Pivot Profile: Kary Oberbrunner
Kary Oberbrunner is an accomplished author, speaker, and coach. He is the founder of Author Academy Elite, a program dedicated to helping authors see their dreams in print. Prior to this, Kary was a pastor and made his pivot in 2012.
You had a lot of success in the ministry world. Why pivot?
I was a pastor for twelve years, beginning in 2000. I had a Master in Divinity and a Doctorate. I was the least likely candidate to go into business. Yet now looking back I realize I am hardwired as an entrepreneur.Now, I’m not a crier. Some people are and I respect them for that. I, on the other hand, have probably cried less than five times in my adult life.
One of those times was on May 18, 2010. After serving nine years as a pastor, I turned in my resignation. With a wife and three children under age five, I felt unprepared to enter the world of unemployment—hence the tears. That afternoon I found myself sitting in my director’s office, emotionally informing him I couldn’t accept my promotion with complete integrity.
You resigned … over a promotion?
Yep. See, in ministry, sometimes they appoint a successor prematurely. I felt honored, but the catch was that the succession was like ten years away. I wasn’t comfortable making a long-term commitment. I also had reservations about the position overall.
Despite taking a bold stand for integrity, I’m a little embarrassed to say I came close to begging for severance. I needed time to figure out how to launch my dream. Thankfully, I had a gracious boss and an understanding director who allowed me to keep serving on staff despite refusing the promotion.
I stayed in my day job another two years, giving the organization my best effort. I truly loved the people I served. But at the same time, I knew my day job wasn’t my final destination.
What was the most important action you took after that?
I began to grow myself. In the beginning, many people make the mistake of focusing on building their platforms instead of building themselves. Whatever’s inside you (the good, the bad, the ugly) will be broadcasted in a bigger way when you’re standing on a bigger platform.
This reality shouldn’t scare you because nobody’s perfect. However, this awareness should point you in the most important direction—the mirror. If you want to grow your platform, you must grow yourself.
In those subsequent two years I increased my awareness. I also accumulated massive clarity around how to increase personal value in the marketplace and create passive income.
Looking back on that time in 2010, I now realize I am forever unemployable. Today I enjoy new benefits as an entrepreneur and I live according to a new set of rules.
[clickToTweet tweet=”If you want to grow your platform, you must grow yourself. @karyoberbrunner ” quote=”If you want to grow your platform, you must grow yourself. @karyoberbrunner”]
Despite staying on another two years, it sounded like your heart was set on something new. How does someone know it’s “time” to leave?
Months before I left my day job, I remember chatting with one of my mentors, John Maxwell. From our conversation, I drew the following conclusions:
The Right Time to Leave—A Good Type of Restlessness:
1. When you’ve fulfilled your calling.
2. When you’re being pulled toward improvement.
3. When you’re embracing a new assignment.
4. When you’ve reached your potential.
5. When you’ve learned as much as you can from the people around you.
The Wrong Time to Leave—A Bad Type of Restlessness:
1. When you’re bored.
2. When you’re running from improvement.
3. When you’re escaping your current assignment.
4. When you haven’t paid the price.
5. When you think you’re better than the people around you.
John said, “Remember, don’t move anywhere else until you’ve done the best where you are.” Ouch! But because I had done my best at my day job, I realized my departure was inevitable. Even though I knew this, my organization didn’t. Preparing to make this announcement felt incredibly difficult.
Because I had a visible role as a pastor, I needed to communicate my departure to all one thousand members at once.
You can imagine the fear I felt. Forget slipping out the back door! I had to announce my escape from a stage—literally. During the week of my announcement many thoughts went through my head. When I thought about disappointing people, I felt panic. Yet when I thought about pleasing God, I felt peace.
The day of the announcement went better than expected. My wife, Kelly, stood by my side in support. To our surprise, at the conclusion of the news the entire organization cheered and gave us a standing ovation.
Funny, huh? The only standing ovation I ever received in my life came the moment I announced I was leaving. But all joking aside, their genuine appreciation strengthened my confidence in a very emotional moment.
What shift in mindset would you recommend to people that want to make a pivot?
Adopt the mindset of what I call a Functional Freelancer, even if you’re “traditionally employed.” Instead of maintaining a posture of dependence on your job, adopt a posture of self-employment. See your day job as a client, much the way a freelancer would. That changes the game because now you’re internally motivated to succeed, rather than being externally motivated by others.
Seeing yourself as anything other than a Functional Freelancer creates prison-like conditions. The way you see yourself, regardless of your job title, matters.
When people adopt a Functional Freelancer mindset, something exciting often happens. They begin to see their current employer as one large billable client. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The way you see yourself, regardless of your job title, matters. @karyoberbrunner” quote=”The way you see yourself, regardless of your job title, matters. @karyoberbrunner “]
What would you say to someone that is thinking of making a pivot, but still on the fence?
There’s much more at stake than simply you. It’s a deal that even eclipses your loved ones. Staying disengaged in your day job is quite possibly the most selfish action available because when you delay your dream job, you also delay life change in other people.
That thought certainly didn’t cross my mind when I sat crying in my director’s office back in 2010. All I could think about was my family and their needs. My mind fixated on everything I was about to give up. As much as I’d like to pretend otherwise, my thoughts weren’t focused on the future readers of my books or the future members of my online programs. Since then I’ve matured. I realize my journey is much bigger than me.
[clickToTweet tweet=”When you delay your dream job, you also delay life change in other people. @karyoberbrunner” quote=”When you delay your dream job, you also delay life change in other people. @karyoberbrunner “]
Introducing The Pivot Profiles, a ‘magazine’ featuring 18 real-life pivot success stories, just like Kary’s. It’s yours, absolutely free.
The singular goal of this magazine is to give you a wide array of people, personalities, and pivots for you to identify with. This is a powerhouse group. The folks inside hail from a variety of industries: huge corporations, small business, radio, military, ministry, government, academia; the list goes on. We even have a former park ranger!
Some of them launched into solopreneur ventures; others started companies. One left business to enter the ministry, while others left the ministry to go into business. It’s all here.