Three Ways to Start Living the Life of Your Dreams

Tomorrow is not promised to any one of us, no matter how much we try to trick ourselves into believing that it is. We carry that calendar, cell phone and laptop as a crutch to ensure that we’re so busy there has to be a tomorrow so we can finish up that project, send that email, schedule that meeting. But the reality is that for all of us, there will be one day that tomorrow will not come. There will be one day when we do not roll over in the bed to hit the snooze button on the alarm clock. There will be one day when we will not wake up to greet the golden sky.

I heard author and motivational speaker John St. Augustine give a speech once at a book festival in Charlottesville, Virginia. He said to think of your life as a timeline. The average person lives to age 77. He said to think about where you are now on the timeline between your current age and 77. The space between is the unknown.

The problem is that most people are afraid of the unknown. Most people are so afraid of the unknown that they live unhappy and mediocre lives until they aren’t living anymore. They have big dreams that they’re even afraid to speak out loud for fear they might have to make them come true. But deep down, we all want the kind of courage it takes to live what John St. Augustine calls “the uncommon life.” Deep inside of each of us, there’s a glimmer of wanting light that yearns to do something real.

John says that living the uncommon life is about deliberately doing different things so your life will be better and more fulfilling. The uncommon life is not for people who say they’re going to wait until they get all their ducks in a row before they do what they really want to do. It’s not for people who insist that they’ll follow their dream of starting a business or spending more time with their family, or taking that trip to Paris . . . but only once they’ve reached a certain age or point in their lives. The uncommon life is only for people who are determined to live the live of their dreams.

Because we all know that tomorrow is not promised. All we really have is today.

So where do you start?

Eliminate Imaginary Barriers

You know, the ones that come from that negative voice in your head (also known as that damn lizard brain). Always telling you that you can’t do something because you’re too this or not enough that. You can focus all day long on your perceived personal attributes and shortcomings, but this will only serve to keep you from your real goal of improving your life. Also, when you focus on all the reasons why you’re not qualified or capable to do something, it prevents you from the reality of making plans to deal with the real barriers to following your dreams, which can actually be overcome with a little elbow grease and determination.

Do One Thing

Do one thing today to move your dream forward, even if it’s as simple as writing it down and taping it up on your computer. Do one thing today to remind yourself that life is too short not to do what makes you happy. Make that phone call, send that email, ask that scary question, create a life map. No matter how busy you are, you can always do at least one thing a day to move yourself closer to living the life of your dreams.

Embrace Possibility

Once you do take action on changing your life, believe with all your heart that the very best outcome awaits you. Setting and achieving goals is much easier when you live in the magical world of possibility. Sometimes, when I’m about to take a big step in my own journey, I write down my vision for it on a piece of paper and then bless it with the following affirmation:

I am beautiful and worthy of every truly beautiful thing. Amen.

Whatever you do, think positive thoughts as you take each step on your journey to living the life of your dreams. Before you know it, it will be so much easier not only to take each subsequent step, but to be able to walk with confidence into the path that you envision for yourself.

Stop Following The Rules

When I look at the lives and accomplishments of the black women I most admire either for their business acumen or just the amazing lives they’ve been able to create for themselves, I realize they all have one thing in common.

They broke all The Rules.

And yes, I purposefully capitalized “The Rules” to emphasize their existence as this huge entity that tries to run our lives.

You know, all the “you can’t do that because” Rules like:

  • You’re too young.
  • You’re too old.
  • You’re too black.
  • You’re too poor.
  • You’re too late.
  • You’re not pretty enough.
  • You’re too pretty.
  • You’re too strong.
  • You’re not strong enough.
  • You’re not qualified.

Not to mention all The Rules that tell you that you have to do it just like this and don’t skip a step or it won’t work and oh make sure you don’t start until you’ve got all your ducks in a row and all the “what ifs” worked out and by the way you might as well wait until you’re 30 or 40 because that’s when you’ll really know what you want out of life.

Just think about how different their lives would’ve turned out if Oprah or B. Smith or Tyra Banks or Holly Robinson Peete or Ursula Burns had actually followed any of The Rules laid out for them.

Because contrary to what we’ve been taught over and over in school, success does not come automatically to those who simply follow The Rules.

Just because you go to college and get good grades doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll land your dream job. Ask all the unemployed college grads and they will tell you. Just because you go on to get a Master’s degree and your own condo and a nice car still does not guarantee you happiness in life. And we all know that even if you follow The Rules in any dating book or manual to the “T”, you are not guaranteed love for a lifetime.

Yet even though they really don’t work, The Rules will always be with us.

That’s because The Rules were created for all the people who are satisfied with “good enough.” They are perfect for the people who are fine with someone else telling them what to do with their lives and how to do it. The Rules are for people who are willing to settle for a mediocre life because they aren’t willing to put in the time or effort to create an amazing one.

But for those of us who want more out of life, The Rules are useless. We see that they can only take us so far and then we have to figure out the rest ourselves. We realize that we’re actually sick and tired of playing by The Rules anyway.

