When I opened my inbox this morning, I was greeted with a special message.
Six years ago today I made the decision to change my life. I was in the middle of my second post-secondary program, swimming in debt. I was worried about the economy, my job prospects, and whether or not I was truly happy with my chosen path. I found that I was spending too much of my time just hanging out, and not accomplishing the types of things I had always dreamed of. I knew I was a creative, but I never had the guts to really pursue that.
All that changed when I started We Are Not Special.
With the help of my better half Sabrina, together we started a little creative blog. We made a goal of trying to do at least one creative thing a day. We wrote (mostly) terrible songs, filled sketchbooks, conducted interviews, took pictures, and just stretched outside of our comfort zone. I spent endless lectures at U of T drawing in my moleskin at the back of the lecture hall. I just pushed and pushed.
I didn’t really set out to make it a career, I just wanted to use my time better. I wanted to unlock an important part of myself that I knew I had hidden away. I never realized what my potential could be.
This is all really a lesson in goals. Actually it’s a lesson in specific and realistic goals.
About a year and a half into working on my We Are Not Special project, I started to attract some clients. With the help of a talented photographer friend, we created photoshoots, designs, videos and helped build little brands. Suddenly, my goal of being creative everyday turned into an actual job. Before I knew it, I was making real money, working at a studio, and (much to my parents delight) dropping out of university. I decided to commit whole-heartedly.
But the only way I could make any of this work was by pursuing realistic goals. I decided that I didn’t want to be a solid professional in 6 months, or 2 years. I decided that by 5 years in, I wanted to hit specific goals. Some of those goals were;
- Having technical proficiency in the Adobe suite focused on; Photography, video, and design
- Learn how to run a small business
- Learn how to sell creative and manage projects
- Learn how to use a variety of cameras for both film and photography
You see, I didn’t decide that I needed to accomplish all of this overnight. If I set a shorter goal, I would have given up. Even looking back, I’m not completely happy with my work 2-3 years ago. All I see is what’s wrong with my photo, video and design work – but if I hadn’t set that goal, I wouldn’t have learned from and made money on those projects. Now, I’m coming up on the 5 year anniversary of my goals, and I just feel like I’m starting to get in the swing of things. I’m at a point now in my creative career where I realize I know nothing – in a good way.
I’ve learned that I need to continue these realistic cycles of goal setting and growth. I need to have the right expectations, and truly just put in my 10,000 hours of work. 5 years ago I was broke, frustrated, and unsure of my path. Today I have travelled the country, built campaigns for brands, won awards for my creative, worked with elite businesses in Canada, and seen my clients achieve success because I created something for them. If you’re sitting there wondering about making a life change, you should probably start today.
I don’t consider myself to be a bold person. I worked slowly and fit things in when I can. At one point I was working two jobs, volunteering, going to university full time, and starting my business. Whenever I could, I just tried to fit in a little bit of creative here or there. I brought my sketchbook with me, I played my guitar even if I was tired, and I snapped as many (awful) photos as I could. I know what it feels like to be tired, and be drained after a long day, but those who commit, succeed.
2017 marks a new chapter in my growth and development, not just as a creative, but as a person. If you’re afraid to step out because you might make a mistake, the best advice I have is this; I have learned more from taking a leap of faith and making mistakes then I ever have from playing it safe. When a project goes bad, when something fails, I know exactly what I have to do to perfect it next time.