I’ve been struggling for a while to write this installment in my series.
In fact, this is my fourth restart to the fourth installment, the last one being in August, nearly 5 months ago…
Back when I was still ferociously dreaming of all the things I would accomplish before the year ended and the clock struck midnight…
Back when I was spreading my visions, my confidence, my intentions through the universe like wildfire to whoever and whatever would listen.
Because for the first time in my life, I knew this was my path and I wouldn’t fail this time.
I just knew it.
I knew it because for the first time in my life, the hairs on my skin pulsed with energy as I started realizing that every storm I had to go through was pushing me towards this path.
I knew it because for the first time in my life, I stopped wondering what my purpose was.
I thought I knew that this new path would come easily, like everything else I put my mind to. But August turned into September, which somehow morphed into November, where I lost myself in a world I was creating for my very first novel.
Yeah. My very first novel. I still get the chills saying that. It’s been a dream for many years to write a book.
So I ate, slept, and wrote for 30 days as the world ceased to exist around me.
But when December showed up without warning, when my first draft of my first novel was finally complete, I had my first dose of reality.
I was not my main character. My main character was me.
My main character was based on me. But I wasn’t her. She was someone I hoped to become one day: courageous, curious, brave.
The fourth installment has been nagging me for months to be written. It’s been at the top of my to-do list for the last month.
But I couldn’t.
I wasn’t ready. This story arc wasn’t ready for its spotlight.
Because when I crafted the final word in my first novel, I wasn’t where I wanted to be.
I wasn’t who I dreamed I was becoming. I wasn’t close to accomplishing anything I told the universe I was going to accomplish.
I was a fraud.
And it was no one else’s fault but my own.
I couldn’t stop getting in my own damn way. I was putting myself into a box based on what I thought I needed to become.
So I did something my main character might have done and took off the entire last week of 2021. I did nothing but eat, read, and watch Hallmark movies while my husband watched every football game he could get his eyes on.
For an entire week, I blocked out anything to do with business, and I just existed.
I slept in. I stayed up late. I tried my hand at a couple of puzzles (still not a puzzle person FYI).
I finally found the umph to clean my house and purge some doom piles that were piling up.
Man, that felt liberating.
Side note: I double-dog dare you to sort and organize one of your doom piles. The clarity you will feel afterward is like breathing pure air in a forest nowhere near society. Curious what a doom pile is? Click here. Please note that you don’t have to have ADHD to have doom piles. Everyone is capable of building a doom pile.
Anyways, for an entire week, I just enjoyed time with my family. I laughed so hard I had temporary abs somewhere under my extra fluff.
I made resolutions that are still going strong as I flew past International Quitters Day.
But most importantly, I gave myself the time to find where my heart lay.
Christmas Day marked 6 months
When I closed the tab on my first novel, I did something I never thought I could do.
I sent my baby, the world I created, to a few pre-beta readers. I trusted them to give me the truth about whether my book is something worth editing, polishing, and publishing
Each time I copy + pasted + sent the link, I swung another blow to the remaining mental bullshit I was hiding behind.
I didn’t know it then. It took me a while to realize the power of what I had just done. It took me a while to find the door that my 80K-word novel opened for me.
Because the day after I closed the tab, the universe laughed and I fell into an existential crisis.
A sense of doom and dread infiltrated my bones. And I questioned whether what I was doing — taking the leap and sacrificing steady income — was the right call.
You see, when I took a leap of faith to pursue my dreams, nothing could bring me down. I was ready to grab my future by the reigns and soar like never before.
I was going to be this badass that didn’t back down from a challenge because my ideas were brilliant. I just knew it.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but I’m not one to lie.
I was naive. I am a “glass full with half oxygen, half water” type of person, so I felt invincible.
I wholeheartedly believed that I would be able to find clients with a simple hello and a friendly conversation.
Boy, was I naive…
As a writer, I have written more in the last 6 months than I have in years.
But as a business owner with a negative income and zero clients, I failed.
Or have I?
My main character would agree to disagree.
Failure is only negative if you make it negative
As a business owner, I have failed. And I am OK with that.
Does it suck to have your main bank account be forced to close because you don’t have the funds to pay back a $309 overdraft?
But it’s a life lesson that I needed to learn.
I have recently discovered the philosophy of the Stoics, and to my surprise, I’d already been on the road to becoming a Stoic without realizing it.
In a nutshell, describing Stoicism is damn near difficult. It’s a way of life, of being, of believing, of doing, of becoming.
“The tranquility that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do.” said Marcus Aurelius
Taking a leap of faith, reaching for your dreams, is nothing short of courageous and brave.
But not everyone’s leap is smooth like butter with a slight enough breeze to keep you gliding along your path, with a beautiful sunset you can watch as you progress.
Some of our leaps are like jumping off a cliff only to have our shoelaces snag on a root, causing you to bounce off every rocky ledge on the way down. To land, you’re forced to choose between leaping for a vine or keeping on bouncing.
