Five Tips for Blazing Your Own Trail in Life

Just as you wouldn’t go out to blaze a trail in the jungle without a machete to clear the path; a gun to protect you from ferocious animals and marauding bandits; food and water beyond what you expect to need for the journey; a tent for shelter; direction-finding tools, such as a compass or GPS (with extra batteries); a guide who is familiar with the area and speaks the local language; and bearers to carry all of this for you, you shouldn’t be setting out on a major life change unprepared.

You’ll need to assemble appropriate “equipment,” build in some protective measures, obtain some guidance, create a plan for arriving at your destination, and know what to do if you get lost. Let’s say you’ve decided to open a holistic center where you will teach yoga and invite others to give whole food cooking lessons, lectures on making meaning, organic gardening classes, writing workshops, watercolor classes, and talks on inner development.

Here are five tips to get you started:

 1. Don’t quit your day job. Your current job may offer certain perks, like health insurance, a company car, or an expense account that you will have to pay for out of your own pocket, once you leave. Stay at your current job until you’re either making enough money to live on from your business, or you can no longer physically do both jobs. This approach provides a built-in safety net during the start-up phase of your business.

 2. Do your homework. Has there ever been a successful holistic center in a region with a similar population? Demographic? Or are all successful holistic centers within ten miles of a big city?

Is there a center similar to the one you want to start in another town where you wouldn’t offer any competition? Interview the owner to find out whether that center earns enough money to support the owner, or is just a sideline. How many years did it take to turn a profit? Are there striking differences in that area, such as the presence of active adult communities, that might impact your earning potential?

 3. Know yourself. Anyone who has painted a house knows that the prep and cleanup work can take twice as long as the actual painting. This is the necessary, unglamorous work, like scraping the house or cleaning the brushes, that no one sees, but that is necessary to produce a good paint job.

Are you comfortable with the behind-the-scenes work of developing a business plan, a marketing plan, bookkeeping, co-ordinating the schedules of your other instructors, developing a website, cleaning the floors, the sinks, and toilets? Or does your entire vision consist of you leading your classes through their poses? If you are unwilling to do the prep and cleanup yourself, you’ll have to pay someone else to do it for you, either as employees or independent contractors.

4. Always Use Protection. Have you thought about business liability insurance in case a student or instructor injures herself while in your facility? What about auto insurance for the company car and workers compensation insurance for employees?

The easiest way to start a business is as a sole proprietorship, but do you really want to put all of your personal assets on the line if something goes wrong? For certain types of businesses, such as a holistic center, a limited liability or S-type corporation may be a safer choice.

 5. Always have a Plan B. What will you do if you open your holistic center and nobody comes? (This shouldn’t happen if you’ve done your homework). What if the biggest employer in your area closes its doors? What if you’re in a terrible auto accident and will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of your life?

The point is not to become paralyzed by horrific scenarios, but simply to be prepared that anything can happen – without warning. Some potential problems might be addressed by purchasing additional insurance, by having an exit plan, by knowing what your asking price would be if you had to sell, by considering a temporary day job and limiting hours until the economy recovers, or by moving your center to a lower-rent location.

Making major changes to realign your life’s work with your most cherished values can be both exhilarating and exhausting. You can be buoyed up by the enthusiasm that comes from exploring how to birth your dreams into the world, or defeated by a society that doesn’t support unconventional choices. If you decide to blaze your own trail, give it your best shot by thinking things through, getting advice from people who have been successful at what you want to do, and building in safeguards to protect your investment.

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