Working For Yourself: One Year

“He hadn’t pushed through that one last barrier, his fear of succeeding, beyond which the world lay totally open to him.” —Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding

This year has been hard. There. I said it. As I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the fact that I’ve been working for myself all year, as I’ve gone back and read each monthly post I’ve written about self-employment, the only honest thing I can say is that this year has been staggeringly difficult. It’s also been by turns magnificent, surprising, and joyful. It’s clearly been life-changing. It has been actually awesome, full of awe.

But I think the two defining words for this year are success and terror.

I went through large parts of my twenties consumed with worry that I wouldn’t make something of myself, that I wouldn’t live up to my own internal standard of success. I have something inside me, wound up like a spring, that won’t let me stop until I’m creating something and putting it out into the world. In my early twenties, when I was one of three partners in a theatre company, I had that moment of feeling like everything clicked. I was running a creative business, producing shows, doing something that I thought mattered. The only problem was that running a small theatre company in New York City is virtually financially unsustainable. So when that project ended, I spent years feeling around in the dark, trying to figure out what else would work for me, scared out of my mind that I wouldn’t find something and that my time would run out. And the simple reason I got to where I am now is that I could not rest until I’d gotten to that place where things clicked again. I’m profoundly lucky that for me, unlike so many creatives, that drive was constructive not destructive. For me, that drive was paired with an entrepreneurial drive, the skills to hustle, the desire to create a business structure that could support and sell my work. So I’m running a business, not drinking myself to death in a corner somewhere, and I’m acutely aware of what a blessing that is.

After that period, I thought things could not get more scary than the constant gnawing fear that I was not doing what I was made to do. Sadly, this assumption was false. I was absent the day that the “nothing is more terrifying than success” memo got passed out. Or maybe that memo never got distributed because no one wanted to be the asshole that said, “I got what I wanted, and it’s scary as shit.” So, f*ck it. I’m going to come out and say it because I would have felt a hell of a lot less alone this year, had I known.

Let’s start here: It turns out that success looks totally different than it feels. Success looks like everything magically coming together for another human, who (when it’s happening to anyone other than me) I immediately imbue with slight magical powers. This is happening for them and not for me because they are half-human half-magic. Duh! Logic! The thing is this is not, strictly speaking, true. From the inside, success feels like being in the center of a hurricane that you are both in charge of and is threatening to pull you apart.

This year at least, I found that things did not happen to me, as much as I made things happen. And then managed the things happening. And then followed up on the things happening. Success didn’t happen to me, nor did my year feel like it was about success, except in retrospect. Instead, I woke up almost every morning feeling terrified because I was going to push myself as hard as I could and as far as I could. I was going to push myself to the point where I felt comfortable, and then push myself way beyond that point. I was going to do that over and over and over, all year long.

By the end of the year, I was going to learn a lot about my own personal terror cycle:

  • Set a really ambitious seeming goal
  • Say, “Oh yeah, I can totally do that.”
  • Start working on it
  • Panic
  • Have something go wrong
  • Possibly have an actual panic attack
  • Keep working
  • Have the thing happen imperfectly but wonderfully
  • Slowly feel panic recede
  • Surf a wave of joy

…Over and over and over. By the end of the year, this cycle would start playing out in hyperspeed. Because the strange thing about success is that it pushes you up against your own limits faster than you thought humanly possible. I spent this year worrying about turnout for each individual event that APW threw. And now I’m facing down a whole book tour worth of events. And interviews. And new experiences. In very rapid succession. And I’ve learned that the only way through… is through. So I just push through work, panic, work, more panic, event, joy, as fast as I can. Over and over again.

Success is some of the most terrifying shit I’ve ever experienced. And I never saw it coming.

When I look back at my writing in entrepreneurship this year, some themes emerge: Showing up every day no matter how you feel. Doing the work without worrying if it’s good or bad. The importance of building my work life around the core of my creative craft. Pushing through the fear over and over again. The fact that it’s been hard (surprisingly hard). Letting Go. Joy. Here are some of the best bits:

From month oneI’m glad that I was trained with the idea that you show up Every Single Day (we were only allowed three absences in studio per semester), no matter how sh*tty or uncreative you were feeling, and you do the work. You do the work when what you’re doing sucks, you do the work when what you are doing seems brilliant, you do the work when you’d rather be in bed. And thank God, because that takes some serious pressure off.  You just have to show up and work, not show up and do brilliant work. So every day these days, I show up.

On finishing the bookAfter I finished the first half, people would ask what I thought about the book, and I’d look into the middle distance and wave my arm around and say, “It’s not shitty.” And then I’d pause and say, “I really don’t have any perspective.”

