Before Build Your Own Blog I Once Worked in Mental Health. Here’s Why I Turned My Back on Becoming a Famous Therapist and Instead Became a Full Time Blogger
Sherri from the U.K. recently asked me about something I said on the About Me page…
“Eight years ago I left a career as a mental health therapist-in-training and returned to my first love—writing.”
She wants to know more about this part of my bio. Was leaving mental health a difficult decision?
(I’ll get to why this decision was the right choice for me in a moment.)
Sherry wants to know because she has a similar background in “hospital training” and has now “made a decision to go down a similar path.”
As I replied to her email, it occurred to me that my story could possibly help not just Sherry, but many others. You don’t have to be working in the medical field to relate to this story.
I get many emails from people wanting out of their current job. Is that you? Are you searching for an opportunity to make a change?
This is why I want to share my story. I’ll primarily address why I made the career change from therapist-in-training to blogger, and then touch on the how.
Keep in mind that your story might be much different (or will be much different) than mine. How you end up reaching your dreams and finding freedom is unique to your story, so don’t think you have to follow the exact path I did. My story should inspire more than just people working in mental health. You can remove “therapist” from this story, insert your current profession, and that story can lead to the same results.
What are the results I’m talking about ? Being your own boss. Freedom. Doing work you love. Less stress. Helping others. Earning great income. Making a difference.
Here’s my goal for telling this story: If I can get a few people reading this to open up their mind to what’s possible for them, I’ll be happy.
Matthew’s Journey to Full Time Blogger
Back in 1996, most folks didn’t know anything about the internet. Only a few geeks and military personnel were using this thing called “the web” during those days Bill Clinton was campaigning for a second term.
Did you know President Clinton only sent two emails during his entire presidency?
Anyhow, at that point in life, I was a recent college graduate. My English and Communications diplomas hung on the wall as I struggled to find meaningful work that I enjoyed and paid the bills. This wasn’t easy even in the more robust economy of that time.
You see, at this point in my journey, I was a young English major who considered advertising to be a shady profession (I don’t now), while my ambivert personality didn’t like the idea of standing in front of a camera reporting news every day.
All I wanted to do was find a career doing something I was good at and somehow “make a difference.”
I liked to write, but technically wasn’t trained as a “journalist.” And back then, someone like me wanting to be an author still had to “be picked” by the establishment publishing industry. Self publishing wasn’t yet on the radar.
Writing for small, local print publications and doing a disc jockey gig at a small radio station didn’t satisfy my heart or my bank account.
My love for writing and all things related to “media” were apparent at a young age. These subjects back when I was in school were categorized under the “Language Arts” umbrella and they were always my favorite areas of study. I wrote for the high school newspaper all four years, and was the news editor my senior year. In college, I continued writing for the campus newspaper.
Choosing to major in English came naturally. For good measure, I picked up a second degree–Communications.
Back then students would joke about the lack of job prospects for both of those majors. The negative wisecracks didn’t sway me. I knew what I liked and that’s what I studied. Whatever came after that, I thought, so be it.
During college, I also explored my third favorite topic–psychology. At one point even declaring Psych as a second major, which required a class in Statistics. I took Statistics I then promptly dropped the whole psych major idea.
This was in 1991. By ’96, my latent psychology dreams bubbled back up to the surface of my consciousness when I began searching for a more promising career track.
One day while talking with a mentor, the idea of becoming a counselor came up.
Matthew the Counselor….hmmmm.
After thinking it over a few weeks, I concluded being a counselor was a great way to help people, make a difference and do something I found interesting. Further research revealed a Masters in Counseling required ZERO statistics classes.
Now this new adventure was going to require significant student loans to accomplish, but hey, I was young and…excited.
That fateful meeting with the mentor wasn’t so much a singular moment of destiny like you see in movies, it was more like one decision out of a series of choices, each one like a step up a ladder…No dramatic soundtrack could be heard playing, yet my decision to become a therapist was filled with spiritual longings and ego-driven worldly desires.We are all climbing a ladder. Only the next rung is visible. The rest of the ladder disappears into a fog.
I Could Be Like Frasier Crane
My plan was in focus–I would combine my interests in media and human behavior with a radio show, where people call in with their problems and I provide them with answers.
This would enable me to help lots of people…Become a respected member of society…Make more money…get semi famous…
Sounds plausible, right?Sometimes our plans make our destiny giggle.
You Gotta Start Somewhere to Get Anywhere
Right away, I started working in not one but two psychiatric hospitals as a mental health tech. I started at the bottom, working directly with patients while earning an unimpressive paycheck. That summer I took a psychology class, then another in the fall. Then another the following spring.
I took three college courses that next year. In two years, I worked my way up to being a bachelor level case manager serving young people and troubled families.
There are many stories I could tell you from those years I worked in mental health and social work. My life was in danger many times. I was even stalked the final 7 months I was in the field.
That was the final straw.
Something else occurred during this time that also played a tremendous part in shaping who I am today…network marketing.
Network Marketing: My Four Year Degree in Sales & Business
Just a couple of years into my mental health work, someone sponsored me in a hugely well known network marketing business.
