When I first started my business I sought advice from everywhere. How should I present myself on my blog? What should I write about? Who is my niche market? I found a lot of helpful people, willing to share best practices and help me create my image. I was full of ideas and data of how to get people to like me. I networked, met experts all over town and asked for help from everyone I could.
Then I sat down to write. And nothing happened. I thought about writing all of the time, but I couldn’t quite get anything on paper. I was a deer in the headlights, with fields of freedom around me. I had nothing to say and no one to say it to. I felt like I was standing in river and my feet were trapped by rocks. I wrote nothing.
Besides being a writer I have several other different ‘jobs.’ I am fortunate to have crafted my life doing what I want, mostly because certain lifestyles bore me and I would rather be hustling with a few different things than sitting in a cubicle feeling trapped. One of my favorite experiences so far is working for the UPEACE Centre for Executive Education, working with social entrepreneurs in global start-ups. The people I have met and advised are fascinating. Most of them come from troubled areas of the world. All of them want to start a social enterprise that will positively impact their community. What I’ve learned from these entrepreneurs is that asking permission is a waste of time. They already believe that they are a catalyst for change and that their idea will make a real difference. The distinction between social entrepreneurs and other people is that they see a problem as a challenge and their solutions are unique, but seem obvious to them. They are willing to work hard for something they believe in. They are whole-hearted and seek a life less ordinary. They only thing they often struggle with is messaging and marketing, and that’s where I come in.
When I reflect on the students I’ve met in the past year, I am encouraged and inspired. There’s Tony, who created a company crafting and selling sea salt on to give locals a chance at employment on the tiny Cocos Island, Jenny who has created a program in Peru to support kindergarten teachers, Matthias who promotes sustainable development and conservation all over the world, Belinda creating opportunities for women and children to get off the streets in Senegal. There are so many more, from almost every country on earth creating plans and solutions to make life better for others. They are doing it because they know they have to, it’s a burning in their guts and the reason they are here. It is their mission, they are the change makers.
I also realize that they aren’t waiting for anyone to give them the go ahead. They are just doing because that’s what they’re meant to do and if they didn’t, they’d be restless. I finally decided just to sit down and write from my heart, because I want to be like them. Since I’ve done that people have come to me and told me how much my words have meant to them, unsolicited. And that’s the most important thing–that I can use my talents to connect people, build relationships and touch others.
Life somehow brings you face to face with what you should be doing. If you’re aware of it, it follows you, breathing down your neck, spooning you at night, asking you why you never spend time with it. It haunts you, whether you acknowledge it or not. Sometimes suddenly, you realize you can’t breathe without it.
Even if life is comfortable, you know that if you do nothing, your soul will be on edge. You’d be staring in the headlights, overwhelmed and doing nothing. People will go around you, ignore you. So eventually, without asking anybody, you listen to yourself and start doing what you know you’re meant to be doing. With some struggle and lots of guts, you push forward and do it, sometimes alone. You’re back in the river but your feet are free. You jump in, fully clothed and realize you can float, you can even breathe underwater. Eventually you find yourself, moving seamlessly along with life, as if it was always meant for you.