Every leap is different. That’s not to say one way is better than another. That’s just to say that your leap is exactly what you need it to be, to learn what the universe needs you to learn.
I had to struggle on finding my niche, my special mix, my juicy offers, my unique position in a field that may be new to me but is perpetually growing in popularity.
The Stoics would say that if I wasn’t challenged, I wouldn’t change. I wouldn’t become my best self. I wouldn’t accomplish what I was meant to accomplish.
I had to struggle to pay my bills by the last minute before services are cut.
I had to struggle to believe in myself.
I had to struggle because my leap needed me to cut through some deeply held mental bullshit that I had been unknowingly carrying around for 34 years.
Like imposter syndrome. And having my own inner Negative Nancy (who now has a friend btw, Positive Polly). Ohplusalso, I was forced to trust myself.
And when you are a child raised by Narcissistic parents, trusting yourself can feel like touching kryptonite before you become immune.
When I took a leap, I gave myself (and my amazingly supportive family) a year before rejoining the corporate world.
I am halfway through that self-imposed deadline. And I am proud to say that I haven’t made a single penny.
Proud because I am no longer embarrassed. Proud because for the first time in my life, I have proven to myself that if it’s something that matters to me, I will not back down, I will not run, I will not hide when shit hits the fan.
Because in all honesty, I have never been more content with life.
I have never been more at peace with who I am. And I have never been more clear, confident, and excited about the path in front of me.
As a business owner, I failed.
But as a human, I am healing.
The main character in my novel (that is so weird to be saying, but I like it) is a burnt-out mother who is exhausted, still mourning the loss of her best soul-sister/friend, and on a quest to feel happiness again.
As this world I crafted evolved, so did I. And as the story came to a conclusion, I became my main character.
My main character had to make a decision that would forever alter her world. And so did I.
If I hadn’t put my raw pain, my heart and soul, into that book, I wouldn’t have had an existential crisis that turned me into a couch pancake for a few days.
And if I didn’t have that existential crisis, I wouldn’t have finally understood how I am being called to help my fellow humans.
My main character finally helped me accept who I am at my core.
My main character helped me come to terms with what I already knew: that I wanted to help people heal so they could become their best versions.
To show that no matter your walk of life, you are not alone.
I knew I wanted to write and I wanted to get paid to write, but I didn’t know how my life experiences could be wrapped up in a beautifully convincing package that people would pay for.
They say the only way past is through. It took me 4 days of putting myself through near-constant mental warfare to piece everything together.
I forced myself to write everything down, to find connections that weren’t obvious. I stayed up late writing down every little thought and fact and opinion in a journal I didn’t let out of my sight.
It took four days of mental hell. But the outcome was worth every moment.
Because the outcome is who I am.
My authentic self: someone that is on her way to making every one of her dreams come true. But this time, with a tablespoon of reality mixed in. Exactly what my main character was trying to tell me.
As a business owner, I had failed.
But as an author, I finally found the right words to express everything that had been floating in my brain. Words that were once disconnected from reality because of some mental bullshit I needed to clear out.
What changed? Everything
I have struggled to write this fourth installment because everything has changed and my soul wasn’t ready to put into words the transformation it has gone through in just six of the longest shortest months I have ever had.
As I write this, I just took out the final load of laundry that had been piling up around the house for over a year at this point.
And I legit don’t know how to feel about that. Exhausted that only my husband’s dirty socks litter the floor, or thankful I finally had the motivation to get through the dirty doom piles of stinkiness encroaching on my personal space.
But as I write this, I know I am right where I am supposed to be.
For the first time, I finally found what I was searching for… what my main character was searching for…
The elusive “balance”…
And the understanding that everything I’ve incorporated into my life is what got me here and will take me further.
Because this is a journey. And destinations are just mileposts along the way.
As a business owner, I failed.
But as a business owner, if I caved at the first sight of failure, I wouldn’t feel this depth of confidence coursing through my veins.
Something I have never felt in my 34 years on this planet. Something I didn’t know I could feel.
Because everything changed. And nothing at the same time.
Before my existential crisis, I knew I was a natural problem solver. I could see solutions in places where others don’t. I could play the best devil’s advocate while also helping you reach and touch the stars.
I can see the stars through the clouds, the silver lining in the storm, the light in the dark.
As I was writing my book, that was the only thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And maybe one day, when I am bringing in the dough, I might pivot.
But right now, I knew I was being called to help small business owners like me who were struggling. Who needed a shoulder to lean on, a sounding board to hear themselves talk.
Helping others find happiness is ironically part of what fueled my main character.
When you take a leap of faith, you do it because you know it’s the right decision. You know it’s what you need to do.
But visualizing the path that your leap is going to take may not reflect reality.
It may be messy, chaotic, disorganized, scary, lacking, colorless. It may be beautiful, magical, transformative, life-changing. But it could also be peaceful, calm, zen-like, ordinary.
