Intro: Welcome to Sheepdog Financial. You will get answers to your financial questions. Learn to plan for your financial future and have the type of life that people dream of brought to you by Trisuli Financial Advising, a fiduciary financial advisor practice focused on military members and their finances. Your host of Sheepdog Financial is Scott Vance.
Scott: Are you on the edge of a changing your career or life. Then this is the interview for you. This week on Sheepdog Financial podcast. We have Sara Bliss. Sara recently wrote a book named, "Take the Leap: Challenge Your Career, Change Your Life." The book profiles over 60 people who have radically changed their careers. She believes you're never stuck in your same old job. In her book, she profiles high profile people like makeup guru, Bobby Brown and NFL athletes. But the lessons she sees are applicable to you as you transition as well. I hope this show helps you as you transition. Sara, welcome to the show.
Sara: Thanks so much for having me. I love what you're doing.
Scott: Great. So you've written several books, but what makes this book so special and important to you?
Sara: I've been writing for 20 years and I've been doing profiles for 20 years and always been really fascinated by how people ended up finding their groove. And I've also been even more fascinated by a kind of all the detours and failures and hurdles they had to overcome in order to get there. So even though I have been interviewing people for business magazines or travel magazines or everything from business to celebrity, all sorts of different topics, I've always kind of been zeroed in on this one issue. And so this is basically 20 years of research and thinking about why people make changes, why people find success and how people get unstuck.
Scott: You've profiled people in the book, Bobby Brown, the makeup guru, Barbara Corcoran, which most people know from Shark Tank, and something that I've read in your media talked about you expected initially that people that you interviewed are going to tell you that make leap made them happier, but then it came with a financial cost. What made you think that people were willing to take that step of making less money but still being happy?
Sara: Part of that is, you know, this kind of thing that, you know, for so many of us in creative careers, whether we're artists or writers or actors or whatever it is, we've kind of accepted this idea that, okay, we can do a job that we love, we're going to do a job that we love. But the price of doing a job that you love sometimes means that more often than not, you're not going to make as good of a salary as your friends that kind of go into the corporate world. And after you know, 20 years, I think that that's kind of a mistake in thinking that way. But I realize that I've kind of been wired to, to, to accept that. And so I just assumed that all a lot of the people that I interviewed, many of them left corporate jobs to make a leap that they would tell me like, Oh, I'm just so much happier. I'm doing my creative work, or I'm doing this really cool job and I'm fine with the fact that I'm making more money. But it was actually the opposite and I was really thrilled about it. So it turns out that 70% of the people that I interviewed for the book are making more money than they were at careers that they hated or, um, their previous careers. And there's something really amazing in that fact, and I attribute it to the fact that when you're more invested in your work, um, and you're more passionate about it, that tends to translate into, into more financial success. Um, and then I think the other thing is that when you make a career leap and a career change, there's so much effort involved in it that I think that people tend to gravitate towards something that they're very excited about. I mean, if you're gonna make all the effort to make a career, a midlife career switch or make a transition, it's going to be something that you're vested in. And I think that investment tends to translate into, into more financial success.
Scott: It's almost like the saying that if you follow what you love to do, the money will follow you there.
Sara: Yeah, absolutely. And I think there are a lot of people who have kind of made that opposite choice. Like, you know, they've made the choice to just work for money. And those people I think hate that saying, and they're like, you know, they poo poo it or whatever. But I think people who are in it and in the groove and, and work that they love and doing well at it, they're the proof. They're the ones that, that can tell you that, that, that saying is absolutely true.
Scott: Which person that you interviewed in your book, do you think their change was most significant?
