Interview with Farnoosh Brock
Mark: I am so excited. One of my favorite people to talk to in the whole world is on the phone today. In fact, she is so much my favorite person to talk to that at one point in my life I paid money to talk to her. How cool is that?
Farnoosh, how are you?
Farnoosh: That’s the best introduction I’ve ever had. Thank you so much. I am wonderful. And I’m equally delighted to speak to you today, Mark.
Mark: It’s funny, in the world a lot of times really great relationships start off with some kind of trust building business transaction. It might be the guy at the convenience store, it might be the lady at the car dealership, but these relationships a lot of times start with these business relationships. That’s kind of how you and I got started.
Farnoosh: Yes. I actually remember exactly how we got started. You had doubts about taking the course, which is perfect because I thought, “I’m going to call him up and have a conversation,” which is so novel these days because everything is online. I’m so glad I did, because it was the start of a great relationship, you’re absolutely right.
Mark: That was kind of crazy. I hope we’ll get to take people through this. The reason that I wanted to talk to you on the show today and the reason that I think your message is so important for my audience is that, once upon a time, you were a person in a corporate job, quite successfully navigating the corporate landscape. You decided there was really something missing and you took a left turn and really tried to create something. Now you help people do that.
I thought the first thing that we could talk about a little bit is maybe a brief version of your story, but then I want to get in your head a little bit and I want to ask how you knew that something was missing.
Farnoosh: Okay. Great question. You’re right, I was, once upon a time, only an employee, and I thought for life that’s what I would be. In the family my brothers are the entrepreneurs, and they are very good at it. It was just one of those things, you’re going through life, going through where you’re supposed to go, the journey, the path, and I was pretty happy for the first few years.
I had an 11.5 year career, so it was pretty long. At some point I started getting unhappy, but that happens, that’s okay. Then I couldn’t fix it. I was making more money, I was making more bonuses, stock options – if you’re in a corporate environment, you understand all of that. I was getting more vacation, more flexibility, working from home, travel. I traveled the whole world with my company. Those things were important to me, but I kept getting unhappier. It was the weirdest thing, I couldn’t’ find that fulfillment.
I thought, “Maybe the rest of my life is not quite right. Maybe I should build more friendships and have more hobbies. For a few years I distracted myself that way. Then I realized it was really the work. I was just not enjoying the work, I was not challenged, and I couldn’t see the whole point. I just stopped seeing the big picture of what is the mission, what is the goal of me doing these PowerPoint presentations or going through these meetings.
So I started getting disillusioned, for lack of a better word. It’s a terrible that happens, because then you just become a robot, because you still have to go and make money, you have responsibilities. I started getting distracted again and one of those distractions was blogging. I found this deep passion for writing and blogging.
So for a few years that was just a hobby, but the more I was doing it the more I was drawn in that direction and away from my job. To the point where I had two computers, one of them was my work computer and one of them my blogging laptop. I would be on meetings for work where I was sort of presenting, and I would be paying attention only half the time and blogging the other half, moving my chair from here to here. I knew this was just not normal, your hobbies cannot come into your work inside your meetings.
So it was pretty obvious I had lost all passion, all desire to be any part of my company. I was just doing it for the money, and I’m quite honest about that because I was making six figures working a few hours from home and I was a top employee. If you manage things right you get a good position and then if you know your job really well you don’t have to kill yourself. So it was a very good opportunity to keep doing it, but I knew that it was just time to do something else.
You have these birthdays and time goes by and you wonder, “Maybe I could just do something else with my life.” There was a lot of that going on. And then the turning point was actually when my company put me on a really bad project. That was my turning point – I didn’t want to do the project, so I went to my senior director and begged him to take me off of it, and he said no. He just put me in this position and it reminded me that I have a choice.
Mark: Before we get to that choice, I want to paint this picture for people. In my mind, this is what makes you different from a lot of people that I talk to. You were not this beaten down, downtrodden, cubicle dwelling drone with a dead end job at a company that didn’t matter.
Farnoosh: Not anymore, not at the time. The first five years I was, but not when I quit.
