12.20.2011

Don't Settle: Make a Rainbow! Blaze a Trail!

Are you someone who waits on the weather for a glimmer of those elusive rainbows, or are you someone who makes their own rainbows? Are you a follower or are you a trail blazer? 

I've been traveling the "indie" publishing path this year and I recently made a decision not to renew my membership in a large writer's organization after seeing little change on behalf of indie authors, e-published authors, small presses, and the erotic romance genre throughout my twelve years of membership. Investing my money and volunteer time in that organization, even the time equated to money in my world because I work two jobs -- one as an IT professional, the other as a self-published author wearing many hats, including PR firm. I enjoy marketing almost as much as the writing itself so it's a good fit. But being vocal about the reasons for my departure, as you can imagine, resulted in lots of flak for going against the majority. So be it. I've got thick skin (I'm a writer, after all). 
I'm also an entrepreneur at heart, and have been since reporting for regional newspapers while still a junior in high school. So, this certainly wasn't the first time in my life I was criticized for what I deemed to be a pointed case of not settling for something I didn't want. Won't be the last. I'm not the type to play doormat with my time, money or talent. But one author's response really caught my attention, and not because it was meant negatively. On the contrary, it was meant as good advice from a more experienced author who has been around the block -- and then some. This was someone whose advice I valued. Her response:
"You have to put up with the rain if you want the rainbow." 
... that's a famous Dolly Parton quote. 
I thought, okay, let's think about that. In my zeal to pursue my career and my life on my own uncompromising terms, did I miss something vital? Was I throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water in my determination to never settle? (continued)

The answer to that question was obvious when I thought back to a conversation I'd just had with my goal coach. (This is a close friend of mine, who works as an engineering professor and is also a writer -- an all around creative and inspiring woman.) She and I have a standing call once a week to coach each other and keep each other honest around our goals. Our focus is on eliminating obstacles we put in our own way. When we'd spoken, I was reminded that my successes in life have come from being an entrepreneur, being unique, not following the pack ... by being someone who does not sit still and just "take" whatever life -- or anyone -- decides to dish out. During that conversation I was reminded of what has always worked in my life, and what does not work: settling for less than what I want. 
Where I live now is a good example. I grew up in the Northeast and spent a good part of my 20s in the Boston area, but I hated the snow and the rain ... and let me tell you, there was RAIN! I'm talking Noah's Ark flooding rain! There weren't many rainbows either -- Boston gets more rain and is cloudier than Seattle, Washington. You think I'm joking? Look it up. And when it's always rainy or overcast, it's hard for rainbows to make their appearance. I had hated the weather most of my life. It was like a villain intruding into my life story but also my health! And yes, the snow and ice are beautiful, but not if the cold and humidity make you ill. That's a whole other story, but let's just say that my severe allergies to everything from mold to every tree pollen in the state led to regular bouts of laryngitis while trying to run several businesses. So, finally I asked myself, "What the f*** am I still doing here?" I realized there was little holding me back when I really examined my life from a place of self-worth. So I made a plan, did some research, and promptly uprooted myself with my job, and headed here to sunny Arizona in 1999. I love the heat and the sun, love the dry climate, and the only time my allergies bother me now is when our cats are shedding or when it's monsoon season... Yes we do have some rain here -- all 11 inches of it annually, often less. What does happen more often here though, is rainbows! And I mean that figuratively as well as physically. I've seen more rainbows in the sky since moving here than I ever saw growing up in Massachusetts, despite all that rain I'm supposed to put up with. But here's the important part for me: The weather was impeding my ability to live! To be healthy and happy. And that was unacceptable. Compromise is not real compromise if it makes you miserable!
I will not settle for "barely good enough." Why should I? Why should you? 
I do not need to put up with 320 cloudy days out of 365 annually just so I can see a rainbow every 10 years! To timidly ride through life hoping for whatever happiness might come my way ... To assume that life must be filled with rain in order to see the occasional rainbow ... Um, sorry, that's not living. Not to me! That's existing, getting by ... that's settling! I understand where that viewpoint comes from, and I also understand the good spirit in which it was shared as advice, but it's not the right advice for the kind of life I lead. Mostly cloudy is not the life I chose. I've spent my life choosing sunny happiness, successfully, using a completely different roadmap. That had a lot to do with my becoming an indie publisher. But it was always there, even when I wasn't serious about making a living as a writer.
When I left my job as an eLearning manager at a large public utility, my department had undergone enormous changes in the four years I was there. My group had achieved major milestones for the company and garnered awards in the learning and human factors industries. I was proud of our work and proud that I'd never taken "no" for an answer when I had dared to insist that we could do what everyone said was impossible. We did it because we all believed we could. The day I left they gave me a beautiful photo of a sled team racing across the snowy tundra at sunset. Underneath the photo it read,
Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail.
That's an author-ism (Ralph Waldo Emerson). I still have that photo. It hangs near the door to my office and I see it every day. It reminds me of what's possible if you believe in yourself and the ability of others.
So, are you a creator of rainbows in your own life? Are you a trail blazer? Are you willing to imagine that you don't need to put up with a lifetime -- or even a few months -- of rain clouds just to see a few rainbows? And are you willing to consider that not only can you create your own rainbows at will, by refusing to settle for what you don't want, but that a pot of gold might really exist and that all you have to do to get it is to believe in yourself? That's my challenge. Try that idea on like a pair of shoes ... then go out and create some rainbows in your own life! You have one life in which to achieve your dreams. Only one. So don't settle. Dare to blaze a trail in your life!
Wishing you all that's green -- at Yuletide, in 2012, and always,

Roxy 

4 comments:

  1. You're always an inspiration!

    Being who I am, I can think of a number of qualifying arguments, even though I agree with the principles of what you're saying. :-) The main one being: sometimes we have to endure less pleasant aspects of a task (rain) in order to achieve our goals (rainbows). That being said, we have to guard against the tendency to just keep putting up with stuff because we think we have to. A day turns into a week, then a month, then a year, and none of us knows the number of our days.

    So thanks for reminding us to go for it!

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  2. Thanks for saying, Frankie :)

    And thanks for commenting. We probably do disagree on some qualifying arguments. I have experienced the complete opposite of having to “endure” the less pleasant things, as you put it. It's not surefire, and there's always rain in life, but I find that when I don't make assumptions going into a situation, there's often no rain to endure, because I dared to go at it differently--to change the rules and operate outside expectations. (Kind of like the indie approach to publishing...all that railing about how eBooks will never take off) ... it hasn't stopped us pursuing that path. Good thing we're not focused on how how hard it's going to rain! Sometimes you can skip that whole less pleasant part and go right for the rainbow. Years ago, some well-meaning folks told me I'd never get hired as an eLearning manager unless I had a Bachelor's degree. I pursued the goal anyway and was hired by the company I mentioned in my post. I later earned my degree at night, while working in that position. Working full time and creating a dept while also going to school was not easy, but my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was starting my own consulting business at 26. I was extremely idealist back then, too--it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do it. Maybe it's because I'm a risk taker or maybe my brain just chooses to see that there is always the option of creating a trail if the path doesn't exist. And if it rains too much where you are...move.

    Choosing to either endure the rain or to be happy about it is a concrete choice that we all make (like settling for less than what you want). Neither is fated. You can choose to dare. Like Tim Ferriss says, your genetics do not need to determine your health.

    My point is that I want to consciously choose how I experience the rain in my life... will I approach it from a place of joy and ease rather than a place of resignation and heaviness? It's a daily decision, but I say here's to using pocket prisms and dancing in the rain puddles!

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