Image by Keith Williamson, via Flickr
I chuckled a bit when Jen and Jena asked me to write a guest post about changing your mind. In many ways, I feel like some kind of poster child for mind-changing – I’ve changed the direction of my business several times in the past six years, and before I was self-employed, I changed careers regularly, too.
By way of example: when I first quit my day job and ventured into self-employment, I had a nice stable of freelance writing and craft design clients. I also had a popular craft blog and podcast that I did as hobbies. That was a fun time!
During that time, I launched a website that tracked craft events here in Portland and sent weekly email alerts. It went well for a while, but ultimately, I had to admit that I didn’t enjoy the main activity of that business, which was trying to sell advertising to keep it afloat. So I changed my mind.
In 2008 the economy changed, and the marketplace changed its mind on me. Quite quickly, I lost all my freelance work.
Casting about for other options, I noticed that my craft blog readers often asked me about blogging itself. So I started publishing ebooks about blogging and social media. Then I started teaching online classes. This business took off, and is still active to this day, but after a few years, I changed my mind again. I still like this kind of work, but I’ve found myself yearning to make more things. And so this year, I’m embarking on making independent media for crafters and finding ways to get paid for it.
At some point in the future, I fully expect to change my mind yet again.
Image by hans.gerwitz, via Flickr
…And even though I’ve been through so many changes of mind in my working life, I still feel some pangs of guilt about it whenever it happens. After all, when I’ve worked hard to build an income stream or grow an idea – why can’t I stay with it? Does that mean I lack the proper grown-up stick-to-itiveness? Does it mean I’ve failed?
But eventually, I always put the pangs aside. I’m just one of those people who learns by doing. I can do piles of reading, and talk with lots of people, but the way I really internalize anything is through experience. And through my checkered history of trying this business and that one, I’ve learned a ton about what I’m good at, and what I still need to know, what I like doing and what feels wrong to me. With every business I walk away from, I carry incredible gifts of knowledge – and then I use those in the next business.
I really don’t think mind-changing equals failure. I think of it more as a graduation.
Is this a particularly steady way to live? Nope. But that’s okay – somehow I’m more comfortable climbing hills than walking straight lines. Besides which, we’re in an unprecedented time of economic shift. The world has never held more opportunity, nor required us to be so dang nimble. There’s never been a better time to be a mind-changer.
Image by Chris, via Flickr
You know what else? Failure is completely disposable now. There’s a meme in the internet landscape: “Failure is cheap, so fail fast and often, so you can succeed sooner.” (David Kelley is one original source of this idea, but it’s been quoted and re-quoted to the point where tracing it precisely is difficult.)
Wherever it came from, I adore this idea. There is no failing. There’s only walking away from something that isn’t working, and moving forward into something new.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned again and again through all my changes of mind, it’s this: your gut knows when you want to stop doing whatever you’re doing now, and it knows what you want to do next.
Maybe you’re piling a lot of guilt or failure-fear on top, so the message is muffled for a while, but ultimately that persistent whisper in your gut will make itself heard. And when it does, listen! Follow, change, and keep growing.
Diane Gilleland is a writer, teacher, and media-maker. Her blog, CraftyPod, is full of reading, watching, and listening on the subjects of creativity, small businesses, and the internet. Apparently, she really enjoys making lists of three things.