7 unexpected lessons I learned when I quit my job to pursue my dream

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Photo: Lauren Imparato
Following your passion, no matter where it takes you, sounds blissful—and terrifying. After all, rent still needs to get paid. Seven years ago, Lauren Imparato was living a cushy life working as a trader at Morgan Stanley. Comfortable? Yes. Happy? Not exactly. Imparato risked everything to follow her true passion. Here, exclusively for Well+Good, she shares the surprising lessons she’s learned along the way. 

Seven years ago, I quit my job as VP on the fixed income trading floor of Morgan Stanley. It was the scariest day of my life. I felt like vomiting throughout the entire morning meeting. My voice was shaking as I asked my bosses for time to speak, and my hands were sweaty under the table as I explained that I was parting ways to start my own wellness lifestyle business and begin writing my first book, Retox, (which later went on to become a best seller).  

The path I’ve taken has been more rewarding—and challenging!—than I ever could have imagined. Keep reading for seven things I’ve learned.

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1. Quitting your job isn’t meant to be easy

Hollywood and famous bloggers paint quitting as this unbelievably easy, joyous experience. But that is not always the case. I had a seven-year career, a recent promotion, a solid salary, benefits, and years of future career growth on the line. Leaving that behind for the vast unknown was gut-wrenching. But that’s okay.

Do not feel weak or guilty if quitting is daunting—it means you are believing in yourself, everything you have created in the past, and everything you hope to engender in the future.

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2. You need to have a plan

If you quit without a plan, life is going to be very, very challenging. I knew exactly what I wanted to create: a 360-degree lifestyle company and a modern lens for wellness, based on yoga, nourishment, mindset, and music. Before I quit, I mapped out my business plan, designed my brand, had a logo, sussed out the target market, made a web design, and modeled potential revenues and profits. Things have changed along the way, but having a plan allowed me to achieve my goals much faster, and ensured that I stay the course—with as much fun and integrity as profits.

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3. Every industry has quirks—it’s your job to learn what they are

Wall Street is its own world. If you say a trade is done, there’s absolutely no going back on it. When I thrust myself into the wellness world, everything was much more gray. It drove me bonkers until I realized that each industry has its own way of doing business. You need to observe, learn, and adapt to their ways, or else you will go crazy and, quite frankly, not succeed. For me that has meant learning about the yoga world in a whole new way: nutrition, events, digital media, and publishing, to name a few. Figure out the playing field, get your team together, and go play ball. 

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4. Do not feel guilty about downtime

When I quit my job, I started to fill my days the same way I filled my Wall Street days: with 12 to 18 hours of work, which I spent teaching yoga, writing, doing general business research, and replying to emails instantly. Until recently, I always felt guilty when I had downtime, even if it was just an hour. Now I embrace these moments as time to foster my creativity and brainstorm new thoughts and developments for Retox, which has helped my career and business grow to whole new levels. Downtime is okay!

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5. The highs are high and the lows are low

No matter what you do when you decide to quit, there will be good days and bad days. But the chances are, because you will be outside the structure of where you were before, they will feel extreme. I have cried more in my seven years of entrepreneurship than my I did my entire seven years as the only woman on a Wall Street trading floor. 

Life outside the box is no joke. Just remember that whatever it is, good or bad, it will pass. Put it in the context of the big picture, take a deep breath, and focus on the next thing. That way the lows will not seem as damning and the highs will not steer you off course. You may even be smiling all—okay, most of the time.

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6. You control your destiny

You are the only person who will determine your success or failure, and who can shape your future.  It is up to you, and you alone—which is awesome, and daunting. I take a moment every day to say thank you to life for everything it has given me, and then hit the pavement running. You can, and will, create your ideal self and career in your ideal world, just remember to be patient, think about the big picture, and never stop hustling.

Photo: Pexels
Photo: Pexels

7. Have fun

You only live once. (YOLO!) If you’re not having fun, what’s the point?  Sure, cleaning thousands of yoga mats on my hands and knees is not a typical version of a good time, but the path as a whole is. Enjoy the journey, because it only happens this way once, and it’s your main job to live it. Have fun and live the life you have chosen to lead. 

Craving more career advice? These are the habits successful women do (almost) every day. And bonus, stress can actually be good for your health.

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