I’ve been a little unsettled lately. About how I want my business to grow. I feel like I am where I hoped I’d be when I quit my job and jumped into self-employment. Things are moving and growing, opportunity rolling out her red carpet. I have been holding back, trying to figure out why.
I am not afraid of failure. I am afraid of a certain kind of success. I know really successful people – in the blogging world, in the writing world, in the art world. And one thing they deal with freaks me out: people say really mean things to them and about them. I am not cut out for heavy disdain, for the gossip and rudeness I see on their websites and social media sites. My famous friends are stronger than me. I think about shutting it all down when I think of myself in that arena. I don’t want to fight that fight. I am not “bigger than that.” I don’t “come back stronger.” My skin doesn’t “thicken.” I am open and vulnerable and I like that about myself. Words can hurt my feelings and deteriorate my drive.
But I don’t make choices out of fear! I mean, that is lame! (right??!!) I shine light on the things I want and they stick around. I don’t engage with things that I don’t like. Remember that Cherokee story about the hungry wolves? Talking about the online world: I don’t have alerts set up to tell me when I am mentioned, I don’t know who says what about me, I don’t look at my analytics, I don’t know about other people’s analytics, I don’t read about online trends, I don’t know about the optimal tweet, share etc. Those things curb my creativity and assign a qualifier to me just being me. By the way, I consider praise to be as troublesome as snark. Do you think I am being a bad business person for not paying attention to this part of my industry? I don’t. I am being the business person I want to be. I do my thing. I do it with integrity. I jump in where it feels good. I do read what inspires me, I do read what challenges me, I do engage in productive conversation, I do enjoy and crave critique, I do listen to the voices that sing peace and momentum, I do self-evaluate all. the. freaking. time.
I got this comment on my last post. It seemed like spam but it might have been from a person. I texted my friend and she wrote back. “Why is it a relief if it is from a robot but it means something if it is from a stranger sitting behind her computer somewhere in the world who obviously doesn’t know you even a little bit?” I loved that question. The answer, of course, is that neither matter. But, again, words stick. I was affected, even if only for 10 minutes.
Last week I was in the library with my kids checking out books about cheetahs, orcas, horses and fairies. I walked down a book-columned aisle and right there laying on a shelf was Steal Like an Artist. I checked it out and read it that night. There are hundreds of sentences I noted and loved and reread. But there was this one paragraph that so succinctly resonated in my bones.
The best advice is not to write what you know, it’s to write what you like. Write the kind of story you like best — write the story you want to read. The same principle applies to your life and your career: Whenever you’re at a loss for what move to make next, just ask yourself, “What would make a better story?
I reread that quote when I felt hot and misunderstood by the comment.
WHAT WOULD MAKE A BETTER STORY?
She read the comment and believed she was lame. She sunk into her chair at the computer and read it several times and then wondered if others thought this too. Maybe it was time to hang up her online career if she can’t even handle a little mean jab? She wondered if she had been a fraud all this time. An hour passed and she picked up her kids from school, a sweaty mess of anxiety.
She read the comment and it stung. Maybe it was time to hang up her online career if she can’t even handle a little mean jab? She deleted it, deciding it was neither kind nor true. She texted a good, honest friend who gave her great advice. She joined her co-worker in her studio where she had an invigorating conversation about growth, insecurity, authenticity and art. She got some work done, she practiced waving bye bye with her employee’s baby. An hour passed and she picked up her kids from school, an empowered, content force.