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Musings

Living the Dream

Stuff of Dreams

The advice makes sense.

Fol­low your pas­sion. Do what you love. You only have one life to live so live it accord­ing to your dreams.

But when is any­thing as sim­ple as it sounds? Real­ity sets in and the prospect of get­ting to do what you love every­day often isn’t prac­ti­cal. You have mouths to feed, bills to pay.

I know that when I was younger I wasn’t ready to take any leaps of faith regard­ing fol­low­ing my bliss.  Such advice seemed imprac­ti­cal. I saw it as some­thing to con­sider later, in my retirement.

When I set upon a career path in my early twen­ties, I did what I thought I should do.  I looked at my strengths, learned what jobs required skills that I had, and got to work. I am good with peo­ple, so I became a teacher, then got my degree and became a social worker. From there, I got into human resources and then into staffing. All people-centric jobs, and the tried and true worked. I was very suc­cess­ful, at least in the tra­di­tional sense: I rose through the ranks; I made good money; I was rec­og­nized pub­licly for my achievements.

You would think that would have been enough.

But like many before me, I dis­cov­ered some­thing so sim­ple that it shouldn’t even have to be said. You can only work hard at some­thing that you don’t love for so long before you start to burn out. While the money and sta­tus feel good, some­thing vital is miss­ing and unless you try to find it, you will always feel incomplete.

So in late 2002, with my friend Sarah, another HR exec­u­tive, we brain­stormed in the hopes of fig­ur­ing out a bet­ter future for our work lives. In my liv­ing room, we inven­to­ried and reviewed our inter­ests, life expe­ri­ences, exper­tise and man­age­ment skills, and “con­cep­tu­al­ized” our dream jobs. Over time, we built the foun­da­tion for a busi­ness that would uti­lize our tal­ents but that would also incor­po­rate our pas­sions includ­ing our shared, life­long com­mit­ment to social respon­si­bil­ity. My first entre­pre­neur­ial ven­ture, Good­Deeds, a life man­age­ment ser­vices com­pany, was born.

I had eight great years at Good­Deeds before I sold it to a loyal employee in 2010. While there, I learned a lot about run­ning a busi­ness, about how to reeval­u­ate deci­sions as the com­pany evolves, about how to build a team that works well together and gets the job done. I also redis­cov­ered some things about myself that ulti­mately helped me to carve out a future that revolved even more closely around my passions.

 

Play­ing Dress Up

I was the lit­tle girl who walked around the house in my mother’s high heels and scarves and sparkly clip-on ear­rings. I prob­a­bly had red lip­stick smeared on and lit­tle cir­cles of rouge in the apples of my cheeks. I’m sure I wanted to be a princess or model or movie star when I grew up.

Even in high school, I con­tin­ued to play dress-up, albeit in a much sub­tler way: shop­ping with my friends. I scoured fash­ion mag­a­zines and fol­lowed trends, updat­ing my wardrobe reg­u­larly. My friends and I shopped, and I dis­cov­ered that I had an eye for detail and a knack for dress­ing my friends and myself in ways that flat­tered our fig­ures and enhanced our devel­op­ing styles.

Once I entered the work force, I had less time for shop­ping but cared enough to keep up with what was hap­pen­ing in the world of fash­ion and to tend to my needs to be well dressed and well groomed. In a way, the world was my dress-up stage and no mat­ter what I had to do, I was deter­mined to look the best I could while I was doing it.

I never let go of the things that drove my hap­pi­ness, but I did put them on the back burner. Then, one day, work­ing with one of my cus­tomers at Good­Deeds, I had an epiphany. We were going through this customer’s closet mak­ing deci­sions about what she needed to toss, donate, replace and add to her wardrobe. We spent hours try­ing things on, admir­ing our­selves in the mir­ror, pranc­ing around like we didn’t have a care in the world. For sev­eral hours, I felt like that joy­ful lit­tle girl I had been, and I real­ized that for the first time since I began work­ing, I felt amaz­ing deep down in my soul. I was hav­ing gen­uine fun doing my work.

