When I was growing up, I learned about the role of
work by watching my parents and grandparents.
You worked hard, sacrificed time and opportunities until your retirement. Then, usually sometime in your 60s, you start to cross things off your bucket list — spending time with the grandkids, writing a memoir, traveling the world. Your mortgage was paid off and you lived off of your pension.
By the time I grew to an adult, this wasn’t the reality.
People are launching second and third careers in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. My generation is saddled with student loan debt. We’ve witnessed friends and family pass from an untimely death. And we’re no longer content waiting until retirement to do the things we dream of.
We’re prepared to work longer. We’re not willing to wait until the end of life to enjoy it. We want to be present at the beginning of our kids’ lives, not just the middle.
To do this, to create a future when the future isn’t mapped out for us, that’s a little something I like to refer to as: career defined by life design.
I’m Kim Wensel and this is Resentfully Yours, a limited series podcast where we examine, adjust, and reframe the expectations of a creative career.
The topics on this show explore how to avoid resentment when you’re feeling misunderstood, overworked, and undervalued. Because as a working creative the question isn’t IF you’ll feel this way, it’s WHEN.
This series focuses on how to get back to work that’s life giving, not life sucking; making your own definition of “making it;” and ditching the excuses that are keeping us from reaching our true potential.
WORKING TO LIVE
Abbi and Callen Hearnes started their photography business early in their career. They loved adventure and would travel all over the country and the world to capture couples on their wedding day.
Eventually they wanted to put roots down. The constant travel was exciting but exhausting. So they narrowed where they were willing to shoot.
And couples continued booking them…even when they hadn’t planned on having their wedding in one of those locations.
They booked them because they loved their work. And as the Hearnes narrowed their location availability they became experts in those places.
They could help with ceremony location scouting. If the couple wanted to say “I Do” cliffside as the sun was rising, they knew the exact timing to accomplish that.
By the time I found the Hearnes, they were completely dictating their availability.
On their website they had an annual schedule listed and with each month they had specific dates open for booking. If you wanted them to shoot your wedding or elopement, that’s what you had to choose from. And they still booked out over a year in advance.
Imagine that. Setting your work up to completely support the life you want to live.
Two months back I bought an e-course that featured them. The course was focused on serving photographers but I was so intrigued with their approach to living and working in a way that supported their dreams that I clicked “buy now” during the pre-sale.
The reason I was so pulled to the humans behind this particular business was because from what I could see is that they worked just enough to live the life they wanted. And that’s a fine line, isn’t it?
When you’re successful and there could be so much more, it’s hard to stop when you have enough.
“The goal,” Callen said in an interview, “was to spend more time in the places we love. We fell in love with adventure and travel first.”
“Instead of having the job dictate your life, your life dictates how you seek employment, how you seek your dream.”
This course was wonderful to watch, even if it was a bonafide documentary. Because there’s power in seeing people doing things in an alternative way.
But what they glossed over — probably because it’s so inherent to them — is how they were able to define what their dream was. Because to work towards it you’ve got to see it.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES IS KEEPING YOU UNHAPPY
What does success mean to you?
How would you define it?
When you think about a life well lived, what does that look like?
We don’t ask ourselves these questions enough. We get caught up in what those around us are doing. And it’s hard to disentangle what they’re striving for from what we’re striving for.
Keeping up with the Joneses.
Even those of us who reject this notion of consuming and proving, it’s easy to fall into without realizing it.
We moved into a new home last year and I’ve been amazed at how much pressure I’ve felt to add more since then.
People putting in pools, ripping out entire new kitchens to replace with custom, adding decks and fire pits.
We have a small yard. One so small I thought I’d never live in a house like this. But we had ½ an acre before, filled with trees. And while I miss it, I don’t miss having to take down the dead trees before they fell on the house or spending all weekend from April to October weeding.
Our family values home but we also value travel and we want to spend as much time as possible outside of the home. When we got clear on that it made finding the right now home easier for us.
My husband and I actually just had a conversation about the right now home vs. the forever home. And we came to the conclusion that we might never have a forever home. I’ll admit – there was a little sadness that came with that. But that passed when we concluded that we don’t want to stay put just because that’s what others do.
It might not be what we had growing up but it’s what we want.
When you know your true desires it’s much easier to build a life that supports them.
If I think back to the times I’ve felt most lost as an adult, it’s when I’ve felt purposeless — I didn’t know where I was headed. Without this, what’s guiding you?
People try to do this by asking about the future. In job interviews they ask: “Where do you want to be in five years?”
Everyone wants to say, “Not here,” but instead we ramble on about something acceptable, most likely related to the company we’re interviewing for.
I find that setting those guideposts out as far as five years is difficult. Personally, I can only plan for about 1-2 years in advance. And lately creating a vision for six months has been the most motivating.
It’s said that we tend to overestimate what we can get done in a day, but underestimate what we can get done in a year.
Don’t believe me?
Think about where you were one year ago. What are some things you wanted that you now have?
One year ago I was in Palm Springs. I opened my brand new journal poolside and made a list under the headline: Future Self. Things like:
- Read 2-3 books per month
- Travel every 4-6 weeks
- A home in a neighborhood that feels like a community, filled with friends and laughter
- Host a group gathering
These are things that I have now.
When we’re intentional about what we want, we can work towards it.
Some people talk about this practice as manifesting. Honestly I’m not into the whole “imagine yourself a millionaire and you’ll become a millionaire” schtick.
I do, however, know that what you focus on will grow.
I keep inspiration close at hand. My office walls are covered with magazine layouts and photos of fonts, destinations, and design that make me feel something.
