Are you trapped by your success?
A lot of creative, ambitious people are.
I remember talking to a creative director colleague (back in my ad agency days) who’d just come back from her college reunion. Her friends were published, had books, won awards, were teaching at universities. “And,” she said, “I’m writing this.” She gestured at a pharmaceutical ad.
There was a hint of regret. Not soul-baring agony: she was a naturally cheerful person, and she had plenty to be happy about. She was a rock star in her own world–a talented, fast-rising, well-liked, and very successful creative director.
But the truth was, she WASN’T satisfied. There was a hunger her advertising work wasn’t satisfying. She wanted to create something original–something truly her own.
I see this often with incoming clients. They’re successful, with jobs, businesses, or incomes most people would envy. But they’re trapped.
They want to do their own creative work, but they’re afraid: I’m successful here–what if I give it up and don’t make it? I’ll be nothing.
If you’re feeling this, let me share a few thoughts.
First, if your “success” doesn’t feel like TRUE success to you deep down–if it feels like you haven’t succeeded at your TRUE dream–that’s a message from your soul to go for more. Your soul’s desire to do your true creative work isn’t a silly pipe dream–it’s embedded in your soul because it’s a key part of who you are and the path you’re meant to follow in this lifetime.
Second, your choices are not black and white. The choice isn’t “ignore my creative dreams” or “cash in my 401k, abandon my family, and move to a deserted mountain cabin.” Fear–and the success trap–just make it feel that way.
You don’t have to quit your money-making work to make it as an artist. (In fact, I don’t generally advise doing it right away.) You can reconfigure your work schedule, find better clients or a better job, change things right away or over time. You can make any number of choices to design a life that supports your creative work. I’ve done it, my clients have done it, and you can do it too.
Third, when you COMMIT to your creative work, opportunities you can’t see now will appear. When you make a choice and go for it, the universe responds with support–often in unexpected ways.
Here’s a sampling of unexpected opportunities that appeared when my clients committed to their visions: A surprise severance package (giving her the financial support to pursue her dreams). Publicity from a prominent expert in her field (leading to almost $20k in sales). A dream client who found her “out of the blue” on the web ($6k right away, then more in ongoing work). An agent. Getting featured at top film festivals. A New York Times review.
Last but not least, committing to your dreams doesn’t mean casting yourself into the complete unknown. There are reliable things you can do to turn your dreams into actual reality. Ways to tune in to the Real You and get guidance on what’s truly right for you. Ways to “download” career shortcuts from your magical, successful future self–so you can take dramatic career leaps very quickly. Ways to find opportunities that feel truly miraculous. All while doing your truest creative work.
It all begins when you say no to the “success trap”–and yes to yourself.