Charting My Own Path: How I Found My Passion at 33

Photo credit: Colleen Milburn

Photo credit: Colleen Milburn

As of December 14, 2012 I will retire. Take that in for a second. I’m retiring at 33. Okay, let me clarify that statement. I’m retiring from the daily grind. I will continue to get up every day and earn a living. I’ll probably work harder than I ever have in my life. But here’s the catch: when you’re doing things you actually enjoy, it doesn’t feel like work. So with that, I’m never going to deal with the bullshit again. Work is the stuff you don’t like to do. I am retiring from work in the traditional sense. The long commutes, the menial tasks, the office politics, the cube farms, the illusion of a safety net. I’m done with all of that. As of 12/14/12, I’ll be a free man. Free to pursue my interests and call my own shots.

This is the story of how I found my passion at 33 and charted my own path.

For almost the past 6 years I’ve been employed by the federal government as an investigator doing background checks on individuals seeking a security clearance. It sounds cooler than it really is. The best way to describe my job is high-stress monotony. The day-in and day-out of the job was boring. And the truth is that I was ready to leave this job 4 years ago because I never saw it as a career. To me, it was always a job. What drew me to it in the first place was that it wasn’t a desk job and that I would have the flexibility to work from home full time and make my own schedule. In that regard, it wasn’t bad. But the work itself was so mind-numbingly boring and uncreative that it just made me sad. Every morning I’d wake up and think, “Ugh, I have to do this shit again?”

There was never any end to the work or sense of completion. As soon as you finish 5 cases, 10 more get assigned to you. Now I see why postal workers just snap one day and shoot up the place. It never ends. That’s no way to go through life.

But I didn’t just have a realization one day and decide what my life was going to be like. There was a series of events that lead me to this decision. This is the timeline:

December 2002 – February 2005: I work for a fun and hip start up company doing tedious work and realize the only enjoyment of my day is lunch and going to the gym. But hey, at least I get to wear shorts and flip flops to work, but sadly, no sweat pants.

Fall 2005: I come across the Gym Jones website and start doing their workouts. They kick my ass so hard that I start reading further into their site, and find out that their programming comes from something called CrossFit.

Summer 2007: I read Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. This book completely changes my perspective on what work and a career can and should be, and that it’s possible at any time to change your situation in life.

January 2011: I start to get an idea in my head about wanting to do something with my life involving health and nutrition. I attend Diane Sanfilipo’s Practical Paleo workshop out of curiosity. The biggest take-away from that workshop was that 1.) I know more than I thought I did; and 2.) I’ve been doing this Paleo thing for far longer than she has. So if she can hold a workshop, maybe I can too. During this month, I also post a list of CrossFit tips for beginners that goes viral and still to this day is being reposted all over the world. The internet likes lists. I go on to write several other blog posts for the CFDV site and start to position myself at CFDV as somewhat of a subject matter expert in nutrition and CrossFit.

March 2011: I begin interning at CrossFit Delaware Valley (CFDV) to become a trainer.

May 2011: After months and months of researching, asking around, and running the numbers on going back to school to do a Masters in Nutrition or getting a certification, I did the latter by enrolling in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). It was actually a no-brainer. A traditional masters would’ve taken me 4 years (2 years of undergraduate prereqs + 2 years of graduate work) and cost over $60,000 just so I could sit there and argue with my professors over whether or not carbohydrates were essential. Or, I could spend $5,000 to do a 1-year online health certification and start my own business. Within a matter of 30 minutes I put $6,000 on the credit card ($5,000 for the health coaching program and $1,000 for the CrossFit Level 1 certification) to my reluctance and my wife’s constant mantra of “Just f*cking do it!” That same month I begin working with my first nutrition coaching client (for free), getting her ready for the CrossFit Regionals.

June 2011: I finally do the CrossFit Level 1 certification.

August 2011: I officially become a part-time employee of CFDV.

December 2011: I decide to start a pilot program of nutrition coaching through CFDV and email 8 people I feel would benefit. Six of them agree.

January 2012: The Lean Out Club (LOC) is born. I take on 6 clients and meet with them in the evenings at CFDV. All of this is done on a part-time basis while I maintain my day job. I start my pricing low (compared to what IIN suggested I should charge). My goal is to make $1,000 a month on the side between coaching a few CrossFit classes and the LOC. This was exceeded every month but two.

