Moving Out of the Middle Class Mindset

Before I started Jesse Johnson Coaching, I taught high school algebra to inner city students in NYC public schools.

I became a teacher because I thought dedicating my life to working with a population of people who I knew had been disenfranchised was the solution to systemic racism in our country, and I wanted to have a big impact at that level.

So I worked harder and harder, thinking if I continued to put in the hours, then suddenly the system would change.

Spoiler alert: that’s not what happened.

The system would shift a little, and then revert back. Shift a little, revert back. We would make some progress, and eventually some other systemic element would undermine that progress. I learned a ton about how people learn, and how they resist. I learned about how to work with groups, and the power of systems in creating (or preventing) change. My kids learned a lot – although maybe not always about algebra.

And in the long term, I became pretty discouraged – the impact I was creating was too local, it wasn’t helping anyone on a large scale – and I didn’t know why I should keep going. I lost my big why, longing for more integrity, more impact, more freedom, and more joy.

That year, I quit my job and started my own business – and with that decision came a whole new wave of awareness.

My family and friends were simultaneously excited and concerned – they knew I was capable, but didn’t think my ideas were viable. They knew I was new to business and they wanted to protect me. They also wanted to understand me, to stay connected to me, and everything I was choosing was foreign to them. The world they knew was stable and familiar. In that world, you worked hard, suffered, then got a reward. Work hard all week, suffer through it, enjoy the weekend. Work hard for 30 years, suffer through it, enjoy retirement. This was reliable, this was safe. This made you a good person.   

One of the biggest challenges I had to overcome was that middle-class mindset and value system. Punching the clock and getting a paycheck didn’t cut it anymore. I didn’t even know how limited my mindset and vision were. It had never occurred to me to become an entrepreneur, start my own business, or become a master of sales – I didn’t even sell girl scout cookies as a kid! I was used to trading time for money, and working as hard as I could to prove myself in the world. I had real blinders on and it prevented me from seeing the opportunities all around me. The middle class mindset was holding me back – not only from my own potential, but from offering real service. That program was keeping me from making any actual impact. Luckily, my sense of purpose was strong enough that I was able to break free from the expectations of my friends, family, and past self.

The truth is that the only way to move through doubt is to be so connected to your sense of purpose that nothing can stop you. It’s honestly not worth doing anything that doesn’t feel purposeful – and purpose is the best and (I would argue) only real motivation to move through the doubt that inevitably arises when problems show up. And let’s be honest – there are daily challenges in business, and if you don’t have the resilience and dedication to stay true to your vision, you’ll quit before you’ve even started.

Becoming an entrepreneur demanded that I connect and devote my life to my purpose. I deeply understand how the world works, how to create our dreams, including the money necessary for them to be real – and this journey has taken my personal development to a level I didn’t realize was possible. Everything about my life is exceptional – my marriage, my business, my view, my friendships. I had no idea how much I was tolerating working for someone else, working for a system. I had no idea how much I was tolerating in my relationships, my communication, even my sex life. My whole life turned upside down and transformed – in the best and also most uncomfortable ways – because of my business. Every habit has shifted or dissolved to reveal my true desires and way of being in the world. I feel a bit like the David that Michelangelo found in the stone – my true self is being revealed more and more each day as the old habits fall away.

I am the best – and most unapologetic – version of myself to date. Which means that people get WAY more from me, and of me, than ever before – because I’m not playing games, playing a role, or hiding my truth. At the same time, it turns out that not everybody enjoys the person I truly am – so there have been many changes in who I spend my time with, and how people feel about me.

My advice? Dream big, people. Integrate the financial component. Master sales. Hire a mentor or a coach that knows how to help you create beyond your current belief system. Trust your vision, and reach for it, always. Know that every problem has a solution, and there’s no solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Choose your dreams, and know it will be uncomfortable or you would have done it already. Be kind to yourself. Celebrate your wins every day.  

Interested in reading more about my story? Visit my article in Forbes.

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