Mark: I think my point there just is to say that by every normal measure at the company you were working for, you were incredibly successful.
Farnoosh: Oh, yes. I had everything that I could have asked for and it was just completely insane to let it go. You should see the stock options that I gave up, because you can’t take those along with you. I didn’t exactly wait for layoffs or get a package, I got nothing, I just walked away. It was pretty insane.
We’re not recommending this to your listeners, right?
Mark: Right. What did they say? We want to go through this, I interrupted you and we need to talk about when you approached your director and you felt like you needed to make a decision, but I also want to know what they said. Let’s pick up there. You went to tell your director you wanted off this crummy project. You already weren’t in love with your job and now you didn’t like project you were on, so you go to this guy. What was that conversation like?
Farnoosh: The ultimate irony is that the project was for the upcoming layoffs. I wanted nothing to do with it. A company has to do their business, I understand, but I just didn’t want to have anything to do with it. So he said, “You know, this is going to leave a black mark on your career if you leave,” which basically means, “You would be stupid to leave. Where are you going to go?”
It was very difficult. He just put it out there like that. Then my manager, whom I reported to directly, tried to just persuade me to do just do the best I could do, etcetera. I think they were just really surprised that I did something like this, it was just unthinkable for them to think I would actually leave the company. They thought maybe I would leave the organization, or maybe try to get a new manager in the same organization, you have different options, but I just really surprised them, I suppose.
After awhile this is what happens. This is blunt, but I’m going to say it. You think you’re such a big deal to your company and people are going to remember you. Yes, you have relationships, you have friendships even, but you’re not a big deal. A big corporation, a multibillion dollar corporation will not miss you even if you are the CEO. They move on. Business moves on. And that’s okay.
It’s just to give you perspective that if you think you’re such a big deal and things are going to fall apart without you, they really don’t. You really have to think about yourself and your goals, your career aspirations and fulfillment, first. Then begin to give, whether it’s to your company or to your own business, or a mix.
Mark: You went to this guy, you told him that you started to realize this wasn’t for you, and you were walking away from this six figure income, you shocked everybody, probably including those people around you in your personal life. Moving to what, to a blog? How were you going to feed yourself at this point?
Farnoosh: My husband and I had been living very conservatively. We both made six figures. I actually happened to hire him out of the same company 18 months later. We both gave up two six figure jobs – but that’s beside the point.
I think people, yes, my family didn’t exactly support my decision, they didn’t think it was very smart. My blog was making no money at all. I was actually about to launch my first product, but it totally bombed.
There is this concept, you move away from pain and you move toward pleasure or happiness. I was moving away from pain and I knew for a fact that was not it. I didn’t know what was, but I had been suffering too long. I know people hear this and think, “Six figures, you weren’t suffering.” You don’t know what suffering is until you do work that you really hate, it doesn’t matter how much you make. It just eats away at you.
I think it was just important to know I’m not going to waste my time at my company anymore. Whatever it was going to be. I had no idea how to start a business, no idea where my blog was going to go. I wasn’t naïve to think I could just make money from my blog. I just decided this was an opportunity to reinvent myself, to redefine.
I still have so many passions and hobbies that I had suppressed for a long time in my life because I was just never allowed to feed my creativity, all my life. My family life, always math, engineering, science and technical stuff, it was just not for me. I realized this in my mid-30s, but still I was like, “Whatever.” So I left and it was very liberating, and it was very hard.
The first year was very hard, because you get into this mindset that you’re successful, you make money, money is your measure of success, you have a salary, you have a position, you have a title. Then you give that up, even if it’s the right thing to do, and it just leaves a hole and you have to fill it with something else. It’s really hard to define that next level of success, which is the world of entrepreneurship and self employment. You have to redefine your entire mindset all together, you have to rebuild from scratch what it means to be successful for yourself first and then in the eyes of others, if you care about what they think.
Mark: I think a lot of times people miss this point that your identity can get really tangled up in where you work – in your case you were working at a very prestigious Fortune 500 company – what you do, – in your case you had responsibility for major projects and were highly respected in this highly respected company – and how much money you make. When you walk away from all of that and then you’re at a cocktail party and someone says, “What do you do?” and you don’t have that prestigious answer anymore, that’s a funny feeling. Right?
