Every Halloween, I take a look back on my life and start making plans for the new year. When I was a practicing pagan, this was my New Year's Eve, and I've just kind of stuck with it. This year, it's especially poignant, because so much has changed in the last 12 months. My year-end wrap up and theme song for 2018 is coming later, but today's post takes an intimate look at how I get stuff done even when the shit hits the fan.
[Note: Portions of this post have been edited and excerpted from my book, Creative Freedom: How to own your dreams without selling your soul. Pre-ordering is now available. We're slated for a global release on November 30.]
I've been online for more than 20 years. Back in the mid 90s, I built one of the first-ever e-commerce websites. Animated .gifs were a new-fangled thing back then.
This image took something like 3 minutes to load in the 1990s!
I mention this because I've been around the block a time or two. I've watched Internet marketers come and go (and come back again when the money ran out). In that time I've seen a lot of what works and what doesn't. Not everyone has staying power. Not everyone wants to have staying power. Some people want to fly in, collect their cash, and hit the dusty trail.
For me, it's always been about being of service.
As my new book is set to launch, I look back over the past two decades of my business career and I kind of boggle:
- Three books (one best seller, and another on the way)
- Three albums (working on number 4)
- Dozens of unsolicited speaking opportunities (many of them PAID!)
- Scores of interviews, guest posts, and colleagues who trust, share and recommend my work
- At least 50 different courses and training programs for various audiences
- Hundreds of clients, customers, sponsors and patrons
- Tens of thousands of readers, viewers, and subscribers
- Hundreds of thousands of views, likes, shares, followers, etc.
- Millions of dollars made for my clients - probably more, but I don't pry.
That's a large body of work in 20 years. I'm a Fusion Creative, after all, so it makes sense. The kicker is that I'm still relatively unknown. I don't have a publicist, agent, or book deal. I'm not "famous enough" for that. I just show up every day and do the work of serving my right audience. Through trial and error (admittedly, a LOT of error), I've learned what it takes to be productive consistently and stay focused on what's really important to me.
When you're focused, you get a lot more accomplished.
It may seem obvious, but developing the ability to say yes to what really matters and ignoring what doesn't is part art and science. For creative entrepreneurs, it means paying attention to what's driving you and being ruthlessly honest about what you want (and what you don't) - even when other people think you "should" be up to something else, you've got to honor your gut.
I developed the first bits and pieces of this work almost 10 years ago - for myself. I've always been my own guinea pig, in the trenches, testing and experimenting with what works. I kept working on it, honing it, evolving it, and it’s been the constant companion on an otherwise roller coaster life. One of the things people constantly say to me is “I don’t know how you manage to get so much done!”
This is how. There’s no secret here. Plan, do, evaluate. Show up consistently. You want to be a millionaire? There's 5 common sense steps:
- Be awesome
- Share your awesomeness
- Get paid
- Keep showing up
- Don't be a dick.
There’s no promise of magical happiness and unending delight.
Owning your dreams takes effort, and life won’t stop happening just because you’ve stepped out to pursue the life you most want for yourself.
Six years ago, I was knee deep in writing The Secret Watch, building out the characters, getting their back stories straight so that the whole parable made sense. The year prior, my kid enrolled in a wilderness camp for boys with emotional issues. He was there for 25 months as my whole life started unraveling. Doing the work kept me sane at a time when I could have given up completely.
Five years ago, I was inches away from launching that book into the world. It was a process, but when we launched, it became an Amazon best seller. It was also the year my business started falling apart. I was struggling to keep my business and family together and the bad choices I made with a now defunct "business coach" had started catching up with me.
Four years ago, I got my first (and only, so far) 1-star review and sold over 1000 copies of the book in 2 days. It was also the year I probably should have died in a weird car "incident" that gave me a fresh start on life and led to the 300 Songs project. Doing the work allowed me to spin multiple plates, launch dozens of offers during my transition, and keep myself from going off the deep end of depression. To be clear I didn't want to do it; I had to do it.
