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Michael Gardon

  • Writer's pictureMichael Gardon

How to Start a Business at Work Without Getting Fired, Even If You Have No Time - The Break Issue 71

Updated: Apr 30

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#71 Building For Fulfillment

In 2018 I was at a crossroads.

Keep plugging away at an easy job (and well paid) that I hated, or ????

I really had no idea what I would do, but I did have this nieve belief that I could do anything.

But, since I was in my 30's with 3 kids, I figured I needed to pivot smartly.

So I started to really think about what would influence my odds of success. Not just the unhelpful crap of "follow your passion and soar!"

I decided I needed to full on design my life and build a business that could get me there, but while keeping my job.

Look, my path to freedom was building a business, but I don't think that's the only route. However, living a self-directed and fulfilling life does require you to build something, so all of what I have to say here is relevant.

Whether you choose to:

Build a business

Build a project

Build a side hustle or

build a life . . .

Here's how i did it:

Create Spacetime

Going back to the drawing board meant I needed time - from work and from family obligations to focus on the next chapter. More importantly, I needed space - mental, physical and emotional, to pour into the creative process.


  • delegated time sucks

  • (even paid a VA!!!!!!!!!!)

  • declined the promotion path

  • started getting out of the building

  • replaced meetings with progress reports

  • blocked my calendar with "me time" blocks

  • asked my wife for 2 hours (early morning) every Saturday

With that space, I could think, iterate and plan without demands on my time.

Looked for Double Pay Opportunities

I figured the quickest (and least risky) way to build a business was to package what I already knew, and what I was already getting paid for in a new offering. So I looked for every opportunity to build and work at the same time:

  • Built assets I would need from work templates

  • Documented processes for my job

  • Built relationships I could use inside or outside of corporate

  • Identified customers and partners

  • Learned on the fly

  • Even chose work trips that coincided with my new business development activities

Anything I could do to kill two birds with one stone, I would do (as long as it didn't violate my employment contract).

Managed My Boss

Splitting time means managing expectations, or you'll get fired. With all the pushback I did in section one, I had to make sure my boss knew I was on top of things. Fortunately, the process forced me to communicate proactively and frame the changes I made as good for the company:

  • Would you like me to be in this 14 person meeting, or out in the field?

  • Oh, you have a question on the project? Please see report from week 4 in the documentation folder I email you each week.

  • You're worried about me not being in the office? Well as an INTJ, my introverted self works better when I'm not distracted every two minutes? Is there an issue with my actual work output?

I got crystal clear and direct about the work being done. My time saving was all in saying 'no' to the other B.S. that takes up 40% of time at work and doesn't get results (unless I want promotions.).

Laid Brick After Brick

Look, building a business and holding down a job is hard. The surest way to fail is to think 20 steps ahead, get overwhelmed and give up.

The key, is only planning out the big blocks of work in sequence (not the minute details). Then, just focus on the next brick in front of you.

For instance, if I never created space first and got my actual job under control, I could not find the time to set up my LLC. If I didn't have my LLC I couldn't get paid, and so forth.

So, let me ask you . . .

If you're daydreaming about a way out, and you just read this roadmap from someone who has done it, what is the next brick you need to lay to move closer to that dream coming into focus?

Just look at that brick, and banish any other thoughts about how you "can't do it."

Those are just obstacles we don't have to worry about yet. You know what to do next.

Here's to becoming unbreakable,


Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

1. If you're a senior corporate professional that needs a big shakeup, apply for my ​Unbreakable Career Design Lab​!

2. Get in the conversation on Linkedin. Messages are open - anyone can say hi here.

3. Promote your brand/business to 14k+ subscribers by sponsoring our newsletter contact (Booked out 4 weeks)

Resources To Make Your BREAK

  • Curated Job Board: I teamed up with Pallet to create a tech focused, remote first board. I’d love it if you joined 20+ followers. Maybe, just maybe you’ll find your next big opportunity here.

  • Career Quiz: Take the Advantage Mapping step of learning how you're wired and for what roles!

  • Recommended Reading: My list of must reads to BREAK your view of the world and what's possible for you.

  • Side Hustle Database: Over 200+ ideas to bring out your creative side as you explore your path. Maybe it will end up being your BREAK!

You made it to the end! Hopefully you learned something about breaking your career today! If so, please share this with someone you care about.

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