The last few days have been emotionally tumultuous. It’s been clear for a very long time that I was beginning to feel unfulfilled with my work, not because I didn’t love what I do, but I felt very undervalued, useful, but not enough to make folks spend their limited funds to work with me. It’s an awful feeling because the whole purpose isn’t the money, but the money is the thing that sustains the work and keeps me fed and housed and able to show up to my next speaking gig or computer for a writing or design project.
I’ve felt for some time that people didn’t get what I was doing because like Facebook, who changes and iterates daily, I was testing and restructuring products, services, price points and audiences. I resented the term “Jack of All Trades, Master of None,” because it always came with the sentiment that Jack couldn’t be trusted with more than one thing and that people wouldn’t hire Jack because he ONLY could do social media marketing, not design, not speaking, not Google Adwords. So, I found myself trying to test out different segments of my skill set hoping people would bite.
Most didn’t bite, and when they did, inevitably they wouldn’t only need someone to design a book cover or website, but they needed someone to write and distribute a press release or work on their SEO and design a video marketing campaign strategy or plan an event with a marketing activation to engage their attendees in a memorable way. Still, I tried balancing marketing only one thing to appeal to those who could only engage a service provider who was working in the field of the latest catchphrase, even though integrated, multichannel, omnichannel marketing has existed for ages. I was and am a Jazz-of-all-trades and the one I haven’t mastered is understanding all the behaviors and equations beyond supply and demand that makes the women I want to tick to my beat.
Like anyone who has been in a service business and who has saw past the glamorous smoke and mirrors of “get rich quickly by quitting your job and the universe will magically make you rich with minimal effort or tears” experts who only got rich by appealing to those who want easy success and think paying the expert will eliminate the need for testing, measurement and iteration…*inhales*…I have realized that real life happens and that everyone who wills and works hard does not succeed in business. That’s a truth I’ve learned, but that’s a truth that won’t stop me.
There are those who really have not had to struggle and who landed on a niche and took it to the bank. Kim Kardashian comes to mind, although she has done jobs that perhaps we wouldn’t do to get ahead (puns intended). Others who aren’t known for their salient lifestyle and who are reputable business people have done this too. They do the right thing at the right time and appeal to the right people who are willing to pay the right amount to keep the business in the black. We all want to be these people, and though what they do may look easy, surely the sacrifices and work involved make them buckle the same as we do on our really bad days.
I think the one thing my audience has always appreciated was my candor and honesty about business–that I don’t only give rah rah cheers at your proverbial football game, but I coach you through the plays–both plays that I have made and fumbled and those that were celebrated touchdowns. Today, I am honestly scared out of my mind to be working on Programmer Diva. I am not a long time expert developer nor am I the owner of a startup that has successfully secured millions of dollars in a round of funding. All I have is a desire to create an impact, a lot of business experience and resilience to work this thing until the wheels fall off.
I’ll give you a little background. I’ve volunteered for some very well-known organizations with a lot of media attention, partners, and brownie points. I also have felt like after a while my work became less about being a part of something great and more about politics and subsidized labor. It’s good to name drop, and I do, but at what cost do I work on building something great?
This is what I ask about the work I’ve done for others as a volunteer, as a paid contractor and as an employee. I’m a firm believer in win-wins and if I’m not winning with a heart full of satisfaction, added credibility and a Rolodex full of influential people who know me by name, or a wallet full of cash (payment with which I can go purchase shoes to make me fill fulfilled if the work itself isn’t bringing me joy), why do it? Of course, there’s the impact at play, but what impact can you make if you feel limited in how many people you are really affecting with the work you do?
I need to do my own thing. I also need to do something that I hope women will find value in, more than marketing, blogging workshops, and talks on how beautiful I think you are. I want to give people some real deal solid skills that they can take to the bank. I don’t have a fancy video production studio or pretty Sex and The City dresses or the most magazine-ready face and body to blind you to what I can really bring. It’s just me and my raw skill and knowledge ready to be shared and I hope that there is a certain appeal in that.
I think Programmer Diva is definitely a passion project, one partly fueled by my experiences with feeling caught up in a swell that I wasn’t proficient to swim in, fueled by feeling I needed to do more, and fueled by my desire to have very real solutions to needs I face and wanting to build them on my own, making life just a little bit easier. Also, since I feel my audience is more of a tribe than a pool of potential business leads, I want to take them with me on this journey. Like, “Hey, I’m doing something to empower myself and enrich my life and career. Won’t you join me?”
Although I sound very much like Mary Kay–a woman who I respect profoundly and not because she has great skin care and cosmetics–I believe that there will always be this need for women to create their own destinies as much as they can control. I have not met a woman, downtrodden, criminal, honest, working class or affluent, who doesn’t want a better life for themselves or their families. Not one. Ambitious Diva’s single mission is to accelerate (not empower since the power is already existent) advancement in women’s lives and businesses. That’s nothing to sneeze at and no matter what project or vehicle I use to do that, I will.
Every fiber of my mind and body is shaken, uncomfortable and unfamiliar with this new experience. I’m concerned whether Programmer Diva will succeed. I’m concerned whether openly saying that we will produce eight national events between now and the end of 2015 was wise. I wonder if 300 women will benefit from these classes within this same time frame. I wonder if my impenetrable desire will carry me, motivate others and attract partners in building something that is immensely bigger than me. I’m scared to start something new, but who cares?
There are so many reasons why this can fail, but I’m also keenly aware at all the wonderful possibilities that can blossom as a result of taking a chance on something I believe in. I don’t intend to reinvent the wheel or compete, and my energies will be spent focusing on working WITH those who have aligning missions but who may have not touched the women I have access to and have influence over. I’m confident that the way I say and do things will resonate to the woman who speaks my language, feels my intense desire to make sure she is equipped to do incredible things AND feels my intense belief that she will.
After a while, it’s not about my lack of an advanced degree and roughness around the edges. It becomes all about what can I do with the power and resources I have to affect peoples lives. Careers is only a facet of it. I want to light a spark that is the catalyst to changing everything else about the way they live.
This may be one of the most long-winded posts I’ve shared publicly, but primarily, writing is cathartic, and putting all this out into the world shows you all very plainly that I am a regular girl seeking to do uncommon, nerve-wrecking and phenomenal things.
If you’ve ever felt a pinch of self-doubt, overwhelming insecurity, or amazing confidence, then meet your match. My life and experience in business has become a dance, a lesson in agility and endurance. A successful person is one who has learned to approach life like a soldier or football player, accepting harrowing tasks and absorbing the blows to see the victory. Bring on the blows. Programmer Diva and whatever magnificent way Ambitious Diva Co. serves the world will be victorious.