An old friend of mine who runs a fabulous bakery and coffee shop recently contacted me about doing an event at the coffee shop. He’d seen that Mistaking Her Character and Remember the Past had won BRAG Medallions and wanted to help celebrate.
We got talking and one thing led to another. Before I knew it, we’d planned an afternoon tea during which he wanted me to speak on the subject of Following your Dreams.
Not surprisingly, it got me thinking about what bits of insight and wisdom I’d picked up along the way that were pivotal in my own journey to pursue writing full time. I got out my running shoes—I think best when I run—and started thinking. All in all, I think it took a total of fifteen to twenty miles to identify half a dozen essential insights that pushed my writing from dream to reality.
The first of these was simply: Say Yes.
Back in graduate school, I was fortunate enough to have professors who sought to give us advice for our professional lives, not just our academic ones. I remember one mentoring session when Dr. A. talked about her own career.
She recalled how when she graduated she was inundated by requests to speak on this topic or that, or run a training or workshop on some specific interest. She hardly felt prepared for any of it and was reluctant to accept. But as she began to accept the offers, she came to realize she was far better prepared and more capable than she realized. Thus, she told us to let our default answer be ‘yes’ and only resort to ‘no’ when there were overwhelming reasons to say so.
That stuck with me.
I had been raised in a setting where the default answer to everything was no: no you can’t; no you aren’t capable; no you won’t like it; no, don’t do that. The idea of saying yes was intoxicating and terrifying.
Even so, I changed my default setting. I started saying ‘yes’ to opportunities as they came up, even if they scared me a little witless.
Granted, there are some things I’m not sure I’d say yes to again; heading a church nursery turned out not to be my thing. And I haven’t quite gotten over my discomfort with heights or sea sickness, but I’m glad I tried the things that challenged those barriers.
What’s more, I’ve gotten to do some really cool stuff. I’ve planned and executed meals for 300; run television cameras for live recorded programs; created a two year long workshop series for a major medical school; earned two black belts with my sons; designed half a dozen websites; published ten books and spoken across the country on them.
Every single one of those things challenged me—well really scared the spit out of me. But every notch I put in my belt doing one of them gave me confidence, and a few skills, to apply to the next challenge. Early on, I had to fight not to say ‘no’. Daring to face something I might fail at was not in my upbringing. But the ‘yes’ became easier and maybe a mite less frightening as I practiced it.
All of those experiences gave me the strength to say ‘yes’ when the opportunity to write full time knocked at my door. It was difficult and frightening to say ‘yes’ (and it’s difficult and frightening to keep at it…just saying…). But I’m grateful for my professor who helped me change my default ‘no’ into ‘yes’.
It takes a lot to follow your dreams, but it starts with ‘yes’. Watch this space for more bits I’ve picked up along the path. I think next time I’ll talk about ‘doing it afraid’.