Sara: I really made it a point to have to find some great and military guys for the, for the book. And, and in particular, because I've interviewed veterans over the years and I just know one of the biggest struggles that they face is that next step that figuring out what the next move is after the military, when every, you know, the military has things structured and you know, a very different way. As you know, being a vet yourself and somehow sometimes translating that into, um, the real world can be, um, more of a challenge than it should be really, um, in an ideal world. Um, but it is a challenge. Um, so there were two stories that were really, really, um, impactful I think and, and huge shifts. And one is Stacey Bear. Um, he was in the army and he served twice, um, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Uh, when he came back he had jobs in M city planning and jobs that he liked, but he couldn't kind of get over the trauma of his military experience. And he had terrible, you know, all of the kind of bad, that bad stuff. It was all, all happening to him at once. He had PTSD, he had suicidal thoughts, he had a terrible drug and alcohol problem. And he had a friend who just said to him like, listen, you've got to get out of your head. Come with me. Like on Saturday we're going to go climbing. And so he went with him and it was such, when he got to the top, he had never been climbing before. When he got to the top, which was, you know, a lot of effort and physical effort and mental effort. He said he had experienced a sort of traumatic release where he just felt like he got rid of almost like all of the field and not all of it, but a lot of it, a lot of the guilt that he had been carrying, the trauma he had been carrying, the stress that he had been carrying. And he just felt so alive and invigorated. And he realized when he was climbing, he didn't feel that he wasn't in his head with his thoughts that tortured him. So he decided to get other military. He knew that it was something that could help other veterans. He knew that the key was getting them outside. Um, he knew that there's healing in the outdoors and power in the outdoors. So he launched a company called Veterans Expeditions design to get veterans outside. And then he went to the Sierra Club for seven years as director of their outdoors program. And he's basically devoted his life to helping people find that connection. And, and he's also working with some researchers on the ability of, um, exercise, physical activity, challenge, uh, outdoor challenges to kind of help heal trauma and heal the brain. He wants to get some scientific proof to kind of what he's witnessed and experienced not only with himself but with other veterans that he knows.
Scott: Yeah, I've, uh, I've actually got another interview coming up with a person that advocates, um, yoga and meditation for the treatment of PTSD is kind of along the same lines as this.
Sara: Yeah. And I think for him it was just, it was such a hard, he was going through just such a hard time. He says whole life, he just always thought he'd be in the military. He was so excited about it. It defined him for so long. Um, and then he just, he felt really, really lost. And, um, when you meet him, he's just the most like, enthusiastic guy, he's like so in love with life. And I love that he's kind of devoted himself to, to this, to helping other veterans. It's pretty amazing. Um, but then another story that, that in the book which I, and someone who provided some amazing advice is Judson Kaufman who was a Navy seal and he was obviously had a really successful military career, but when he got out, couldn't find a job. And so what he wanted to do was he founded a company called XLM, which, uh, connected corporations with military vets because as you know from having been in the military, like there's amazing skills that you come out with, um, that actually companies really value, whether it's having those management skills, those organization skills. I mean all sorts of things that can translate really, really well. And so, you know, he talks about how to make your resume work for civilian employers. Um, how to translate it out of kind of military speak into something that companies can wrap their heads around and understand and basically different ways to make yourself really marketable.
Scott: Some things I've told my friends as I've transitioned out and that are active duty or still are or that are in the civilian world that you may have military skills that are not translatable to civilian world, like you know, shooting a gun or driving a tank, but most civilians never have to sit there and be rained on and you know, be in a stressful position and make a decision that has huge implications. And how you clear your mind to think through that is probably more worth than that actual technical experience for that job.
Sara: Exactly. No, I think you're exactly right. And that's what Jetson believes in. You know, I think often, especially in the world of like HR or corporations right now, you submit your resume somewhere, the first entry into a company is just going to be a scanner or basically like a whole scanning software that's like looking for a certain keyword. And if your resume has those keywords, then you're going to be put in another pile where a human will look at it. And then again, if they think that you have exactly, you know, X, Y, and Z experience, then they put you in the next category for it to come in for an interview. But the problem is, is that they're so narrow minded, they don't really, you know, it's surprising to me, but most human resources in corporations, they're not like designed to accept people who are coming from other industries, even if those skills are totally applicable.
Sara: You have to do that for yourself. Um, you have to find a way to be able to say like, Hey, you know, I had this experience in the military and that this actually, you know, I managed a team of 200 or 300 or 20 or whatever it is. And that means that I, you know, I have these management skills that actually can translate into X industry. Um, but it's, it just requires so much more work on the part of the veteran. So Judson, you know, really wanted to kind of help basically translate that, um, for, for corporations to say like, actually these are the people that are going to be great at your company. And he's, he's done a lot of, he's helped a lot of veterans get connected with tech companies. Tech firms have a lot of members who are brilliant at tech, but they've never kind of managed an organization and they need someone to keep the team focused, organized and moving in a positive direction. And you know, he's been able to say like, Hey, you know, these, these guys are actually the people that do it. Um, you know, they have their senior ranking in the military and that's going to translate really well to your corporation. So I think his advice is amazing. And he also talked about us skills translator tool at Military.com.
