On Day One of the Creative Freedom Challenge, we're taking a hard look at the biggest reason you're still stuck in energy-draining work, instead of getting paid well for doing what you love.
And it's not what you think.
Most people think the reason they're stuck is because they haven't made enough money yet to make the leap. If you're just getting started and stuck in a day job, that may be true. More on that in a minute. You can be several years into your career as a creative entrepreneur and still find you've created a "job" for yourself, doing things that aren't fulfilling - like putting out fires or picking up dropped balls.
In truth, "not enough money" is not the biggest reason you've stuck with your "job" for so long.
Lack of clarity often shows up in one of two areas:
1. Who you really are and what really matters in your life and Great Work (that's what we'll cover today).
2. How you want to show up in the world (we'll cover that next).
Amy Oscar is a friend and colleague. We met at a conference back in 2010, and she was kind enough to write the cover quote for my book, "The Secret Watch." Amy's building a global following on the back of her book "Sea of Miracles." Her Soul Caller program has evolved from a weekly free twitter chat into a series of courses, programs and retreats. She also does private sessions as an intuitive guide and healer. Amy has thousands of fans and followers around the world (some of them pretty well-known), and yet, with all those clear signs that she was on to something, she still hadn't quit her day job.
For more than 15 years, Amy was an editor for a national women's magazine. She LOVED her job, but as her Great Work through Soul Caller started picking up steam, she still hadn't let go of her day job to focus on her Great Work. Here's what Amy told me:
"I sensed that I'd put an important part of my soul in deep freeze."
She then told me how it took her months to untangle what was going on inside her. Ultimately Amy realized, when she considered her job versus her Great Work, the truth so many creative entrepreneurs face:
"One was always going to have me hiding behind someone else's glitter cape. I didn't just have a message. It was MY message to deliver. So many people are telling this story and each voice matters. Each story resonates. We need them all. Mine was different and it had to be heard."
Making the choice to pursue your creative calling can be complicated. It's not always easy. That's why clarity is so important.
Clarity comes from accepting your truth with what I call ruthless honesty: no judgement. Just seeing the facts for what they are.
Here's how Amy described her watershed moment:
"I was afraid to stand alone. It was never about the money. It was about my willingness to trust the world to love me when it could see me. And not just as a cog in someone else's wheel... It's about the willingness to come out of hiding. To stand in the light and be seen loving what I love. Being what I am. Which doesn't fit into anyone else's idea of what I could or should be or how I might serve their vision. It's about the willingness to step into the image I hold inside of my own heart of what I am.
"I realized that if I was going to be happy - and live a fully engaged, fully present life - I wasn't going to live a normal life. And I finally accepted that. I quit my job because the Soul Caller work was more important to me than a paycheck."
Amy got clear on the life she wanted to live, the Great Work she wanted to bring into the world, and who she would become in the process. When Amy got clear on who she was and how she'd outgrown her day job, she was ready to embrace her "own message to deliver" and share it with the world.
Amy's truth is a common one: more than the ability to make good money at it, the real issue behind making the shift into creative entrepreneurship is a lack of clarity (and perhaps a fear of being really seen).
Look, if a guy can earn a living wage making youtube videos about playing video games or unboxing action figures, there's no reason that you can't get paid well to do what you love, too. But you have to have clarity on who you are and what really matters to you before you can stake your claim on your Great Work and share it joyfully with the world.
Then, you've got to show up that way consistently. Sure, try it on and see how your Great Work can not only serve others, but also yourself. Once you've got clarity on that, you've got to have the confidence to step up and own your message in the marketplace on a regular basis.
But that's the next part of our challenge. 🙂
Today, spend a few minutes thinking about what REALLY matters to you - in your life and work. What are your non-negotiables? When I work with clients, we use what I call the 5 Key Areas of Success as the model for defining success on your own terms. Here are additional resources to help you get more clarity on what really matters and how you want to show up in the world:
Believe it or not, you already ARE a success. It may not feel like it right now, but it's true. Success is a destination, not a journey, and you're already here. Everything you've done (or failed to do) has led to this moment. Until you have clarity on what success looks like for your unique situation, it's pretty dang difficult to feel successful.
If you want to get all the updates in the Creative Freedom Challenge, along with a copy of my Raving Fans Toolkit, you can sign up right here (that box at the top of the page works, too).
What resources would you add to this list? Share your comments below and let's be a rising tide for everyone!
When "Now Discover Your Strengths" came out, let's just say I was a very late adopter. So late, in fact, that I had already bought "Strengths Finder 2.0" first. After taking the test to find my strengths, I was non-plussed. I felt like I already knew what my strengths were, and the book and quiz basically confirmed it.
For those of you keeping track, my top five strengths are: Strategic, Woo, Communication, Context, and Connectedness - in that order.
Call me slow, but once I knew what I already knew, the book sat on my shelves for years. Since I "already knew everything" it was relegated to the bookshelf that I rarely touch - the one I'm cleaning out now to move into my studio.
When I clear off bookshelves, I always dive back in to some random pages and see if the book still holds any value for me before I let it go. Some books I read once and pass off immediately. Not because they aren't good, but because I really feel like I've gotten everything I could from the book.
Yes, sometimes that means buying another copy of the book when my hard-headedness wears off, but not usually. I have a learning addiction, so I'm constantly absorbing new material, and like any user, once it's all used up, we discard it and move on to the next fix.