Three years ago, The Secret Watch broke the top 5000 books on all of Amazon and became a best seller on 3 continents. I recorded my third album, The Fine Line, which outsold my previous two albums combined. I started slacking on doing this work, and it showed in my lack of income and the stress in my marriage. It was also the year I got clear that I couldn't be the glue holding everything together anymore in my family - and all the stress of trying to be that person crushed me.
Two years ago, I discovered the Creative Freedom Entrepreneur Spectrum and started sharing my discoveries. I outlined the book - several times - and started getting interviewed about this new approach to building a profitable, sustainable business doing what you love. We bought a house. It was also the year I asked for a divorce. Doing the work gave me a focus to dig myself out of that hole and rebuild my life and work.
Last year, I launched the Creative Freedom Incubator. Since then, I've helped some smart, talented creative entrepreneurs make a real difference in their worlds. They've increased their revenue, developed profitable offers, and learned how to be the CEO of their business. They've unpacked fears and grown as human beings in ways I'm not even sure they realized were possible. They've also informed much of what I'm teaching in the new book. It was also the year I left everything behind, packed two suitcases to the gills, hopped a one-way flight to Nashville, and stayed with virtual strangers who held space for me in their hearts and home when I had no place else to go. Doing the work gave me a direction and determination to get out of their home before I wore out my welcome. Again, I didn't want to do the work. I'd much rather have spent those months grieving the loss of my marriage.
I had to do the work because no one else was going to take care of me.
In the 12 months that followed, I traded my MacGyvered cardboard box furniture and air mattress for a real furniture in my space. I just launched this book that I know will continue to impact many creatives and help them make a living wage doing what they love. The Secret Watch even has a real shot at becoming a motion picture! I have GREAT clients, wonderful new friends, colleagues, and connections, and a life I never believed was possible for a poor mixed kid from the ghetto of Flint. All because I did the work of building a growth plan and executing on it day in and day out. Even when I didn't want to.
Am I where I want to be? Hardly, but looking at where I started this year, I'm proud of what I've managed to accomplish. It's been a great year and hard year in a LOT of ways. I cried at some point every day from the time I landed in Nashville for more than four months! The alone-ness isn't easy for me. I miss my kids, my friends, and family. I miss hugs and being close to people. It's challenging for an extrovert to have so much alone time. And yet, I'm clear that this is what I was called to do, so I'm showing up each day and doing it.
No creative entrepreneur is immune to the need to do the work of showing up consistently in their business and bringing their Great Work to the world. And it’s not without its sacrifices. There are hard choices to make on the regular. There are people to whom you must say no so that you can say yes to others. I think it was Marilyn Monroe that said sometimes good things must fall apart so better things can fall together. For creatives, choosing between to equally viable options can be like deciding which limb to cut off - especially if you’re a Fusion creative. But decide, you must, because you can’t put all your resources into everything. The decisions you make today shape your success tomorrow.
Remember: Success is a destination and you are already there.
Social media makes it easy to share only the veneer of life - the pretty, polished moments that make our friends envious, jealous, or otherwise disappointed in their own lives. Sure it's great to share the highs of our lives - the fancy dinners and fun nights out - but it's also important to remember that it's only the highlight reel. There's a LOT more that happens when the cameras aren't rolling. My stove explodes. The dishes sit in the sink. My tires need to be replaced. I don't live on the swanky side of town. I let people down. They let me down. We don't always get it right. We're human.
And still, we love, we live, and we strive. That's really all we can do. As creative entrepreneurs, it’s what we must do. We can’t not do this work for long, or it comes a-knocking. Sharing your Great Work with the world isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be torture, either. My hope is that Creative Freedom gives you the clear path you need to own your dreams without selling your soul.
Here's to another trip around the sun for you and me. I look forward to seeing what's in store for both of us!