“Become the leader of your life. Lead yourself to where you want to be. Breathe life back into your ambitions, your desires, your goals, your relationships.” – Steve Maraboli
Yesterday, I blank-slated this blog.
(Blank slate: verb, to delete every blog post you’ve ever written, often as part of a rebranding process. Largely unheard of and possibly scandalous in the blogosphere. Many thanks to Gwen Bell for the terminology and virtual push.)
Longtime blog readers probably already know the punchline for this post, but let me step back a bit to explain how we got here.
I’m getting settled back in the U.S. after a business retreat in Koh Tao, Thailand. It was my very first time visiting Asia! I lived in a beautiful villa for almost a month with 20 other young entrepreneurs through an amazing program called Project Getaway. (I’m so glad the weather is warming up here in northern Virginia, otherwise I’d have an even more painful re-entry process after living on an island for the last few weeks!)
I’ve definitely been exercising my travel muscle these past few years; visiting Greece, Italy and Spain last year and Hawaii the year before that. Every time I come back from a trip, I can’t wait for my next adventure – out of state, abroad, or just on a beach somewhere, feeling the sun shine on my face.
Now, more than ever, I’m convinced of the importance of making sure that you do meaningful work, but not at the expense of living a meaningful life. My work has always been a big part of my identity, though it’s becoming clearer to me how I can merge my work with other aspects of my identity as well.
To the extent that I was able to create a niche for myself in the nonprofit sector as a fundraising professional and leadership development practitioner, I felt part of a community that was doing good work and impacting so many lives in the process. And over the past three 1/2 years I’ve been working for myself full-time (I know, I can’t believe it, either), I’ve also had the privilege of connecting with and learning from different kinds of professionals outside of the nonprofit world. I’ve been able to deepen my own knowledge and expertise in other areas of work like coaching and training. I went from being an adjunct professor teaching grad students about nonprofits, leadership and marketing to teaching my own online courses on personal branding, social media and starting a business doing what you love.
For the past six(!) years, I’ve been blogging here mainly about nonprofit leadership and careers. When I left my job in 2010, I simultaneously started a personal blog called Happy Black Woman to share my experiences with going natural, traveling and starting my business. I’ve been surprised and delighted to see how our HBW community has evolved from a teeny tiny blog to a large readership, then expanding to live events and training for women all over the country who are on the same path.
While I was on retreat in Thailand, I realized that I want to work with and for these women on a bigger scale in service to my personal mission. In the space of just one month, I became present to the truth that I would have to step up once again to become the leader of my own life.
First, Decide What You Want to Do
It took living on a tropical island in Asia 10,000 miles from home in a villa with 20 other entrepreneurs to realize that…
I love living on an island. I love being able to take my laptop to the beach. I love that I can write and connect and teach from anywhere in the world.
After I’d been in Koh Tao just a few days, I had a very casual, but life-changing conversation with one of the guys in our Project Getaway group. The concept of the program was to bring together a group of location-independent, tech-savvy business owners to mastermind and learn from each other in a beautiful tropical setting. So we were talking about our travels and homebases and where we wanted to go next. I found myself repeating a familiar refrain:
I have a great life in DC, but I would really love to live in Hawaii. That’s my dream!
That’s when it hit me. The little voice of adventure that got me on the plane from DC to Bangkok started asking: well, why the hell CAN’T you go live in Hawaii? Instead of clinging to all the excuses I usually give about it being so expensive (so is the entire DC area) and so far (that’s what airplanes are for), I just allowed myself to imagine the experience of doing something deliciously different with my life.
In that moment of brief conversation, I felt something shift inside me. My heart jumped a small jump of hope that one of my longtime dreams could actually come true this year. Suddenly, I had decided.
I will move to Oahu, Hawaii before the end of 2013.
This year, I will spend my 31st birthday (New Year’s Eve!) on Waikiki Beach, embracing my new life with joy and excitement. My focus will now be on building Happy Black Woman as a training company that empowers women around the world to create their ideal lives through personal development and entrepreneurship.
Then, Figure Out How to Make it Happen
No matter what your big dream is, it can only be achieved by taking action, one step at a time. I have a rough six-nine month relocation plan that involves completing my remaining client work here in DC, finding a place to live in Honolulu and securing more business under my desired areas of focus. It’s incredible how being around like-minded, adventurous people helped me open to the possibility of leaving the DC-MD-VA area I’ve called home for the last 13 years to start a new chapter in another part of the country.
I share this part of my plan even as it’s still being scratched out on the proverbial napkin, knowing that right now, you may also be struggling with fear and making the decision to try something new. Maybe what you really needed to hear today is that your dreams are NOT crazy and you deserve to see them come true. We all do.
I believe this is what it means to be the leader of your own life. To declare exactly what you want to do and figure out how to make it happen. As Seth Godin (one of my favorite writers) wrote recently, it’s easy to work for someone else’s agenda, but it’s much, much harder to prioritize your own.
The problem isn’t that it’s impossible to pick yourself. The problem is that it’s frightening to pick yourself. It’s far easier to put your future into someone else’s hands than it is to slog your way forward, owning the results as you go.
Perhaps it’s time for all of us to stop saying “I can’t because…” and start fully owning the results of the choices we make. For me, that journey begins now.