Farnoosh: It’s a funny feeling. I guess you have to just understand yourself better. It’s really the beginning of understanding yourself.
You may find out – and this is fine, I’ve had clients who have this discovery – that self employment isn’t for me, doing my own thing is overrated, it’s not me, I’m really in love with being part of a corporation, part of an organization. Then they find out maybe they weren’t in the right place. You find out, yes, you give up something you really miss it, and it gives you clarity. Then you go back, you find your way back and you fix the problems that were there. The problem wasn’t the corporation or being an employee, maybe the problem was that particular setting.
For me, I was absolutely the worst misfit of an employee you could imagine. I was a born entrepreneur and I was absolutely the worst engineer. I lived 35 years just doing things that weren’t meant to be mine. When you get to that point of clarity, you look back and, like Steve Jobs, you can see much more clearly when you look back, but you couldn’t have known that so you travel the journey and find out.
I think I kind of got away from your question.
Mark: That’s okay, that’s very good. I think it’s right on point. The result of all this and the way that we met is having experienced this, and thought about it, and worked through it, part of one of the many things that you do – and there are many things, we won’t be able to cover them all – include publishing books, the latest of which I purchased in hard cover. It’s beautiful, it’s a real book that I can put out on my coffee table, it’s very beautiful.
Farnoosh: Thank you. They did a great job.
Mark: It’s amazing. And totally unrelated to this career stuff, it’s a juicing book. Maybe we’ll get into that. Maybe that’s a whole other show.
Mark: I guess one of the outcomes of this is you’ve been able to help a lot of people go through this transition. Tell me a little bit about this course that I went through, Smart Exit Blueprint, because I know you’ve evolved it. What I really want to know is tell me about the course and then telling me having had so many people go through that, what are your major life lessons that you as an instructor have learned by helping that long list of people through that course that you’ve developed?
Farnoosh: That’s a great question. Thank you for asking. I am really fortunate that I was able to do that. It was something I wanted to do, I wanted to turn all of my negative energy from working at where I worked, the last bitter years it was very hard, into something positive as my part of my own personal development growth. We’re always getting better.
What I did is I basically looked back at all the things I did right and not so right in my transition going from a long term corporate employee to a first time business owner and entrepreneur, self employed person, whatever your terminology. I think it’s very hard to find information on that particular transition. You can find information on interviewing well, getting a job, getting your resume done, all of that to enter into the corporate world or changing jobs, or starting a business. There’s no shortage of that information.
But for the person who is in a cubicle, maybe listening to this, or somebody who is out there and they are frustrated, maybe they have a side hustle, maybe they don’t, they have no idea, or at least I didn’t and most of my peers, who are very smart people, had no idea that you can make this huge transition, which takes mental, emotional, physical changes, and changes in perspective in order to go from this side of the wall to the other side, and to do it in such a way that you keep your sanity, your health, your relationships, your family, your professionalism as you exit the corporate world, so that maybe you go back or maybe you go back and tap into those relationships. How do you do it right?
It’s not hard to go and say, “I quit, it’s done,” but it’s another story to do it well, to do it successfully, and to be able to make a huge Act II of your career on this side. The course, Smart Exit Blueprint, takes you step by step through that process and it helps you on many different levels. You need financial preparation, you need to understand your risk tolerance, you need to understand your passions. How do you even tap into your passions when you have ignored them as an employee for so long?
Most of us have, because all we do is give to the company and we forget we have talents that are hidden that maybe we have never used at the company. I became a published author. I went from being an engineer to a published author, professional blogger, instructor – things I never thought I would do and it’s a perfect fit for me. I help people tap into that and then build this side hustle and business on the side, depending on where they come in. Some of them come in and they have a side hustle, so we figure out how to make the full time transition for them and then we build an exit plan.
