If you looking to make a change to your career this may be the book for you. Leap: Find the career and life you really want is a book a that helps you jump into a new life, even if you don’t know exactly what’s next. Here’s our review.
Tess Vigeland had a “successful” career in public radio as a host with NPR’s Marketplace. She had everything society tells us we should want from a job. She had a nice salary, prestige, fame, the ability to impact the lives of others, and “seriously proud parents.”
Then she quit. She didn’t leave for another job or a different career. Instead, she took what she describes as a “leap.”
She recently released the book, Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want. The book documents the challenges and rewards that followed her decision. She also shares the stories of others who have taken similar “leaps” and looks at common themes and issues.
As someone who recently made the decision to take a leap of my own, I found the topic very interesting. If you are considering a “leap,” read on to see if this book would help you through the process. Here’s my Leap book review.
What Is A Leap?
Before going further, let’s define leap. After all, people quit their jobs every day. What makes a “leap” different?
Vigeland writes that most conventional wisdom is that we should develop a plan and then implement it. We are not supposed to just quit a job, especially not a “dream job,” without knowing what is next. She writes: “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.”
The alternative is to take a leap. A leap is “when you leave something major in your life without a plan and without knowing what you want to do next.”
Taking a “leap” is an unconventional path that presents some major psychological, social, and financial challenges. Exploring these challenges is the basis of the book.
What Do You Do?
One theme of the book that I strongly related to is Vigeland’s emphasis on how much our careers define who we are. Success is often defined in our society by following a plan and achieving goals.
At the same time, she writes that “quitting is against the American ethos”. We are taught to admire people who persevere through tough challenges. We’re not supposed to leave a job because we don’t feel happy or fulfilled, especially with nothing better to go to.
Vigeland points out that we are taught to be ambitious, to constantly seek more money, recognition, and responsibility. This pressure is magnified when you have already achieved some measure of success.
Vigeland takes readers into her psyche and allows herself to be vulnerable in describing how challenging this aspect of the leap was. She provides insights on separating who you are from what you do and not confusing having a successful career with being successful in life.
I don’t think most people that have not taken a “leap” appreciate these mental challenges until going through it. As someone currently working through the process I found this aspect of the book very enlightening and helpful.
Letting Others Down
The other theme of the book that I related closely to is the impact that taking a “leap” has on those closest to you. Vigeland points out that taking a “leap” can feel like you are disappointing or placing increased burdens on those people.
I appreciated her sharing the feelings of inadequacy and guilt in her marriage, “like I wasn’t pulling my weight anymore.” I especially related to her feelings of letting down her parents. She writes “…one thing I’ve always wanted to avoid is disappointing the two people who had worked so hard to build me up…” “Deciding to be unemployed, voluntarily? That’s not something you relish telling your parents.”
People lose their jobs every day and this creates financial hardship and stress in relationships. However, when you voluntarily make a decision to leave a job, it adds an additional element of pressure to make sure that everything will work out. This is especially true if you have others relying on you as a provider and/or others who have invested heavily in your original success.
Vigeland emphasizes that often these feeling of fear, guilt, and inadequacy are things that we build up in our minds to be bigger than they are. She discusses the importance of talking openly and honestly about these feelings with those affected. She also emphasizes finding others with similar feelings and experiences to talk with.
The portion of the book that I found to be the weakest was the practical advice on the financial challenges of leaping. Vigeland is very candid that she was unprepared financially, and so much of her financial stress was self induced.
She hosted a radio show about personal finance for years. Yet, she admits that she often did not practice the common refrains that she repeatedly preached to her listeners. Vigeland’s story serves as an excellent reminder that much of personal finance is not complicated. But there is often a disconnect between knowing and doing.
The recommendations that she shared in the book such as the importance of tracking your expenses, the value of eliminating debt obligations, and the realization that objects rarely equate to happiness seemed fairly elementary. To be fair, my perspective may be more of a reflection on my fairly unique experience of taking my leap into “early retirement” that involved extensive planning of the financial aspects of leaving a job.
Should You Leap?
Vigeland notes that “Leap” is not about if or how you should quit your job without having a plan. She writes: “I didn’t write that book because I can’t tell you how to do that. Nobody can.”
Rather, the book covers the mental, social, and financial challenges faced by those who took “leaps” of their own. It also shares the many new opportunities that present themselves to those with the courage to take a leap. In sum, it is a well balanced, not overly romanticized look behind this decision. It can help prepare you for the good and bad that tend to follow such a life changing decision.
As someone currently working through this process, I found the book very insightful. I recommend it to others contemplating taking a leap. It’s also ideal for those who have already taken one and are finding navigating the aftermath more difficult than anticipated.