Opening up the paperwork informing me of my new status as a licensed business owner was somehow both exhilarating and anticlimactic.
On the one hand? Wow. I’m only 24 years old, and I’m already reaching this huge milestone on my path to success as a professional writer and content strategist.
On the other hand… Wow. I have a whole hell of a lot of work to do.
It feels great, though, and I mean that. For me, “lots of work” is a beautiful thing. Not only for the sake of my income but also because I genuinely, deeply, and passionately love what I do.
Looking back, I can see all of the steps that brought me this much closer to turning that passion into my reality. Every success, every failure, and every moment of hesitation has taught me something.
Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned so far.
Even Well-Meaning People Are Full Of Bad Advice.
It’s funny how someone acts when they love and want to support you, but also have no idea how to be there for you as you make big decisions. It usually consists of awkward thinking-out-loud sessions followed by some advice.
“If I were you, I’d…”
What have I learned? If this person has zero experience in my industry or field, and their only qualifications are something they read online or heard on tv, it’s best to smile, nod, and thank them.
Then you ignore that advice completely and do whatever it is you need to do.
When you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing and everything is brand new, it’s surprisingly easy to latch on to bad advice like it’s a raft and cling for dear life.
Instead, pick up a book related to your goals and start reading. Find a Youtube channel that can teach you a valuable skill. Do this every time you feel helpless, and pretty soon, you’ll start feeling like a champion.
What Felt Small Could Be Life-Changing, And Sometimes It’s The Other Way Around.
Want to know what changed my entire life? Making one Facebook post. That’s it. That five-second window where I impulsively typed up a status about providing free writing services for nonprofits turned me into the professional writer I am today.
I posted that status because I felt guilty about not being able to donate much money to charity that year —largely due to my being flat broke. Student loans, am I right?
This offer of service was a way to compromise with my conscience. Two people reached out, and one of them became my mentor and most important source of paid work.
Other moments — like the one where I accidentally sent the wrong press release to 200+ high-powered journalists via said mentor’s business email address — felt huge and insurmountable at the time.
Now I laugh at them and use them to encourage other people my age who are also dealing with mistakes on their road to success.
It’s only with time that you begin to see which moments actually changed your life — and if they didn’t change your life, they weren’t important anyway.
Give it time. Revisit things later. For now, focus on where you need to go next…and then get going.
Life Hacks Won’t Get You Where You Want To Go, But Consistency Will.
Ah, Medium, I love you for your productivity hacks and life tips. Really, I do. Sometimes they prove useful to me and, I’m sure, many others. But they don’t add up to success.
Even the big things that propelled me forward — support from loved ones, amazing books, mentors who took the time to teach me — wouldn’t have mattered without the one thing that gives it all meaning: consistency.
If I had not continuously shown up to work, learn, appreciate, and push myself forward, nothing else would have mattered. None of it. Even my greatest bursts of productivity would have faded into the void if I hadn’t kept going.
In my case, this means I had to keep writing. For some, it means you must keep painting, keep posting, keep sending out pitches or applications or what-have-you.
Whatever “going” means to you, remember it when you feel frustrated because your 20 Productivity Hacks That Will Make You A Millionaire haven’t delivered on their promises.
Keep experimenting with life hacks and strategies, because it’s a lot of fun.
While doing so, take comfort in the fact that no failure actually matters unless you stop going in the direction of your dreams.
Don’t Just Have Ideals — Use Them.
You know all of those sparkly images you have floating around in your head? Those picture-perfect futures that would happen if all the stars aligned? Don’t ignore them. Use them.
Ideals are tools that can provide actual, concrete support as you work hard to accomplish your goals. One example is an exercise I did where I tried “designing” my perfect client.
She would be around age 40–55 and the CEO of a successful, diverse company looking to grow in the consulting or media industry. She would be an optimist with high standards who valued my expertise.
My ideal became my reality, and two of my current clients fits this description perfectly.
I wanted to work in a field where things change every day, but the foundations remain the same, and in which I could learn about as many different topics as I have waking hours in the day.
Now I’ve launched a business after less than three years, and I am in exactly the position I’d dreamt of.
