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The Jump Curve: Changing Your Career Path

There is no secret playbook to making a successful jump, no guarantee of how things will end. But after considering the jump stories I heard, across a group of other wise unrelated narratives and characters, I identified four key concepts that seem to apply to all worthwhile jumps. Trace these common points along a narrative line, and they form the Jump Curve, an arc mapping out the phases that accompany the process of making a good jump. The decision to jump is not scientific, and neither is the Jump Curve; instead, it is a guiding framework that outlines the key insights to consider along the journey.

Phase 1: Listen to the Little Voice

You are: sitting at your desk, with an idea you’d like to jump for. You haven’t done much – except possibly try to ignore that idea. You are becoming more willing to consider doing something about that idea.

Phase 2: Make a Plan

You are: deciding to take action around your idea. From jotting sketches on the back of a napkin to preparing a comprehensive budget, you begin tackling the nitty­ gritty.

Phase 3: Let Yourself Be Lucky

You are: going for your jump. You have planned, dreamed, and worried as much as you can. No jump can be fully predicted or planned out before it’s made, so don’t try to nail every thing down in advance. You can’t. By now, you have done every thing you can. To jump means to accept that an unknown outcome awaits. If you’ve done all the planning you know of up until this point in your jump, and you’re ready to run with what ever comes your way from now on, you’ll be able to take this step forward. You’re going to find your luck.

Phase 4: Don’t Look Back

You are: clear that this jump was the best thing you ever did. Or you’re unclear about whether or not it’s going as planned. Or maybe it’s become clear that this jump isn’t working out. But in every case, you are pushing on, with this jump or toward your next one. You’re not looking back.

In the past five years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of jumpers and have collected their stories. Not all of these narratives lead to a fairy tale ending, and I think that’s an important reminder: this framework, and the act of taking a jump itself, cannot promise a specific result. But not one person I’ve interviewed who followed the Jump Curve framework, described remorse for making his or her jump. And to me, this reinforces something bigger: if you follow along this framework – if you are thoughtful and listen to the little voice, if you work hard and plan well, if you put yourself in a smart position and go all in on your jump – you’re not going to regret it.

Extracted from When to Jump: If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want, available now.