Regardless of what it looks like, you will not recognize who you used to be.
Because the person standing in the mirror after you take a leap is who you were meant to be.
No. Scratch that.
The person looking back at you in the mirror is who you always were. The only difference is that you are finally in control.
And once you gain that control, everything starts clicking into place, one piece at a time, until suddenly, the entire puzzle is finished and the picture becomes clear.
To sell yourself is to believe in yourself. My main character figured that out.
As December grew darker, it was my turn to figure out how to break that final wall. My turn to break down that final mental bullshit barrier. And I finally figured out how to do just that.
How to find the silver lining in any situation
The only way I didn’t cave to that first notion of failure, the only way I didn’t end right back up in the corporate world was to find, and latch onto, any and every silver lining I could find.
It is the silver lining in the storm brewing that helps anchor you to your path. In fact, they are oftentimes the only thing that can keep you motivated to keep going.
“When things go wrong, don’t go with them” – Elvis Presley
But how do you find the silver lining when the world is spinning too fast around you?
F: Face fear
A: All the fear
L: Like you could suck all the oxygen out of the air
U: Using the lack of oxygen to pause fear so you can pass by, and
R: Rekindle your spark, because
E: Every fear, every failure, is only negative if you choose it to be.
Okay, that was fun but here are my real tips:
1. Fear, failure, fear of failure: they are all real
To find the silver linings, you must accept the emotions triggered, hold them close, get to the root cause, and untangle whatever is keeping you from finally soaring.
Are you afraid that people might ignore you? Scared that what you have to offer isn’t good enough? Terrified you will fail anyway, so why try?
Sorry to burst your bubble, my friend, but you are the only one that can share your perspective, and you will find the right audience, and sometimes they might find you. So stop overthinking it.
2. All paths have bumps
Roots run wild through the forest surrounding the new trail you are creating. To find the silver linings, you must understand that when you trip, when you risk falling backward, the roots will always be there.
That is something you cannot change. But what you can change is the power you give those roots to strangle your happiness.
You failed, so get up. Dust off your butt and your knees. Take a moment to see what might have caused you to fail, and then problem-solve to change a variable so it doesn’t happen next time.
3. Into the unknown is the only way to find the known
To find the silver linings, you must embrace the unknown for all that it is: dark and scary and unknown because you have yet to explore what’s possible.
If you need to belt out Let It Go while you are publishing your first business post looking for clients, then belt it. You don’t know what’s waiting for you on the other side. But it might just surprise you. Or, send you back to Tip #2 where you can try again.
4. Let yourself become uncomfortable
To find the silver linings, you must push yourself farther than you have ever pushed yourself.
We don’t learn anything when we are comfortable. Comfort foods are comfort foods for a reason. But as a business owner, you will need to overcome every obstacle placed in front of you. And some of those obstacles might require you to try calamari for the first time instead of chicken nuggets for the millionth.
It is in this uncomfortable place that you’ll find what you’re made of. The worst that can happen is that you throw it in the garbage and go back to Tip #2.
5. Under pressure, diamonds are made
To find the silver linings, you must be willing to risk it all and leave nothing on the table.
Leaving even a little piece of YOU behind will be the nightmare fuel that keeps you up at night. I know because I left a table full of ME behind for 6 months.
I’m not talking about working yourself to exhaustion. I’m talking about putting your best foot forward every. single. time.
I am talking about using your skills and your knowledge at every opportunity. Because practice makes progress. For instance, those boring emails you send to your kid’s teachers or boss add a little creative flair. It might just be the smile, the laugh, the story they need to hear to make their day a little better.
6. Recognize how far you have come from who you used to be
To find the silver linings, you must acknowledge that who you used to be is part of who you are now. But remember, who you used to be no longer controls who you are becoming.
Oh, and reframe. When you notice Negative Nancy coming in like a wrecking ball, reframe what’s happening so it’s no longer happening to you. A situation is only negative if you declare it so.
7. Each and every step you take means something
To find the silver linings, you must believe in yourself that every step forward, backward, and sideways is taken for a reason, that it wouldn’t be on your itinerary if it wasn’t pertinent to your journey.
And my favorite tip
To find the light in the dark, the silver lining in the storm, the solid ground in the quicksand, you must give yourself space to feel, to hurt, to breath, to love, to experience.
Give yourself the gift of being human, of making mistakes. In fact, the Stoics would tell you to plan for those mistakes, plan that they will happen and you will be ready with a Plan B.
But don’t you dare give up on your dreams.
If they are as important to you as I know they are, don’t give power to the fear of failure.
Because when you fully believe that you will succeed somehow, someway, you won’t be daunted.
When you aren’t daunted, nothing will stand in your way.
At the end of the day, we are all our own main characters. Destinations are just mileposts. And you have the power to make your journey as a human and business owner whatever you want it to be…
Whatever you need it to be.
Adventure on with curiosity, my friends,
~Kelly Steele, MBA