During college, I saw my future in the “real world” in a way that broke the norm. After graduation, my college roommates and I scattered: one to medical school, one to law school, and one to dental school. And then there was me, scrambling to make ends meet as I pursued my dream of launching my own company and designing a career in writing.
For the longest time I didn’t have friends like me, working in the undefined space us “non-9-5ers” fill between empty coffee cups, deadlines, and uncertainty. I was struggling to learn the hustle by myself every day. I worked in a vacuum, ignorant of the thriving community of creatives and entrepreneurs surrounding me. My first entrepreneurial friend reached out to me on Twitter. After a back and forth of 140-character conversations, we agreed to meet in person for happy hour. A mojito and shared plate of bruschetta eventually grew into a friendship and business partnership as we navigated working from home and juggling clients and growing our businesses together. From there, I began to discover a larger community of entrepreneurial women in San Diego.
In my misguided race to claim my idea and establish my worth as a creative, I lost the essential component of entrepreneurship and dream chasing: community. I realized I needed to collaborate and connect – rather than compete—to bring my vision to life.
Though I was so grateful and excited for these newfound circles, the doubt I worked so hard to dispel found itself slowly creeping back in. I had been sitting on an idea for over a year, talking and planning yet failing to bring it to fruition. I felt stuck.
Here I was, speaking to women with indelible dreams and incredible visions, all out there making it happen. Online I was inundated by successful bloggers with sponsorships and Instagram feeds of thousands of followers, freelancers with crisp websites and plenty of clients, and other creatives with a slew of gifts and talents I so ardently wished for.
During a happy hour networking event, I felt myself slowly sinking deeper into myself with each conversation. While I found strength and encouragement in these creative circles, I also found something new creeping in: competition. For a moment, I forgot I belonged. I had let go of my purpose and allowed the fear of not measuring up stand in my way. In my misguided race to claim my idea and establish my worth as a creative, I lost the essential component of entrepreneurship and dream chasing: community. I realized I needed to collaborate and connect – rather than compete—to bring my vision to life.
Here are 3 C’s I learned to banish the comparison and instead pursue goals and dreams alongside others:
Finding fellow creatives is now easier than ever. Between Twitter and other social media channels, connecting with your favorite bloggers, photographers, and freelancers is simple.
Start with a simple “hello!” message and introduce yourself, then mention a shared interest, or a piece you admire. They’ll probably be flattered you reached out! Joining a local networking or industry group is another great way to meet other like-minded individuals. Creative meet-up events are prime spaces to form relationships, bounce around ideas, find inspiration, and gain a fresh perspective.
In your conversations with other creatives, don’t be afraid to voice your struggles or ask about another’s success or lessons learned along the way. Their experience and knowledge may give you the insight you need to take it to the next level.
You don’t have to do this alone! In fact, most of the time, you simply can’t. Life—and work—is better when we go through with others. Maybe your new connection writes bone-chillingly good blog posts, while you know your way around Photoshop and can craft a logo she needs. Trade work and skills, or put your heads together to support one another in your projects. You may just find your next business partner or job opportunity!
Being willing to invite others in to your work opens you up to fresh ideas and new perspectives that may just be exactly what you need.
The truth is, we all have our own struggles and weaknesses. We know what it is like to feel lost or hopeless, or lose direction. We know the crush of failure and are familiar with the paralyzing fear that holds us back from beginning in the first place. No matter what level you’re at or how long you’ve been working on your big idea, be willing to humble yourself to celebrate the successes of others. Champion your friends and connections as they make their wild, crazy dreams happen. Drop them a “Congratulations!” note, take them to lunch, or give them a shout out. When we lift others up, this crazy thing happens: we, too, are uplifted.
It’s when we band together, get a little vulnerable, and recognize we are all in this together the magic begins to happen. So instead of playing the comparison game next time you jump online, or decide to invite the little green–eyed jealous monster along to your next networking happy hour, take a pause.
As small or as large as your beginning may be, enjoy the process and give yourself some grace for where you are at right now. This is exactly where you need to be. As a community, we are in prime position to move forward and make things happen. Together.
Photos by Whitney Schey