To answer your other question, what I’ve found is that the exit process is very unique to each person. People come in at different stages. Some of them are ready to get out, but then maybe they find out maybe they’re not so ready because we go through some things and we work together, so their exit plan gets longer. Some people come in and they have no intention of leaving, then they discover that they can’t stay there anymore because they discover there is something else they want to do. It’s beautiful to see that and to help nurture that and help them cultivate the right skill sets and give them all the tools and resources to empower them to go do it on their own. I’m just enabling them, I’m not doing it for them.
It’s been just wonderful and I’m really excited to bring it back for a third time. Really happy that you went through this, because you took something away that was so different from everyone else. It speaks to the unique needs of everyone and how you can benefit from different aspects of the course.
Mark: It’s kind of interesting. There are two things that I take away from that discussion. One is the thing that I love about you particularly, specifically you, is that I can’t think of two more diametrically opposed ideas than an engineer in a technology company on one hand, versus blogger, entrepreneur, and person involved in publishing books about juicing, and doing what I might characterize as HR stuff, like counseling and this sort of thing. That’s so different than the typical engineering mentality. I think it speaks just the enormous possibilities.
I feel like there are so many people that, for whatever reason, have themselves in this little box because they’ve been told they’re an engineer or they’ve been told they’re a secretary, or they’ve been told that they’re a sanitation worker, or whatever, and they’ve been that for 20 years so that defines them.
What I love about your example is you blew up the box with dynamite, you destroyed it and built this new thing. It reminds me of when I go to big cities and I see them tearing down perfectly good buildings to build new better buildings. It’s exactly like that. That’s one of the things that I think is so exciting about that.
With regard to the course, you mentioned me going through the course, it was really great for me because I’m a special case, as you mentioned, I’m not really looking to leave my job. What I was looking for was understanding how to plan for the future that included the opportunity to transition if I needed to, preparing for all of that and just really working through what I wanted this show to be and what I wanted this business to be in the context of a job that I actually really like. That was very helpful for me.
I think one of the strengths of Smart Exit Blueprint is the customization factor, the fact that there is class course material, but there’s one-on-one engagement with you that I think is really cool and that I still value to this day.
Farnoosh: That was on the survey that I did, the two and a half hour group coaching calls were the number one thing. I was thinking I developed all the content and all the worksheets, but people loved to get on the phone. I remember you guys would chat back and forth and then I would do round table coaching, one-on-one coaching, and we would cover everything. I was exhausted when it was done, but it was so useful, that aspect of it. The interaction, I love.
The box – I’m so glad you mentioned that, because I was hoping you would go there. That’s exactly what happens to us. There are people listening thinking, “I can’t do that.” You have to remove that from your vocabulary, because you don’t know until you try at least a few times. Once is nothing, right? It’s like in yoga when we get to the back bends, the first three or four are throwaways, that’s just warm up. Then you get ready for performance.
I can use example opf my business. I have failed in my first books, they didn’t sell at all. My first product, I put so much money and time into it. You have to be ready to do this and to mean it, because if you have a gift inside you – and everyone does – and if you not are fulfilling that in your work today, then you owe it to yourself to tap into that. The sooner you do it, the better. I’m so glad you mentioned the box, that happens a lot.
What holds a lot of people back, in corporate especially, I think we go through a slight brainwashing. It’s good, I’m not against corporate, I love that I had the opportunity. You really have to be careful that you don’t lose your identity and your true talents and gifts, even if you’re doing something else for your work. So glad we mentioned that.
Mark: That’s one of the other things that I love about your approach. When I came to you I fully expected a hard sell press that I get from a lot of entrepreneurs about how I just needed to get out of corporate America, because corporate America is evil and it sucks out your life force, and blah blah blah. I didn’t get any of that from you. I got no judgment.
In fact, you not only help people who are trying to redefine themselves by leaving corporate America, a lot of times you refer to this as “exit,” but you are also now working on a product that helps people who have made a commitment to corporate America and are looking to level up their career. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Farnoosh: Yes. This is actually the first week we’re opening up the doors to this program. After I offered Exit Blueprint last year in September I was thinking I had all these other peers at corporate, my coworkers, who were not ready to leave, but I noticed that I was growing my career the last few years I made so many mistakes the first few years and then I figured how to actually work less, move up the corporate ladder, get the best promotions, and double my salary. I did the best of my growth the last three years of my career and it was phenomenal. It was because I really understood the “code” to how the corporate system works. Just working hard is really the silliest thing you could do, it’s not about that. I’m being kind here.
