Searching for the Formula for Success

Following your dreams is… hard. I used to believe that as long as your intentions were good and you were putting in as much effort as possible, the end result will come. I grew up around entrepreneurs – just about every adult I knew, had their own successful business; it just seemed so easy. I never saw what happened behind the curtain – the money worries; the hours working after everyone went to sleep; the tough decisions. Apparently I romanticized entrepreneurship – who knew that was possible?

The Formula to Turn Your Dream into a Success

I have approached every journey from the perspective of adding value to my life and in turn, to others. I want to share all of the knowledge and insider information I have, to help others achieve their own dreams. My intentions are good, and the effort is there, but reality is… disappointing and lagging behind a bit. I was searching for the formula:

Have skill A + read book B + network with C + put in effort D = DESIRED RESULT/SUCCESS

I was convinced that the world would rise up and greet me on my mission and reward me for completing the above formula when I set-out on my own. Last week when I was a bit down about the whole process, I was telling a dear friend of mine my formulaic approach, when it hit me: the formula I was following had led me to success… in CORPORATE AMERICA!!! Yeah, my jaw dropped at my obtuseness, too. When you work in that type of environment, you know exactly what you need to do to succeed (if you aren’t seeing the moving pieces, let’s chat – I’ll be happy to share them with you). But when you’re stepping onto your own path, the paths for success and failure are broadened.

There is not one singular formula for success on your journey to your dream job, especially if it’s venturing out on your own. Instead, as I’ve learned and continue to learn each and every day, it’s about being prepared by having the skills, understanding what’s worked for others through books, connecting (even when it’s uncomfortable) with the right people, put in more effort than you ever imagined possible, AND being agile enough to apply feedback and change directions, and eventually… stop looking for a formula. Your dream job is uniquely yours. Yes that person may have landed five clients by doing a speaking engagement; perhaps another person may have increased their website traffic by PPC advertising; and someone else switched careers seamlessly because they tweaked their resume appropriately… but what worked for them, will not work for you because life and work, are not one-size fits all.

Lose the formula mentality and BE YOU. Pioneer your own career path and earn success your own way.

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Moving Forward without the End Result in Mind

I am a type A person. It’s a label that has been thrown at me: sometimes to offend or insult me, but usually in acknowledgement of getting things done. It used to be a dirty word to me, or a character flaw, but it is who I am. I’m always pushing, driving, completing, inpatient. It has worked in my favor most of the time, but it has definitely gotten in the way on my path to my dream job.

When I was finally ready to make a choice about my career, I found myself frozen. In my mind I knew exactly what I wanted… not to be in a corporate job, but I had nothing else formulated. I was stuck in analysis paralysis. So instead, I created a web of “if, then” activities to help move me along. My plan looked a bit like this:

  • If I quit my job, then I can start figuring out my business
  • If I figure out my business, then I need to get certified/education
  • If I complete certification, then I need to determine my niche
  • If I determine my niche, then I can write a business plan

I think you see the pattern here. I set myself up for failure while hiding behind stagnation. I absolutely refused to move forward on any task, without completing everything in a linear fashion or having all of the answers lined up and ready to go. I have no clue why I thought that – it’s not how I typically approached the world; it’s definitely not how I approached work-related decisions/actions, but I was uncertain about how to move forward without having all of the minute details of the end result, all laid out with a pretty bow on it.  

I had a million ideas of what I wanted to do. I knew what my skills were. But I literally could not put pen to paper on any other item, until I ticked off the action item prior to it. And I accomplished nothing. People around me wanted to hear what my plan was. What I was going to do? What is my new business? I remember explaining to someone that my plan after quitting was going to be “to plan what I wanted to do.” And I honestly set-out to do that! And I failed.