Sara: Um, I don't know if you've recommended it to any of your podcast listeners, but it's, it's a pretty, very tool.
Scott: Yeah, I will look into it and link to it in the show notes. I've not seen it personally, but I'm sure they've, I know they've taken a lot of steps to try and help people with the transition from the military on out to civilian world, whether that's retirement or through, you know, just exploration of your term of service. So.
Scott: And then so okay, so we've talked about people taking a big leap, probably some of the, you've probably some of the cases you look at or you know, forced somewhat by outside factors. Yeah. What about through think you're doing pretty well as it is, is basically a feeling from the gut or how do, how do you recommend that people consider maybe making that big leap when you're not essentially forced to by outside factors?
Sara: I think there's a lot of reasons for doing it. I mean, I think for a lot of people right now, I think we're kind of, a lot of people are, I mean I just was looking at some statistics from the Bureau of labor statistics and basically more and more people are leaving corporate life and wanting to have that control of their time and control of their finances. And I'm going into more entrepreneurial ventures, starting businesses. I mean the tech world has made it so you can start a business from your living room essentially. Um, you can promote it on social media and you can connect with anyone in any industry through LinkedIn. Um, you can also sell your own stuff, um, on different platforms online. So there's so many possibilities that just kind of weren't there even 10 or 20 years ago. I think if you are someone who wants more, wants to be in charge and in control and not working for someone else, um, I think that that's definitely a reason to look into this. Um, and a lot of the people in the Booker are entrepreneurs. I also think you need to, we're in this era where the workspace, that career landscape is changing so rapidly, so you need to think five years ahead. Like what, which careers are starting to grow, which careers are striking. Um, where is there going to be more need? The tech world, I have, there's a great veterans story. Um, this guy John Dang, who took a coding course in his last few months. I'm in the military online. I think he was on a ship actually when he did it. Um, uh, in order become a software engineer in Silicon Valley. I think tech is definitely getting those coding skills and thinking about maybe moving into careers that are booming and this definitely something that people should do. I mean I think if you're happy at your career then great. I mean if you're making money and you think that your career has a future then you know, stay the course. But I think if your career is shifting or shrinking, which a lot of ours are, I think it's time to kind of start to get some new skills that maybe can, can pivot you into some amazing new directions. And coding is definitely one of them. And I have a whole section in the book on how to break into, into tech, whether you want to be on the software engineering side and the coding side or whether you don't, I, there's a whole section on how to, all the careers and opportunities that there are for people who want to be in tech, but I'm not on that side.
Scott: Yeah. And I see you, I know on my financial planning side, I see a lot of people matching their finances to their values. And I think there's probably a lot of parallels to that with people deciding to change jobs and match their values with what they're doing.
Sara: Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, I think that's a part of it. I mean, for some people, there are a lot of people in the book who were just kind of going along with their lives and then something happened and it opened this portal into entirely different possibilities for their lives that maybe they didn't expect. Um, and sometimes that happens when they see our real need and they realize that they're the ones that need to fill it. And a lot of that is service-based. You know, there's a woman I interviewed who, whose been a hairdresser her whole life, but people around her, she kept being around people who in there having emergency situations and she realized she didn't know how to help them. So she went to school at night to become an EMT. And on one evening she was sent over to help out in the aftermath of a fire and she wanted to do more. She wanted it to be like that person running into a burning building. So then that led her to go to firefighting training. And now she's, uh, she has her hairdressing business and she owns a salon and then she works as a volunteer firefighter. Um, which is amazing. And I mean, so sometimes it's just kind of being open to the possibilities and opportunities that present themselves in your life and especially ones that you, you might not expect.
Scott: When I retired, I lost identity. So you know, right after I retired, it was like all of a sudden, one day I was in charge of people and people called me sir and I knew the rank. And the next day I was just like anybody else in the world. And really it was a shock. So people that make that transition, whether it's from military to corporate world where you've got the title, you've got the corner office or whatever it is, how do you recommend the they deal with that loss of identity?
