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Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want

August 17, 2015

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Tess Vigeland had her dream job, and she left it—without knowing what she'd do next. This is her story, and the story of others like her.

Tess Vigeland had her dream job. She was the well-respected, well-positioned, and well-compensated host of NPR's Marketplace.

And, then, after eleven years of having her dream job, she left. She did not have a plan in place when she did. She didn't know what she would do, or even what she wanted to do, only that she couldn't keep doing what she had been doing. For someone that had been giving sound financial advice to listeners for so long, this was a leap, to say the least.

What most people don't do is quit without knowing what's next. You're never supposed to do that without having a plan in place, right? It's not wise financially, it's a dumb move for your career, and it shows instability and a lack of commitment. At least that's what we're told from the moment we can grasp the concept of a career.

And yet, there I was.

Her new book, Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want, is an examination of that decision, and a chronicle of her time since. And, in true journalistic fashion, she expands upon that by sharing the stories of others (she interviewed "about eighty people" for the book) who have done exactly what she had done—left their jobs without knowing exactly what they'd do next, made the leap without a net.

She tells us up front that this is not the ideal way of leaving a job, and she doesn't hide the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty that accompanied it. The introduction to the book is a speech she gave at The World Domination Summit (started and hosted by Chris Guillebau, who if you've been following along with us these past few years you know well enough, and if you haven't we can't recommend enough) just a little over a week after she had found out she had not gotten a job she coveted, was perfect for, and thought she basically had in the bag back at NPR as the host of Weekend All Things Considered. And the feelings in the speech are raw. She fully admits on stage, at an event called the World Domination summit, that she wasn't really feeling as if she was dominating the world at the moment, that she wasn't sure what the hell she was doing, that the journey had been "terrifying," "awful," and "heartbreaking." She exposes her ego for all to see, tells us she's not sure who she is without an audience, and tells the audience in front of her (and us) that she is still in the process of evaluating her relationship with what she does for a living, and redefining how it defines her.


This is a story about coming to grips with the idea that you don't have to be defined by your work. This is also a reality check. Leaping is difficult. We are all expected to have five-year and ten-year plans. We are expected to have a dream of that next thing we want to do. But a lot of us don't. What we have is a fear of the unknown future and a severe allergy to sharing that fear with other people.

This [book] is my inoculation against that allergy.

And what a great book it is. In a category full of rose-colored glasses and glass-overflowing narratives of striking out on your own to change the world, Vigeland's second chapter is titled "OH SH!T." The reality check is real. It offers great advice and real introspection about changing direction, but it doesn't cover up the pain involved in the pursuit. And I think owning up to that helps others make their decision. So many people stay in jobs they yearn to leave because their not sure if it will hurt to leave, or how much. Vigeland, in no uncertain terms, tells us it will, maybe a lot. Owning up to that dispels some myths and lets people take the leap with open eyes. And I think this willingness to fully and honestly relate the experience, and seek out and tell the stories of so many others in a similar situation, is more valuable than the general "rah rah" that dominates the bookshelves about the topic. To admit the struggle helps others asses and get through it.

And it's certainly not all doom and gloom. In these stories you'll find some of the excitement and resources you need to make the leap yourself, if you should decide to do it. And that decision is really what it comes down to. The most common question she's been asked is "How do you know when it's time to go?" She doesn't have an easy answer for that, but she does offer this:


If you're asking yourself the question, it's well past the time to start exploring the opportunities.

A great way to do that is by winning yourself a copy of this book. We have 20 copies available.

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