There’s a lot to share about this part of my personal journey, so I’m not going to cover much in this article. I do need to mention it here though, because my way of thinking was so radically changed by network marketing, it ultimately played a big role in my decision to let go of any plans to become a therapist.
I became completely immersed in this business for over 48 months and the whole experience was like getting another degree in sales with a minor in human relations.
My library is still filled with the books I read during this time. Here’s a list of the ones I would recommend for any new or aspiring blogger. Read these if you can:
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell
How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger
Bringing Out the Best in People by Alan Loy McGinnis
The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing With People by Les Giblin
You should read these books. They will teach you amazing things that will not only make you a better blogger, you will become an influential leader in your niche.
So during this time, I was working in mental health by day, and then would put on my sales hat while driving home and would work on my network marketing in the evenings and weekends.
As my mind expanded with all the teaching I was getting from millionaire sales reps and a constant flow of books, my ambition level rose along with my self confidence. I started to think more about money, and this played a huge part in me ultimately leaving MH.
Again, life is a climb up a ladder. Our careers are a process. A collection of events, surprises, and changes. Most of which are not pre-planned. As much as we like to talk about the importance of planning, nobody can plan out their life and fulfill it as originally planned.
My time in direct sales (network marketing) wasn’t something I foresaw in my future, yet it happened, and its influence was profound, ultimately leading me to these conclusions that prompted my exit from therapist-in-training to eventual blogger and internet marketer…
4 Reasons Why I Left Mental Health and Eventually Became a Pro Blogger
1. I needed to go back to my “first love.”
During my transition from mental health back to the media business, I was in a job interview with the CEO of my employer at the time, seeking a new communications position. As I shared my background, what I majored in, things that made me qualified for that position…suddenly, he smiled at me and said “Oh, you want to go back to your first love.”
He was exactly right. I not only wanted to go back to doing the work I enjoyed and was good at….I yearned for it. Like lost love.
What he said to me that day let me know I was heading in the right direction (even though I didn’t get that particular job.)
2. The Mental Health field has a high turnover rate–particularly in the direct care positions–because it’s understandably stressful.
I could tell you a lot of stories…Code Greens, Suicide Watches, On-Call Weekends, Restraining Orders, Stalking…I lasted longer than most. Those experiences made me stronger, and they also helped me change careers. 😉
3. Getting a masters degree in counseling would have included a $30,000 student loan debt.
Once I began learning about personal finances and money through my network marketing training, certain realities in my original plan started to get crystal clear and those realities were saying, “don’t do it.” For example, I started noticing how my coworkers who were already therapists were not any better off financially than I was. Then I did the math and realized if I did go $30,000 in debt, my raise in pay as a therapist would go to my student loan payments, thus keeping me at the same financial level.
That didn’t make financial sense to me, so I stopped taking classes right before the tuition would spike.
4. The internet offered tremendous opportunities.
Only a few sharp people in 1996 could see what was coming with the internet. Most folks didn’t have a clue. I know I didn’t.
By 1999, my eyes were wide open.
Many were already making tons of money thanks to the web. Meanwhile, my network marketing business was going e-commerce. Hype about the internet’s potential by this point was off the charts. (Remember the dot com bubble of 2000?)
I was stoked.
There was no turning back. Although still employed, I knew my days in the mental health field were numbered.
I just needed my network marketing business earning five figures. Or find a new job back in “my first love” (Media work.)
Plans were made, and destiny giggled. My ladder had a few unforeseen rungs to climb before I would reach the start of Build Your Own Blog.
If I Can Transition to Full Time Blogger, So Can You
Your ladder is going to be different than mine. Your’s might have fewer rungs or more rungs to climb. Some ladders are wooden while others are metal.
You know what I mean.
If you will just keep a vivid picture in your mind of what the top of the ladder looks like for you, and focus on climbing only the next rung before you, eventually you will reach the top!
I’m not the only one who’s done this. If you need more convincing, here are a few people who inspired me. These are regular people who transitioned careers, going from “meh job” to a “pro blog” that earns them income and brings them career satisfaction. Be sure to check out their blogs!
1. Jon Morrow
No other blogger can “dis” this guy. He’s more “abled” as a blogger than practically anyone else out there. He eliminates all your excuses. Check out some of his popular posts. You won’t be sorry.
2. Demian Farnworth
I learn tons about web writing from Demian. He started out working in various writing jobs for years until 2011, when he transitioned to self employment. Two years later he got his dream job with Copyblogger Media. Guess what? He still gets to work from home! Learn more with a subscription to his blog.
3. Adrienne Smith
She’s the queen of online engagement. If you haven’t met her yet, give it time, you will! Read her story how she left a disappointing corporate career and has found success as a full time blogger.
Stories are Powerful
Where are you at in your blogging story?
If you’re at the beginning, cool. Every story starts there. 🙂
That’s the first rung of the ladder. Plant your foot on it and go up.
If you have already started blogging, where are you at in your journey? Still working a day job while blogging at night?
Wherever your story is at now, today is the day to pick up where you left off and continue.
And if you liked this personal story of mine, let me know, and I’ll post what happened next on my way to Build Your Own Blog.