Sara: Well, I mean I think that's a really, really hard one because I think for so many of us, our identity is really tied to our jobs. Um, and I think that's actually a dangerous place to be. Um, I don't think that, I mean, I think when you have that kind of that massive shift where you know, suddenly everyone's respecting you or, or calling you or inviting you or, and then suddenly they're not, I think that is a wake up call to be like, okay, well I can love my job, but who I am at my core has to be separate from my identity and my career. And, um, I think that's, that's something that, that comes from having had that experience. But I also think most people, until they're kind of faced with that, don't kind of realize the importance of having all those other things that gave you confidence and purpose besides your career .And I think when you find those things outside of it, of your career, and that's extraordinarily important to have. You know, my father was an example of that. He puts out a really successful career in banking and, and he got sick, he had Parkinson's and he, you know, had to retire. And you know, suddenly he went from being the guy in the room that everybody wanted to talk to, to, you know, kind of just the old guy in the room. And that was really hard for him. But I think the advice I would have is to, I'm sure you've had this as you just have to kind of find all those other things that, that fuel you and interest you. And I mean, do you find that you're still as tied to, is your identity still as tied to your job as it was previously? Or is it less so? I think people find a little bit more of a separation.
Scott: It took me about a year. I was in a funk for a year and then I'm kind of figured out what I wanted to do. I mean, I knew I was getting out, so I had a plan, but was it Mike Tyson that said, once you have a plan to get punched in the face and retiring was getting punched in the face.
Sara: Yeah, this isn't something that happens overnight. I mean it's, it's, it's a really humbling experience and I think it takes a long time to kind of get back on your feet and redefine yourself. But the key is, I think is to be the younger generation, the millennial generation, they are all really comfortable with changing what they do. They're not attached to their jobs in the same way they see it as an adventure. They want jobs that are speak to them in terms of what their values are. And so they're willing, even there was just a survey and 60% of millennials said that they're probably gonna look for a new job in the next year. So I think with the way the world, the career world is working and how quickly things are shifting, I think we all need to be more comfortable with this idea that we're probably not going to stay in the same career for life. Um, we're probably going to need to change. We're probably sometimes going to have to dual careers or whether that's financially driven or because we want to. Um, I think we have to be more comfortable with this idea of change in our careers. And I think the more comfortable we get with that, the less we see our identity as tied to, you know, what we're doing. And I think that there, there becomes like a confidence in that and like, okay, well I was, I was good at this and I can actually be good at this next thing as well.
Scott: Just like you said, people are not going to do 40 years or 20 years at the same job and then retire with a golden watch. It's going to be multiple jobs, multiple stents of education. It sounds like, you know, and I've seen people talking about taking mini retirements. So now, you know, you work for a while and he'd go to school for awhile and then take a year to do something cool and then come back to work. So that's exciting. Yeah. Oh yeah. But I think it's going to force people to have a outside motivator where as the job used to be that motivator. Kind of like what you were saying.
Sara: Exactly. No, exactly. And I just think, you know, for a lot of, there are a lot of, you know, I wanted to be magazine writer kind of forever and you know, the magazine industry is like, it's a dying industry totally shifted. And so I've had to, you know, I, I always thought, Oh, I'm just gonna do this forever and that's it. But I've had to like completely change, you know, my own, my own career. Um, I actually make most of my money doing work with brands. I help them with like PR and copywriting and marketing and all that kind of stuff. And that's really where I found a lot of success. And if you had told me that like right after college, I would have been like, well, you know, that's totally separate. That's like a whole different world. Like editorial and advertising and all of that is totally different. Like why would I do that? And now I'm thrilled that I can do that. I'm thrilled. I see it as an opportunity, um, to, you know, to also keep on doing the editorial work that I love and then be really kind of picky about the projects that I put out in the world. You know, if, if I had tried to, you know, just stick to editorial, I mean, I wouldn't be making any money. I wouldn't be able to do it.
Scott: Right. And that goes back to the technology. Uh, I mean that's enabled all that. I remember when I went to college the first time, they were just starting to teach us about the world wide web and we had actual classes on how to surf the worldwide web and stuff and us, and now it's like my eight year old does it, he's 12 now. But, uh, you know, it's just, it's an almost innate, so.
