Where Do I Begin?

where do i beginThis, hands down, is the number one question I’m asked — by consulting clients, people who buy me coffee, entrepreneurs I meet at events, or the guy who’s been doing what he does for 17 years and dreams of what’s next.

Where do I begin?

Until I meet you and you share your story with me, I don’t know the answer to that question. I’d be lying if I said I did.

But what I can tell you is a story about the Olda Sisters. Some of my readers will have heard this one before, but for others, it will be new.

Shoulda, Coulda, and Woulda — they’re sisters and they’re bitches. All three of them. I became friends with the Oulda Sisters back in 1995, right before I graduated from college and was facing a dilemma about walking down the aisle.

Do I do what I should do or do I do what my heart tells me to do?

I was 22. I didn’t know the answer. So I made the best possible decision I could.

And for the next 17 years, the Oulda Sisters and I were tight. They were in every job, relationship, and conversation I had. Every trip I never took, every comment I swallowed, and every bit of envy I felt as I looked around my life. Every day I saw people who were doing amazing things and all I could think was, “I coulda done that. In fact, I should do that!”

But I never did.

One day in February of 2008, I was told my life would be changing. I’d be taking (immediately) a 40% pay cut for doing the shit job that I hated that was making me total bank (and 40% of OMG is still roughly Oh…).

I went home that evening and looked at my life. My bank accounts. My (ugh) credit cards. And I faced two decisions:

  • Stay in this job where a 40% pay cut would still mean over six figures a year, do work I hated for someone I didn’t respect, and swallow that pill of fuckall every day…

OR

  • Not.

I took my dog for a run, came home, made dinner, and sat at my dining room table eating in silence. The only thing I could think about was writing.

I didn’t think about money or bills or mortgages or whatever perceived prestige was attached to working in the investment industry.

I thought about writing.

The next day, I walked into the office I hated going to and told them I wasn’t going to be there on Monday.

The Power of NOT

I sure as hell didn’t know where I was going to be on Monday when those words came out of my mouth. What I did know, however, is that it wasn’t going to be there. I knew I wasn’t going to swallow that pill of fuckall for one more morning.

I coulda stayed. And part of me felt like I shoulda stayed.

But that day in February back in 2008, I stopped returning the Oulda Sisters’ calls.

I didn’t know what was next. But I knew what was NOT next.

When you don’t know where to begin, sometimes the first step is knowing what’s NOT next. That was enough to take me on a path to the life I live today — just over four years later. And each day, I face another demon.

The Oulda Sisters call every damned day.

But I continue to know what’s NOT next is inviting them back into my life.

Knowing what’s NOT isn’t about giving into the neg. It’s about making room for everything else. And yeah — it’s scarier than knowing anyone gives Rand Paul any sort of airtime.

But you won’t get unless you make room.

So…Where Will You Begin?

I can’t tell you — yet. I can help you work through it if that’s what you want. But sometimes the first step is to admit and own everything:

  • You’re sick of feeling.
  • You’re tired of hearing.
  • You can’t stand doing.
  • You can’t stop thinking about.
  • You dream about.
  • You want.
  • You see.
  • That is YOU.

And in those, you’ll find the small step to take that gives you permission to begin.

Because you’re the only one who’s been withholding permission this entire time.

PS: I’ve shared this before. Today, I think it’s plenty worthy of re-sharing (and especially on this theme). If you’re viewing this via email, click here to watch the video.

 

 

47 comments
columbuspachamama
columbuspachamama

Late to this party but glad I found you. Needed this today. I needed to hear that just because I can't pick and quit my day job, that doesn't mean I can't start focusing and investing on what I really like to do and work towards that. In my case, this is also because I can't figure out whether my future will move towards reinventing the job that I am in -- or going in a completely new direction. But now that I have started to remember what it is that I REALLY REALLY love there's no going back. Nice to find some kindred spirits!!!

Reticula
Reticula

This was just the kick in the ass I needed today. Thank you. I feel like I begin every single day, and this day is no different from the rest. Great post.

judymartin81
judymartin81

Erika,

Inspiring post. Makes one not want to cash it in, but instead taking a breath and trying again. This reminds me of a yoga sutra - Yoga Atha Anushasanam - Let us begin the practice of yoga. The beauty of it is that we can keep beginning even if we have sucked up until that very moment, over and over again, day after day. There's always tomorrow to get on the mat of life and start again. More importantly, there's always the moment to begin without the baggage of the past through being kind and compassionate to that one person who is gonna get you to the next step. You. :)

kosmicegg777
kosmicegg777

I put a link of this in my little brain surgery/recovery blog, Ms. Erika. It's good. Yes. Breathe. It is funny what I am tired of and sick of is being tired and sick. I really want to get going again. :)

Bfuller
Bfuller

This is exactly why I find myself reading your blog between college architecture classes at age 40! I told those pesky sisters to take a hike a little over a year ago and it was the best decision I've made... As long as I continue to ignore the comments from friends and family. This is the second time I've read this, but it makes a whole lot more sense from where I'm sitting now. Thanks for reposting! :-)

MsColin
MsColin

I needed your blog post and this video today - thank you Erika.

Erroin
Erroin

Thank you for sharing how you started.  Like most entrepreneurs, I had worked for a large company that paid great money until we got divorced.  The company got to keep its offices, products, and other things... I got a severance package.  We talk... occasionally.  I attempted to work for a few other companies, but inside I hated showing up to an office that stifled creative freedom.  So, on a flight back after spending most of the time coaching to departments on how to work with each other, I started to run the numbers and realized I worked best when I had freedom.

