This is for every person who finds themselves staring wide-eyed at the prospect of their dreams while their chest sinks as they become overwhelmed with doubt, with dread, with fear that this feeling might be a sign not to move forward.
This is for every person whose thoughts are imagined echos of what the world might say, all of which ultimately circles back to the same sentiment.
Who are you to do this?
Maybe you’re young and you’re learning. Maybe you’re not-so-young and you have an established career that’s a safe-bet to a fast and easy retirement. Maybe you’re switching fields entirely. Maybe you’re trying something completely new. Maybe you’re finally getting the courage to share what you’ve been creating and dreaming of since you were doing it alone in your childhood bedroom.
No matter where these words may find you on your journey, they are for you if there is something deep within you calling you to your future, and an overwhelming doubt trying to keep you stuck right where you are.
You need to look around.
Not at the greats, not at your idols.
Comparing yourself to them will only ever make you feel small and unworthy. Instead of measuring yourself by this standard, consider their successes proof of what’s possible, and then look beside you. Watch your peers. See what those around you are doing. Notice how many artists are creating and building businesses born of their passions. Watch how many writers are crafting poems, how many coaches are leading their clients, how many classes are selling, how education is moving, how art is being purchased and displayed.
The world we live in today makes things possible that were completely impossible just a few years ago.
People want to support you.
They want to learn from you.
They want to grow with you.
You are part of this ecosystem, you already fit in.
If you watch those beside you for long enough, what you’ll notice is that those who are steadfast in the life of their deepest longing aren’t necessarily the most gifted, the most outrageously talented, or the most perfect at their craft. What they are is just a few steps ahead of you, because they showed up consistently during the time you spent wondering if you should.
The truth is that when we are too good at something, our practice of it often devolves into mania and madness. We become consumed with it. Our sense of importance eclipses the work itself, and we render ourselves paralyzed.
You don’t need to be this way.
It doesn’t have to look like this.
Those idols you’re in the shadows of? They had day jobs.
The people who lived long, fulfilling lives pursuing what they truly loved didn’t always make their income from it, or even a lot of money from it. Others did, and do. Either way, you don’t need to measure your worthiness as an artist or creator or entrepreneur or seeker by the level at which your commitment overshadows all else.
Showing up is what makes your work worthwhile.
Showing up is what creates your worth.
Showing up and allowing is what makes your best product.
It is not comparisons of expertise, it is not complexity or realism, it is not who has the hottest, quickest take. It is not who is successful fastest, or who is most front-facing about it. It is not about the few people who can create absolute masterpieces of their work and their lives, but the many who are willing to show up and do the best they can — create what inspires them and makes them feel and think — who prove that often, what we want to share and consume is more about what resonates on a human level than what’s so impressive, it becomes compelling.
The art on walls of museums is without question extraordinary, but it isn’t often on the walls of homes — and it’s not because of the price, because one could get a print, or a similar edition.
What’s on the walls of homes are the messages that speak to us. That’s what’s on people’s bookshelves, that’s what’s in their reading queue, that’s what they share with those they love. That’s what they choose to purchase, that’s what they choose to engage with.
You do not have to be a fine artist to be worth pursuing what you love.
You do not need to be a bestselling author, you don’t need to be on television, you don’t need to be a household name, you don’t need to write the next novel that’s studied in classrooms around the country. You do not need to be the most impressive, elusive, untouchable.
You do not need a huge audience.
You do not need a lot of people to believe in your ability.
All you need is the willingness to create something that is authentic and true and moving to you, something that lifts you out of your human experience and into another, something that makes sense of the past, clears your perception of the future, makes you experience the same emotions you did when you first fell in love or learned to let go or felt completely at awe or inspired or at peace.
That is what should arrive into the hands of our fellow human beings.
If you are looking for permission to do what you love, if you are seeking the confidence to pursue what you would like to spend your days doing, what you are really asking for is whether or not you are good enough to be worth people’s time.
So know this.
People want to hear stories that sound like their own.
They want to read work that meets them precisely where they are.
They want to collect and consume that which makes them feel understood.
They want to see outside of them a little piece of what’s within them, and the only way you can create that for other people is to pull out a sliver of your soul, and put it on paper.
It’s easy to buy into the idea that what we were exposed to as “good” growing up and in school is the entirety of what goodness is. That “good” is typically defined by a very specific (and archaic) measure. It is also handpicked by those who probably have an agenda.
It is not comprehensive.
It is not representative.
It usually doesn’t speak to people the way it might have 100 years ago.
The art we need today is different because we don’t need to create in order to prove something about our talent anymore. Instead, we can create to share energy. We can create to express experience. We can create to make people feel heard and understood.
We can create to heal ourselves, and extend that healing outward.
If you are looking for a sign, looking for something to convince you that you are enough for your own destiny— you will have to start with the first emboldening thing, which is to feel your life from the inside instead of perceiving it from the outside.
You will have to start to deconstruct the way you have lived prior to this moment, because if you’re like most people, the majority of what you do and choose and believe is your own vision is actually a copy of someone else’s, a means to an end, and the end is always connection.
You are no longer looking for love from an invisible audience.
You are looking for wells of it to spring up within yourself.
You will have to decide that living in accordance with your innermost truth is your top priority, for which anything can be risked and everything must. You will have to decide the extent to which you are willing to meet your soul at the mountaintop, how far you will climb and how much you will care and how deeply you will commit to the work, because this is work.
