I recently attended a teleconference with a longtime neuroradiologist who I retained as an expert in one of my medical malpractice cases. He’s in his 70s, and, two hours into our conversation, asked me if I felt fulfilled in my career. He then told me that he has worked with thousands of attorneys over his decades of practice, and that “99.9 percent of them are miserable in their careers.”
Miserable. That was his exact wording.
He went on to tell me that, in his life experience, the most critical thing that each of us can do for ourselves is to work in an arena where we have passion—something that makes us excited to get out of bed in the morning, something that we truly want to be doing instead of feeling trapped by a certain income and lifestyle, or merely sitting behind a computer to collect a paycheck. He said that life is so short; seven decades of his life have flown by, and you don’t want to waste your life spending it doing something you don’t want to do.
Passion. How many people have the courage to go after the fire they feel in their hearts? How many people even know what they are passionate about? How many people would chase something if they weren’t concerned about money, time or someone else’s opinions? How many people actually pursue their passion?
I know so many people who feel stuck in “dead-end” jobs when they would rather be starting their own restaurants or retail stores, or creating oil paintings, or selling handmade jewelry or being a travel writer. One of my colleagues once said that each and every person has an inherent need to be creative. When we can’t fulfill that need, we become depressed and feel trapped. I have to agree with this. My authentic passion is creative writing and, up until 2014 when a colleague suggested I start a mommy blog, I had not pursued this passion. I can’t imagine where I would be emotionally if I didn’t get out of my comfort zone, start the blog and cultivate my passion of writing.
Emily Ley personifies what it’s like to create an empire based on passion. She is a self-taught graphic designer and the brain behind the wildly popular Simplified Planner. Established in 2008 as a way to cope with infertility, her company, Emily Ley, began as an Etsy shop creating wedding stationery. Her products are now showcased in hundreds of stores throughout the United States. She is married with three young children, and recently wrote her first book, “Grace, Not Perfection.” A Pensacola native, Emily received a Master of Nonprofit Management from the University of West Florida. She later relocated to Tampa, where she worked at the University of South Florida’s Women in Leadership and Philanthropy program. There, she was surrounded by individuals who were passionate about engaging and developing the intellectual and leadership potential of women, important because it showed her that you can’t let your educational background prevent you from pursuing your true passion. Doctors can become architects. Teachers can become archaeologists. Mathematicians can become event planners.
JENNIFER: So many people have great ideas, but difficulty getting them off the ground. What do you recommend?
EMILY: Just do it! It’s easy to get so overwhelmed with a finished product that you end up feeling paralyzed and just do nothing. Start small. Instead of trying to write an entire book, start with the table of contents before moving onto chapter one. Break the end goal into realistic chunks. You’ll be more productive and it makes it so much easier to reach.
JENNIFER: What was the turning point for your business?
EMILY: It didn’t happen overnight. I started in 2008 and there were many times during the early years where I worked 80 hours per week. I would say my company “took off” in 2014, but I can’t pinpoint why, other than social media really helped generate an interest in, and awareness about, the Simplified Planner and the other products. I would encourage all new business owners to take advantage of social media like Instagram and Facebook to help build their businesses.
JENNIFER: Do you have any regrets or things you’d do differently?
EMILY: Sometimes I wish I had a formal education and training in things they don’t always offer at school, like production and supply. While not having this formal education didn’t stop the company from growing, I would have had a lot less to figure out on my own along the way. For instance, until working directly with retail stores, I never understood why calendars on the shelves ranged from August through December of the following year. Retailers require this in order to give the product a longer “shelf life,” because after six months into the new year, sales on calendars and planners go way down.
JENNIFER: You must be so busy. How do you decide what to say no to?
EMILY: I love being busy, but saying yes to too many things is what got me to a really bad place emotionally. Like the saying goes, saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to another, and that “no” was usually my family. Despite it being a dream, I recently turned down a TED Talk because I didn’t have time to do it. (This doesn’t mean it can’t be revisited in the future.) I’ve recently scaled back what I do for the company and rely heavily on my team of seven in order to have more time with my family. I’m the “class mom” for my oldest son’s class at school and am having a blast. When they are adults, I want my three kids to look back on their childhood and remember me as the mother who created a home filled with joy and not as the mother who was always working and at meetings and events. In the long run, none of that will matter. I just want to be a good mom.
Cheers to finding and fulfilling your passion project in the new year!
Originally published in the January 2017 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.