Sara: It's totally innate, it's, it's fascinating like how much they know. I had my seven year old teaching me something the other day. Yeah. Um, but that's, that's also why I do think that, you know, I wanna I want to say older workers, but, you know, I, I think everybody needs to have some coding experience. I really do. I really think having that experience, um, and having that on your resume and taking a class in that is only gonna help you. And, you know, I thought it was interesting what you said earlier, this idea that we're, you know, we have education just, you know, right. When we're, you know, early on and then that's it. I think that's going to be another shift that we all have to be making is that we need to kind of continually be like revamping our skillsets to make ourselves like more marketable.
Scott: Yeah. No, if you're not learning, you're stagnating. You're not getting anywhere. I think my parents were blue collar and being a truck driver for 30 years, if you never learned anything, that was kind of the standard back then. But now truck, even truck drivers have to learn new computer systems or so looking to educate yourself as is essential to stay relevant.
Sara: It's totally essential. I mean, and and, and the thing is like I wrote the book because I feel like so many people have to make a change or want to make a change and then they don't really know how. And I think when you have, you know, those real life stories, it helps you get out of that mindset of like, how am I going to do this? Like can I do this? Is this even possible? Because it's so key to have examples of people who, you know, have the same issues that you had. Right. And I also wrote it because you know, we have to, the landscape is changing so quickly and all of us have to adapt. So, like you're saying, I think that having that commitment to continued learning and then that understanding that you're probably going to have to shift and to embrace that, I think that's, that's a good place to be.
Scott: Yeah. It's got to be a changing world coming up. I mean it's already changing, but like that, I don't know what that actual title that is, but you get to the multiples of technology and as it goes faster and faster, it's just going to keep growing. Almost like compounding interest a little bit about you. So you grew up a little bit overseas?
Sara: I did. I grew up in New York, but my dad did a lot of business in Asia, so we kind of traveled back and forth, which was, which was really a cool experience.
Scott: Yeah. I spent most of the second half of my career in and around Asia.
Sara: So cool there!
Scott: It's awesome. Yeah.
Sara: Yeah, I know. And then I, I got into travel writing, um, as a way to travel, um, and you know, be able to, you know, go places that, uh, I wouldn't otherwise. And so while I write a lot about business and I write profiles, I write a lot of travel on the side. And, and it's been, it's been great. I love that career and that, that's not a travel writing is not a moneymaking career, but it is a way to, to do things and see things and, and have these amazing opportunities. So, so I love it.
Scott: Well, yeah, that's almost a, well that's an example of what we talked about earlier where your match your morals and ethics and values to what you're doing. I mean, granted it's not making money, but you definitely value travel and writing about it. Let you do more of it.
Sara: Yeah, no, absolutely. And then, yeah, and you know, I'd see, you know, I've, I've realized over the years writing about so many different kinds of people and you know, I see how powerful those stories are, not only for the people that I'm writing about often, but for people, you know, reading and kind of wondering about their direction, their next step in their life. And so I've been really invested in this book in a way that I've never been in any other projects that I've done. Because you know, I've had so many people come to me and say, you know, I really needed this. Like I didn't know what to do next and you know, this really inspired me to do this, this and this or you know, I'm feeling really stuck and, and I, and I need some direction. So I've had so many people come to me and they've made changes after, after reading these stories. And I have a column on Forbes, which kind of continues this conversation too all on career pivots. So it's, I'm very like invested in that. And exactly what you said, it's nice to get to feel like really aligned with, with my work.
Scott: And then so talk a little about the process of writing a book. What was your biggest surprise as you went through the process?