You will have to say goodbye to certainties.
5 year plans, regular paychecks, easy explanations about what you do.
The things that make people feel less fear, but not more alive.
You will have to draft a vision for what you could see your life becoming. You will need to be ambitious, because if you’re going to go for it, you need to go all the way. While you’re doing this, you will need to remove any pieces of that vision that are contingent upon trying to prove your worth to someone who might want to work with you. Your worth is your own to share, and for the world to see — no more playing mind games with yourself.
You will have to become a perpetual student.
You will have to learn about business, even if you’re an artist.
You will have to learn about art, if you are a business owner.
You will have to determine where to create your platform, how to weave together your community, where your presence would be most impactful, and how. You will have to figure out the ecosystem that will become your life, the ways in which you will create and share and then allow your work to ripple outward and into infinitely more.
You will have to start where you are.
You will have to be humbled.
You will have to stop knocking at the door, and build your own hallway.
You will have to test and try and change things.
Your first approach won’t be your last.
You will have to be willing to throw spaghetti at the wall more times than you think you should. You will have to be willing to fold not because something isn’t working, but because something else could work better.
You will have to reinvent your self-image.
You will have to become the kind of person who makes a living doing what they love, not an amateur trying to see if they could maybe get by.
You will have to stop asking for permission.
You will have to stop thinking one person’s perspective of you is the sum of who you are.
You will have to show up — again, and again, and again.
You will have to create— again, and again, and again.
Then you will have to watch for what arrives, and what remains.
Watch for what works.
Wait for what is effortless.
Keep going until you get to a point where the slightest bit of your effort reaps a large reward, and then keep going.
You are going to have to do things that other people are unwilling to do.
You are going to have to stop being afraid of fluctuating income or credit card debt or bad reviews or looking dumb or staying cool and pretending like you don’t care.
You are going to have to care.
You are going to have to believe in your vision until someone else does.
You will have to hold a torch for yourself first.
You will have to learn that we do not spontaneously find the courage to pursue what we love one day. We sense an urge, a hunch, a small desire to take one step in the direction of our dreams. Then we keep going, even in the face of doubt and speculation. Then we pursue, with wild, open hearts, with total abandon, with complete commitment.
The confidence you are looking for will not arrive until you begin.
It will not come from mental gymnastics, comparisons, or delusions about your importance.
It will come from the simple virtue of being someone who is willing to risk it all in order to live a life that feels most true to them, to create something that they care about, and hope someone else might care about it, too.
That’s the story for all of us, every last one.
You don’t need to find confidence to pursue what you really love.
You just have to be willing to start.
Then you will also need to be willing to stop.
Overcorrecting is the opposite of creativity.
Overworking is not aspirational, it’s an escape mechanism.
What nobody tells you is that passion and obsession are entryways to one another. You will walk a fine line every day.
What nobody tells you is that doing what you love heightens your sensitivity to your work in a way that you are always a bit in denial of. Disapproval hurts in a soul-clenching kind of way, because you care, even if it’s hard to admit you care. You care because this is more than a job. You care because this is more than just a means to an end.
These are your most vulnerable pieces.
This is who you are.
What nobody tells you is that doing what you love almost always means doing a lot of other stuff to pay the bills so that you can carve out space and buy back time to create freely and with abandon and in perfect alignment with what you want to become.
What nobody tells you about doing what you love is that uncertainty holds more people back than talent (or lack-there-of) ever could.
What nobody tells you is that consistency outpaces talent.
What nobody tells you is that when you marry the two together — doing what comes effortlessly as often as you can — you hit your stride.
What nobody tells you is that security is an illusion, one that most people have bought into. There are no safe jobs, paths, choices, and if there were, pursuing your dreams and having multiple forms of income would probably be “safer,” anyway. They don’t teach you that part in school.
What nobody tells you about doing what you love is that you have to learn where to source your creativity from, because where most people begin is with their deepest pain, and where they end is in burn out.
What nobody tells you is that you will have to strengthen that muscle to the point that you can both work but remain relatively detached.
What nobody tells you is that it’s the attachment that hurts. It’s the expectation of what it should be or would be and by when.
Because for all of the unknowns, for all of the vulnerability, for all of the days you spend staring at the path and not knowing what could be ahead, what nobody tells you is that it’s worth it.
Every last bit.
It’s worth it to exchange an illusion of security for the reality of living the way you want, regaining at least some pieces of your life, at least just going for it, at least just trying.
Trying is more than what most people are willing to do anyway.
Nobody knows what’s next.
What nobody tells you is that making money from what you love isn’t selling out, it’s letting your soul support you and fuel you, it’s accepting that we all need income to live and if we can do it through our passion, that’s great.
What nobody tells you is that though it might be outside the norm, you’re not completely an outlier. More people than you can imagine are pursuing similar paths. You’re not alone. You never have been. You’re not a unicorn. Instead of letting your ego get hurt by this, embrace it. Connect with others going the same way.
What nobody tells you is that the hardest part will be figuring out how to structure your days now that it’s all up to you.
This requires discipline.
It requires vision.
It requires commitment.
It requires a lot of self-imposed structure.
It is hard, at first. Then it becomes more freeing over time.
What nobody tells you is that this is not the easy way out. This is not necessarily how you opt into a life without any struggle. It’s just doing something that makes the struggle worth it.