There are two ways to live your life.
1. Make sure you’ve got food, shelter and company – and feel content
2. Strive for more
‘More’ might mean travelling the world, becoming a millionaire, working your way up to CEO of a big company, running a marathon a month, making an Oscar-winning film, achieving a Nobel Prize for being excellent at something specific, fundraising for a worthy cause, a solo exhibition at Tate Modern.
But striving for more means taking risks and accepting the potential for rejection and failure.
And so it’s at this point that some people think: hmmmm. Maybe I don’t really need to have my first novel published/ art work exhibited/ win a Nobel Prize. Maybe it’s all superficial; a desire for recognition, maybe I’ll just opt for the simple life. Earn enough to pay my rent, buy my food.
There’s nothing wrong with the simple life. But we also shouldn’t be sidetracked from our mission by fear of failure.
An oft used quote discussing this subject is along the lines of: one way to get rich is to want for less. I say: another way to get rich is to work hard for more.
(NB: by ‘rich’ I don’t necessarily mean financially, I mean the richness of life associated with having an abundance of wonderful things – this could be $$$ but could also be awards, published works, charitable accomplishments etc.)
So first work out what it is that you want. Then work towards achieving it.
I have two recent examples of wanting something and not stopping until I got it. Both times it paid off.
It’s coming up to a year since I started my full time job as a copywriter. I love the job, and want to stay on, but decided that I’d like to be paid more. I mentioned this to my dad and he suggested waiting until after maternity leave. This made me DETERMINED to get my pay rise.
I wrote a proposal and gave it to my manager, outlining what I wanted and why I thought I deserved it.
She told me this morning that they’ve reviewed my work and would like to offer me exactly what I asked for.
The ‘hard work’ here wasn’t asking for more money, it was putting in the hours and demonstrating my commitment to the company. But there was a risk involved, as they could have said no.
Wimmin, if you want more from your career, I’d recommend reading this:
It’s a truly empowering book about working out what you want, how to get it and overcoming the obstacles that women face in the workplace – like the notion that pregnancy makes you less worthy of a promotion.
I was owed over a grand by an artist I worked for (read about the saga here) and decided that I’d had enough of staying quiet so I published a blog post exposing him. The Independent were keen to cover the story so I told them what had happened to me, and others who were also owed money did the same. They published this.
Between writing my original blog post and the Independent article being published, I was sent threatening letters from the artist, and was subjected to a string of defamatory posts he wrote about me online.
It would have been easier, calmer and less of a risk to delete my blog post, withdraw and forget about the whole thing. But I was owed that money and hadn’t done anything wrong so, with the support of all the others who’d been affected, I persevered.
This morning my solicitor contacted me to tell me that (after a bit more to-ing and fro-ing, letter writing and liaising) he’s paid up. The full amount.
With both those situations, I was scared that asking for what I wanted (or was entitled to) would backfire and that I’d be turned down. But taking that risk paid off (literally).
And so now I eagerly await contact from the agents I’ve approached with my first novel. I’ve had one rejection letter but decided that instead of letting that deter me, I’d use it as motivation to plough on and get this book published. It might never happen – but the only way to find out is by putting it out there.
My dad’s mantra is: remove yourself from your comfort zone every day. So do something that scares you but that will make you feel better for having done. Sheryl Sandberg says that when she’s in a daunting situation, she asks herself: what would I do if I wasn’t afraid?
And so I dare you to take one risk next week. Ask for a pay rise, approach a gallery about exhibiting your work, send a sample of your music to a label – whatever you’re looking for (money/ fame/ exposure/ recognition) take a step towards achieving it by putting yourself out there.