KarenPery.com | Please, please please take the leap: notes on creating.
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Please, please please take the leap: notes on creating.

I have this friend who is an amazing artist. AMAZING. If you saw her work, you’d be in awe.

She’s an incredible artist, but art does not pay her bills. The thing she does that pays her bills is solid but it does not light her soul on fire. And that’s okay, because paying bills is a thing that must be done.

I’d like to now make the point that investing in what does light her soul on fire is also a thing that must be done.

When I see her art, I get this dreamy faraway look in my eyes. Whenever she posts on Instagram, not only does the heart fly off my fingertips, I am immediately compelled to share her work with anyone who will look at my iPhone. She is so freaking talented.

She is also freaking scared. What will happen if she pursues the art and she cannot pay the bills? She will not sacrifice her livelihood; instead she has sacrificed her art and that makes me sad. I wish she saw a better way. I wish she was watching the Brené Brown special on Netflix with me on Sunday afternoon to realize that she, too, can dare greatly! I wish she could find a way to pay her bills and light her soul on fire. There’s got to be a better way!

Her art inspires me. Not to draw (no one wants that), but to tell more stories…to write, craft, and publish, pouring my heart out onto a page to share, because I know my stories are universal because all stories are universal. What I share reflects how the world looks through my eyes. Since publishing my book, possibly the most incredible thing I’ve learned is that my storytelling has given others courage to tell their stories, to find value in the mundane, connection in the loneliness, and a deeper sense of our shared humanity. It’s beautiful and I am deeply humbled.

Art evokes emotion. Both of my kids are actors, and they are both mesmerizing and fascinating to watch because of their sensitivity and their ability to express themselves. They feel the nuances of each script and song. I watch Jake on stage and I don’t see Jake, I see a character transformed and elevated through my son and a new story is told. I hear Ellie sing and the walls reverberate and my heart jumps into my throat and even when I don’t understand the words or context, I am moved because of her emotions. Art inspires. It gives life and breath from which new actions come.

Please, please create. Make your art. Do your thing excellently or badly. Dare greatly! Host glorious dinner parties, make magic of spreadsheets and tell stories with numbers, restore old houses, build a satellite, barbeque a brisket like no one else, scribble, doodle, hand letter the shit out of every postcard you send. Whatever your thing is, please, please do it and let others find the courage to do their thing because you do yours. Be #magicalaf.

“But you leap,” The Artist said to me, an apology or explanation – I’m not sure which – of how and why she cannot or will not follow the thing that lights her soul on fire like I do.

She means to tell me that we are different. I can only see how we are the same.

You see, I’ve just told her that since I published my book, I can’t have the same conversations I used to have about leadership and work. It doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I’ve told her of my pivot to speaking and writing more and coaching more selectively. I’ve told her that our last Into the Fire Surf Retreat was actually our last Into the Fire Surf Retreat and we have closed that chapter of our work, open to discover the mystery and unknown of what’s next built on the foundation of who we are now.

It’s all a process. Creating. Becoming. Choosing. Changing.

It takes as long as it takes. I’ve learned to be more patient. I am also more forgiving of myself, unconditionally loving, compassionate and kind. I ask for help when I need it. I listen.

It might look like a leap on outside, but it feels different inside.

On the inside, I pushed and pushed and pushed and There’s Got to Be a Better Way: An Overachiever’s Guide to Discovering Joy was born. Two days later, I withdrew my daughter from middle school to homeschool her for the last semester of 8th grade. All of my imagined big plans for what was going to happen once the book was published were quietly set aside to tend to the immediate need.

I don’t know that I leapt as much as I listened to my inner voice and trusted that I was on the right path because it felt like the only path (this is the core message of my book). I had to. Seven days of any week I would make the exact same decision.

And while I was listening, I decided to transition away from a larger focus on experiential leadership development, coaching and facilitation and towards a smaller, softer focus which includes all of the above but differently. My heart’s been telling me this for at least a year – probably around the same time I committed to writing my book, choosing to self-publish, hiring the best editor and design team in the world, and allowing the process to shape itself creatively with a lot of collaboration. For me to help more people, I have to do differently. I have to listen and trust myself, even more, especially when the path ahead isn’t clear.

(By the way, the path is never clear.)

Each of my client sessions last week touched on variations of the same theme: the leap. Who gives you permission to explore a new field of study, to move around the world, to change your business model? Only one person: YOU. Of course it’s not always a solo decision, but the first voice to listen to is your own.

I’ve been obsessed with a quote from the commencement speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University in 2005; I love it so much so that I now work it into keynotes. Depending on the audience, I emphasize different words.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.”

You have to trust in something and that something is someONE: you. Please, please, please do your thing. Take the leap. Create.

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