Sara: I found like the hardest part was finding the right people. It wasn't the writing, the writing with the easy part and didn't really take me that long. It was, I spent a lot of time researching and because I had 63 people in the book, it was really a puzzle because I just didn't want to have the same kind of story over and over again. I wanted to have so many different reasons like why people switched. So you know, each chapter is divided into different type of career switch with kind of an emphasis on like dream jobs, like people jobs that people would really make the effort for. So entrepreneurial jobs, startups, people who wanted to go into philanthropy or creative careers. And then so I, and I also wanted to find people of all ages, all backgrounds, all parts of the country. So it was like this big puzzle of like trying to make sure I had lots of different viewpoints and lots of different people so that like anybody can pick up this book and find someone that they relay with. You know, there'll be a lot of stories that even if their careers that you're not interested in, that person might be going through like similar struggle as you. Like. There are people who had their, you know, their families and partners tell them they were crazy and not to make this switch or, or people that were suffering like terrible, like anxiety or mental health issues from their job. There are people who were struggling financially. There are people who are able to start businesses with no money. So there's so many different reasons. So it just became this big puzzle of like how many different scenarios can I fit into one book that was really, I had a spreadsheet and it was constantly like, you know, lots and lots of research and kind of a whole year of, of that.
Scott: Well, I guess it's easier to cut than to add at the end if you're short. At least, my experience from writing college papers. So, yeah. And so as we're getting towards the end here, from your book, what one piece of advice from the book do you want the listeners to take?
Sara: I think being open to possibilities that you didn't expect. I think when we're, the people that really seem to have the most trouble are the people who are really stuck in one mindset, you know, in one way to be who, you know, get an idea from when they're young of how their life is gonna turn out the people that seem to do the best with people that are kind of open to, to moving to trying something new, to learning something new, to jumping in, to even to taking a step back in order to, you know, to launch into a different direction. The people that are more flexible and open, um, does the people who are really finding their groove and finding their success.
Scott: What is your favorite military movie?
Sara: Oh, my favorite military movie. Oh boy. Okay. This is a hard one cause there's so many good ones. Well, I don't know if it's like really a military movie, but there's a lot of military in it, but I love for Forest Gump.
Sara: I just love it. I love the whole thing. You know, it's a good one. And I actually rewatched it the other day and there's, it takes some, it takes a little while to get into it again. You know, like, like wait, I don't know, I just don't really like, wait, what? This is just such a weird movie. But then it just somehow you just, once you just get into him as that character, you're like, Ugh, this is such a powerful moment. And Captain Dan, I love it.
Scott: Oh yeah, yeah. He's great. He's a...
Sara: And I talk about, I mean, talk about a career lately. I mean, that guy has done, I mean, Gary Sinise has done amazing, amazing things. You know, he has, he's done a whole identity and career shift, you know? And that all started with, with that movie and that role.
Scott: Yeah. I saw him years ago, they had a called themself, the Lieutenant Dan Band. That was the start of it. And he toured with the USO and stuff. And that probably was the start of all his outreach for military folks.
Sara: Yeah. And I mean, that's, I mean, that's actually, yeah, he's such a great example of someone who, again, I mean, I'm sure he never, he always thought he was, you know, going to be just an acting and that was his goal. The thing was he was, he saw this kind of different path and he saw a need and he saw a place that he could like really make an impact and he went for it. And that's like exactly what I was talking about. Like if he had been like close to this idea like, okay, I'm, I'm only going to be like the movie star right then none of this would've happened. And I think he's really helped so many people. He's a really inspiring guy and um, and he's just like a fantastic example of taking the leap,
Scott: Aligning your values with what you're doing.
Sara: Exactly. Exactly. And I just do want to do a shout out to what you're doing with this podcast. I think it's fantastic. I think it's really, I think it's super helpful on inspiring for people. And you know, I've interviewed so many veterans over the years and I just feel like there's a real gap in a lot of this information and I'm so glad you're putting it out there.
Scott: Well, thank you. Thanks a lot. And then if listeners want to get a hold of you, how can they follow you? Listen to you some more or read some more about you?
Sara: I have a website. I'm SaraBliss.com and you can find my books on Amazon and your local indie bookstore. And I'm sarablissNYC on Twitter and Instagram, but only send me nice messages
Scott: And I'll link to those in the show notes.
Sara: But yeah, I actually have a lot of, I think because Stacy and I, Stacy ear and I are pretty active on social together. I have, I do have a certain amount of military followers, which is fantastic.
Scott: Good. Well thanks for coming on the show. Yes, thank you so much. I love this. This was really fun to do.
Scott: I hope you enjoyed listening to the show as much as I enjoyed talking with Sara. Thank you for listening to Sheepdog Financial. Visit us online at trisulifinancialadvising.com for more military centered financial resources.