From Graphic Designer to Adventurer, Speaker and Author

“The thought of wasting my life doing something I didn't enjoy dramatically shifted my focus.”

From Graphic Designer to Adventurer, Speaker and Author

Think you can make a career out of paddling the length of the Mississippi? How about skateboarding across Australia? For Dave Cornthwaite, these activities are just 'another day at the office'. No wonder graphic design just wasn't enough of a challenge... Read on to find out how he made his change.

What work were you doing previously?

I was a graphic designer for the two years following University, designing websites, newspapers, and advertising.

What are you doing now?

I'm an adventurer, author and motivational speaker. I also run a clothing brand called Say Yes More.

Why did you change?

I wanted to do justice to my potential as a human being! My work back then didn't involve much creativity, I wasn't being tested and I was very much in my comfort zone. The thought of wasting my life doing something I didn't enjoy was enough of a boost to force me to make a drastic shift in focus.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I woke up on the morning of my 25th birthday and realised I was utterly miserable. From that point on I had an open mind along with the knowledge that I had to make a change. A few months later I got myself a long skateboard to try and improve my snowboarding skills. Within two weeks I'd quit my job and decided I was going to skateboard further than anyone else had ever skated.

Are you happy with the change?

In a word, yes!

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I don't miss a thing. I was in transition for about four years, slowly learning what I should compromise to move forward positively. I haven't had a job since early 2005, I still don't know when my next paycheque is coming, but I've got about six or seven things on at any given time and I wake up every morning knowing I'm going to have an epic day.

I DON'T miss having a schedule, being comfortable, wasting my money on shiny things and DVDs. I'm free!

How did you go about making the shift?

It started with a decision that it was necessary. Slowly I cut down on my outgoings to decrease my need to earn, then I used the extra time that gave me to develop new skills that I enjoyed.

How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?

I lived off my savings for a while, designed the odd website independently, and eventually became fully sustainable doing things that I loved - more specifically, writing and speaking. I live really cheaply now, live out of a bag and am constantly on the move. It's cheaper than renting all year!

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Making the decision to change. I was going to be heading out into the unknown and that was scary, but as soon as you go head to head with your fears they usually shrink away — as do all the naysayers saying 'you can't give up a good income to skateboard across Australia!

What help did you get? 

My friends and family loaned me beds and couches for a good while. My early sponsors have continued to work with me through the years. Making a difference always comes down to people. It took me to make the change, but what has happened wouldn't have occurred without the support of others.

What have you learnt in the process?

That by breaking down the fears and obstacles that once stopped me doing new things, I opened up a world of possibilities. Comfort kills ambition!

What do you wish you'd done differently?

I don't think I'd have done anything differently. Sometimes things don't go quite right and sure, maybe I could have done something better or differently here and there, but we're the sum of all of our experiences. I'm content with my ride.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Say yes more. Just get out there and make the most of every moment. Be creative. Get ambitious.

What resources would you recommend to others?

www.ted.com is invaluable. You can't help but get inspired by the lectures on there.

How can find out more about Dave's adventures and projects at davecornthwaite.com

What lessons could you take from Dave's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below. 

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org.