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Perhaps life is not a race to the top of the ladder.
I like to think of life as more of a ladder laid flat on the ground; it’s one that you step back and forth between the rungs, like gym class in eighth grade. “Ladder drills” are all about the pivot, the dexterity of movement finessed through agility and light, quick feet.
I always found myself getting lost in those steps, tapping my feet to a cadence in my head, keeping myself focused on the present moment. Whenever I would think too far ahead, taking a peek at how many rungs were left on the drill, I would falter.
Life is lost when we fret ourselves with getting to the final destination. It’s all about the little missteps and recoveries we learn from along the way. Yes, the journey is all-important.
I find that our modern way of living has had a giant impact on influencing our perception of what makes our journey important, and what is just “filler.” Swanky homes and fast cars fill us up for a temporary amount of time, but beneath our new possessions’ fading allure, life becomes a shell of its true meaning.
When we orient ourselves toward chasing after an endless supply of new and shiny things, we lose sight of ourselves and what we stand for. Materialism then becomes a character flaw, something we resort to in an effort to mask feelings of inadequacy; the filling up of our cart is a poor substitute for filling our hearts with finding our passion and purpose.
I mistook the acquisition of “stuff” for purpose and meaning after landing an opportunity to make more money than I had ever had in my life. I had new clothes, nice shoes, gourmet kitchen accessories, top-of-the-line yoga gear, and designer perfume. It was endless.
I could suddenly afford anything I had ever wanted (at the expense of washing all of my time and creative energy down the drain). I’ve concluded that there are only two types of working people in the world: people who enjoy working to earn their freedom, and people who prefer to stay free.
“Do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” ~ Marc Anthony
I am someone who falls into the latter category. Of course, I do value hard work, and everything required to be successful. I’ve worked a variety of jobs since I was 15 years old, but had never fallen into such a perilous cycle of self-doubt and financial sabotage as when I was handed the keys to the kingdom (corporate America) before understanding it came at a price.
Before I knew it, months at this “temporary” job had bled into years, and suddenly I was faced with the reality that if I truly wanted to change my life, I would have to walk away from the money. Stress was killing me, and most of it was unnecessary pressure I put upon myself to live up to the constant expectations to grow our company more and make even more money than the year before. I started dreaming in profit and loss statements—corporate soundbites made their way into my daily conversations.
If I could just go back to that winter morning of looking over my contract, with the impressive salary beckoning me in the door, I think I could muster the courage to say “no.” But then, I wouldn’t be where I am now. We all make choices in life, and that was mine then—I’d choose differently now.
As fate would have it, those initial stages of my life taught me the importance of staying true to myself, no matter what I do for work, and no matter how impossible my dreams seem to the outside. I will always put my creative passions and talents first. Being an artist—a person who works to share their creativity—is my passion and purpose.
Of course, it is a lot more work and truly challenging at times to be my own boss. But to no longer have the weight and pressure to perform for someone else’s bottom line is a massive relief. (I also do not miss the high heels.)
Taking the leap of faith over a year ago—to walk away from a 9-5 to follow my heart—was terrifying, but it also exhilarated me in ways that would make my fearless, childhood self proud. I have realized that it is worth more to pour all of my efforts into monetizing my own dreams in the long run.
Here are three little tidbits of advice that help me stay grounded and determined, no matter how challenging life seems:
Fail as many times as necessary, but don’t ever give up.
Fail at your first business. Fail at your second one, too. The third time is a charm, as they say.
My first two iterations of my current business were completely “unsuccessful,” by which I mean, they didn’t reach anyone because I was too afraid to put myself out there. I think there’s even a term for that now, “imposter syndrome,” but I know now that it’s okay to share my bold and beautiful talents with the world. It is our right as creative human beings to share our talents and inspire.
So, think of yourself as your own biggest supporter, above all. Also, asking your mom to share on her Facebook page every once and a while never hurts either! We all start somewhere.
2. Stop comparing yourself to other people on social media, or anywhere—ever.
Back in July, I decided that it was time for a social media cleanse. I deleted Instagram from my phone and quit my scrolling habit—cold-turkey. It was liberating. No more wondering if my creative juices measured up to anyone else’s, because I had no clue; zero idea.
I highly recommend staying off of social media when you’re growing your business, or even if you’re just having a rough day. I only hop on every once and a while to share a photo with a caption and some hashtags, maybe. The slow-and-steady-growth game is where it’s at.
Quality over quantity community is more important than a slew of “followers”. This is the same reason I’d rather work with a select few meaningful clients versus thousands of people mindlessly “liking” and whizzing on by.
So, be intentional; be genuine; be you. Nobody else has what you have, so share that. Comparison is useless.
3. Kindness is currency.
If you aren’t already aware of your passion or purpose right now, don’t let negative people in your life encourage you to play the victim and accept a small version of your life to suit their ideals. You may realize that you lose friends while building a better version of yourself, but I promise that the right friends will find you when the timing is right.
Our right-alignment, compassion-based vibrational energy is infectious. Some say negativity is too, but the power of kindness is stronger (and can be felt more easily). So, instead of getting sucked into a negative mindset, gossip, or any other forms of lower-vibrational exchange, be kind—to everyone. (Try starting with yourself.)
Now go forth and be amazed by the contours and textures of your life again! If all else fails, or you find yourself riddled with self-doubt, practice some gentle yoga, get a massage, or just sit down on the floor and breathe.
Everything will be okay. Start small and keep dreaming big.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale