Is 2016 The Year to Realize Delayed Dreams?

My oldest son is sixteen and he’s in the middle of the frustrating process where the whole world starts to ask him what he wants to do for the rest of his life. He has to start thinking about a career, so he can plan on a college, so he can plan his high school classes, etc. Like most kids his age he doesn’t want to think past the next comic con.

Through him I’m remembering that time in my life when I considered so many options then had to discard some as unreasonable, too expensive, out of reach. Each career path I considered spoke to some part of me; my creative side, my logical/planner side, my feminist side, etc. I eventually aimed in the direction of advertising and PR then wound up in special events and teaching. (Because face it, very few end up where they thought they would at sixteen.) But some of those dreams never died. The part of me they represent never got a moment to shine or at least step up to the plate and try. It’s those delayed dreams that I’m tapping into now as an entrepreneur.

Now, this point in time in history, is a unique time that is perfect for so many people to be able to keep their day job (or not) and try something new, something they’ve always wanted to do.

Writing novels is that for me, and I get to combine it with owning my own business, another path I’ve always been interested in. I met a woman today who had always thought being an editor would be great. She’s a librarian (a great job for a lover of words) but we talked about how she could easily do side work editing books for self-published writers. It was such a fun conversation. I loved seeing the wheels start spinning and the lights go on that long-forgotten dream. It was fantastic being the person who is already on the path getting to point it out to her.

So, what are your lost dreams? Did you write them off because in the past you had to open a brick and mortar store and start-up costs would be too high? Did someone tell you that you didn’t have the skills to compete in a particular market? Did you hear scary stories about how little creative people make and that you might end up living in a cardboard box if you take that career path? Well, the world has changed. You, my friend, and I are lucky enough to live in a time when anyone can open an online “store” and reach customers world-wide. You may not be an expert but you are still ahead of someone and they could seriously benefit from your knowledge. And creative work is still hard, but it’s easier to go around the gatekeepers and find your audience than ever before.

Next month I’m going to teach a series of classes on how to self-publish. Am I an industry leader? Hell, no. But I’ve been there and learned a lot of good lessons along the way. I’m green enough to remember what it’s like to be starting out with no clue what to do. Industry leaders are great but they can be so deep in an industry that their advice is too complicated for a beginner. It’s just another way that I’m following those dreams, going back to the what-if’s and exploring all the possibilities I saw when I was sixteen.

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Why I’m no longer satisfied working for someone else and what I did about it.

For the past nine years I’ve been an Instructor for a major university. It’s been a fantastic ride. I’ve worked part-time, often from home, doing something I love. But times, they are a changing. Like so many industries higher education is having to reorganize, revise and restructure to try to keep pace with post-internet society. The result has been chaos. Seems the Titanic can’t turn on a dime and I may have been thrown overboard in the process. As the need for Instructors has dwindled I’ve had fewer and fewer contracts. I’ve been sitting by the phone like some spurned prom date, waiting for it to ring, until I finally got sick of it. Luckily I’ve developed a strong entrepreneurial bent in midlife so I’ve taken matters into my own hands.

End of JobsIn his book “The End of Jobs” (my latest read, review coming soon) Taylor Pearson examines this exact scenario. My job is ending. But the book isn’t a doomsday dissertation, it’s theme isn’t “be afraid, very afraid.” The theme is “wake up, pay attention, there are opportunities out there. Go get em.” I felt this way before I heard Taylor speak on Joanna Penn’s podcast “The Creative Penn” but he gave me the numbers to back up my theory and the cheer leading I needed to get started.

So what am I doing about my lack of teaching contracts? I’m teaching. This April I am joining together with another local self-published author to teach anyone interested how to self publish and how to market your self published books so you can actually sell a few. It’s a process I learned the hard way and I’d like to save others some of my frustration.

I can’t tell you how good it feels to be proactive. I’m juiced. I can’t relate to any of the Monday-sucks memes because I I love any day I make progress toward making this happen. I can’t wait to teach again. I feel like I’m flipping the bird to my absent prom date and going off to create my own dance. And it’s a hundred times more fun! I get to make it mine. I no longer have to worry that the energy and passion I’m investing might be for naught, overlooked on some annual evaluation.

Ok, so the downside, because there is one. I will not make as much in my first year as I did when I was getting one contract after another. But I will make more than if I continued to wait for another contract or if I spun my wheels hoping another University isn’t in the same boat (I’ve looked, they are.) I might not make as much in year two, possibly year three, but eventually I will. And in the mean time I will be a much happier person. I’ll no longer beat my head against the wall in frustration over inane rules and endless red-tape and paperwork. Being in control, having agency, is one of the greatest thrills in life. Another is making a difference in the lives of others. I’m killing both those birds with this stone.

