Honesty. It’s a lost art. Are you really sure you don’t know what you want to do? I call BS on that. What I’ve realized after coaching so many 30 and 40 years old is that you know what you want. You just don’t think it will sell and there’s the rub.
What I’ve noticed is that we know what we want. However, read any marketing play and we are constantly being told that we still don’t know what was want and someone can help I find it. U2 is currently no longer topping the charts so stop replaying the tune that you still haven’t found what you are looking for. The truth is that you never set out to find it with all of your might.
Let me explain based on the most absurd “interest” or “want” I could conjure as a mom to three kids who constantly point out pirate ships on the Sydney Harbour. Say you want to get on a platform and tell stories to excite kids about pirate ships. Real-life private ships. They still exist. This is what happens in your brain once a similar impractical thought pops up. The practical “you” jump into a let me shit on my idea sequence. You start poking holes at your idea. Seriously, pirate ships? You are an investment banker yet this is your deepest desire? Seems like a waste of an education? Plus, doing this would only be worthwhile if you get paid for it. Meanwhile, what would living this dream mean? What you are doing to start donning a pirate costume? Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Your friends will think you lost a marble. Does any of this sound familiar? Put the pirate thing aside. What’s your wacky interest? How about in your case?
It’s true you could just have an active imagination and just be wishing to actually be a pirate. It’s fine but put aside your need to be practical for now. This is then what happens…
You’ll then stay stuck in your own self-created no-fly zone for life. You won’t entertain the thought privately because if it doesn’t sell then it doesn’t count. Then the thought of telling others will just increase in pain to avoid sounding stupid. Zilch is what happens. Your interest gets lodged into this tight corner called: overthinking. So many people stay caught in this loop. You know what you want. It may not be fully thought out since you won’t even think about it. Then you profess to others and yourself that what you want is so stupid that you have nothing in mind. You then voluntarily tell yourself: I’m better off starting from scratch. Which you do in your head and based on what is socially acceptable to think which has now become: I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I want because what I want will not sell. Look, I can’t even sell myself on it.
I’m not here to evaluate whether this profession or vocation merits a second thought. The reality is the maker of this thought has thought about it more than twice. Instead, what I am here to suggest is that starting from this point of “I have zero ideas” to “I have one idea” makes a huge difference and must be explored. Progress of any kind requires a step up, side-ways, down. It doesn’t matter. It’s in avoiding inaction that you will always be better off. Imagine going with this cockamamie idea. You decide to hop on a fake pirate ship meant for tourists. Exactly the ones my sons love on Sydney Harbour. You ask its crew questions. You uncover what it feels like to be on a wooden sailship. You notice how other sailors revere that pirate ship replica whilst sailing. It’s on that mini-adventure that you uncover sea smells that wisp you away into the seven seas exactly like a private. You gave your interest a chance. When you walk the plank and leave that pirate ship will you have a solid indisputable pirate admiration offer to sell? Likely not. What may you have instead of following your curiosity is data. Isn’t data what we can all agree on driving businesses? Same thought when it comes to selling yourself on the idea that you know what you want. For starters, you will get a feeling. Isn’t that what so many marketers are really trying to sell these days anyways? Consider this:
You think you are selling a cardigan. Yet, you are selling a cuddle. The same goes here. You get to feel feelings that tingle inside of you. You learn something too. Maybe selling pirate tours or fostering little pirate ship aficionados won’t help you reach your retirement goals. However, you paid attention to your wishes and didn’t shit on them before giving yourself the option to exploring them. What does this do for your self-esteem? You just validated that you know what you want and what you want is worthwhile. Whatever you felt on that ship you wish you could bottle up and sell to others. So what’s your best next step? I’ll let you choose your own adventure there. The point is that even wild inklings desire a chance. Quite possibly other steps would include more commercial ones or fantastical ones. You might go on to explore who owns those pirate ships? What can you learn from their owners? What kind of people might be into pirate ship trivia? Perhaps, you will stumble upon your kind of people? This is the beginning of a journey that you can keep living if you let yourself live. You want certainty that you won’t look like a fool to your stiff friends? I have none. I thought you were going for a little pirate living? Since when is booty promised? Instead, what is promised is that you get closer to the feelings you may just be missing from your life. What if those feelings can heal your malaise from being a boring IB? My sense is that you deserve to take one step.
Other mini-adventures that have astounded me personally include my interest in making Tiffany Lamp Shades. Was I going to sell my artwork in a design store? No. Yet, the feeling I was missing in my life turned out to be that of feeling like I was inspired to make something fascinating and historically rich. This was during a time when I desired to go to law school. What was I doing at the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) making Tiffany lampshades when I was pouring my soul literally into LSAT prep books? I needed to do something for myself. There was always this fantasy that I’d make dresses or clothing as a little girl with Barbies. I think any Barbie fan at least once sewed a tube top or dress for at least one of our dolls. Sleeves are overrated and too advanced. A feeling of being engrossed was what I was missing. Let yourself get engrossed in making something and this lets you explore a new identity or an aspect of yourself that’s been hidden. It conjures good feelings. Doesn’t it? Imagine riding the train to the campuses of F.I.T. and roaming the halls reading of fashion history and then hanging out in a classroom on the weekends with fellow makers? Had I suddenly become a maker myself? I was teasing myself with this new identity and it was soul-satisfying. My genuine desire back then was to make something frivolous and beautiful with zero metrics of success attached to that item nor its maker. This was foreign to me. Do something for the sake of doing it? Do something to lift me up? What that experience did for me what to awaken my human spirit. I felt important and creative. Being creative in my life actually rose in importance then. Did I go off and even complete that lampshade? Nope. Yet, that wasn’t the point. It was for me and my emotional well-being. I learned new things. I saw how much more there is to explore and it was a stepping stone as a creator of my own life. When did you stop thinking you were the creator of yours? That’s why you have to stop shitting on your interests and instead follow them so that you can uncover the feelings you may be longing to feel.
Your wants don’t need to have a financial return on investment to be valid enough to explore. I bet you some things we pay for today didn’t start out that way. Take those pirate ship tours? Instead, treat your wants as real. You have them for a reason you may not yet know. Have the courage to be willing to find out why. There is a treasure of data about what you need and have been longing for in your life if you just give your quirks a chance. You have my permission to buy yourself an eye patch if that floats your personal boat. Ahoy, mate.
P.S. I am Melissa Llarena a courage coach. I am writing a book to help us all reawaken our human spirit. If you’d like to follow my personal journey or subscribe to my weekly newsletters then sign-up right here. You’ll gain access to my 75 podcast episodes meant to inspire your creativity, courage, and sense of curiosity PLUS I’ll add fries with that by sending you my 9 tips to feel hopeful, empowered, and limitless on your career + life journey. All of this and more located on the same page. Keep exploring! Life can be fun and filled with wonder even if you alphabetize your spice cabinet or would never tell colleagues you’re addicted to TikTok. I see the inner kid in everyone. You are still magical to me and your dreams should continue to light you up.