Ask Career Renegade: Can You Go Renegade In Midst Of Crisis?

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jonathan_fieldsI’ve been getting so many questions by e-mail, twitter, Facebook and beyond, I thought it was time to start posting a regular Ask Jonathan column.

So, our first question comes from Autumn:

What if someone is laid off, in crisis, about to lose so many things- house etc. Do you still recommend the Career Renegade approach? Or should that someone still look for a regular job to save what they have and THEN do the Career Renegade approach? I know so many people in this dilemma who are out of savings..Thanks! :)”

Dear Autumn,

This is a tough question, but one that’s increasingly applicable to so many people. The short answer is that it is often possible to do both, but it also very much depends on the individual situation.

If you’re in the midst of crisis and your immediate need is to put food on the table and pay your rent or mortgage, that will pretty much always take priority over any other pursuit, passion included. It’s straight out of Maszlow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Everything goes on the back burner, unless and until the fundamental need for survival is comfortably taken care of.

So, the question is, can you do that and go renegade at the same time? And, the answer is, for a lot of people…yes. If you’ve been laid off, the one thing you’ve got on your hands is time. Those 8-12 hours you used to spend working are now there to be repurposed.

How you spend your crisis time is critical.

If your immediate need is money to avoid being homeless, chances are you are going to spend a chunk of that time looking for anything that’ll give you enough to stop the bleeding. That’s completely understandable. But…

With rare exception, that search won’t take up every hour of every day.

In fact, for most people, you’ll spend more time not looking for work than looking for work. It’s not a judgment, it’s more likely just a reflection of your local market.

That leaves a whole lot of time to do something else…to go renegade.

And, one of the huge benefits of the paths I lay out in Career Renegade is that they allow you to tap technology to go beyond the income-generating limitations of your local economy.

So, if your town has been slammed by mass layoffs or plant-closings and prospects for any kind of similar job in that town are slim, you can often move beyond the crush of your local economy by getting online and either:

  • Plying your trade in a different way over the internet or,
  • Doing something completely different online

And, the amazing thing about both these options, beyond that fact that it removes the limitations of the local market, is that it also offers the potential to generate income very quickly.

An example of the first option—plying your trade in a different way online—is the website of an electrician I recently stumbled upon who set up a blog to share do-it-yourself (DIY) electrical information for people doing home electrical projects.

Incidentally the DIY industry is very likely to grow a lot in a down economy, because people still want to fix up things around the house, but they no longer want to pay other people to do it for them.

Now, this gentleman offers valuable DIY information on the blog on a regular basis and that is likely a big driver of visitors and traffic. And, as you scroll through the pages, you’ll also see that, if you’d like his specific advice on a project, you can pay him for his time. In fact, 10-minutes costs $27.

So, if our plumber ends up on the phone helping people an hour a day, that’s $162 a day X 30 days = $4,860 / month…working an hour a day from home.

And, chances are, a small number of people who start out looking for DIY help end up wanting on-the-job help and turn the entire project over (disclaimer, I don’t know the actual numbers for this website, so this is just for illustrative purposes).

Examples of the second option—doing something completely different online—are detailed all over the “Renegade Paths” in the Career Renegade book. And, very often, if you can find a way to sell information or education, even information you haven’t created as an affiliate, you can begin to generate income online relatively quickly.

The bigger point is, if you use the large chunk of crisis time that you’re not spending trying to find any immediate source of income researching, learning and setting up an online renegade path, you just might end up figuring out ways to generate the money you need, before you find another J-O-B. Plus, you will very likely have a lot more fun doing it, and end up with a lot more control and freedom down the road.

And, even if you end up going back to a job that empties your soul, but stops the bleeding (again, no judgments), I still strongly believe in using your “downtime” to lay the foundation for eventually going renegade, doing something with meaning, purpose and passion and generating enough to live very comfortably in the world.


That wraps up this week’s Ask Career Renegade column. If you’ve got a question you’d like answered in an upcoming column, feel free to send it my way using the contact page.

