During the moments of our tender youth, with wide-eyes and eager mouths, we yearn to experience—experience laughter, experience joy, and experience success. Our minds work in a rhythmic tandem with our hearts. Each beat promotes each movement and each thought, and each thought originates from a place of wonder without logic.
Our world is a blank canvas and the environment around us becomes a colorful pallet from which to paint our stories.
But as we get older, something happens. We begin to deliberately brush timid strokes into our world, blended together from hues of uncertainty and inexperience. And while these strokes contain fragments of beauty, each particle is a bleak representation of the genius within us. Instead, those strokes—the most genius ones—are the unapologetic, bold strokes that come from a place of wonder without regret, wonder without logic.
A few years ago, I decided to make a bold decision—to switch career paths—despite a fearsome battle between my mind and my heart. My heart felt full as I stepped forward into new territory, eager to create new successes. Just one year after having made that decision, I lost my job. It took every ounce of faith I had within my heart to convince myself that I had not failed the most important person in my life: myself.
We all experience these moments, whether at school, work, or home, when a decision does not yield the result we originally expected to occur. We also often view these results as mistakes—which is actually our biggest mistake of all.
Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to be surrounded by an empowering group of women—along with several men—at the PA Conference for Women in Philadelphia, PA. Shonda Rhimes, writer and creator of Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and one of the keynote speakers at the event, said something that resonated within my soul:
“How we name something dictates how we deal with it, and we often let our fear dictate what those names will be.”
This brings me back to the word “mistake.” In its proper context, it simply means a misstep. But in society, we are unconsciously trained to believe that mistakes are much more than a misstep. We are led to believe that a mistake is a representation of a larger fault—a fault within ourselves, within our character. This is what often causes us to make those timid brushstrokes, creating safe and sometimes lengthy pathways to success.
I vividly remember the moments after I had lost my job. Shortly after walking through the door and having been greeted with a hug from my significant other, I stepped away from that moment to state to him—and really to myself—that I did not want pity. I wanted to move forward. I wanted to decide on my next bold move—wherever that might be or might take us. This experience would not define me. I would not allow it, no matter the perception or stigma associated with it.
“The more you summon the courage to do the thing you fear,” Shonda said, “the more you belong.” I would be lying if I told you that I had no fear as I pressed forward. Interview after interview, I began to believe in myself again. I solidified confidence in my ability to make a positive difference, and interviewers felt that confidence as something tangible. When I was faced with decisions about what I could do next in my career, I dreamt big, I dreamt unapologetically, and I dreamt bold. I went against the grain and chose job opportunities that best matched who I am and the impact I want to make in the world. The result? Happiness and, therefore, success.
As you read this article, take a second to reflect on a moment when you made a decision based on fear. What was the result? Did you feel fully satisfied with your decision?
Now, reflect on those moments when you made a decision in spite of fear.
I guarantee you that your decisions made in spite of fear have created the most beautiful environments for success in your life. And if they have not, dream bigger and dream unapologetically. You are the artist of your life. Paint with bold strokes of genius from a place of wonder without logic. Create and embrace your own definition of success and you will simultaneously be creating happiness.