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How to turn your passion into a career, says 42-year-old who quit marketing to become a breakup coach

Courtesy Amy Chan

Amy Chan, 42, always thought she'd end up in marketing. And for the first 10 years or so of her career, she built herself up in that industry. But her passions lay elsewhere.

Chan began publicly sharing her romantic experience when she wrote about a breakup on Myspace at age 25. And the post resonated: "I had so many people reach out to me," she says. This was 2007 — people weren't quite sharing the most intimate details of their lives on the internet yet.

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Chan continued writing about relationships for her local newspaper, for her own blog, for national publications like the Huffington Post, even as she continued working in marketing by day. Along the way, "I had this idea for the breakup bootcamp," she says, a place where people who'd recently gone through a breakup could find solace and comfort together.

"I just kept thinking, like, what happens to people who don't have friends who will lend them a couch to stay on?" or "who don't know what books to read?" she says.

Despite writing out the vision for breakup bootcamp in 2015, "I was too scared" to make it happen immediately, she says. "So I just kept it and talked about it for a long time." But in retrospect, that was probably a mistake. There was no real reason not to make it happen.

That's why, now, her best advice for turning your passion into a career is "whatever it is," she says, "just launch it."

"The way the mind works is it's going to convince you all the reasons why you're not ready yet," she says. But you need to push through those negative thoughts.

At some point, Chan realized, "if I don't do it now, I'm not going to do it," she says.

If what you want to do seems too daunting to tackle all at once, instead of thinking about the whole project, break it down, she suggests.

"Just like what a writer does," she says. "You don't think about the 500 pages. You think about the first 50 words and then the next page." If you're making a career switch, that could mean reading an article about how to get that career started or reaching out to someone doing it for an informational interview. If you're launching a new venture, it could mean creating your project's first social media account and starting to build an audience.

You can also find an accountability partner to keep you on track or put down some sort of deposit for that first step. Both of these ultimately helped propel Chan forward: She found a psychologist to help her put on the bootcamp and booked the space.

Finally, in February 2017, she launched the first breakup bootcamp. It was a three-day, two-night stay on a private property in upstate New York including yoga and sessions with Chan and the psychologist.

At the end of the weekend, Chan looked around and thought, "I f------ did it," she says.

It started small ー "there was only seven people," she says, "and two of them were media. And two of them were friends." But it gave her the courage and boost to keep the bootcamps going. She now puts on a couple every year. 

Your idea won't necessarily play out the way you wanted and you don't have to launch every component of it at once. But by testing it out you can start to get your feet wet and figure out where to take it from there.

With the help of coverage in publications like Fortune and The Cut, Chan ended up getting the attention of a major talent agency. They laid out a potential career path as a breakup coach and, in August 2017, she finally left her job in marketing to launch into her relationship-oriented career full-time. Her first book deal was worth six figures.

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