m not especially talented, or athletic, or intelligent. I am persistent, and willing to try, and try, and try, and keep trying!
If there’s a risk you’ve been thinking about, one that will take you out of YOUR comfort zone, what are you waiting for?
You can do it! We’re all in this, together!