And, as always, feel free to share your thoughts, questions and ideas in the comments below.

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17 responses

17 responses to “Ask Career Renegade: Can You Go Renegade In Midst Of Crisis?”

  1. Joely Black says:

    I think losing a job or going into “crisis” is the perfect time to think about doing something different and looking back over your life to reassess what you really want to achieve and be doing with your life. It’s an opportunity to work out what you really want. If you know how to handle your fear, then you can start taking deliberate, conscious action rather than panicking.

  2. […] about becoming a Career Renegade since releasing the book in January. So, today, I launched a new Ask Career Renegade column over at the […]

  3. Judy Martin says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Talk is brewing about the quest for passionate work in a down economy when most are just thrilled to be working right now. The grumbling seems divisive at first glance, but is actually productive in that it brings attention to what I call the Passion vs Productivity debate.

    Passion and productivity are not mutually exclusive. It’s all in the planning and strategy toward rewiring ones career. I firmly believe that one can make a living doing what they love in a design of right livelihood. But it doesn’t happen over night. Nor does one necessarily know what the job description is over night.

    Jumping ship in transition, when one has to put food on the table as you said, is simply not doable for most. But taking small steps toward exploring what gives you joy is a great way to start. Whether journaling, volunteering, reading, or working part-time – there are many avenues to explore.

    I believe that committing a certain amount of disciplined time toward discovering what gives you joy, triggers an inner creative impulse. Even if it’s only five minutes a day, that mindset accumulates a new energy from which innovation can spring forth.

    If we simply toss aside passion, we head backwards into the abyss of the traditional 9-5 working model of our parents. Indeed our working and living experiences have merged creating burnout in some cases, but on the flip side – creative passionate entrepreneurs have also been popping. Either way we’re all working overtime – we may as well spend some of that time stretching our minds and souls in the Passionate Zone.

    Thanks for your work, Judy Martin Work Life trend tracker

  4. Joe Jacobi says:

    Reading about tough times and job lay-offs is worst part of our current reality. But there are such incredible opportunities in front of us and that block of time available that Jonathan mentions for “going renegade” is so key. From my own personal experience, people are so true to their rational side and renegading seems to involve being equally if not more true to your irrational side too. Feed both. And one other thing – if you have that block of time each day during this transitional period, please consider taking a little time to exercise (outside if possible) and make your physical self better and stronger for the long run. Your best mental and spiritual self will follow!

    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to weigh in. Always appreciated and enjoy the discussion.

  5. Nicely put, and a dead-accurate sketch of my current situation.

    The wolves at the door indeed tend to drown out the voices encouraging equanimity, and continued focus on growth and redirection.

    Jonathan, I chuckle whenever I see your website banner. I too am an ex-Debevoisian (not a JD; came out of WP, then IS) whose tenure must have briefly overlapped yours, ‘though I don’t recall you. Plus I now live in Burlington, VT, home of Burton Snowboard.

    Press on, and thank you!

  6. Jer O'Connor says:

    Jonathan is 100% correct, especially in the non-judgmental way he addresses the issue. During the last 2 years, I was in grad school full-time and working full-time. I finally hit the wall and quit my job so I could focus on finishing school while my wife worked. I graduated in December, and like everyone else, have had great difficulty finding a job, even with my shiny, new MBA.
    I have divided my time between job seeking and starting my own business consulting firm, specializing in small businesses and startups, the same clients I was helping while in banking. I love the work, and there are a multitude of people starting businesses who need help. Anyone who has a marketable skill should take this opportunity to build something of their own, if possible. Some people are not cut out to run their own business, and there is nothing wrong with that, in the same way some individuals should not become nurses or teachers. Different strokes.
    If you want to find a job, I suggest using an aggregating site like which searches the major boards as well as some individual businesses sites. It’s one stop shopping. With the time you save looking, start thinking about what it is you can offer others.
    Good luck, and remember to help others, because you never know when someone will help you back.