As I was looking back at some of my old mood boards — one from three years ago — an image popped out to me. I wasn’t aware of this, but I had posted multiple photos from the place I’m hosting my retreat this year.
It was an editorial featuring the owners, not even focused on the space.
I was pulled to that place three years ago and I kept it in my mind. So when I came up with the idea for a retreat and looked into the space, it wasn’t new to me even though I thought it was at the time. I had set the intention for it years prior.
I had a similar experience this week. I was going back through old photos saved in my Instragam account. I was looking for a quote but what caught my eye were two posts I saved nine months ago — light fixtures that without even realizing it I had purchased this year to install in our new house.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, you’re thinking.
Maybe it’s obvious this happened because we’re pulled towards things we like.
But the lesson I want to impart here is to listen to your inner nudges.
That’s why I collect visual inspiration. That’s why I create mood boards. That’s why I journal. So that I can be reminded of how I want to feel, of the life I want to create.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU WANT; THE HOW WILL REVEAL ITSELF
I do an exercise with my clients called the Future Bio.
I instruct them to write a bio of themselves in the future. You get to decide how far. The only rule is that you don’t rule something out because it feels impossible.
This should be the most fully expressed version of you — the one without limitations and struggle.
There are always giggles when sharing these because it can feel unrealistic. Our intellectual brain automatically jumps to “HOW?”
But that’s not your job to figure out right now. Your job is to simply get the vision out of your head and come face to face with it.
I find that we avoid doing this because we get overwhelmed with how great things can be. Fear of success — I didn’t understand that for a long time.
But not meeting my potential — that was a scary thought for me. But if you don’t articulate what you’re capable of you can’t yearn for it. Funny little self-sabotaging behavior there, huh?
The big question is: Can you let go of your expectation of failure?
As Brene asks: “Are you willing to show up and be seen when we can’t control the outcome?”
I love roadmaps.
As I’ve said, most of my life I’ve lived in the future, calculating the likelihood of certain situations playing out. And because of this I’ve played it relatively safe.
This past year I’ve pushed up against my comfort zone more than I would have liked. And it’s been scary. Like bursting into tears at the thought of showing up scary. And you should know, I’m not a cryer…at least that’s what my husband tells me.
Luckily I’ve had an adviser on my team in these moments who’s asked me this: “Are you actually avoiding a risk that could cause harm to you or your family or are you avoiding disappointment and shame?”
The answer is almost always the latter. I’ve had to learn that different does not necessarily mean unsafe.
We spend a lot of our time with one foot in, half committing to our vision. But to see the results we have to be unwavering and that requires trust — trust that we have our own backs and that we’re capable.
This year I came up with a mantra that I ask myself in moments of doubt: What if I go all in?
This has helped me in moments of transition. It helped me leave my full-time job and when I had to fire a client.
And this year it helped me when I saw the business I wanted to have but was scared about how I would make money doing it.
Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu said: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future.If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
Because that’s all we really have right? This moment right now?
You can’t bring all of the attention to what you want if you’re distracted by the how. You can’t do that when you’re being held down by the past or intimidated by the future.
I purchased Will Smith’s memoir and in the introduction he tells the story of his father needing a new wall in front of his shop. As a kid he thought it was an insane demand from his father — something a kid shouldn’t be responsible for.
He’d get frustrated and say, “Why do we have to build a wall anyway? This is impossible”
His dad would respond, “Stop thinking about the damn wall. There is no wall. There are only bricks. Your job is to lay this brick perfectly.”
Almost a year after they started, they finished the wall. Will’s dad inspected it and said, “Now don’t ya’ll ever tell me there’s something you can’t do.”
Your job is to have the vision and then focus on the brick you’re laying today.
Start where you are. Use what you have.
THE POWER OF SHOWING UP, DAY AFTER DAY
Of course there are reasons we hold back. Core limiting beliefs.
These are the long-held stories we have about why our version of success is not possible.
What’s your core limiting belief? The excuse you come back to time and again about why you can’t have the absolute best that you desire.
What are you gaining by believing this?
What are you missing out on?
And if you continue believing this, who else will be impacted and how?
I answered these questions for myself and found that playing small wasn’t just about me. If I didn’t get over my core limiting belief that I don’t have enough to impart on my own, I wouldn’t be doing this show.
If I maintained the belief that people only pay top dollar for deliverables, I’d still be stuck behind the scenes toiling away on client deliverables.
If I thought to be a leader meant having a five-step method to teach, I wouldn’t be inspiring others to challenge antiquated traditions or overdone business trends.
Are you waiting to live your real life? And if so, how long will you wait to embark on the things you want? And what are you gaining by putting it off today?
On one ride, Peloton Instructor Ally Love said, Everyone can start, very few will finish.
Be the one who finishes. The one who’s willing to acknowledge how good you are and is willing to clear all other clutter so that you can be known for that.
And then show up as this version of yourself. Because honestly the future you can be the tomorrow you.
Believe in the power of your clothing and your environment. Believe in the power of who you surround yourself with. Believe in the power of constantly revisiting your vision and changing it as needed.
And believe in the power of saying no, even when a seemingly amazing opportunity comes along. Because if it’s going to take you in a direction that isn;t aligned with where you want to go, it’s only a distraction.
In their course, the Hearnes said, “It’s only a dream gig if it’s your dream. Figure out what works for you – that will not look the same for everyone.”
This is how we achieve work-life balance. This is how we feel alive, day in and day out. Not by getting better at what someone else is doing, but by finding the path that we can’t help but walk down.