Warning: Inspirational pep talk ahead.
I’m not good at anything. I didn’t excel in school and I wasn’t a stand out from the rest kind of office worker. I didn’t graduate from college, I didn’t earn any awards or accolades, and my peers in the business world probably spent more time making fun of my budget friendly outfits than marveling at my brilliance – mostly because I never did anything particularly brilliant. Fourth out of six, I was a true middle child. Nothing spectacular in looks, no standout achievements and truly bad in sports. Indeed, my dad even called me his “ne’er do well” daughter. (Hey, thanks for the self esteem boost there, dad.)
That’s why I’m so amazed that I managed to make this blogging thing work.
Paying My Dues
I made a lot of mistakes. Usually, if something went wrong I wasn’t far behind. Filing was misfiled, I could never find the right paperwork at the time I needed it, I wrote numbers down on scraps of paper and promptly lost them, and I could never really get into my office work. I hated it and it showed. We weren’t supposed to love our jobs though. We were supposed to slave to the grind five days a week so we can come home and do laundry, food shopping and vacuum our family rooms on the weekend. We’d get our reward at 65.
I hated work and I wasn’t good at it. My co-workers didn’t like me much, I was never cool or hip or popular. I did my job and went home and watched sitcoms. I didn’t go out clubbing or out for drinks in crowded bars with my team each night (not that many invited me) because it wasn’t my scene. And it suited me fine. I had friends, I didn’t need co-workers.
I hated work.
Except writing. Except computers.
Finding My Groove
There were two areas where I stood out among my peers. Writing and basic computer stuff. I always loved to write and once my superiors realized this, those types of projects always fell to me. In the mid to late 80′s we did a lot of that by typewriter, an IBM Selectric. As computers came into the picture, I learned what I could here and there, but I was no techie. However,in the late 90′s I found myself working at a place where the people knew even less about computer stuff than me. Soon I was trouble shooting Excell spreadsheets and Word documents. I wasn’t “good at” computers, but I was better than everyone else for a while.
At home, I was writing and networking. I learned that I could meet other people online, and I did. I learned that if I wrote stuff, people would read it – and respond. I learned that maybe I wasn’t such a screwup after all. There are lots of things that I’m not good at, but I could exploit the things I loved to do best – write, socialize and play around on a computer. I learned that I didn’t have to have an advanced technology degree to succeed at computer related stuff.
In 2000, after about a year of getting up the nerve, I applied for and landed a weekly online humor column. Someone actually wanted to pay me to do something I enjoy. It was then that I learned that a job doesn’t have to be “paying your dues.” I learned people can do what they love and earn money. OK, so it wasn’t much money. I believe that first sale landed me $25 per column, but hell, I was writing and earning and people were responding. People I didn’t even know were commenting and sharing stories. I didn’t know it then, but I was blogging.
I was hooked.
Ten years later, I look around and wonder what I’d be doing if I was still paying my dues. Really, my success as a blogger and in social media has more to do with my desire to stay out of traditional office work, than anything else. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love, love, love what I do now. I get to write about anything I want, people pay me to teach them what I know, and I work with the most amazing team in the space. However, my passion for blogging and my lack of passion and enthusiasm for my past career choices are what got me here today. What you see is a desire to succeed beyond the weekly paycheck. It’s not about everyone knowing my name or seeing my byline, it’s about waking up in the morning and looking forward to going to work. It’s about not wanting to stop work at the end of the day. It’s about wanting to work even when it’s not time to work. It’s about finding my calling.
At 46, I probably found my passion later in life than I would have liked, but I’m so happy to have found it at all.
Why am I telling you this?
Life is short, people. My son, the reason I left a traditional office job in the first place, just got on the bus for third grade. In less than 20 years I’ll be of retirement age (if I ever retire from this). I have gray hair and my knees creak. Why would I want to spend every day in a miserable situation? It’s bad enough time is slipping away, thank goodness I found my calling because if I had to spend twenty more years commuting and working with people I don’t even like, I’d probably lose it.
Find your passion.
Find your passion and exploit it. Do what you love to do. Be happy. Stop with the excuses. Don’t say, “Well, I can’t quit my job to do what I want,” instead find a way to do what you want on the side until you CAN quit. Explore new opportunities. Stop paying dues and start living life to its fullest. Don’t put it off and don’t wait until you’re too old to enjoy the fruits of your labor. You CAN do this. Maybe not “this” as in the same thing I do, but “this” as in the things that make you happy. In this day and age, there is absolutely no reason for people to have to spend every day doing what they despise.
Stop bitching and start living. Stop dreaming and start doing. Stop asking “what if” and find out what if. You’ll see what a difference it makes.