  7. Autumn says:

    I think one of the best times to start doing what you love is when you are forced to. Otherwise, it might never happen. Think of all the people who hate their 40-hour per week job but are comfortable, especially with the security and money it brings. The only way those people will take a chance on starting their own business is if their comfortable rug is ripped out from under them. That’s what, years or even months later, one could call a blessing in disguise, provided they have taken advantage of that free time to build a business. Good blog!

  8. Sally says:

    Now feels like a great moment to take time to think about what we want for/in our own lives.

    Our roles as consumers are on pause. Either because we have run out of cash. Or looking back at what we used money to buy previously we realise how much is just ‘stuff’ . If we stop consuming then we give ourselves the opportunity to focus on producing and creating. At any level.

    I think even if people are not going ‘Career’ Renegade yet they are going Renegade in other ways. Whether it be home cooking, growing their own, crafting etc. Activities which may be driven by economics but for which the act of getting involved and doing is also rewarding.

    Could this be the pivot point at which we start to stretch our self reliance muscles and reach out to form links and connections to others as individuals?
    Leaving large companies and organisations to manage themselves but not us.

  9. B7 says:

    Why wouldn’t you go renegade if you got laid off? It’s the perfect opportunity to find something new and better and different. Anyone who just gets another job will be in the same unenviable position that they were in before they got laid off.

    Sure, it’s OK to look for a job. But I think it’s a great idea to try other ways of making money at the same time.

  10. LisaNewton says:

    I’m still working because I need to eat, but I’m definitely taking a career regegade approach to my “hobby.”

    Great advice, Jonathan.

  11. Dude.

    Life is made of these moments. These tests. The time that your current plan is failing is the BEST TIME To start a new one, to put your passion into acquiring the skills.


    Do it. Life is minutes.

    I did. I am reinvented after 6 months. It was a grind. I got behind on bills. I had to juggle. But now? I’m fully engeaged and LOVING what I do for a living. MONTHS not years later.

    Had I continued on the old path I’d have died a slow death.

    Cross the F#@%ing rubicon, and win.

    Don’t die like a sheep.

  12. Judy Martin says:

    SInce this discussion seems to be evolving. I’m all about not dying like a sheep. But I’m not sure everyone is ready or able, especially with children to jump off the bridge.

    I’m fortunate, because I’m free as a bird (for better or worse) and have jumped. Never could I have imagined how warm the water was.

  13. Joe Jacobi says:

    I think you raise a great point about kids entering into the equation, Judy. I would only add this – our child is the one of the biggest reasons we “jumped.” The idea that the way one evaluates their own life opportunities is being watched closely by your child is a HUGE motivator for me.

    A quick personal story about this. I decided to extend my athletic career with USA Canoe/Kayak after the birth of our child. It was challenging in that competing means long periods of time away from home at training camps and races. On the upside a few things happened:

    – When I was home training, I spent way more time with my daughter during her early years as my athletic training took place early and late in the day. In other words, I was home most of the day.

    – Because I knew what I was “giving up” by continuing my training, I was motivated to do it REALLY well.

    It worked out well for me – I competed in my second Olympic in 2004 in Athens, 12 years between my other Olympic Games appearance (1992) and my daughter was a huge a part of my process.

    Renegading is a fantastic opportunity to share this journey with your child and teach him/her/them the most important life lessons they’ll never receive in a school.

  14. Judy Martin says:

    Hi Joe,
    This is a great story – can I use it when I lecture???? I don’t have children per se – it’s a long story. But I try to be more understanding as that’s the first thing I hear when I encourage people to take the risk. Thanks! judy

  15. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Joe – I interviewed someone recently who left his job as a successful money manager to head up one the the largest bicycle touring touring companies.

    When I asked how he justified doing it with a family to support, he said it was so important for his wife and him to demonstrate to his kids that passion matters and that it’s okay to take risks.

    I feel the exact same way. I’d rather that lesson come earlier in life that later…or worse, never.

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  17. […] his post Can You Go Renegade In Midst Of Crisis?, Jonathan Fields writes about pursuing an entrepreneurial life in difficult […]