Small Steps to Big Dreams

You will not succeed. You do not have a name. Don’t even try‘, said The Very Famous Journalist when I asked her for her advice on how to publish my book. The irony of that conversation was that we were at a woman empowerment conference and I have signed up for a 1:1 mentoring session, where we were supposed to spar with each other.

How do you respond to something like that?

Fight. I could snap at her and give it straight to her how she got her name first from well-connected parents, part of communist establishment and then from her famous husband, also a journalist.

Flight. I could just stand up and walk away feeling defeated before even starting.

Freeze. I could feel offended and chew my own pride.

I did not do any of the above.

I thought to myself: What is a success for her and what is a success for me? Quickly I realized we have very different definitions.

How many books do you expect to sell?‘ she asked and, without waiting for my response, continued to tell me how many she sold, how many of that was because she was controversial and people hated her or wanted to find something in her book to gossip about.

This is not me‘, I thought. My purpose is to connect with people through my stories. I listened to her for the rest of the mentoring session, reflecting further on what from her experience is applicable to me and what’s not, thanked her and went my way.

Step 1. Define Your Dream.

We live in the world of plenty. There’s so many choices, it is easy to get headache and every day media seems to be serving us more. We see regular people, like us, setting up their own business, travelling the world, getting fit, getting younger, dancing, cooking, learning a new skill, getting more kids, graduating from top prestigious school, getting promotion… you name it, someone has done it. And here we are, looking at the mirror and reflecting what are we missing. Then we sign up for a gym five times a week, buy a piano online to be delivered overnight and download all the language learning apps deciding it is the time to know Swahili. A week later we finish binge watching yet another series while scrolling on your feed through more of the success stories.

The biggest problem of the world of plenty is that it keeps serving us new life recipes to try, that are not even tasty or digestible for our stomachs. When you go to the restaurant, is your goal to eat everything on the menu or to have a one, satisfying meal? Spend some time on reflecting, what is it for you that makes you happy and fulfilled. And, big advice: talk about it to your close ones, family, friends. Often they know us better than ourselves. I knew I want to write a book. I always loved writing and I really wanted to bring that part of my life back to everyday routine. I planned a business book and shared my idea with my best friend. ‘I always thought you’d write a fantasy novel’, she said. It stroke me. She was right. This is exactly what would make me happy.

Step 2. Keep it real and keep it true.

Coming back to definition of success that I (did not) share with the Very Famous Journalist. Success does not equal fulfillment. How many people are there on top of different ladders suffering from depression, anxiety, health conditions, loneliness, addictions… Will it really make you happy to have # of followers? To have ## money on your account? To get approval of people you do not know and will forget you as soon as the next thing comes their way? Maybe it will. Maybe that is what you seek. But maybe there is power in human connection. In every day small joys that you are yet to discover. The biggest kick I have got from writing my book was not signing the contract with the publishing house, at the end I have not seen those people with my eyes, have no idea who they are or even if I like them… but what made the journey the most enjoyable were the conversations with my three friends, who were my first readers. Listening to them, getting into my story, sharing their questions and reflections and ideas. Getting them excited and receiving their messages on ‘when is the next chapter coming???’ Chatting with my husband to get his advice on the best fighting techniques and how can I incorporate those.

Stay true to what really matters to you. Stay true to who you are. Accept your limitations. At the end the Very Famous Journalist was right, whether you like it or not, most of us have to start small, no matter how big your dream is. We are often missing resources to begin with – the name, the connections, the experience, the money, the time… Keeping it down-to-earth on what we can commit to and taking it step-by-step definitely helps to achieve long-term goal. You want to get fit? Don’t start with a radical diet or a workout that will drain you. Resign from one snack a day, go one time a week to train, create a habit and expand from there.

Step 3. Listen to criticism, but get a support network.

Especially when you start something new, you should be open to learn and listen. However, whenever you hear someone’s less or more solicited advice, ask yourself, if the advice comes from the good place. Firstly, as stated above, although you are doing, on surface, the same thing, people have different goals within it. One person who starts their own business wants just to lead it to a sustainable income level and live from it satisfying life. Another wants to be the next wolf of Wall street, or accelerate as fast as possible, sell and move to the next thing. Nothing wrong with neither, your goals are different, but also – the advice from one to another will not be the most helpful.

Reach out and ask for feedback, advice, but always take it with a grain of salt. The experiences are, at the end, individual and unique and not necessarily have 1:1 translation. I remember starting my stretching classes couple of years back, when I really wanted to get more flexible and strengthen my posture. It took me moths and years to find the right coach, as most of them out there used to be professional gymnasts since they were kids. They could not relate to how it is to start working on flexibility in your 30s and could not come up with a good workout program for me to make progress. They were really masters of what they were doing, but their advice was rather useless for me, although they lead other, younger students for better achievements. And nothing wrong with that. Just find your crowd…

And that is probably the most important part of chasing the dream. Yes, it is your dream, but sharing it with others is always multiplying the joy.

I have heard once this social science theory that we are outcome of the 5 people we have the most interactions with on daily basis. If you are spending time with toxic, self-serving, unemphatic crowd, chances are you become one of them faster than you think. It will drain you and get you, frankly, nowhere. Focus on the real connections. People who have similar journeys like you or just genuinely care for you. Find the group to share your doubts, insecurities, brainstorm together on how to progress. It may be people with the similar dream, but it does not have to. People do not have to be into the same thing you are trying to achieve to be of support. If they wish you well, they will be interested in hearing you out and they will cheer for you. Whenever I open myself up and reach out to the (right) people I am endlessly surprised how much goodness and care and compassion is there in the world. Believe in it, give it to others and it will bounce right back to you.

I cannot state enough how much positive energy I received every time I have shared details of the story I am writing. How much fun it was to explore together and hear the thoughts of others.

So now… To your dream…

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Go 🙂

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