23 Jun “Let go” From His Lucrative Finance Job, Start a Blog Challenge Winner is Now Living HIS Legend!!
“It’s a luxury being a writer because all you ever think about is life.”
– Amy Tan
The Free Live Your Legend Start-A-Blog Challenge is Back!
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Our founder, Scott Dinsmore, believed a blog is hands-down the most powerful passion-discovery and career-transition tool on the planet.
When he considered everything he’d done to learn about himself, build a career and make a difference, nothing was more powerful than his decision to start a blog and adopt a daily writing, reflection and discovery habit. Nothing else even came close.
His first blog led to him finding his life’s work, building a thriving global business, getting invited to give a TEDx talk that’s gotten over 8 million views, launching Live Your Legend Local communities in 150 cities in 48 countries and getting the chance to have a bigger impact with his work than he ever dreamed.
It all started with his routine writing habit. Come join us and start the second half of the year off strong! Anyone can join the challenge up to July 1st. Best of all, 3 winners will be chosen and spotlighted on Live Your Legend.
Today we spotlight a former Start A Blog Challenge Winner, Micheal Balchan, who has gone through some life changing moments since winning in 2015. Read below how his Legend is unfolding…
Take it away Michael!
“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd
Sometime in 2012, my brother sent me an article along with the message “This is right up your alley.” It was from a site called Live Your Legend, and it shared Richard Branson’s comments on the power of consistently working out. I started following the link trail, and twenty articles later I was clearly hooked.
But let’s rewind.
For the first 21 or so years of my life, I didn’t spend much time thinking about the future. I focused on whatever was in front of me at the time, working hard and having fun while doing what my parents and other role models encouraged me to do. When asked what I wanted to be when I grow up, I usually said something like, “I don’t know, but I’m going to work with my friends and I’m going to be successful.”
Somehow, this combination landed me at the gates of Harvard University, without having given much thought to what I wanted to “do with my life.”
I didn’t even know what I wanted to study. A friend suggested I join the introduction to economics class (EC 10), because, “everybody else is taking it.” By the end of the year, I’d decided to make economics my concentration.
I spent the next three years focusing less on the classes in my major and more of my academic energy and excitement elsewhere – a writing class on humor, the science of time, the human organism, the psychology of teams and leadership, the philosophy of quantum mechanics, positive psychology, and more.
Fast forward to junior year, and everyone around me was applying for jobs.
If I hadn’t given much thought about what I wanted to do in college, I certainly hadn’t thought much about life afterward. Once again, I followed “everybody else,” and applied for jobs in Sales & Trading and Investment Banking.
I ended up finding a Chicago-based trading company with people who I liked and an opportunity that excited me. They thought I’d be a great fit, so off to the Windy City I went.
The job was competitive and fast paced. I had to grow like crazy to keep up, which kept me invigorated. A few of the older traders were clearly operating in their zone of genius, and I was excited to learn the principles of excellence from them.
These were people who were doing what they were born to do.
I, however, was not born to be a trader.
Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. So I poured my heart and soul into it, as I would for the next seven years. I enjoyed a lot of success – as I think is often the case when one commits themselves. I was promoted to a trading position within three months, teaching the Option Theory course a year later (with an interactive training resource that I created), and soon put in charge of a trading desk. I was involved in strategic conversations with the decision makers and did what I could to help the company grow.
I’d also noticed, very early on, the adverse effects that high-stress could have on people. I knew I’d have to manage my stress, and my energy, to do be able to take advantage of the opportunity in front of me. I started exercising more regularly, meditating, journaling, taking cold showers, going minimalist, and optimizing my diet.
I put just as much energy into improving what version of me was showed up to the job as I did into improving my performance.
That’s when I got my first hit of Live Your Legend.
The content, resources, and ideas were excellent, but what REALLY had me inspired was the model of possibility.
My internal dialogue was something like, “Holy Sh*t! I’ve dreamed about doing something like this before, and here is someone who’s doing it.” It suddenly became more real. As I watched the site evolve, Scott grow, and the community expand, I became increasingly aware that people were actually out there, Living their Legends.
For a while, watching is all I did.