Starting Something… Somehow

But here’s what I learned. You don’t need to know what the end result looks like – in fact, you may be at a disadvantage if you have everything planned out perfectly. Instead, I just started… in the middle. I thought about who I wanted to interact with; I brainstormed business names; I designed website samples; I created a list of things I love doing. I just started. Each mini-step, and sometimes they were miniscule, brought me closer to figuring out what my dream job was. I did not need to complete things by a checklist and I did not need to know where exactly I was going, it was the act of doing; the momentum of starting; the engagement with thinking; that ignited my broad view of my dream job.  

The end result, once you get there, will always be wildly different and bigger than you ever could imagine – so dare I say, it’s almost impossible to have it ready with a bow, before you take your first step? There will be no then, if you don’t start with ONE if.

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My Sister the Fashion Designer

imagine (finished) 1Everything Starts from Your Imagination

I was lucky enough to grow up in a family with a lot of kids – as an adult, I feel blessed to be able to look at my four siblings and learn from each of them. We are all very different in so many ways, but we are also from the same house, they are my peeps and often reluctant sounding boards.

My youngest sister has always been the most different from me, almost un-relatable, ok dare I say it – there were times that I thought she could be from a different planet. I am innately so type A and a driver, and she’s always been a creative dreamer. If we’re being honest, I thought she was irresponsible at times, perhaps a bit flighty, and definitely unrealistic. All of the qualities that I had a preconceived notion of, that would prevent success. During my sabbatical from Corporate America, I finally allowed myself to talk to her in-depth about her career and life choices. My sister the fashion designer, changed my life (and she didn’t even know it).

Choosing Your Career When One Hasn’t Chosen You Yet

I was stuck thinking work HAD TO BE a certain way. I had to commute to a building I hated; I had to earn as much money as possible and then ask for even more; I had to interact with people who I ethically clashed with; I had to listen to bosses who had merely sat in a certain seat for a period of time; I had to keep climbing and climbing even though I hated every second of it. It sounds so trite looking back at it, but it was my reality at the time. I HAD to do these things because I was the responsible one. When I called my sister and asked her about fashion, where she was going with it and what was next. I just HAD to know what her five year plan was, how she was going to pay her bills, how she could love her job and act so irresponsibly (in my perspective from afar). She laughed – an honest-to-goodness laugh and then asked me one question: “I don’t understand. If you hate your job, why do you do it everyday?” Yes, I’ve thought that many times before, but what followed was how SHE approached work – it was a non-planned approach really, she just did it (and didn’t see another alternative – she clearly had found her passion).

She had doors slammed in her face, she had to live with roommates, money was tight at times, she had to put up with fussy designers and even fussier clients; but her world didn’t implode around her. She paid her bills, had an amazing social life (I still don’t hold a candle to hers), and lived without regrets about anything. Her approach was SO DIFFERENT than mine, it was almost foreign. Through that one conversation I realized that there are millions of people who don’t follow the “corporate ladder predetermined path” of work and are still very successful. And I don’t mean those people we see on TV or the random one-in-a-million success stories. I know a whole bunch of people who consciously chose their own path and career, without second-guessing if their parents were supportive; what the neighbors would say; how it would look; and so on. They are my baristas at Starbucks who work there to help supplement their music; they are the people so passionate about their job at the Container Store that they stayed on for over 20 years; they are an artist who refuses to give up on his talent; they are MY SISTER – who grew up in the same house as I did, and never once thought about NOT being a fashion designer. What in the world was holding ME back?

From that one conversation, my preconceived notions about my options, my family, my sister, and success, were all turned upside down in the most enlightening way possible. I saw that I had made many choices to get me to that job I had loathed, but I was finally at the place where I was able to  make the choice to get off the treadmill to follow something else. I saw my family was supportive, not indulgent as I had seen it before – if they supported my sister following her dream without question, surely they would be open-minded about mine (more about this in another post!). And my sister the fashion designer, became my INSPIRATION, my biggest silent supporter, and reignited my imagination.

When I’m struggling, I remind myself to be more like her, and I urge you to do the same.

Beautiful Photo Credit (handmade quilling) by: Erin Casner

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