Hitchhiking on Someone Else’s Dream

A few weeks ago, a friend told me of a business he wanted to start: an online archery shop.

I wanted in.

It was easy to imagine myself in charge and building an incredible company. More than anything else, I imagined all of the content I could create for the world, particularly for young girls interested in archery. I had such good ideas.

But the dream wasn’t mine. I was hitchhiking on his dream.

It wasn’t the first time I had done this. I’ve lost myself in teachers’ plans for me, the requirements of companies I worked for, the expectations of graduate school.

I remembered standing in my graduate advisor’s office, as he told me that I needed to give up my hobbies if I wanted to be a philosopher, that I needed to dedicate more time (subtext: all my time) to this career. It was then I decide I was done trying to please other people.

I left grad school, got a job, and started working. I tried to excel but there was no place for initiative. I tried to fit in but I felt entirely out of place in a company where everything was wrapped in red tape. I was told I wasn’t quite meeting expectations. It was then I was done with not being myself.

I wanted freedom – to travel when I wanted to, to dress in a way that expressed who I am, to live wherever I’d like, to take time off when I need to, to be myself – my full, vibrant self.

I considered what working on this archery shop would look like for me. It wouldn’t be mine, not properly, and there would be new expectations. So I asked myself,

Why hitchhike on someone else’s dream
when I can dream something even better for myself?

Precisely.

Capturing A Moment

December was a difficult month for me: I moved to a city where I didn’t know anyone, in hopes it would be a better fit for me; my then-boyfriend and I broke up; and my cat Marty had emergency surgery when it became clear there was a growth in his stomach, causing him a lot of pain. It was this last piece of news that hit me the hardest — I was just really learning how to love this cat, adopted from a shelter by an ex-boyfriend, then stolen by me when it was clear he wasn’t being treated well. At the beginning he had been stand-offish and always pretty independent. But he had changed in the months before the surgery. I had changed too.

The surgery went well, but the prognosis wasn’t good. The vet gave him a month.

It’s been four.

I know I don’t have forever, but I do have this time.

And I wanted it captured, with me in it. I’ve typically been the one snapping photos, but really wanted some of me with my cats. My friend Carrie came by and took a few photos for me.

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There are days that harder and days that are great. I don’t always know which it will be. My work sometimes falls a bit behind, because I need to be present more with my cats than with emails or my blog. But I am where I need to be, and that matters most to me — and to them, I suspect.

Becoming an Essentialist

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown stood on my nightstand for weeks. It was a nightly reminder of how I have been wanting to shift things in my life.

It all comes down to this: “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

Our lives are filled with such informational clutter. Physical clutter too. We collect news articles on Flipboard, old pairs of jeans that we swear we’ll fit into again someday, email subscriptions (because we needed that free offer and never thought to unsubscribe even though we don’t even read those emails) — the list goes on.

Somewhere in the process of accumulating (and wanting to feel like we’re keeping up), our freedom and our clarity are lost. Not permanently so, but we forget them in the piles in our heads and in our homes.

Essentialism provided a series of perfect notes reminding me that an extra hour of sleep mean more productivity, not less; that if it isn’t a clear yes, it’s a clear no; and that with limits and boundaries we become limitless.

As much as we’ve been heard that ‘less is more’, the concept takes time to integrate. This book does a brilliant job of helping with those illustrations, and at the end, I was sold on being an essentialist in everything I do.

For me, the biggest struggle is the art of the graceful no — or how to say yes to the things that really matter. It’s not that I forget what really matters, only that I love helping people so much in my business, I sometimes fail to see the trade-off — what free time I might be losing by taking on another project. My new mantra? “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” Those extra moments of reflection are key for creating space.

Obviously, there’s so much more I could talk about and dive into here, I’ll let you find the gems that suit you perfectly. I guarantee, by the end, you’ll be transforming into an Essentialist too.

On Amazon: Essentialism

From Novice to Expert

Last week, I received an email from Patrick (okay, I’ve totally changed his name, just to protect his privacy), who saw my job posting online. Rather than applying for the job, Patrick asked me about how to go from novice to expert — without a degree. He had noticed that I was self-taught and wanted to do the same.

Patrick explained that he’s moving to Virginia with his wife who was offered a great position. He’s spent the past few years working as a Project Manager for a company that handles some website work. With his upcoming movie, he decided that he wants to jump into the world of working online, and asked me how he could go from complete novice to a solopreneur developer.

My first question was “Why do you want to?” I could have laid out a clear path for him, but I believe the worst thing we can do is choose a job because it’s convenient. Frankly, if coding makes you giddy, if you love solving puzzles and organizing involved mathematical problems, you might make a great developer. But just because you want to work from home in this digital age does not mean you should be a website developer, nor is it the only path open to you.

We live in this awesome world where we can create positions that have never existed before, some of which can be done remotely. I love that.

My background prepared me for development work: I have a bachelors in Physics and a minor in Mathematics (which was only a few classes short of a major). My first coding course was at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. But more importantly, I’m killer at organization and a natural puzzle solver. Coding is a zone of excellence for me because my real Genius Zones make it possible.

That’s what I asked Patrick — what were his Genius Zones? I suggested he look at those and his past experience, then consider what position he could create for himself that he would love. That’s what he should be an expert at, because he’s been on that path all along.

There are days I feel like I’m only really beginning to understand my Genius Zones and where they’re taking me, and I’m okay with that. I like the adventure. And I really love helping other people on their paths too.

What we can create ourselves, what we can create together is incredible.

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Credits

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.