That’s what we grow up and learn, work ethics, which is great. But so much more goes into that. When you don’t understand it, you get frustrated. If your place is in a corporate environment, just like some of my students who discovered that’s where they want to be, if you’re truly a career guy or a career gal in corporate then you need to understand how the system works so that you can move up, you can get the promotion deserve, get the money you deserve, get the flexibility you deserve.
We don’t know the rules, because nobody taps us on the shoulder and says, “Hey, don’t do that,” you’re going to ruin your whole work by saying something stupid at the meeting, or by not knowing how to have a real conversation with your boss where you respect him and still get that promotion.
My program now, the one we have released, I worked a whole year on this. I didn’t think it would take this long. It is cracking the code to get promoted in corporate America, or corporate anywhere. It just helps you go through that step by step process with things that I’m betting if you’re not getting promoted, it’s simply because you don’t know. It’s not because you’re not smart enough or you’re not working hard enough, it’s just that you don’t know this stuff. Once you understand it, then you can see things happen.
Mark: I know what you’re saying is true because I live this and I see people around me, they have one of two situations. Either they fail to get promoted because they don’t understand how to be effective. And then the other thing that I see is people getting promoted by accident, because they also don’t understand but they happen to get lucky and figure it out.
You absolutely right, they do not issue an instruction manual when you arrive. Maybe that’s your next product. Or maybe that’s what this is, it’s the instruction manual.
Farnoosh: Yes, if I can get it past the HR, I’m definitely approaching companies. I’m actually hoping to give workshops and let people know. I think what I have here actually is to the benefit of the company because companies want real talent to move up the ladder, it’s best for them, but they don’t want you when you have the unpolished stuff about you and they can’t exactly tell you, for reasons that we won’t get into.
So this helps them get talent to move up the corporate ladder and it helps people who don’t need to be there to realize they don’t need to be there and then get out. That’s every company’s dream, but they can’t come out and say that, so they keep giving you this ineffective corporate training that just wastes everybody’s time. I took a ton of those.
I think that if I can get it past the HR and kind of polish the wording a little bit, I have some strong language, I can definitely do some training in corporations and help people understand what they’re doing wrong. I wish somebody had told me, I look back and I cringe at some of the things that I did, it’s just such a shame we don’t know. That’s definitely my next passion, my next project here, to get the word out about that.
Mark: Excellent. I have sort of a broader question for you now. You’ve been through this journey personally, you’ve coached all these people, you’re creating products, you also have this diversified platform and an excellent podcast, you have this diversified business where you also talk about things that you’re passionate about, like juicing where you’ve become a published author. You have all this stuff going on, so you have all this experience having created literally something out of nothing. Now you’re on a show where listeners are in the same spot that you were – what’s it been now, four or five years?
Farnoosh: I left my job two years and two months ago.
Mark: That’s it?
Farnoosh: That’s it. I started blogging maybe a year and a half before that.
Mark: That’s what I’m thinking of then, that’s right. So you started this journey, you’ve been down this road. What are your big a-ha one or two pieces of advice for people that were where you were two years and two months ago where they feel this unrest, they feel that something is not quite right, they can’t quite decide what to do, they’ve got a lot of fear, they have a lot of limiting beliefs, but they’ve taken the action to listen to a show like this to try and find a path forward? What are your one or two big nuggets of things for people to go off and chew on that they can really take away from the show and maybe three years from now they’ll say, “When I heard Farnoosh say ____, this is the thing that really got me going.” What have you got for me?
Farnoosh: No pressure. Right?
Mark: Change the world right here on the Late Night Internet Marketing Podcast.
Farnoosh: Okay, I’ll do it. I am right there with them. I will never for the rest of my life forget how I felt. I felt trapped, I felt lonely, I felt depressed, and I had everything going in my life so I couldn’t exactly get sympathy for it.
