Then Story: Product Design Engineer
Now Story: Remote Fitness Coach/Writer/Teacher
Curb Moment(s): Realizing he was not meant to be an engineer and making his
last student loan payment
What do you do when you finally pay off your student loans? If you’re Justin Lind, and have a deep yearning you aren’t meant to be an engineer for the rest of your career, you quit your job, buy a one way ticket to Istanbul and trust you’ll not only figure out the next leg of your travels but also your life!
What do you do? Tell us about it.
That’s always a fun yet difficult question for me to answer because it is multi-faceted and in flux. I tell people that I am a writer and coach. When I left engineering, I committed to fitness coaching full-time; something I had done on the side for years. This led me to focus on several specialties within the fitness world: kettlebells, gymnastics, and teaching. I consider myself a teacher by nature and I love to explain complex or confusing topics in unique and simple ways.
I have recently realized a long-time goal of location independence. I work completely from my laptop (with help from a camera, digital recorder, and various pieces of fitness equipment). My two primary income streams are both fitness related: private online coaching and freelance work for an online fitness publication.
I coach individuals remotely – similar to when I was a personal trainer – but many of my clients I have never met in-person. Once we get to know one another and I understand them as a human and an athlete, I create a custom program for them to follow. They send me results and photo/video feedback of various exercises. It’s not for everyone, but works out extremely well for those who are both self-motivated and move well enough that they do not require constant attention. I also teach in-person workshops in variation areas of my fitness expertise. I maintain CoachJustinLind.com to host all of my fitness offerings.
My other income source is freelance writing and video work for a publication called Breaking Muscle. I contribute a piece of writing and/or instructional video weekly. Most of these are technical and focused around my specialties of both kettlebells and gymnastics, but many delve into other physical and mental aspects of health and fitness. (Note: Check out all of Justin’s great articles at his Breaking Muscle coach page!)
I have a new project in the works that will soon become my primary focus. My partner and I are building a website called Super Human Things. The brief explanation of our goal is sharing the stories of super humans, ie. people who are doing amazing things for humanity in any realm from humanitarian work, environmental causes, human growth and development, sports, health, fitness, and nutrition. We are excited to share inspirational stories of people who are advancing the human condition through written and podcast interviews and short, documentary-style videos. Super Human Things will also showcase some of our personal quests as we travel the country in a campervan (currently under construction), such as visiting all 59 US National Parks and honing our skills at big-wall rock climbing.
What did you used to do?
I used to be a Product Design Engineer for an LED lighting company. My degree is in Mechanical Engineering and after interning with the same company for two consecutive summers, they brought me on full-time upon graduation.
Why did you make the shift to something different and what would you say was your “curb moment?”
I feel that I knew for years that I was not meant to be an engineer. I excelled in school, especially math and physics, so my parents and advisors recommended engineering. While in college, I enjoyed my classes and projects but knew I did not feel the passion or enthusiasm that most of the other engineers seemed to exude.
This feeling continued and deepened once I found myself at a desk 9-10 hours a day. I even told my mom less than a week into my first “real” job that I wasn’t planning to stay very long.
My “curb moment” came in paying off my student loans. Once I began working full-time (and making more money than any 23-year-old needs) I committed to paying off my student loans as quickly as possible. I didn’t have excessive debt and managed to pay it off in two and a half years. I remember the tremendous lightness and freedom that followed my final payment. No longer financially beholden, I realized that I no longer needed my job. Within two weeks of that final payment I had made plans to quit and purchased a one-way ticket to Istanbul for 6 months down the road. I wasn’t entirely certain of my next step, but decided that long-term, solo travel was a great way to figure it out.
What challenges have you had in making the shift?
I didn’t really face many challenges upon first leaving. I saved a big travel fund in the 6 months before departing and all of the co-workers, friends, and parents were extremely supportive of my decision to travel indefinitely.
Most of my challenges came once I returned from my 9-month travel adventure. I struggled to figure out my next steps, and returned without a clear plan and essentially no savings. I knew that I wanted to focus on my passion for coaching, writing, and teaching. My stated plan at the time was to surround myself with the types of people that I wanted to be surrounded by and be open to step through doors as they opened.
Another huge challenge came in explaining all of this to my parents and the other important adults in my life. I received mostly support and trust, but also a lot of not-so-subtle, unsolicited “guidance” on what they all thought would suit me best. It came from love, but it also cast doubt on my plans.
The most difficult challenge is one that I still face with many of my closest peers and friends. As with anyone who steps “off the curb,” I felt my peers’ resistance to the broad scale changes that I was making. My friends were always supportive of my decision but I found that in expressing my values and desires for a big shift I had to tread a fine line to not sound critical of their life choices. I was critical of my former path and found that my shift could be received as an affront to many of my friends’ chosen paths.
What has helped you overcome these challenges?
Patience and commitment. Leaving one path before fully understanding my next step meant that I needed time to both figure out my new direction and develop those pursuits. I had to constantly remind myself that I made these changes for me, and thus I was the only one who could possibly judge the merit of my choices. External guidance and advice can be invaluable but ultimately these changes need to be “selfish.”
I also had to remain committed to my personal values, even when they flew in the face of societal or peer group values. I made my switch based on maximizing my freedom and ability to explore the world, myself, and my passions. Finances are secondary to all of these pursuits. I often joke that I traded income for quality of life. Holding this value in mind helps me feel gratitude for the freedom and excitement that fill my life and accept that at 30 I make far less money than I did at 24.
At times I still feel like a mirror that reflects back my peers’ discontent. I remind myself that making a huge shift comes with sacrifices and trade-offs. My friends who follow very different paths also have amazing benefits with a few trade-offs. Our paths diverging is only a result of us each being strong individuals and it only strengthens our love and respect for one another.
What advice do you have for others “at the curb” who want to make a career change or start something new?
This is the obvious and cliched first piece of advice, but that’s because it is also the most potent. I could have been better about planning my next phase, but feel no regret at all for the way that I went about my stepping off the curb. You are at the beginning of a road. You can see the mountain in the distance but can’t see anything around the first bend. The only way to travel that road is to begin, addressing each twist and turn as they come. It wouldn’t be nearly as exciting if you could see the whole road in the beginning.
Doors are always opening. Put yourself in the spheres, communities, fields, etc. that you would like to be and you’ll be amazed by what type of opportunities begin to arise.
I write and continue to write about my experience and values. If you are interested, please check out JustinMLind.com. I would also love to hear from you if you would like some guidance on your “off the curb” pursuit.
Photo Credit Links
Habit Group NZ – http://www.habit.co.nz/
Michelle Ramirez – http://mramirezphotography.com/
David Kafer – https://www.davidkafer.com/