And then we decide to create our own.

How to Write and Self-Publish a Book in Three Months or Less

Yesterday, I told you how I beat the lizard brain and published my first book. Last night, I learned that we sold 50 books in our first day of sales, which totally exceeded my expectations!

Today, in the same spirit of my “How to Start a Side Hustle” series, I want to dig a little bit into the specifics and share with you how I actually was able to write and publish the book in about three months. This post is for all the happy black women out there who want to write and publish their own book, novel or ebook. If you “have a book in you,” I’m talking right to you darlin’.

Tell Everyone You’re Writing a Book

About a year ago, I got the idea to write a book and I started telling people about it on my nonprofit blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in person. It was a great answer to the “what are you working on?” question. I talked about it so much that a major publisher approached me to explore the possibility of me writing a book for them. When the publisher ultimately rejected my book proposal, I was even more determined to get the book out there. And as it turns out, you get to keep more of your earnings by self-publishing anyway.

Find a Co-Author

Although I had years of content from my blog to build from for the book, I was feeling really overwhelmed by the thought of having to do all the work to put it all together on my own in any sort of timely fashion. One of my best decisions in the process was to enlist the help of one of my colleagues to help me write the book, edit the content and figure out all the logistics of self-publishing and marketing. She and I agreed to split the workload and the profits – a win/win for both of us!

Set a Hard Deadline

The first thing I did after choosing a co-author was to set a deadline. We picked November 1, 2010 as THE day the book would go on sale to the masses. We chose that date because it was three months out, which would force us to be very diligent in getting our drafts and edits together in a short amount of time. We locked ourselves in so we couldn’t drag out the process for what could have been a whole year, really. It was a deadline that was challenging enough to keep us on track, but not impossible to meet. Marketing and business guru Seth Godin would have called it “the day we ship,” no matter what.

Create a Timeline/Workplan

From that date, we worked backwards to create a timeline and workplan for when we had to have first draft, second draft, internal edits, external edits, etc. done. We also used a workplan to map out ideas for marketing, including when we would get the book website up and running, the cover designed, outreach to bloggers and journalists to review the book once it was done. We knew all the steps we had to take and when we had to take them if we were going to meet our November 1 deadline.

Choose a Publishing or Ebook Delivery Service

We decided to publish the book in two formats – a paperback and an ebook. We chose Lulu.com to sell the paperback version and E-junkie to sell the ebook version.

Lulu.com allows you to upload your manuscript, photos or digital files, use their formatting tools to get everything set up just the way you want, from size to binding to cover art, and…voila! You’re the proud parent of a brand new digital creation, ready to publish and cherish. The publishing process couldn’t be easier!

E-junkie provides shopping cart and buy now buttons to let you sell downloads and tangible goods on your website. They make it really easy to automate and secure the digital delivery of files and codes for your ebook!

Set Up a Book Website

One of the most important things we did was set up a website specifically to market and sell the book at http://nonprofitrockstartour.com. We signed up with Bluehost for a 12-month plan to host the site (only $7 a month!) and customized it using WordPress and the Headway theme. We used Aweber to set up a mailing list and ended up with 300 people signed up to learn more about the book!

Are you thinking about writing and self-publishing a book of your own? What challenges might you need to overcome before you get started?

Today Was a Good Day (Or How I Beat the Lizard Brain and Published My First Book)

So there was no Monday Mixtape today, but it was nevertheless a very good day in the life of this happy black woman.

Today, I released my very first “real” book out into the world.

That’s my co-author Trista Harris on the left and me on the right. We did a photo shoot to promote the book with a Baltimore photographer named Tonika Garibaldi.

Yes.

After over three months of writing, editing and promoting, me and my co-author made the decision to self-publish How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar: 50 Ways to Accelerate Your Career. If your career is in the nonprofit field (or you want it to be), our book will totally rock your world. You can buy it here, if you are so inclined.

Today, I chose love over fear. How?

By pushing “publish” and giving the world access to over three years worth of my professional writing and contributions to the nonprofit career field. I gave an infinite number of people permission to view my art, to comment on it, to tell their friends whether it rocked socks or royally sucked.

There were so many reasons not to. I could have waited three more years until I felt like we were official “experts” who were “qualified” enough to write a book.

I could have given in to the notion that no one would want to listen to a couple of young black women giving out nonprofit career advice. After all, before today, a book of this type, penned by women who looked like us, had never been published before in the nonprofit field.

I could have given in to the lizard brain after the publisher rejected our book proposal. It kept asking, what do you know? Who are you to write an entire book and think people will actually buy it? You don’t even have a publisher!

We probably could’ve spent another month just editing the content and fixing little typos.

Which probably would have led to us scrapping the whole thing. Not because the book wasn’t a good one, but because perfection is the enemy of what’s already perfect.

And because that’s what happens when you let too much doubt creep into your dreams.

Instead, the lizard brain lost today. And I won.