And creating my own classes is only the beginning of creating my brand, my own multiple-income business. This is another theme favored by Joanna Penn, Taylor Pearson and scores of other forward-thinking people because the other huge drawback to working for someone else is the reality of no income when they say good bye. Without a back up source of income it can be devastating, life altering. For many this is the catalyst that propels them into the world of international e-commerce. It was my line in the sand. When I first published I  was still getting contracts and working them. I may still get more, but in the mean time I’m going to keep moving toward self-sufficiency, agency to make my own destiny.

Let me finish by not only encouraging others to read Taylor’s book and figure out their own path in a “jobless” world, but also give you a few resources I’ve found that make this trip so much easier and more fun. It turns out that many of these new e-entrepreneurs also want to help others have the success they do. For the price of a search you can find ideas and support galore. Here are a few of my favorites:

Marie Forleo – Her Marie TV channel on YouTube has over 200,000 subscribers because she delivers sound business advice in an upbeat, sometimes silly, manner.

Danielle LaPorte – Not only is she a business woman with multiple income streams to emulate, on her website she shares her philosophy, successes and failures in a very real way. She’s a fantastic example of succeeding by being yourself.

Sarah Morgan (XO Sarah) – When I add fantastic business advice pins to my Chick in Charge Pintrest board they often come from XO Sarah. Follow her on Pintrest and you will find answers to all your e-commerce questions presented in an organized, easy-to-use fashion. She’s my number one source for badass blogging advice.

Joanna Penn – As I mentioned her podcast, The Creative Penn is where I find not only great advice from a fellow author but guests, like Taylor Pearson, who help me keep growing and learning and motivated.

So who’s with me? Let’s do this midlife (or earlier) end-of-jobs thing together. I’d love to hear about your journey into being an entrepreneur or your hopes and dreams to do so. Comment below with your story or your favorite resources.

**Anyone in the Memphis area who is interest in my self-publishing class can follow this link to my FB page. I’ll be posting sign up information there soon.

 

 

Vacations in Tomorrowland

Although I only became an authorpreneur a little over a year ago, I’ve been working from home by contract for the past eight years. It’s a sweet set-up if you know how to work it, but it took some trial and error to find a good balance of work, family and play in my life.

Take vacations for example, my family just returned from a week in Florida for spring break. These trips mean the world to me because we only have a few more with our teenage sons. It’s prime family time but for me it’s also work time.

When you’re your own boss your work goes with you everywhere.

That rankles some. It goes against the traditional idea of vacation where work is left behind to give you uninterrupted time to focus on your family and create fun memories. But after working this way for over eight years I argue that although the traditional idea of a vacation may no longer be an option for me, the replacement is just as good and possibly better.

The key to enjoying your working entrepreneur vacation is to let go of traditional notions of work days, weekends, home time and vacations. Because so much of society still functions on those concepts it can be hard at first. Moms working from home can feel the same guilt as those who work at an office. It’s the classic contradictory pull of family when you are engaged with work and work when you are engaged with your family. Reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey gave me my first spark of the idea of breaking my day into smaller chunks and integrating my work and home life. It took some trial and error. There were so many factors I could now incorporate into creating my ideal schedule–my kids’ schedules, the fact that I’m a morning person, the best days and times to grocery shop to avoid crowds, the best times for me to exercise, and my own style of working. What started as chaos has now become a relatively smooth running schedule that allows me to focus on those things that are important to me. I get to be the mom who never misses a school event. The concept of rush hour traffic is completely foreign to me now and my family never has to skip a trip somewhere because I don’t have enough vacation time saved up at work.

But yes, I am that woman, the one with her laptop at Disney, cranking out email replies over Mickey-shaped waffles at breakfast. From the outside it might look like I’m the work-obsessed entrepreneur unable to set my work aside and spend time with my family. But my family and I see a very different picture. They see my chunks of work time as downtime to play a video game or catch up with friends or do a guy thing that I have no interest in. We’ve all adjusted our idea of vacation to include chunks of play time interspersed with my work time.

Ironically while I was in work mode checking social media on this trip I ran across a fantastic article that confirmed my theory that the way I work is the wave of future.  Brilliant futurist, Faith Popcorn posted an article with her predictions for the shape of work in 2025, The Future of Work. She paints a somewhat scary but mostly exciting picture of successful people who use technology to manage multiple income streams and build a life that works for them. It not only confirmed the validity of my current work status, but sparked some great conversations in our family about what work and family and play might look like for our kids someday.

Running your own business while juggling home life isn’t easy. I have more things on my idea list than I could possibly complete, all of which need to be balanced with the work already in progress and dentist appointments, family reunions and the occasional wine and Nexflix marathon. But I’m making it work and focusing on the upsides because I’m building my business and at the same time I’m still making vacation memories with my family.