I was getting a lot out of my career. It was challenging, fun, financially rewarding, and providing a great lifestyle. I was at ground zero of some very volatile markets. The flash crash, the European debt crisis, bailouts – each gave me the opportunity to continue growing as a trader. My mentors encouraged me to remember that, as Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
Still, my needs for purpose and contribution weren’t quite met, so I began starting side projects during nights and weekends to help fill the void.
I thought, “if I can create a steady business that matches a certain level of my current income, then at least I’ll know whether I’m trading because my heart is in it, or because of the money.”
Over the next four years, while continuing to focus on doing my job well, I was prolific in my extracurriculars.
I implemented the weekly review process (currently at over 225 weekly reviews and counting), dutifully completed my (up to 40+ page) yearly review and planning workbooks, and completed the Live Off Your Passion and Connect With Anyone courses. I realized there was far more information that I wanted to learn then there was the time in a life to learn it, so I studied speed reading, memory tricks, and optimal learning strategies.
I became a KING at consuming information. I read over 350 books, studied another 350 with the help of Brian Johnson, (who I discovered through CWA,) and took over 80 online courses on everything from Optimal Living and Productivity to Astrophysics and Philosophy.
I didn’t know exactly what my Legend was, but I was trying to prepare myself to leap into it.
I started a blog, at first not writing consistently enough to even qualify for LYL’s Start a Blog Challenge, but writing nonetheless. I founded a mobile app development company, Pareto Design, which never got the energy it needed to succeed (especially from me.) I taught Speed Reading, Memory, and Productivity workshops for the Chicago-based Iris Reading (which I actually found out about through several of Scott’s posts.) I also had a close friend ask me to join him in starting an Independent Film Production Company, Relic Pictures, which has since been a part of award-winning films at major international festivals. (He introduced me to others me as his partner and “consigliere.”)
I didn’t know what would become of any of it and kept everything compartmentalized – not telling people from one part of my life about things I was doing in the others. I felt like I had to be different things to different people. Wearing so many different masks tore me apart inside.
The whole time, no matter how much I learned, or how much I did, it never felt like it was enough. I continued looking forward to “someday.”
Meanwhile, life kept getting better.
The personal practices I’d started back at the beginning of my trading career were serving me well, providing me with a strong physical, mental, and spiritual foundation. My wife and I bought a beautiful home, paid off all of our debts, regularly went on amazing international adventures, and loved our normal day-to-day.
I felt like I’d checked all of the boxes: great health, a great relationship, a prestigious degree, a powerful mind, a “sexy” job, financial success, exciting adventures… I had everything I was supposed to have ever wanted. Why would I want anything to change?
The problem was, I knew I did.
And, I felt guilty about it. On the one hand, I felt tremendously blessed and incredibly grateful for everything I’d been given. On the other, something inside me wasn’t satisfied. My wife (who was absolutely phenomenal throughout all of this) struggled, as I did, to understand what I was feeling. She encouraged me to go after what I wanted, and then was confused when I never seemed to know what that was – or I was too afraid to follow through on it.
I remember coming home one day after work and just laying on the floor, looking out the window as I wondered what was wrong with me. I felt like I was lost, or at least had lost myself.
Up to that point, in almost everything I’d done, I’d never actually chosen my own path. I’d been preparing to move in a million different directions, but always ended up following the road I was on. It was known, it was comfortable, it seemed easier not to deviate. But it was a course mostly set by others.
So I’d continue on with business as usual, afraid of the unknown that would await me should I stray.
Then, in June of 2015, I got an email saying I was a winner of the Start a Blog Challenge.
The prize was a ticket to the World Domination Summit, something I’d wanted to attend but always put off into the future. Looks like it was going to happen sooner than anticipated.
In Portland, at the end of a “fun run” along the river, I used what I learned in CWA (especially the 3-second rule) to introduce myself to Jacob Sokol. He was the founder of Sensophy, had featured Scott as a guest in his programs (Including WTF should I do with my life), and was someone whose work I’d been following for years.
I told Jacob that I was interested in getting a coach, but didn’t know what exactly that meant. I was proud of how far I’d gotten on my own, but felt that having support might help me to get to the next level.