March 2012: The first LOC group got such great results that I decide to open it up to the entire gym. I go from 6 paying clients to 26 in the blink of an eye. By the end of March I had earned back the cost of my IIN tuition and begin to turn a profit.

August 2012: I watch this video of Steve Jobs discussing the secrets of life and that seals it for me. The biggest thing that’s been holding me back from pursuing this idea, or any other high-level ambition, had been fear and self doubt. I realize then that I’m definitely capable, I have good instincts, and I can chart my own path. I’m going to quit my bullshit day job by the end of the calendar year.

September 2012: I complete the BioSignature Modulation (BioSig) certification.

October 2012: I start a pilot group for BioSig (for free).

November 2012: I give 5-weeks notice to my day job. Far more than what was necessary. Commence happy dance!

December 14, 2012: I retire from the grind and pursue happiness.

January 7, 2013: I start a new path, spending my days doing the things that I want to do, that I value, that give me purpose, and that I enjoy. I can now wear sweat pants to work as much as I want.

What I’ve learned from this whole experience is that I can do anything I want. Seriously. I can do ANYTHING I want. Once I realized what I wanted to do, I didn’t sit around and wait for the ideal job to be posted online. I created my own job. A lot of it was me simply asking Rob Miller (the owner of CFDV) if I could do something, and him allowing me to run wild. Hey Rob, can I write a blog post for the website? Hey Rob, can I help out with some of the evening classes? Hey Rob, can I take a crack at creating the programming for next month? A lot of my success and ability to take this next step forward has been due to Rob trusting me to be me. Don’t wait around for someone to offer you your dream job; start doing it yourself.

I have lots of interests. Health and fitness is just one of those interests. If you’re reading this blog you’ve probably figured out that writing is another interest of mine; probably the longest running interest I’ve had. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve loved writing stories. In college I resurrected and ran a humor magazine that is still in operation 10 years after I’ve left. If I want to write a book, or make a documentary, or be a coconut farmer in Costa Rica, I can do all of that too. Probably at the same time.

If something is truly important to you, you will find the time to do it. It will become a priority. That may mean getting up earlier or going to bed later. It may mean saying no to people. It may mean being a little more selfish with your time. But it can be done.

So how can you find your own passions in life? It’s pretty easy. Make a list of all of the things you enjoy. It doesn’t matter what they are or how crazy they may sound. Don’t worry about whether you can actually earn a living from any of these things, just write them down. Take a good long look at this list. Which of these things would you like to do on a regular basis? Of these things which of them seem like it would be a fun way to earn money doing? Cross out all of the items that don’t apply. Of the remaining items on the list, can any of them be grouped together or combined somehow to a specific niche? Once you’ve narrowed down the list to the above criteria, now look at the list and ask yourself which of these things would you be willing to do for free? If you’re not willing to do it for free, it’s probably not a passion.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.


7 responses to “Charting My Own Path: How I Found My Passion at 33

  1. Just wanted to say thank you for this post…found your blog from a link to your post on 10 tips for CF newbies. I’ve been struggling with trying to figure out what I want to do (other than just general career change) and have thought about something nutrition-related, so really appreciate this info on IIN and motivation 🙂

  2. Pingback: What makes you come alive? | The Optimal K·

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  4. Hi Larry, I just stumbled upon your blog (from a link from your previous blog which I found while googling Paleo recipes?). Anyway I’m sat at the office and I find myself reading up on health/fitness/nutrition every day and only recently got into the whole crossfit/paleo/fitness thing a few months back. It really truly is a passion and has become a lifestyle. Reading this post has inspired me to push further to discover if and how I can turn this passion into a career for myself (I’m a lawyer, sadly). I know there’s so much more I can do with my life! Thanks so much for this post 😀

  5. Hi Alyshea, thanks for leaving a comment. I’m glad you liked my post, but more importantly I’m glad you’re doing something with it. All of my friends who are lawyers aren’t happy with their career choices, or the hours they have to work. Let me know if there’s any way I can help.

  6. Pingback: Charting My Own Path: 1 Year Later | The Blog of Larry Palazzolo·

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