Chris Donohoe on Quitting The Corporate World & Founding His Own Firm

Chris is the founder of uncommonly and an avid fan of the long-running CBS television show Survivor. A former teacher, marketer, and management consultant, Chris has an eclectic mix of skills and professional experience. Chris has worked with over a dozen Fortune 500 clients spanning multiple industries including Media & Entertainment, Publishing, Insurance, Pharmaceuticals, and Corporate Social Responsibility. He is obsessed with inspiring great leadership and creating incredible learning experiences that change the way people think and operate.


An early influence of family entrepreneurs

He always knew he wasn’t cut out for the default path. He had been inspired by an entrepreneurial thread that has run through his family. His grandmother would go through people’s garbage to find treasures to fix up and sell at the local flea market. While he wasn’t sure how it would play out for him, being surrounded by so many people that were self-employed gave him confidence that he could do the same.

Collecting skills as a “two-year career hopper”

When he was in the corporate world, he saw himself as a two-year career hopper, mostly driven by the fact that he never felt he had the freedom to truly have ownership or create. Now, on his own, he sees things differently and is energized by a feeling of “limitless creation.” Now he can “build whatever he wants…create whatever he wants.”

A lot of the skills that have enabled him to take this leap have come from his various experiences in the corporate world. In consulting, he was at a point where he was selling work, managing relationships, managing projects and doing the work. He also credits his work experience in consulting and working with a wide range of companies for enabling him to build an ability to adapt to change and be resilient.

But at a point, he had a moment of realization:

“if I literally just keep doing what I’m doing, but stop doing it for you guys but start doing it for myself, I’m going to be wildly successful”

So for him, it wasn’t as much a leap as a continuation of what he was good at but on his own terms.

Putting his story into the world

He started “vlogging” after working with a life coach who kept asking “what do you want?” After reflecting, he realized “he wanted to be an influencer, he wanted to have a voice…” He started posting once or twice a week and started learning how to shape his voice and put it into the world. This helped him build confidence that in addition to the solid foundation of skills, enabled him to take the leap to build his own company.

Struggled with finding role models in the corporate world

Chris has been puzzled by the lack of inspiring role models in the corporate world. Religion, arts, and athletics — sees a lot of mentors and people stepping up, but saw such a lack of leadership and mentorship in corporate America.

To him, however, there is hope. He sees the leader of the future as someone who is “obsessed with who they show up as.” Instead of obsessing about revenue or metrics, they are worried about showing up as love, joy and passion instead of fear, doubt and loneliness. He believes raising awareness about who we are showing up as increases the awareness of who we are and how we are making decisions.

Instead of role models in the corporate world, he is inspired by people like Tyra Banks, who have been able to continuously reinvent herself and succeed across many domains.

Advice for someone who is worried about making a change in their career

Chris is not one to wait around and has similar advice for others. He would say to someone early in their career: “as soon as someone has an idea they want to do something else, they should go…” They can ask themselves the simple question

“Is this my future?”

If it’s not, he believes you need to start laying the foundation for a move as soon as possible. He also dispels the idea that you should fear what people think if your resume has a bunch of one or two-year stints.

“Anyone who calls into question your resume because you jumped every two-years, does not understand the direction the workforce is headed and does not understand what the future of work looks like.”

Powerful idea: Competing for the middle

I loved Chris’ thoughts on how many people are inclined to settle for the average. Which means that more people are actually competing at a mediocre level of talent than someone who aspires to do great work. Chris challenges people with the question: If you could create anything, what would you create?

He applies this to his own consulting company he is trying to build. He likes to set big goals for himself, with a target of building a $1 million consulting business with 5 team members this year. This may sound crazy but to him it’s actually easier than competing with the twenty colleagues for one promotion spot at his old company.

Links:

David Vaucher on Ending His Career to Start His Life

Working in the corporate world never felt right David was born abroad then moved to the US at a young age, all while being raised to believe that the path to success rests solely on going to school and getting a “safe” job with a big company. For the last 11 years he did just that, … Read More

Noel Boyland On Building A Career & Life That Matters

Note: You may be reaching this page after hearing the tragic news about Noel. This episode was my second episode recorded in 2018 and was one of the most meaningful conversations I’ve had. This is because Noel was one of my strongest supporters after quitting my job in 2017. He went out of his way over and over again to support me directly and we had many beautiful conversations over the years where he helped me see that I wasn’t crazy for wanting to prioritize my health and well-being instead of continuing to climb the corporate ladder. It is not a stretch to say that much of my success and my confidence to write my book and keep doing this podcast among other things came out of the spirit of love, support, and encouragement that Noel injected into me and I know is consistent with what to so many people experienced being around him as well. I’m leaving up this conversation for anyone who may find comfort in it.

Wisdom and taking the long-view

Although Noel claims he lacks wisdom, he has a lot of it. He describes his career as “eclectic.” Starting his career in the 1980’s the environment around him (greed, money) influenced him to question what he was really trying to accomplish. He took a long-term perspective and tried to focus on what he did not want his career to be at sixty — which he put simply as not doing “the things he wanted to do”. Although on a more corporate track early on in his career, he tried to continuously reflect on what mattered — even if it raised some eyebrows in among his peers.

Taking the leap

A series of events including 9/11, a merger, a 12-week sabbatical and a health challenge led him to finally taking the leap to go on his own. In reflecting on some of these challenges, Noel wisely (see again, more wisdom!): “you need to do things to pave the way for the future but also make sure every day is a good day.”

One idea every organization should adopt: Stakeholder scorecards

If Noel had his way he would elevate stakeholder theory and force companies to assess at least twice a year how well they are improving the lives of customers and employees, impacting the environment and communities and also impacting investors.

His advice for someone starting their career and becoming a freelancer

  1. Building relationships and with people not like you: The richness of our relationships will strengthen personal relationships and also lead to commercial opportunity
  2. Do what you say you’re going to do: “98% of what we need to do is not that complicated, but we need to be reliable to be trusted”
  3. Be clear with your commitments
  4. Live below your means: It creates flexibility to do the things you want to do.

You can connect with Noel on Linkedin: Noel Boyland

Recommended books: Two of my favorites as well!

Additional Links From Our Conversation:

Episode 1 —Boundless Podcast — Why I care about the future of work

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In the first episode of this podcast, I share my journey through my career and why I am so passionate about the future of work, the non-traditional path I took in my career, and how I think those skills have prepared me to be agile and ready for the transformation in today’s economy.