For whatever reason, I held onto an entire collection of books by Marcus Buckingham, Tom Rath, and Donald Clifton. I kept telling myself that they'd come in handy for client work, and since I'm taking on fewer one-on-one clients now, it seemed like a good idea to go back through them and see what good they'd do me.
So as I flipped back through the book, I read the descriptions of each of my strengths. I found myself nodding. Then, I found myself writing them all down - and highlighting! I haven't highlighted a book since college!
Clearly something was happening in my brain. It was almost unconscious... like my hands were operating independent of me. By the time it was done, I'd re-worded the five lengthy paragraphs to look something like this:
What makes me so awesome? It’s a unique combination of clear, meaningful strategy and communication with a positive impact.
Clear, Meaningful Strategy: Strategy is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective that allows me to see patterns others don’t. It's a big reason I was appointed to a government-sponsored think tank as a teenager. It’s an advantage that helps me find potential obstacles before you hit a road block, a dead-end path, or the land of confusion. Clarity is king with me. I also believe we are on this rock for a purpose. Yes, we make our own decisions and we are accountable for those choices and actions, and still we have a greater gift to share with the world. Whatever your connection of choice (Spirit, God, six degrees of separation, etc.), we are all connected to each other in some small way. This perspective helps me understand how today’s strategies impact tomorrow’s results.
Communication With A Positive Impact: Words are my palette. I've won multiple awards for my writing, music and performances. I have a deep need to bring ideas, stories and events to life, energize them, and make them exciting and vivid. I use examples that make it easier for you to relate, understand, and apply to your specific situation. People like to listen to me because I’m a knowledgeable, passionate communicator and I inspire them to take action in meaningful ways. I also believe that words are meaningless unless they mean something to you. So I want to learn who you are, what makes you tick, where you’ve been and where you want to go. Your back story helps us understand how to plan for the future. You'll make better, more confident decisions when you understand your back story. This keeps you from making the same mistakes or re-inventing the wheel on your path to success.
If you've read the book, you'll recognize some of the language, but it's decidedly my own spin on what Clifton, Rath, and Buckingham have described as my top 5 strengths. I've already added it to my about page, and will soon have micro versions on my social media profiles and new one-sheet as well.
1. Buy the book and take the test. Make sure you get a copy of the book that has an unused access code for the test. Once you've taken the test, make note of your top 5 strengths.
2. Copy down all 5 strengths descriptions. The paragraphs are way too long for a bio. You'll be editing mercilessly in the next step. For now, just copy it all down.
3. Edit mercilessly. Change all the "you" statements to "I" statements, and re-write the paragraphs into something very client focused. I was able to eventually take the Strategy and Connectedness paragraphs and blend them into one. For me, I wanted to show people that Strategy is worthless without a bigger picture meaning.You can see that I used the phrase "I also believe..." as a transition from one thought (strategic) to the next (connectedness). You want to streamline all this information into something digestible for an average reader. You're not necessarily trying to condense each strength into one or two paragraphs like I did, though. It could be 5 smaller pargraphs if your strengths don't seem to logically go together like mine did. In any case, do what works for you, since this is your bio, and you want to be proud to share it with people.
4. Sprinkle in your credentials. The idea is to give a nod to your accomplishments, but stay focused on how they help your clients. You'll want to find no more than 1 or two things that illustrate each of your strengths. Here I've mentioned my appointment to a think tank as a teenager to illustrate and affirm my strategic abilities. I've also mentioned that I'm an award-winning writer, musician, and performer - which hopefully serves to both inspire my audience and encourage them to experience the different ways I communicate with context.
5. Check for grammatical issues. Cutting and pasting words and ideas often leaves a trail of errant punctuation, capitalization, and stray words that just don't belong. Look for fragments, incomplete ideas, and anything that doesn't clearly represent your unique value to your clients. Remember, your bio needs to be client-focused, even if it's talking about you.
6. Rest. Not everyone writes or edits well. You'll likely need a few passes at this, but even if you're a fantastic writer, I recommend at least one re-write. Once you've made your first round of edits, let it rest for a day and come back to it with fresh eyes. You'll probably see a few tense changes you missed, as well as some ways to refine the language and make it sound more like you.
7. Repeat the edits. Even I caught some glaring things I could fix as I was writing this post. Make sure your credentials are the ones you feel the most positive about - they don't have to be the most glowing praise, but the ones you feel proudest to share with people. If it doesn't work for you, you won't share it with people. The whole purpose of a bio is for people to get to know you. Repeat steps 6 & 7 as needed.
8. Let 'er fly! Share it with a few trusted people and get their response. You may find, as I did, that some people have no idea about what makes you so awesome. They may also point out some things you missed. That doesn't mean they're right and you're wrong. You still have permission to do things your way!
This approach can actually work with most of the personality-type assessments people take. You may notice that I included my fascination advantage "anthem" (knowledgable, passionate communicator) - which is taken from Sally Hogshead's work, "How The World Sees You." Strengths Finder is just one approach that worked surprisingly well (and fast) for me. I may go back and look at the results from some of the other assessments I've taken and see how I can incorporate them, but for now, I have something useful, meaningful, and intriguing for my clients and potential clients to get to know me better.