"Lower Your Sails and Chase Your Dream"

"Lower Your Sails and Chase Your Dream"

"Only you can do the little things that become big things. Only you can define the life you want to live." - Craig Martelle, author

Imagine, a 50-year-old happily married woman, (Ok, 52. Yeesh!) with 2 amazing teenagers, and a successful career in a medical / academic field for 25 years. What level of insanity would such a woman have to reach to tackle a completely new career, particularly one in which there is no clear path of study? I am quite sure that many of my friends and family want to ask me that very question because, I am that woman. The reply that I would offer comes in the form of another question. When does life become so routine that we, as adults, stop dreaming? I was not unhappy. I lacked for nothing. I have love, lots of love! I have an amazing family and we've built a beautiful life. But I do still have dreams, and my biggest dream has always been to create!

I grew up surrounded by music. I've often thought that music was my first love. My dad is a musician and as far back as I can remember, I wanted to make music too. I love to sing! There are thousands of unemployed good singers in the world, so I chose a more practical route. I satisfied my dream at a young age by playing in the high school band, learning a new instrument (flute) in 4 months to do so. After graduation I quietly tucked my dream into a box and continued along the many milestones of life that most of us take. I stumbled, I searched, and eventually, I was lucky enough to find the man of my dreams. We raised a family, and along the way I found that I had an aptitude for drawing, as well as music. I even took on a new instrument at the young age of 43. (I have a collection of acoustic and electric guitars that, as you can see, I enjoy "noodling", when time allows.) Does any of this sound familiar? It looks different for everyone, but it's still "just life".

They say that life passes in "seasons". Over the years, raising my babies and making a home for my family, I never lost the creative drive. My husband was the one who suggested that I write. I believed for years that this was simply not a talent that I possessed. Then my life entered a season, one that was crying out for change. My children were stretching their wings, soon to take flight. My students, whom I adore, I continued to serve, but experience and expertise had all but eliminated the need for constant study and preparation. A change was indeed coming. I could sail along, allowing the winds to fill my sail and take me where they would. Or I could drop sails, crank up the motor, and choose my own journey with my hands raised, rock music blaring along the way! I was either going to accept the change as life delivered it, or I was going to determine what that change would be and the direction it would take me.

As a younger woman, I found change difficult. Recently, I've had reason to question this because I've certainly embraced, and even initiated, dramatic changes in my life in the last decade. Change has become opportunity. Rather than avoid it, I have chosen to direct it and create it when I can, and when I think it will be beneficial. And so, after one more gentle push from my husband, I initiated a change. I wrote and self-published my first book.

Wow. That makes it sound so very simple, and in a way it was. Writing the book was the easy part. I fell in love with the writing process and that alone made it easy. However, self-publishing is a profession wholly unto itself. There is no university that teaches you how to self-publish. There are so many variables, so many options, and so many opinions on how to do it that 10 minutes spent online researching the topic will scare even the most resolute adventurers! If I was going to go all the way with this, then I was going to have to figure it out, and no one was going to do it for me.

But, how? That's the question that I wish people would ask. Not the "why". My why has a dozen answers, all of which are specific to me. It's really in the how that others can benefit from my story. "Only you can do the little things that become big things." The answer is in that one sentence. Little things. A single step that leads to another, and another, and well, you get the idea. My single step was a podcast. I was very lucky to find Joanna Penn's, The Creative Penn podcast. It was my literal roadmap to my new endeavor, and although I have never met her, through her podcast and books she has become one of my mentors. The information in that podcast helped me create a roadmap. "Self-Publishing 101" I call it. But action is required to achieve a goal. That brings me to the point of all this rambling.

What is the one thing that you need to chase your dream? The only thing that can propel you to, and through, that first step, then the next, and so on. My very wise grandmother defined it in one word. GRIT. Yes, I know, how cliche' and vague of me, right? Hear me out, will you? In his book, The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance, Rich Diviney describes grit as being a combination of attributes. They are COURAGE, ADAPTABILITY, RESILIENCE, and PERSEVERANCE. We all possess these attributes, just to varying degrees. I have attempted to define these attributes in a way that I believe you can apply them toward any challenge, including your dream.

Choose your first step. Your journey must start somewhere after all. You don't need an entire road map, just the first step or two. Now, deep breath, and muster up that one act of great COURAGE to get you on your way! ("Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway". - John Wayne). If you stall out and find yourself overthinking the process, there's another strategy that courageous people typically use. Autopilot. I am an overthinker of the worst kind, so I use this strategy frequently! I have a mantra that plays in my head during periods of overthinking. "Don't think. Just do."  And yes, now I hear it in Tom Cruise's voice. Once you're moving forward, be prepared to ADAPT. The shifting of the winds, the change of the tides, and the demands of life are things that we must all work around. There are many things within your journey that you will have no control over. Be prepared to change course and your ship won't sink when that unexpected wave hits. Making the adaptations is one thing, but you must also be RESILANT against obstacles that will appear out of nowhere and will force you to take a step backwards. Not everyone will want you to succeed, and real life happens without any regard for your goals. Accept that there will be productive days, and there will be setbacks. Celebrate the small victories and get off your own back when there are setbacks. Finally, in the face of all these things you must, I repeat, you must determine to PERSEVERE in the face of adversity. Perseverance is hard to define but it is not magic, and there are no great secrets to applying it. It's all in your head and you have control over how and when you use it. When it feels overwhelming or you want to give up you need to ask yourself, how badly do you want it? Look, success is not guaranteed to any of us. But success is not the point of the journey. The journey itself is the point! The joy and accomplishment in overcoming the day-to-day challenges that are a natural part of the journey give it meaning. In the end, it's all about taking control of our ship, lowering our sails, cranking up the motor (and the music), and cutting through the waves to our next, great adventure! "Only you can define the life you want to live." Thank you, Mr. Martelle. Truer words were never spoken.

- Steph
Back to blog