I decided after a trip to Peru (fraught with a few life changing moments) that I would start my own business.  I have copies of the three books I read on the flights to and from Peru.  I had answers prepared for the objections I knew I was going to get from my friends and family.

I turned in my notice and started my business.  I learned a ton about my strengths and weaknesses in that first year.  It was that year that I stumbled upon your blog. (I can never get the spooky van image from that first post I read out of my mind. Thank you.) I have enjoyed witnessing your success!

The only regret I have in doing any of this, is I wish I started when I was younger.  Yet I let the Oulda Sisters and their extended family delay the happiness I now have in my life.

Great video as well.

Latest blog post: Erroin A. Martin

SophieLatulippeOuellet
SophieLatulippeOuellet

Perhaps I should not say that, but I think that that age, it is even worse when you have a physical disability. Not only you stuck with the coulda, but you constantly have to struggle with prejudices, as well as the word "realistic".

Fuelburner
Fuelburner

Excellent - thanks for the head's-up that this was coming today...

bdorman264
bdorman264

I guess I've been around these parts long enough that I have heard this story. I can top that; I took a 50% pay cut in 2008 and it was mostly driven by the economy tanking. Being in commercial insurance sales, our revenues are based on how well the companies we insure are doing.  

What I shoulda done was go out and do what I do best and create more opportunities, and so I did. I've always been in a position to 'control' my paycheck so it's up to me to go out and make it happen. I'm not all the way back, but making nice progress getting there. 

I admire the way you took control of your situation; jumping off a cliff like that would have probably taken my breath away.....

Thanks for sharing. 

TanyaStorm
TanyaStorm

Awesome post, Erika. Love it. I know all bout those Oulda sisters and the pill of fuckall. Imma punch those bitches in the face next time I see them.

DaphneCohn
DaphneCohn

fabulous post Erika. and you know it's not the "how" is it? it's the courage to say fuck it and do it anyway. that's my two cents.

virtuallin
virtuallin

Wow, what a fantastic post! Thanks to Topsy for helping me find it. I did this exact thing in 2001. I had been in the dotcom boom and had just had my 3rd baby and was sick and tired of missing all the milestones to work for ignoramus jerks who took all the credit (oh, and the leering! ugh!) I had toyed with the idea of working from home and one day, I had had enough and just quit. Within a month, I had my first client and I've never looked back! I am due, however for a bit of a reboot as there are some things I'm now tired of hearing and sick of doing. <grin> Thanks! So glad to have found you, you rock!

richmackey
richmackey

Why is it that I read these and always want to shake my fist and say "damn you Erika!" Of course, I know that's a lot more about me and virtually nothing about you - except you pointing things out I already know and don't want to listen to. Love the post. Glad I've "started" what I need to start. Still working on where the next milestone is... but it will come.

PS: It took me 42 sign in attempts before realizing you switched to livefyre. Haha.

ASwirlGirl
ASwirlGirl

This: "When you don’t know where to begin, sometimes the first step is knowing what’s NOT next."

 That just gave me LIFE. So much in that one sentence . . . .  THANK YOU. Such a confirmation of not only what I've been thinking and feeling, but of what I have been DOING in response to that thought. Amazing how that "NOT" can give such impetus to moving forward and making changes. Rock on!

schmittastic
schmittastic

1. Can I please take your Buy Me Coffee page? BRILLIANT. 2. I never get tired of the story of the decision you made 4 years ago. It gives so many so much confidence to power forward with what they feel is right for their life. Thank you and me for allowing me to be one of those people. 3. I adore you for sharing Ze Frank's video. It's so perfect for so many people.

ReverieKlein
ReverieKlein

THIS. 

Your timing is always so impeccable and the perfect thing I need to hear exactly when I need to hear / read it. And the video? I'd already shared that before I read the blog post. I'll come back to both many times today and beyond. I'd rather take these calls than the calls from the Ouldas. 

Thank you.

bulldawgmama
bulldawgmama

Thanks for the great post and sharing the video. I do think it's funny that sometimes I am looking for a starting line to magically appear, especially when I'm contemplating changes in my personal and professional life. As if then I would know that it's time to begin.

ErikBoles
ErikBoles

This=perfect! I get this question all. the. time. "How did you grow BeerTapTV to 4 million viewers?". "How did you have the courage to start Rocky Mountain Web Tech when everyone else said it wouldn't work and you should go work for someone else?" so many opportunities to go a different direction, and every time I chose my own path, against the grain and against advice. However, I have never been able to answer this question for people, other than to say "fuck everyone, just start!", which is weak ass advice.

Thank you for this. I will be sharing this.

E

CrystalSteeves
CrystalSteeves

I have to admit that, although I am a big fan of you in general, this blog post left me a li'l miffed. Why? 'Cuz realistically most of us cannot just quit those things that are NOT us, that are keeping us from beginning. I know the principle you are going after here, and I agree that we have to clear out the shit in our lives to make room for the rainbows (or whatever!). Sounds lovely...but completely impractical and unrealistic. If I walked into my shitjob and stopped the fuckall, it wouldn't take long for my kids and I to be out in the streets because I couldn't pay the rent or really damn hungry because I couldn't afford groceries. I've never made six figures and never had the luxury of leftover money at the end of the month for savings, so who bankrolls my divorce from the Ouldas?  

johned
johned

I'm trying to make the break from where I am to where I need to be and, like many, the idea of leaving something "secure" is holding me back.  Thanks for the slap.  The time is now.

Carrie Drephal
Carrie Drephal

Thank you for this Erika. You are definitely right. At some point that leap just needs to be taken. Kudos.

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