A friend of mine once did a Tarot reading for me centered around the question, “Will I become a successful writer?” I defined “success” as becoming a famous author and never having to work again.
The answer was an upside-down Ten of Swords – which basically looks like a guy about to get impaled ten times. Before giving up on my life’s dream to avoid a Game of Thrones-style death, my friend explained that the swords in this context represented trials – similar to a hero’s journey. My journey wouldn’t be easy, but if I stuck with it, the rest of the reading indicated success.
I spent 7 years as a freelance journalist before deciding against going full-time. I dropped out of college – twice – first as an English major, and then as a Cinema Studies major. One of my books was picked up by an agent, but for various reasons never got traditionally published. My first full-time contract job ended abruptly when the entire company was restructured (and, as expected, contractors are always the first to go) – and don’t even get my started on my misadventures as an entrepreneur!
None of my trials have been easy, but they have all made me wiser. I didn’t want to be a journalist, but I still want to connect people with content that is helpful and interesting to them. I eventually made it back to college and graduated with a Business Management degree with a focus on marketing. I self-published that book and it’s since reached more than 12,000 downloads despite my – then – lack of marketing knowledge (a relaunch of those is also on the horizon). Lastly, while I wasn’t expecting my contract to end when it did, I realized several weeks before that I wanted to work with people, not for them.
Of those many trials, I’d like to think that most of them are learning experiences that I’ve undergone as an entrepreneur. Every time I’ve been faced with a new challenge, whether it’s learning how to master SEO, how to develop a solid content strategy, or how to write a white paper, it’s been up to me to learn how to overcome it. As a result, I’ve successfully worked with dozens of small and mid-sized businesses, and most of them have been referrals.
While I still probably have another sword or two to endeavor (we never really stop growing, after all), my question doesn’t have the same meaning it once did. Today I define “success” as helping others who are genuinely trying to improve peoples’ quality of life. Success is when a private practice can expand its business partially because of the content I’ve written for them. Success is when a client gets their dream job after I updated their LinkedIn profile so that the right people can find them. Success is when I create and implement a new content strategy for a naturopath whose talents can genuinely heal a lot of peoples’ ailments.
Do I still want to be a successful author? Hell yeah – and I’m more than halfway through writing the book that I think will make that happen. In the meantime, I haven’t worked in a long time. When you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.