Reverse Engineer Your Path
Before you decide where you want to be, you must first examine where you came from.
Think about how the events of the past led you to the present and in what way they have shaped your life. What is missing from your life now? What change do you yearn for when staring into the darkness on those sleepless nights?
In the last chapter, I talked about the importance of our old dreams, the wholehearted devotion we had in our younger years. That was our joy in its purest form, untouched by money, status, and responsibilities. Few had the courage and stamina to push through resistance to pursue that dream. Even fewer reached their goals. Most of us let circumstances dictate our courses of action. Before we knew it, we had drifted away from the path meaningful to us.
Some dreams are hard to carry out at a later time, like my acting career or your gymnastic talent. What matters are the reasons behind our passions. Why were those dreams so important to us? What did we experience when we practiced so hard to explore our potentials?
My desire for being a successful actress was rooted in the creative drive to bring great stories to life. Acting was the most visual and persuasive method to make that happen. Once I figured out that creativity was my passion, I started writing right away. Though I may never be a great writer, I aim to put out my best work. Writing this book forces me to look deeper inside myself, pick apart my scars, analyze my mistakes and detours, and present you the authentic depiction of a working mom’s journey to be happier, healthier, and get more out of life. I become a better human being through writing. It brings focus to my chaotic days and anchors me to the essentials in life—love, joy, and appreciation.
By examining your past, you will likely see a pattern or a sign of your previous struggles that will guide you to get back on the path meant for you. Take out your notebook and write an entry whenever some random event brings back the forgotten memory. Jot down how it makes you feel now as compared to then. Distill your thoughts and emotions through writing. This is the process of knowing yourself as the person who you were born to be, rather than who you think you are.
Don’t rush the process. Everyone is different. A complicated life takes longer to process. Be patient and truthful with your words. It takes time to recognize your calling. If you keep trying, it’ll become clear to you.
Once you have a clear vision of where you want to be, you’ll want to take actions right away. But hang on, two things are critical at this stage: courage and careful planning. Miss either of the two and you won’t succeed. Courage will enable you to push through resistance, both internal and external, especially from your loved ones. You’ll need the courage to keep going when things are not going well despite your efforts. Careful planning will save you time, resources, and unnecessary frustrations. It’s a growth map that keeps you focused on the end goal.
In this chapter, I’ll show you how to plan your course of action by reverse engineering. Simply put, you need to analyze the people who have achieved what you are looking for and identify the steps leading to their success. Go to LinkedIn or Facebook and find these influencers and take notes on their employment history or career path. What credentials do they have, and what organizations do they belong to? Join the organizations and explore the opportunities to connect with them. Be helpful to them so they’ll be willing to support you in return. Build a mutually beneficial relationship and find the right person to be your mentor. Because everyone is different, you must tease out the individual variations and focus on the commonalities among these experts. Once you confirm all the necessary steps, examine how long each step takes and the easiest way to complete it, and come up with your personal road map.
For example, if you want to start a small business by selling your artistic creations online, the first thing to do is to look for people who are already successful in the field. Study their websites to learn about their products, pricing, and distribution channels. Go to local trade association events and speak to people who have already been doing what you’re hoping to start. Ask them about their journeys to success, and what words of wisdom they can share with you. Offer samples of your products for sale on their platforms to test the market. To maximize the chance of collaboration, tell them they can keep all the profits from your samples. If your products sell well, propose a mutually beneficial profit split so you can make money by using their established clientele. If yours didn’t do well, ask for their feedback, and follow up with a revised design. You can collaborate with multiple experts while building a following for your own brand. When the time comes, you can begin your solo venture. By then, people will want to ask you for words of advice. Be generous in helping others. Life is never a zero-sum game. The more helpful you are, the more talented people you’ll attract, and the better opportunities you’ll get through collaboration.
When I decided to be a writer, I began immediately working on a story I had been thinking about for a while. When the novel was completed four months later, it was terrible. The plot wasn’t cohesive, and the characters were wimpy. My first reaction was that I lacked talent. I thought I needed to join a reputable, low-residency master of fine arts (MFA) program and learn to be a writer. These two-year-long programs are costly. All require a few weeks of onsite training each year, which would inevitably cut my family vacation time. Counting the postdoctoral training, I had spent a significant part of my life in school. Getting another degree wasn’t something I was eager to pursue.
I started writing a second novel while debating if an MFA was necessary for me. Although I’m a pantser (someone who writes without an outline), I outlined the story I wanted to tell. By identifying the plot points in a three-act structure, I stopped drifting off course. I began borrowing books on writing from the library and read them whenever I needed inspiration or encouragement. I went to various writers conferences and met other like-minded souls. I joined local literary events to become comfortable telling others I was a writer. With the second novel, my writing flowed better. The characters seemed to have gained some muscles and begun to stand on their own. I no longer felt embarrassed reading my own creation. After I completed the draft, I was convinced that I didn’t need another degree. I can improve my writing by practicing and learning from the masters. That was how I started my third novel, the political thriller mentioned earlier.
How to Excel in Any Field
If you truly want to excel in your field, the following growth mindsets are essential.
Keep your motives pure, and it’ll show in your work. You are pursuing your dream for the very reason it’s important to you. Not for money or status. For example, if I set out to get rich and famous by writing, I would second-guess myself on every page, trying to predict what readers want to see and how the market would trend. The quality of my writing would suffer, and my work would never exceed the commercial value it’s attached to. I want to be a writer, not a peddler.
Practice patience. Everything worthwhile takes time. There’s no miracle growth in excellence. Take each failure as an opportunity to improve. Challenge your mind to see things differently; take things apart and rearrange them in brand-new ways to give your work new meaning. The road to success is paved with the constant struggle to reach beyond limitations.
Celebrate your wins, big and small. Every step you take on this journey is a breakthrough from your old self. Record your accomplishments along the way. These mini milestones serve as a reminder of how much you’ve grown since you started. Be proud of your progress. You’re on a path that few dare to take. Not everyone can be the master of their time, but you can strive to be the master of your own life.
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