 

Liv­ing Your Dream

What was dri­ven home when I was play­ing in that client’s closet was that while I didn’t have an exact def­i­n­i­tion of my dreams nor a clear under­stand­ing of how to design a career around them, I did know that if I con­tin­ued mov­ing toward the things that make me feel alive deep down inside, I had a much bet­ter chance of feel­ing good about myself and cre­at­ing some­thing that would sur­vive and thrive.

That sense led to more brain­storm­ing, more dis­cus­sions with other entre­pre­neurs, more look­ing both inward and out­ward as I tried to for­mu­late a plan for what to do next that would sat­isfy both my prac­ti­cal and deepest-seated needs. Simul­ta­ne­ously, I took a few risks based on the ideas that I was for­mu­lat­ing. I was involved in a hol­i­day trunk show and dis­cov­ered that some of my ideas had legs. Then I went on a shop­ping trip and bought some high-end fash­ion acces­sories that I thought might sell and began to test the waters. Entre­pre­neur­ial ven­ture num­ber two was born: Chic to Chic.

I know that con­ven­tional wis­dom claims that a suc­cess­ful busi­ness needs a fleshed out plan that describes your busi­ness model, your staffing needs, and your finan­cial goals for one year out, five years out, ten years out. Maybe over time, I will com­mit such infor­ma­tion to paper. But, the cre­ation of Chic to Chic is the devel­op­ment of a vision that already has evolved sig­nif­i­cantly through my expe­ri­ences and through my devel­op­ing rela­tion­ships with the peo­ple who are at the cen­ter: the cus­tomers, the design­ers, and the peo­ple work­ing with me behind the scenes.

Liv­ing your dream is hard work. I’ve found that while it is my inner pas­sions that drive me to cre­ate some­thing that sat­is­fies my needs, it is the peo­ple who sur­round me that make it all pos­si­ble. I devel­oped skills in my past but I am con­stantly reach­ing out to oth­ers with ques­tions about how to go about a process, how to deal with a prob­lem, how to decide upon alter­na­tives and how to make changes as grace­fully as pos­si­ble. I know that I couldn’t go it alone, but more impor­tantly, I don’t want to. Part of my dream has always been to go where I’m going in the com­pany of peo­ple I love. The other part is to honor what is in my heart.

You only have one life to live so live it accord­ing to your dreams.

The advice, finally for me, makes prac­ti­cal sense.

— Beth Miller

14 Comments


  • Love the message! Am sending it off to a few people who need to hear it!



    • That makes me very happy! Thank you.



      • Hi Darling, So thrilled you are living your dream. Very proud of you!! Love, Mom



        • So thrilled to have you as a Mom. Don't know what I would do without your love and support.



    • I love this Beth!! This is how my entrepreneurial life has evolved as well! I learned the lesson from my father, who was a professor and always said that his job (as a professor at UVM) was never a "job," because it was always fun. He had the luxury of changing it up as he grew as a person. I have done the same. Working with amazing designers and helping them achieve their goals through marketing and PR tactics has always made me happy and a win-win for all. Thanks for sharing your journey - it's truly inspirational



      • I love to hear about how other women are living their dreams. Thank you so much for your kind words.



  • And your joy radiates! Your entrepreneurial thought and action has lead you to a life of fulfillment-congratulations.



    • Thank you.



  • You are a special and beautiful person. It shows everyday. Congratulations on finding and living your dream.



    • I'm so lucky to have such lovely people in my life. Love you.



  • Dear Beth, Your love for your work shines through in how you treat your clients, friends and family. It is a joy to know you and learn more about you and your passions while wearing your beautiful jewels and scarves. Lucky for us both.



    • Lucky for us both. Thanks for your lovely words. It really is the people who make it all worthwhile.



  • I am very impressed with how you keep on growing and moving forward but with such a warmth for others. What first directed you to being a, teacher, social worker and in HR come up out in how you make everything that you do approachable and a way for us to connect with your enthusiasm. I look forward to following you as you keep on discovering that passion. It is somethinng for all of us to hold on to.



    • Thank you so much for your kind words. I do love what I do. I'm glad it shows.



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