The stack of rejection letters I’ve received, which now sit in a shoebox at the back of my closet, is proof of the years I spent trying (and failing) to procure a literary agent. When I finally got one, I thought it would change everything in my life. I thought it was the end-all be-all. Looking back, I realize how silly that thought was.
In reality, it was only the start of me realizing how much work I still had to do. My expectation that an agent would change my life was really a lazy hope that I could finally brush off my hands and not have to work so hard anymore. What I have learned is this: the real power is not with your agent (or your manager, your PR rep, your mentor, or even your master’s degree program), the power is YOURS. Yes agents, managers, mentors, and an impressive degree can be powerful. But their power is limited, and they certainly will not take you anywhere you’re not brave enough to go on your own.
You hold the power in your life. You make the choices. You have to do the work.
Interestingly, the more you rely on other sources to achieve what you’ve set out to do, the more you’re giving your own power away. You’re essentially saying “I’m not strong/good/smart enough, and I need that agent/manager/mentor/impressive degree in order to make it happen.” That subconscious belief puts limitations on what you can do on your own, and how far you can go if you push yourself.
What happens when we truly claim our own power?
There is a definitive shift. You will feel it. People will notice it. Things will start to happen. The steps you take will start to accumulate into milestones (and yes, getting a literary agent was a huge milestone, but not the end-all be-all).
However, just because you’ve claimed ownership over who you’re meant to become does not mean everything will suddenly fall into place. There is more work. And time. Months, maybe even years; the transformation is not instantaneous. Patience is a requirement.
3 Things You Can Do to Take Hold of Your Power
I am on this journey right now, along with several friends and colleagues in the entertainment business. In my experience, there are three big things you can do to keep the transformation on track. These things are not physical actions you must take, but rather internal belief systems that will guide you in your choices—which result in actions.
1) Know that you are already who you are meant to become at every step along the way. When you decide to take hold of your power, you will be different today than you were yesterday, and different tomorrow than you are today. These micro-changes amass into great courage, boldness, creative mastery, and so much more. Mother Theresa wasn’t born a saint, and she accomplished things that many people told her she wouldn’t be able to. Steve Jobs didn’t start off with the iPhone, he started in a garage with multiple failed attempts at changing the world’s technology. Steven Spielberg was rejected from USC film school multiple times and, in fact, never got in. Even Siddhartha Gautama wasn’t born enlightened—it was a journey and a process that transformed him into The Buddha. Approving and loving the version of yourself that you embody today empowers you to conquer the challenges of tomorrow.
2) Decide that it’s never too late, and you’re never too old. I used to have a strict timeline for myself. I thought that if I didn’t have certain things accomplished by a particular age, I was a failure. That produced nothing but unnecessary anxiety and unhappiness. It wasn’t a productive mindset (it is productive to give yourself deadlines, but not emotionally destructive ones), and I eventually learned to let it go. The day I released that self-imposed limitation, it was like walking on air. I felt lighter. I felt free. And I was. I was free to pursue my dreams for as long as they take, no longer worried when they would materialize. No longer bound by some idea of success I’d gotten from other people. Without that restriction, I returned to writing for the reason I started in the first place—because I love it, not because it’s going to get me somewhere. And writing from a place of love opens the floodgates for creativity to flow through.
3) Embrace that your power, gifts, and talents are unique. Another destructive thing I used to do was compare myself to other people. Famous people’s Wikipedia pages. Or even Facebook. It’s so easy to go online, see people posting only the positive aspects of their lives, and feel deflated in comparison. Hell, I’m guilty of some obnoxious Facebook posting. I don’t post often, but when I do it’s usually vacation pictures or good news. Not the moments I’m having writer’s block. Not my shitty first drafts. But here’s the thing—none of that matters. Comparing oneself to others is massively futile, because what you have to offer the world is unlike what anyone else has to offer. (And if you’re just trying to mimic someone…yep, you’re giving away your power again.) Your gifts and talents are distinctive, which is even more reason to claim them in full and allow them to shine. Stop depriving the world of your greatness.