Micro change that’s actually pretty darned big

More magazine has an article in its April issue headlined “The power of micro change.”

I just returned from a work trip and one of my guilt airplane pleasures is photo-heavy women’s magazines. Glamour is a go to, and I try to mix it up with some others I wouldn’t typically read at home: Vogue, O, Real Simple or anything that attracts my eye with its cover.

Of course when More touts a story of reinvention on its cover, that called to me, even if I’m still just barely outside their demographic of women 40 plus.

I thought it was going to be a story of how a minor change – exercising a little, tweaking your diet, sleeping a few more minutes – can pay off.

Instead, it profiles six women who serendipitously discovered new career paths, like a social worker who started to sell Mary Kay then got inspired to launch her own beauty products business. Author Carin Rubenstein’s article has the subhead:

One small move can have a huge ripple effect in your life. Meet six women who weren’t trying to start a revolution but did find a wonderful new path.

The stories are lovely – a marketing director who served meals to the homeless and decided to become a psychotherapist, a creative director who now paints full time – but I have one concern. I think Americans sometimes fetishize entrepreneurship and artistic pursuits, and that can be dangerous.

Self employment is not for everyone. If you lack sales, marketing and accounting skills, for example, you might be a fantastic carpenter or seamstress but your business might be in trouble if you don’t get help. If you don’t have the self discipline to complete tasks without a boss to answer to or trusted advisers who can help you develop your skills where you’re weak, you might struggle. Can you handle the risk of not drawing a steady paycheck and employer-funded benefits?

Selling paintings or jewelry, as two profiled women now do, can be tremendously hard work. Beginning artists typically don’t sell each piece for huge sums, and making each sale will mean putting yourself out there – and risking having your art criticized or mocked. If you take those rejections personally (it’s your personal creation so that’s only natural) both your sales and your ego could suffer. Do the math: if you sell a painting a week for $1,000, that’s $52,000 a year. Before expenses. Before taxes. Before taking a single week off.

This isn’t to take away from the transformations of the profiled women. They’re inspiring tales of following your bliss. I would never diminish someone’s desire to follow their passion.

But I would have also loved to read about a woman who made a move into a different function at a company she likes, or who found an employer that better fit her needs and values, or who worked with her boss to get better work/life balance to make time for a new hobby she loved.

If you want to strike out on your own, I salute you. New York Entrepreneur Week is going on as we speak, and all you have to do is check out their Twitter feed or their Web site (We are the catalysts for conquering today’s harsh economic challenges.) to feel their passion and determination.

I just don’t think we should hold that up as the only path for reinvention.


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