I went through a quarter life crisis that started about six years ago. For the first time, I was uncertain about my future and the career path I had chosen. I'd always been an independent contractor and I was used to ebbs and flows of freelance life. But, this was different because I felt that I had lost my way. I created this video a couple years into my journey of self-discovery and reinvention. It helped me better understand myself and what I was experiencing. As I went through the exercise of embodying a caterpillar on her path to becoming a butterfly, I couldn't help but see myself in her story.
Let me explain.
I had reached a pinnacle in my career. I was building an advertising photography brand with my business partner, Derek Blagg. We were sought after to create custom imagery for brands like Coca-cola, U.S. Postal Service and Washington Lottery based on the unique voice of our portfolio. Not only that, we had an excellent team of freelancers who were motivated to help us reduce expenses while maintaining the same level of quality and creativity. We felt ready to level up the size of projects we bid on. But, how to do it?
I enrolled in a marketing research program to create structure behind my efforts. I was interviewing people I knew in the advertising industry to find information we could use to advance our objectives. To my surprise, I learned that many of the creative directors were uncertain about the future of their jobs. The internet was taking more and more of the marketing budget and the need for advertising photography was shrinking. However, the number of talented photography teams was growing. That meant, a drastic increase in competition for a shrinking number of opportunities.
We started receiving messages from art director clients that they were leaving agencies that they had been with for years to go out on their own. They were being replaced by account managers who were asking us to bid on their projects. As time went on, their project ideas were becoming more and more unrealistic with what they actually had to spend. Their inexperience in production became a huge waste of time for me and I quickly went from annoyed to depressed. I was looking for an insight to reach more people and what I found reason after reason to choose a different career path.
This was detrimental to my motivation. Marketing is like dating. You have to be in the right mood to attract the right project and to win the work. You have to really want it and put your best foot forward at all times. I had lost my desire to go get new clients because I no longer saw a future for myself or my team in this line of work. I just couldn’t find a way to get excited about investing anymore of my time in this direction. That’s a big problem when you’re self-employed. We were lucky because my business partner and I had established long term relationships with clients who were still calling us with projects that we didn't have to bid on. That made it easier to produce the work. But, no matter how hard I tried, my heart wasn't in it. I felt lost and checked out from ordinary life.
One day I was at the book store and I found a book called The Soul's Code, In Search of Character and Calling by James Hillman. According to Hillman, each of us has a life purpose that we forget the moment we are born. Within us is a compass that when we follow we are happy and when we don't we are depressed. I'm a self-directed person, so I started reading self-help books and actually going through the exercises. I slowly came to realize that there was nothing wrong with where I was at. I was ready to make a career transition and that’s why I had started the research project to begin with. I just had to let go of my expectation of what I thought that change would look like. Easier said then done.
I found another book, Zen and the Art of Making a Living. Working through that book and the exercises it provided helped me let go and start dreaming about the future from a place of possibility instead of a place of regret. That gave me the intrinsic motivation to open up and consider what's next. Like the caterpillar, I went into a dreaming cocoon to rediscover what I'm truly made of and where I want to invest my life's energy.
If you're feeling lost or uncertain about your future, I encourage you to embrace your experience. Find a book, mastermind or a class to help you sort through your thoughts and feelings to get to the truth of who you are and where you're at so you can take control of your future and plan for what's next.
In my upcoming personal brand webinar, I help you do just that. I take you on a journey of self-discovery through stories and anecdotes from business, culture and my personal experiences branding over 60 mindful leaders and visionary entrepreneurs around the world. My goal is to help you look at your goals from a designer perspective so you can solve challenges with an entrepreneurial approach and position your career for success in today's marketplace.