This was one of the most nerve-wrecking moments in my life. I was sure that my parents would get extremely angry with me and throw me on the street.
My mother always wanted me to finish the University, and with just 4 exams to go I knew she would beg to “just finish the last bit”. Still, I knew I was old enough to start making my own decisions and act the way I feel is right for me.
What she didn’t know was how much I hated it there and how unfulfilled I felt by doing something just to make others happy. I knew exactly what I wanted to be doing in my life, and programming, listening to boring lectures and taking exams that provided no value to my life was a torture.
I was even more afraid of my father. He has a PhD in Archaeology and is one of the best people in the field. He’s even taught a few classes at the university. I knew that education meant a lot to him, but I just couldn’t see it work for me.
Of course I was nervous about breaking the news of quitting university, but I was even more nervous about talking with my parents about what I did for a living now – coaching professional poker players on productivity.
What comes to your mind when you hear the world “professional poker players”?
Well, my parents are not the types of people that would think that poker is a legitimate way to earn money.
Quite the contrary, they thought about degenerate gamblers connected with drugs and mafia that would most likely kidnap and kill me if something went wrong. I would need a lot of luck to convince them otherwise…
I took a deep breath and entered the apartment.
“Mom, dad, we need to talk. Come into the living room please. You will want to sit down for this.”
When they came into the room, they were super worried – I mean, who wouldn’t be if someone dragged you into a room, told you to sit down and that you need to talk…
“Listen, I need to tell you something. I won’t be attending the university any more.”
The dead silence filled the room. My mother was speechless and looked at me with disappointed eyes. Then she started to cry.
My father managed to stay a bit more composed and asked me why I decided to do that and what I’m going to do if I’m not going to be going to university any more. Well, at least he didn’t start screaming at me, so that was good.
Over 15 very dreadful minutes I explained why decided to quit university, what I’m going to do instead and my exact plan for the next 9 months.
After I finished talking, my mother kept repeating the same thing: “I really think you should finish your studies. You are so close.”
My father on the other hand, surprisingly, said to me: “If that’s what you decided to do, that’s fine with me. I know that the educational system isn’t what it used to be and that it won’t help you with your current goals. I hope you manage to succeed in what you decide to do.”
Now I was speechless.
This happened over a year and a half ago, and it was a major turning point for me. After this conversation, I put all of my time and energy into growing my business and starting an independent lifestyle. It wasn’t easy, but it was exciting, liberating and unforgettable. I finally started living my ideal life. I managed to build a poker productivity coaching business and later on moved to working with freelancers, consultants and executives – and now I devote most of my time to Skyrocket Your Productivity.
Before I was able to break the news to my parents, I had to secretly work on my business from an office.
Before this conversation, I worked secretly from an office that I rented with a few poker players so I could record videos and have coachings and webinars in there (I couldn’t do this at home because we have very thin walls at home and I didn’t want anyone to find out about my poker productivity coaching business.)
I would be away all day long. I attended the minimum possible amount of classes at the university, and since my office was 5 minutes away, I could spend all of my days there, pretending I was at university / out with friends. I loved staying in the office, but all of the time I’ve spent at the university was just killing me. It didn’t align with my values and my vision, and I would be more drained after a 1-hour lecture than an 8-hour work day that I actually enjoyed.
This went on for more than 6 months before I managed to build up the courage to finally start living my own life. The main reasons why I didn’t have the courage is because I didn’t know what to say to my parents in the first place and because I was afraid that my business might fail and I would end up living on the streets.
Then, one evening after I came to the office, I was just so sick of the university (they wanted me to create a boring business plan for a fictional project that just made no sense when I already had a profitable business) that I decided to end my misery once and for all. I reached out to one of my mentors at the time and ased him for advice. With that and a little bit of research, I finally managed to prepare my speech. I drove home and broke the news.
I know that you might have friends and family members that don’t support you in your ideal lifestyle. I know that your situation isn’t the same as mine. Maybe you want to create a side-business and your wife thinks it’s too risky. Maybe you want to change your job and your friends aren’t too excited about it.
I want to share a framework with you that helped me go through this difficult conversation that you can use to talk to your friends and family members and get them on your side.
Here are the most important things that I did:
#1 – I showed honest appreciation.
I started off by telling them how much I appreciated all of the help and support thwy’ve given me in the past. I mentioned specific examples of what I was especially grateful for.
This put them in a better mood and helped me slowly transition to my decision, so I didn’t shock them immediately.
#2 – I didn’t make my decision about me. I made it about something bigger than me.
I didn’t just say “oh I hate university, I don’t want to go there any more”. Instead I explained that this just isn’t in line with my vision and that if I kept doing what I was doing now, I would be very unhappy and also wouldn’t be able to spread my ideas to other people who might benefit from them.
I talked about 3 specific case studies of how I helped my clients and showed them the letters from the readers of my content that benefited from my advie. I wanted to show them that I’m making a positive change in the world and that I wanted to do more of it instead of just writing outdated computer programs that wouldn’t transform any lives.
#3 – I knew exactly what I was going to do over the next 3, 6, 9 months.
I didn’t just say “oh I want to have my own business”. I already had a business that was bringing in decent revenue and I shared with them a specific plan that I carved out for the next 3, 6 and 9 months.
This showed them that I was well prepared and that this wasn’t just some random idea that I would give up on tomorrow. They felt way more comfortable with my idea once they saw that it’s actually well thought-out.
#4 – I had a back up plan with a time constraint.
I went beyond just a plan for my business, I created a back up plan as well. I said that if my business didn’t work out, I will go back to university the next year (in 9 months) and finished my studies.
This made it easier for them to accept my decision because it wasn’t a final decision and they could still see a way out. They also didn’t have to be so afraid that I would end up homeless on the streets any more.
#5 – I asked for advice
In the end, I asked them for advice. “What would you do if you were me?” They pointed out to me that I should create an emergency fund for myself and take care of my finances. This made them feel important and they really appreciated me reaching out to them for advice.
I’ve used a version of this framework over the next few months when I broke the news off to my friends and other people I knew. Most of them tried to convince me to not quit university at first, but by the time I explained my plans to them and asked them for advice, most of them were ok with it and some were even supportive.
FRAMEWORK: What to say to family and friends who don’t support you
You can use a similar framework when talking to friends and family members that don’t support you in your ideas:
#1 – Show honest appreciation
#2 – Make your ideas bigger than you (include the positive change you will make in the world)
#3 – Have a written-out plan for your idea
#4 – Have a back-up plan with a time constraint
#5 – Ask for advice (“What would you do if you were me?”)
Derek Halpern from Social Triggers made a great video on what to say to your friends and family that don’t support you that I’ve found really useful in refining my default responses as well, and I would highly recommend you to watch the video if you are struggling with this issue.
Watch Derek’s video – it helped me improve my framework for talking to friends and family members that don’t support me.
Do you have any friends or colleagues who want to work on their business ideas but are frustrated because they gets no support from the people around them? Share this article with them – they will LOVE you for it!
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