Here it is. You are not going to be able to convince anyone that leaving a nice job and doing something on your own is a good idea. Maybe it isn’t. But you have to set some boundaries for yourself. If you’re going to go down this road, even if it’s just self discovery, you have to tell yourself that you trust yourself. This is the most important thing.
There’s so much doubt that gets fed into us, so if you don’t trust yourself, you don’t have much. You have to have that relationship where you trust your gut, your intuition, and your logical mind. If you feel something is really wrong with the place you work, okay, you have to trust that. There is a fact, you know that much, now you start going from there. You have to trust the messages that your body and your heart is sending you.
That’s the first thing. That’s a little unusual for engineers, techie people, or very successful people to hear, because we don’t really think about that. Trusting yourself and not the system, and not your parents, and not your partners – I’m sorry, they don’t know you as well as you do. Number one, you have to trust yourself.
Number two, you have to accept that if you have to walk away from 10 – 15 – 30 years of work, it’s not wasted, you’re not throwing it away in the garbage can and moving on to something else. That feeling of guilt, of all that work you put in it and now what, that’s not what happens. What happens is you take a lot of skills, all the experience and all the expertise, and you apply it in a different way. You have to be okay with that. In fact, you have to feel really good about that, because if you don’t the pressure and the guilt makes you stay, but it doesn’t fulfill you, it doesn’t make you happier. You’re not throwing away years of hard work and experience, you’re just redefining the rest of your journey. That’s number two.
Number three, you can’t convince family, relatives, friends. Some will be on your side, some maybe not. You have to respect them for what they are, but at the same time you need one or two people that are your fierce supporters. It doesn’t have to be family or friends, you may not even know these people right now, but they exist. This mindset that you can redefine your life is out there. There are communities, forums, groups, masterminds that you can join, you can find people that can become your supporter and you their supporter.
In this journey if it’s not going to be your mother that is going to be on your back or your spouse, even though I really recommend you get your life partner onboard, you need a couple of fierce supporters because it’s going to be hard and you need to be able to lean on other people. I’m not saying you can’t do it alone, but you just need some support somewhere. For me, that’s my husband. That’s number three.
Do you want more?
Mark: No, I think that’s awesome. That’s you, there’s always more with you. That’s one of the things that I love about you.
Farnoosh: Thank you.
Mark: I love the fact that your husband is a part of your business. We didn’t really talk about that much, but you did mention that you’ve grown this thing big enough that he actually works for you now in your business, or with you I guess probably would prefer to say.
Mark: He’s awesome. I’ve interacted with him some, he’s great. Tell him I said thank you for helping us get this interview set up, because I’ve really enjoyed it and I know my listeners are going to love this.
Farnoosh: I hope so. It’s a pleasure to be here and to talk to you. Even if we inspired one person, I’ll go away having a wonderful week. That’s what it takes. One person can make such a difference. Just trusting yourself – we just don’t hear that enough.
Thank you for having me, Mark. This was wonderful. I hope to get to know your listeners. You’ll tell them where they can find me, I’m sure.
Mark: That’s the next thing I wanted to get to, because that’s probably the most important part. I’m quite sure that we’ve inspired people that have never heard of you before, because the internet is very big, as it turns out. For the three or four people that hadn’t already heard about you, how can they find you?
Farnoosh: Generally I’m “Prolific Living” everywhere online.
They can find out about my programs either by the links you put here or they can go to SmartExitBlueprint.com, we’re bringing that back September 2013, and then FastTrackPromotion.com, which is open now and they can sign up. I actually have a free course that I give them, which is to get you started on fast tracking your career, if they’re not ready yet to jump on the program.
Thank you so much.
Mark: That’s perfect. Thank you so much, I have enjoyed this. You wondered if maybe you motivated maybe one person in the audience; heck, you motivated me and I’m on the call. I just love talking to you. I know how incredibly busy you are, especially with the launch, so I can’t thank you enough for coming on and sharing your pearls of wisdom with my listeners who I love dearly.
Farnoosh: You’re wonderful, Mark. Thank you so much. Please keep doing the podcast. I’m really proud of you. It was such a pleasure being here today.
Mark: Thanks, Farnoosh. Talk to you soon. Bye.