Jacob put me in touch with Izzy Arkin, the 30-year-old ninja – who I recognized after seeing him profiled by Live Your Legend. In powerful conversations with Izzy, I heard myself giving voice to ideas I’d previously dismissed as impossible.
I began to more openly share the various things I was doing with the people in my life. As I did, I started feeling more integrated, and whole. Co-workers would tell me about the impact an article had on them, and friends started asking how they could get involved with the films we were making. Compartmentalization is the enemy of serendipity.
At the same time, more and more people were asking for me to support them one-on-one. I’d been pretty strongly opposed to becoming a coach – for various reasons – but the people I worked with were getting great results, and found myself really loving the modality. It was fulfilling, and it allowed me to apply everything I’d learned, practiced, and personally integrated.
Even so, it stayed an on-the-side thing. The rush of trading and lure of massive financial payouts were simply too strong.
That fall, we lost Scott.
My wife texted me that morning, asking if I was OK. I remember being surprised by the question. Sure, LYL had been a part of my life for some time. I’d sent Scott old-fashioned gratitude letters (another CWA tip) and traded emails back and forth over the years, but we’d never met in person. My initial thoughts were about how to send love to Chelsea and the rest of Scott’s family and close friends.
I wasn’t a stranger to people dying prematurely – I come from a large family that’s experienced more than its fair share. Still, I struggled to process what had happened, both internally and externally.
Even though it ended too soon, I was inspired by what Scott had accomplished with his life.
It made me think, once again, about what I wanted to accomplish with mine.
Over the next few months, not a lot changed.
I focused on finishing the trading year strong while continuing to put energy into the various side projects.
Then, in January, 2016, I took a week off and headed to the wilderness of Northern California to be with nature, journal, meditate, reflect, study Aikido with Izzy, and really think seriously about the future. I returned to Chicago with renewed vigor, excited both to become an even better trader, and to invest more energy into coaching.
Something must have shifted, because the following Tuesday, I woke up in a funk.
We’re talking a mean, crazy, unshakeable funk.
I attributed part of the negative vibes to the fact that I was waking up alone. My wife had left for a business trip the night before, and with her gone, I was both solo, and on morning dog duty.
I’d also had a vivid dream that night. In the dream, I was in an unfamiliar office building and being challenged by the partners of the firm I worked for. I sat calmly while they spoke, explained my decision making, and discussed the trading strategy moving forward. In the dream, they responded, “Good! Great! You’re doing exactly what you should be. Just keep doing that.”
Whatever caused the feeling, I woke up and started my morning routine – the things I’d spent 5 years developing to consistently put me into a clear-minded, high-performing state.
I did a Tibetan yoga sequence, journaled, walked the dog, and went to a local boxing gym to hit a heavy-bag for 45 minutes. When I got home, the lobby elevators were malfunctioning, so I climbed the stairs to our unit, where I took a cold shower and got dressed before jumping on the bus and slipping into a 20-minute meditation.
Even after finishing the meditation, that weird energy was still there. It was PERSISTENT!!!
As I approached the office, I got a phone call asking me to stop by for a meeting before heading to the trading desk. I was already running late, and the morning had been so odd, I decided to skip my usual Starbucks run and go upstairs. Something told me I might be able to grab coffee later.
I’d often thought about what an “I’m retiring,” meeting would be like. I’d have made enough money to be comfortable for as long as I wanted, and be excited to transition into an already thriving side-hustle. All on my terms.
It played out a little differently.
To this day, I don’t know how I knew. But I did. From the moment I woke up.
I walked into the conference room and immediately noticed that something was different. As the meeting progressed, it unfolded into a discussion about my future with the company. We began having the conversation that had previously kept me up at night, one that every employee fears at their most visceral core. Ultimately, they decided it was time for us to part ways.
Steady income. Benefits. Bonuses. The safety net was gone.
What would be next?
Day #10,818. The first day of the rest of my life!
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week and hear what Michael is working on. Hint? He found a business opportunity through his blogging experience!
Start off the second half of the year with momentum and Join Us for The Free Writing Challenge!
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Live Your Legend | Part 2 of 2: Day #10,818. The first day of the rest of my life!Posted at 16:00h, 06 February
[…] case you missed it, here’s PART 1 of Michael’s […]