I’m about to say something that might shock you.
I don’t think you can do whatever you set your mind to.
… Are you mad?
I understand. I was mad when I realized I didn’t believe in that notion myself. I subscribed to it for pretty much my whole life. If I wanted something badly enough, I should/could/would find a way to make it happen. That’s supposed to be what it means to have endurance, determination, drive, resourcefulness, and courage. I admittedly and proudly have all of those things, and yet — here I am, into my 40s, and I don’t have the one thing I set out to achieve when I started my professional life: A Broadway show credit.
For 20 years, I lived and breathed my Broadway Baby goal. I set my mind to it. I believed it. I wanted to make it so , and most importantly, I did the work that went along with it.
I spent a fortune on teachers and classes and school, headshots and dance shoes and audition outfits, leotards and sheet music and show tickets. I’m tempted to look up the number of auditions I went on, the hours spent sitting in waiting rooms (if I was lucky enough to get a seat), sweating at callbacks, singing and rehearsing and memorizing and becoming An Actor.
You guys, I didn’t just want it — I set my mind to it. I followed that seductive piece of advice at the top of this article.
So, what do I think went wrong? I’ll tell you: Somewhere in between the long hours practicing my vibrato, lugging tap shoes across subway grates, and not-intentionally but definitely subconsciously wondering “why NOT me?” it happened: my heart stopped being in it.
It didn’t matter what my mind wanted, my heart was somewhere else, longing for something the fueled me instead of drained me.
It didn’t matter that I was putting in the time, I wasn’t putting in the love (<— something my pre When I Grow Up Coach-self would have thought was way too hippy-dippy to think, let alone type and publish!) But, it’s true. It definitely started out as a passion-fueled career goal, but somewhere it morphed into something less… authentic. It became one of those things where I felt like: “I can’t just stop. What about all of this time? What about all of that work? What about the emotional and financial commitment I made?” I realized I was continuing down this path because it’s what I had always done and felt I should do — not because I wanted it, any longer.
Slowly but surely I started paying closer attention to my gushy parts (like my heart and soul) and quieted my stubborn pieces (like my brain), and when I really started listening, I learned I knew I was meant for greatness, just maybe not as Adelade in Guys and Dolls. .
The cold hard truth that showed up when I turned on the house lights on was this: I wasn’t willing to put up with the hardships and pain points that came with pursuing this passion. Do I think I could have made it for real? Yes, but at a cost. And the chance at that curtain bow wasn’t worth the price of admission anymore.
It’s OK. I changed. I grew. And here is the most important thing I want you to take away: I don’t regret one moment of my previous life.
I absolutely positively believe that things happen for a reason. Looking back on it now, I absolutely positively believe that my life as an aspiring Broadway Baby wasn’t a waste of time or a huge loss or a worthless investment. It was absolutely positively where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing.
I see that time of my life in my mind’s eye and I smile, thinking of the places I got to go and the people I was privileged to meet and the absolute joy I had in living out my 20s chasing my dream, living for my passion, and pounding that pavement as much as it could withhold. My “failed” dream paved the way for me to be here – constantly in awe and oh so grateful of the places I’m still going, the people I still feel privileged to meet and work with, and the pure, unadulterated fact that I still got to where I wanted to go – making a living doing what I’m passionate about.
While the 1999 Me would’ve been insistent that whoever delivered the blow that I didn’t “make it” was dead wrong, the Present-Day Me would make sure she got the message to keep doing what she was doing, to make the same choices I made, to keep pursuing those spotlights and continue on that path until it didn’t feel like it was her passion any longer.
Then – and only then – would she take what she learned along the way, dig really deep to see what could be a better fit for her grown-up self, and dream up something new to achieve based on those very things she learned. She would take those life lessons and apply them to something she’d build all on her own, something that “clicks”, something that Works Out.
Here is the big moral of the story: As long as you stay true to what you want for yourself in the *now* and still have the desire to do the work, you will absolutely end up exactly where you want – and need! – to be. Continuously ask yourself, “Is the grind worth the pay-off?” If the answer is “yes,” full steam ahead. If the answer is “no,” that’s ok. That’s a sign. You’re allowed to change and grow, too.
So, let’s change the idea of doing whatever you set your mind to. I don’t buy it. Instead, I believe you can *shine* in whatever you set your heart to. That deserves the real standing O.
I invite you to sit down and ask yourself the hard questions: Are you doing what fuels you? Is there a dream business out there that is worth the risk, the time, the effort, the commitment? If the answer is yes — wherever you are in your journey — then take some time to browse my Start Here page and all of the ways I can support you. Whether you’re ready to discover, build, or launch your dream business, my dream business as The When I Grow Up Coach can help. (Oh how I love this part.)