Everything you do in your life adds up to your whole life. As an independent creative professional, do You have all your experience, knowledge and skill to draw on to create your success and arrive at your destination.
But the road to your destination your destiny is not a straight superhighway. There are twists and turns. There are long, boring stretches. And sometimes we make decisions that take us off on the side road.
So in my usual Freelance Road Trip fashion, I’m going to use the concept of a road trip as a metaphor.
How do you end up on a detour?
Early in my career, I worked a number of jobs that were entirely unrelated to what I had studied in school. My idea was to freelance on the side and pay my bills with day jobs until I got enough clients to freelance full time.
So I worked in retail for a time. I worked as a bank teller. I worked as a department lead at a prestigious art college in So Cal. But none of these jobs were my destiny. And I knew it
Pretty quickly, these jobs became my focus. I stopped creating. I came home tired at the end of the day, drained of all energy to do any creative work. I had no time to do cold calls and send out my illustration promos.
This went on for more than a few years. I lost passion, focus and drive to pursue my destiny.
While I was good at these jobs, and happy, I wasn’t satisfied, Something was missing. I had a deep down sense that I was doing the wrong thing. I was on the wrong road.
I started to despair of ever having the life I dreamed of, which was freelance illustration.
Can you relate?
These jobs were detours — side trips. While they solved my immediate and ongoing problem of how to pay bills and support my daughter, they had nothing to do with my purpose. I was on a side road that led me away from what I knew was my calling.
I actually started to compromise and accept my situation, convincing myself that I must have misunderstood or gotten it wrong somewhere.
So many creatives find themselves in this kind of situation. They have to “get a real job” in order to live. If this is you, you’re not alone.
Detours are roundabout routes that are taken when the main road isn’t usable or seems too hard. The idea of taking a detour is that you continue to move in a generally forward direction and eventually return to a main road.
Detours are distractions.
It’s easy to get sidetracked on a detour. They can be full of adventure, but getting back to where you need to be can be tough to do. Detours can even look like the main road if you’ve been on one long enough. In other words, you settle in and just keep driving, hoping things will turn out well.
Detours aren’t your destiny.
I’d been paralleling my main road for so long, working the art school day job and believing that it was the right thing, because I enjoyed it, and it paid the bills.
One day, I had a sudden, unexpected reality check that the detour I was on was completely wrong. It wasn’t my destiny.
It was a Friday in September. I walked in to my office and started working as usual. A couple hours later I got a call from the college president’s office. He wanted to see me.
So right before lunch that very day, I walked out of my office for the last time, carrying my stuff in a box, a severance package, referrals, and letters of recommendation from the president. My department was going to be reorganized, and I no longer had a job. My regular paycheck and sense of security had vanished in an instant. I had no control in the situation.
It was on the drive home that i decided to no longer take the side roads. I’d get back to the main highway and pursue my destiny, doing what I set out to do in the first place.
Looking back, I was surprised that I didn’t panic. Instead, I had the sense that although everything had changed, everything was going to be okay.
Instead of finding another day job, started freelancing full time, and teaching on the side. And here I am.
Circumstances create detours.
Have you ever noticed that, when you decide to go for a goal, opposition shows up? Life creates road blocks and hazards that we have to go around. Our plans are interrupted. Our efforts are thwarted. We end up settling for less than we planned and hoped for.
In settling for things we’re not called to do, we become weary. We get caught up in living and working, and lose sight of our destination. Or we give in to others’ expectations. Sometimes it seems easier — it seems less selfish or creates less friction — to give up on our dreams and take an easy road — a detour.
Choose the right mindset.
You can lament the time you wasted. You can think, “Why didn’t I do things differently?” You can beat yourself up over losing your way. But there’s a different way to look at those choices, and that’s what I want you to do.
Detours aren’t wasted time.
Consider this: Detours can be necessary to reach your intended destination. The time you spend on a side road is not wasted, unless you decide it is.
The things I learned during my time on my side routes proved invaluable when I got back onto the main road. I had learned things while on detour that helped me succeed in my creative work, in doing business, and in working with people. They propelled me toward my destiny.
So, the detours you take can be useful for preparation, refining, and strengthening skills, changing perceptions, and revealing insights. These all increase your ability to support and stand up under the weight of your destiny.
• My short stint in retail taught me how to serve a diverse spectrum of people.
• While a bank teller, I learned that money is a tool, not a goal.
• During my time at the art college, I learned business and persuasive writing, how to train and mentor people, how to manage several several complex projects concurrently, and how to market. I also learned graphic design.
Everything I learned on the side route became part of my skill set which I continue using to serve clients and grow my business.
Experiences are teachers.
Even if we know exactly what our destiny is — our life purpose, what we’re called to do —we don’t start out fully capable of doing it. In fact, we have very little ability at all. Training and discipline are necessary to build skill, competence, and confidence.
You need to build the ability to handle what you were made to do.
If you’re not strong enough to carry something, you’ll be overwhelmed by it. It will defeat you.
If you take the perspective that your detour was useful — it kept you safe, it taught you new skills, it strengthened you, it provided a different perspective — you won’t consider it a waste of time.
If you’re not strong enough to carry something,
you’ll be overwhelmed by it. It will defeat you.
If the detour results in building you up, you’re better prepared for the greater work you have to do.
Don’t spend any energy feeling sorry, disappointed, or bitter about the detours you’ve been on. Change your mindset.
Look at those experiences from a different point of view. What did you learn? How are you stronger? How are you better skilled? How are you more confident?
What detours have you taken? What did you learn? How are you better off because of them?