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Soni Conville, Director, Meadowlands Music Together

We take risks every day. We risk injury or death when we drive. We risk getting hurt in every new relationship. We risk complications from surgery. We even risk skin cancer simply from going outside unprotected.

Because we know deep down that these risks are unlikely to occur, they're never in the forefront of our minds and they certainly don't stop us from living our lives.

Why, then, does the thought of giving up a steady paycheck to pursue our dream scare the living daylights out of us, even when the source of that check is slowly killing us from the stress? When we think about the possible consequences of following our bliss, all sorts of frightening scenarios fill our minds: foreclosure, bankruptcy, poverty, homelessness. All are possible consequences, to be sure, but what is the likelihood of them happening? With a solid action plan, a supportive network of friends and family, a financial safety net and a healthy dose of self-confidence (or insanity, I haven't figured out the difference) the chances of any of the aforementioned scenarios occurring are as likely as the chances of getting hit by a bus tomorrow.

For over a year I toyed with the idea of leaving my job as a Music Together teacher to open my own Music Together center in my town. My research indicated there certainly was a market for it and the startup costs were minimal compared to the costs of starting up other businesses. I loved what I was doing, but the stress of dealing with a moody, micromanaging boss was burning me out. I knew my plan was not only possible but entirely feasible. Having my husband's full support was the icing on the cake.

But I put it off. I was too busy between teaching my classes, taking care of our daughter, volunteering in school, maintaining the house...I came up with every possible excuse not to quit and start my own business, conveniently denying the real cause of my inaction: fear of the consequences.

Then during the course of that year our family was struck with one setback after another: my husband learned he had an enlarged liver and needed a biopsy. His aunt passed away after her two-year battle with breast cancer. My aunt and uncle (married to each other) died within five days of each other a month later. I had to put my ailing 17-year-old cat to sleep. My husband fractured his left femur when the tree he was cutting down on the job fell on him. He required emergency surgery to insert a 14-inch titanium rod in his leg and was out of work for six months.

The final, crushing blow came four months ago when his mother went into the hospital for a seemingly minor condition, worsened during her stay, slipped into a coma and died two weeks later. Her sudden unexpected death stunned the entire family. The pastor's remark at her funeral that none of us in attendance knew who would follow forced me to seriously take stock of my life and realize that at age 43 it was time to stop being scared and start acting.

Risking my boss' wrath (see? another risk), I applied for an independent center license and was shocked when my application was accepted. I resigned from my position and am spending my summer promoting the business and slowly building up a clientele. I held my first demo last week and got my first four signups for fall classes.

So far I've definitely spent more money than I've taken in. And the loss of my income this summer has put a serious crimp in our activities. But I'm happier than I've ever been...I have the creative freedom to run my classes the way I feel they should be run. I have the logistical freedom to choose when I want to work -- and the luxury to roll out of bed and into my office, in a bathrobe, no less. I'm spending a lot of time with my daughter, who's seven and still genuinely wants to hang out with her mom. That probably won't last much longer.

And I'm happy in the fact that I'm controlling my own destiny in one aspect of my life.

My decision to take the risk was more emotional than rational, but the outcome is no less satisfying. My only regret is that it took so many family tragedies to get me here.

Take out that pen and paper and start making a list of what you really want to do. See how you can make a living doing it. Taking that risk is similar to having a baby in that it requires a leap of faith. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and JUMP! I promise the landing will not be as hard as you thought it would be.

Donna

Wow, Soni, what a rough year. I've been having one of those years for about 5 years now but my husband and I decided to risk more by moving to the Chicago area for a job for him. He spent many part-time hours going to school while working full-time while we had our first child. When he finally got that degree and after he was layed off from the full-time job I encouraged him to step outside his box and do something new and I was wanting to move on from my stagnant job so we moved a few hundred miles away to start anew. Unfortunately I did not find a job as easily as I thought I would and finally got something through a temp agency. The place I'm working though wants me full-time but hasn't got approval yet. In the meantime I was offered a position with another company. My current boss said "Can you just hold on" and was able to increase my pay significantly to match the other position. Since I really like this company I turned down the other offer and I am still waiting for approval. I have many moments of regretting what I did but I am very hopeful because of how I have been treated and the opportunities that are here once I get in. Am I crazy for what I've risked?

Liz Norwood

I took a risk three years ago opening an employment service in Denver called 10 til 2 (www.tentiltwo.com) and now we are franchising naitonally and maybe coming to a town near you. We specialize in placing college-educated mothers into long-term part-time jobs who want a perfect work/life balance. There are so many women wanting part-time employment across the country. This risk is paying off!

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