My ideals fed me, fueled me, and made me see opportunities that I’d never have realized were there. I sank my teeth into those ideals and let them stay firmly rooted in my mind. Now, most of them have become my reality.
Dig into your ideals. Make room for them. Pretty soon, they’ll become your compass, and then they’ll become your life.
Mentorship Is Priceless And Abundant.
While only one person has the “official” title of mentor in my life right now, looking back, I’ve had many of them along every step of my journey.
I often didn’t realize I was being mentored until much later, but the value I have gained from my mentors is priceless.
I’ve had elementary and middle-school teachers as mentors. I’ve had old men on park benches, bird watchers in Florida’s everglades region, and random girls I met in bar bathrooms as mentors. I’ve even been mentored by cats (who else could truly teach me not to give a f***?).
Books About Writing That Have Turned My Dreams Into Reality
If you want to write for a living, here are the books that will help you do it — all tried, tested, and sworn by.
Whenever I’ve felt the most lost, the most doubtful, or the most uncertain of my own validity, a mentor has appeared and helped me over the hurdle. This will happen to anyone open-minded enough to let those mentors in.
Let your mentors in, and celebrate them. Thank the universe for them. They are your guides and your signposts on an otherwise unmarked trail.
Teaching Is Learning, And Vice Versa.
The most profound lessons I have learned have always come from my experiences in a teaching role. Just as my mentors have been priceless to me, so have the people who believed in me enough to take on a student's role through my work, my life, and my stories.
At such a young age, these experiences have been rare for me. That’s as it should be. Hopefully, I’m the one who will most often occupy the student role in my own unfolding life — but that only makes the moments when I have something to teach all the more poignant.
Every time I teach something, I am honoring the ones who taught me. This unbroken chain is what fuels humanity’s capacity for greatness, and it’s what will fuel your potential, too.
Students won’t always have the courage or knowledge to approach you. Seek them out — even if it’s just by leaving one comment on a tweet or a Facebook status — and hold out your hand with something to offer them.
Those are the choices that will make or break your ability to remain a passionate student throughout your own lessons, of which there will be many.
Fear Of Success Can Be Far More Dangerous Than Fear Of Failure.
Finally, the most surprising thing I have learned so far is this: the power of fear to derail my goals. And it’s not the fear of failure that has held me back the most, but rather the fear of success.
That’s probably because the fear of success is subtle. It tends to sneak in when you’re not looking, often when you’re riding a high from some victory or milestone.
Your thoughts start to race, and you begin finding excuses to wait on the next big step. “I can’t launch a real business yet. I need to read more and build a better portfolio,” I often told myself in the months before writing this article.
“I should wait until I have X figured out, or until X project is done before I file for my license.”
All I ended up doing was holding myself back. I could have achieved business ownership a year ago or more if I had ignored those nagging voices.
You will always have something to finish, more to learn, and new things to build. Always. If you let always meet up with someday, you’ll lose your hold on right now.
This is the only moment you’re ever really going to have. So take it, and take it with the confidence that the rest will fall into place on its own.
To summarize, here are the lessons I’ve found the most important as I embark on this next exciting phase of my journey:
- Don’t listen to baseless advice just because you feel lost — and don’t assume that someone who loves you also knows what decisions you should make.
- Moments that feel huge might be tiny pinpricks on your journey; likewise, tiny moments could be the hinge on which your entire life turns toward something new — only time will tell.
- It’s fun to learn productivity hacks and try out other people’s strategies, but remember that the only thing that actually matters is consistency.
- Daydreams and ideals aren’t just idle — they are powerful tools you can use to forge your entire future. Dig your claws into them and hold on to them.
- Mentors are everywhere, at every step of your journey, but you might not notice them until later. Try to humble yourself and stay open to mentorship so that you’ll always have a guide when you need one.
- Having something to teach is an incredible blessing that honors everything you’ve accomplished so far and everyone who has helped you do it.
- It isn’t fear of failure that really holds us back. It’s the fear of success.
Thanks for joining me throughout this reflection, and I hope it brings you optimism, blessings, and maybe even a shift in perspective. See you next time!