I have never had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan Fields face-to-face but I think I know a little bit about him. I read his book, Career Renegade, a couple of times. I also reviewed it in this post. I have exchanged emails with him a few times and he has been very gracious to respond to me. I also read his blog regularly because it is one of the most thought-provoking blogs I have found in the blogosphere. If you do not know his story, maybe you should. Just go visit his blog and go to the sidebar and download the first four chapters of his book, Career Renegade, for free. You will get to know a fascinating, dynamic person who has a compassion and a spirit that will touch you as he has me.
After I read his book, I emailed Jonathan telling him that I was planning on reviewing the book on my blog and I would appreciate it if he could answer a few questions that sprung from reading the book. He was very gracious that I had decided to review his book but he didn’t have time, at that time, to answer the questions thoroughly enough.
He did say he would do so when he had the proper time to devote to answering the questions. Being a man of his word, Jonathan recently surprised me with a long email with all of my questions answered. I am happy to be able to share these answers with all of you.
Jonathan, one of my favorite quotes in the book is when you speak to the best part about being an entrepreneur. It is the luxury of being able to hand-pick the people you want to work with. You say, “It's all about the Benjamins, not the benjamins”. What a priceless quote. This seems to follow along with one of your original goals which was to “Be around people I loved”. Have there been times when you have had to compromise on this premise in the interest of making a good business deal?
Sure, there've been many times I've been offered a shot at a business deal of a serious chunk of money that would have taken me farther away from my desire to surround myself with people who make me come alive. But, you learn pretty quickly, the money's not worth the sacrifice. Because life–work and play–are fundamentally about the people you work, mentor with and serve. If they're “your” people, you can tolerate ebbs and flows in the other qualities of work you hold dear. If not, no amount of money will make up for the experience of being surrounded, day in and day out, by people who incrementally suck the life out of you.
You talk about the power of “flow” where you are fully engaged in the world and in the moment. Reading this book and in reading your blogs, I sense that when you write you are so engaged. Do you still feel the power of “flow” on a daily basis or is it sporadic and are there certain times and places where you tend to get in the “zone”?
I wish I could say I drop into the flow zone every time I write, but I'd be lying. It tends to happen when I'm writing about things I'm deeply passionate about. When I drop the shields and filters and let my emotions perfuse the words. It's almost like I'm in a mad dash, praying my fingers can keep pace with the thoughts and ideas that tumble forth. When that happens, day could turn to night without me realizing. And, writing is a gift. It's not just writing that does that for me, though. I love to create…anything and everything. From business ventures to books, art, music, presentations, it's all part of what I do and the diversity of outlets provides for frequent opportunities for flow.
You run two very successful blogs, one at JonathanFields.com and CareerRenegade.com. If you could give some sage words of advice to anyone who is just starting out in the blogging world what would you tell them?
I actually recently merged the blog part of CareerRenegade.com into JonathanFields.com in order to allow me to focus my energies more. Simple advice, pick a topic you'd write, speak or film videos about for free for the rest of your life, simply because it's that much fun for you. It takes a huge effort to sustain an online content platform over time and, in order to do it well, you need to be captivated by the subject of your content or you'll burn out and shut down.
In your blogs you talk a lot about having the freedom with your lifestyle to spend time with your young daughter. As a father of two daughters who are now older it was always a struggle for me to spend enough time with them when they were young. Can you elaborate a bit on what it's like, as a Career Renegade, to be able to spend so much quality time with her?
It's everything. I sometimes sit across the table and just watch her while we're painting or working on a craft together or even just reading or hanging out. Wondering what's going through her mind, marveling at who she is and wondering who she'll become. I think most people get it seriously wrong, they slave away at work in order to pay for college during the years when kids need and want them in their lives most, then pull back from work when their kids are most autonomous.
You've got a whole life to work, but your kid's only going to be 7 or 8 once. Being strongly present for the first 16 of their lives matters just as much and probably a lot more than the name of the college they get into. Maybe I feel this way, too, because being so present has revealed to me just how much I'd have missed were I not there. I get the struggle, really I do. I still constantly strive to find my place in it. I've just made a different choice than most.
To me, being a parent is about presence, not presents. And, with the evolution of technology over just the last 5 years, being present has become easier than ever before…if that's your priority.
On September 10, 2001 you signed a lease for what would become SonicYoga NYC, the first Manhattan studio. This was one day before the tragic September 11th attacks on the Twin Towers. I'm wondering what effect, if any, the attacks had on you starting the business. Also, did you have any friends or associates who were either lost or affected by the tragedy?
Yes, I knew people who were killed that day, as did pretty much anyone who'd been living in NYC for more than a few years. And, it affected me deeply, both because of an experience I had working 10 feet from “The Pile” a few days after the tower fell and what unfolded in the week that followed.
I remember being in a friend's home the next day, a young dad, as his wife wondered and still hoped for his return (that would never come). I remember everyone else leaving as she and my wife put their 9 month old to bed and I was asked to read a story to their 2 1/2 year old boy. I remember walking into his room, a virtual stranger to him, seeing him sitting upright, legs snuggled in his covers, book on his lap, gazing up and wondering why I, and not his daddy, was reading him to sleep that night.
So, yes, it absolutely had an impact on me and on the business I was about to launch. I'd planned all sorts of marketing events, parties and messages. Everything had to change overnight. I had to figure out how to launch a company into a city whose economy was crashing and burning. I had to explore how to build a business that put food on the table for my own family, while being respectful to the sense of loss that blanketed the city. But what I realized, too, was that the city needed what I was about to offer more than ever before.
The pier where many of the relief workers were staging was only a few blocks from us, so when we opened, we sent people out to let everyone know they could come by the studio for class, meditation or just to be in a peaceful place without paying anything. It was just the right thing to do, from both a human standpoint as well as from a business standpoint. The studio grew very quickly, I believe, in no small part, because of the intention we put out into the community. And as the energy in the city began to shift, we slowly evolved and took on a more upbeat, energetic tone that captured who we were, without disrespecting what'd happened in the city. That first year was truly an extraordinary experience on so many levels. Not one I'd want to relive, but one I'm glad I survived.
Conclusion of Interview
I want to thank Jonathan Fields for his thorough, thoughtful answers to the questions I posed. I knew they all wouldn’t be easy ones to answer, especially the one about September 11th. But Jonathan, in his typical candor, gave all of us readers a little insight into a day that most of us thankfully did not have to witness first-hand. More importantly, we were able to learn a little bit more about a man who has been able to live out his dreams as an entrepreneur, a father, and a husband.
Jonathan is known for his morning Tweets that say “Morning, everyone! Who can I help today?” Well, whoever it is, on any given day, that person will be well served by listening to a man whose sheer intellect and business acumen may be overshadowed by his warm and generous heart.