From month sixFor years, when I got a piece of disappointing business news, I allowed myself to feel crushed. “Can APW make it?” I’d ask David, “Is it all falling apart?” And erm, I don’t claim to have totally retired those questions from my repertoire. But I have learned that when you build a business, it has a whole lot of moving pieces. If you spend too much energy on the one part that isn’t working well, you end up wasting your time (and feeling sad for no reason). Better to focus on what is going well and realize that the train is going to keep on moving, so you might as well be on it.

From month sevenI felt like I was failing, over and over again. My mantra on those days was “Fail forward.” And I kept reminding myself that the only way I know to be successful is to fail, over and over again, and learn from it. On a particularly rough morning, Lisa of Privilege reassured me, “If you aren’t failing here and there you are certainly leaving money on the table somewhere else.” And I realized, yes. We fail when we want to test the boundaries of what we know how to do well, and that’s how we grow.

From month eight: I spent all of last year focused on building APW so I could quit my job. Every single morning, I would hop over the cable car tracks in my high heels, running to my job as a (fancy) secretary—a job I’d taken just so I could fully get APW off the ground. And every single morning as I did that, I’d say a little prayer, “Please, let me sell the book. Please, let me work for myself. Please, let this be worth it.” And then it happened. But this year has been such a whirl of adjustment that it’s been hard to focus on the fact that I finally got what I wanted. I figured out how to write a book… and wrote a book; I got an office, I gave up an office; I figured out accounting, I fell behind on accounting; I got a staff, I realized I had to learn how to be a boss. It’s been really complicated. And in the midst of that complication, I kept looking back on myself last year and saying, “I got it. Now I’m going to try really hard to enjoy it fully.” But it’s been hard. Complicated.

From month elevenYou can’t succeed without being willing to fail with full force. You can’t figure out how far you can go, until you push yourself so far that you risk completely falling on your face. And seriously? This never stops sucking, don’t kid yourself.

So now year one is over, and I’m on to year number two. A year ago I was full of questions: Would it work out? Would I thrive working for myself, or would there not be enough structure? Now, most of those questions are gone (though of course there are new questions in their place). I don’t spend a lot of my time worrying about what-ifs these days. Instead I focus on trying to do the best job I can for the company I built, day by day.

Which brings be back to the idea of working for myself. It’s perfect that this series is winding to a close, because I no longer feel like I’m self-employed. These days, I feel like I’m running a small company. Which, technically, I am. We incorporated last fall, and I’m now CEO of Practical Media, Inc., with a staff that I’m overwhelmingly grateful for every single day.

Which is how it should be. We keep changing, and we keep pushing through the fear. Beyond that barrier, the world is totally open to us.

Life gets better, but it sure as hell doesn’t get easier. Which is how it should be.

Photos: At home on New Years Day, Personal for A Practical Wedding

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  • Congratulations, again and again Meg. You’ve built this. I am not sure if I can say thank you enough times. You are such an inspiring force. I hope and know you will continue to succeed on anything you try and start, because even if you don’t you will find a new path.

    And this: “I thought things could not get more scary than the constant gnawing fear that I was not doing what I was made to do.”
    really strung my cords because thats where I’m at now, but I know I will figure it out too.

    • Kess

      Oh man do I feel this. I’m still in college and therefore haven’t done anything ‘real’ yet, but everyone has told me, and I’ve told myself, that I’m capable of a LOT. I’ve been pretty successful in my schooling and it seems unless I’m really contributing to something, I’ll just be ‘wasting my potential’.

      And since I’m going into engineering, that sometimes has the feel of “you are going to change the world with something you design”! Even though most people don’t think about it that way, engineering can be just as ‘creative’ and stressful that way as a more traditional creative pursuit.

      And then I’m not even really sure if this is the place for me – despite (or perhaps because) the fact I’ve been on this career path since 5th grade.

      • Steph

        Just wanted to say, don’t sell yourself short! What you’re doing now is “real,” too.

        Try out engineering and see if it fits. You never can tell. Going to school for something is soooo much different than actually working in that field.

        Good luck! Just trust yourself!

  • Shit this is exactly how I feel. I am terrified of not giving what I can – what I must, and I have such a hunger to give something big to the world. I’m afraid I might not ever give it all. It’s such an awful feeling, but it’s also what drives me to try.

    I’ve just had to let go mid way through my one big project, the one that would launch me into the world, because my partner got ill.

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve never heard anyone express those feelings before, I thought it might be just me.

  • Anon

    You inspire me, every day. I hope to be able to build my own small, creative business some day. Hopefully in the not-so-distant future.

  • Steph

    Love this post! And I have to admit there are times when I see you as half human half magic (sorry!)
    These posts always leave me feeling curious about what else is possible in my own life, in a good way! I remember you said something in an earlier post about going after what you want being scary, but not knowing what you want is even scarier. I’m definitely there right now. Re-evaluating my career and looking for that next “click”. And the insights I get from these working for yourself posts have played a role in helping me figure that out. I’m not there yet but I am failing forward. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!! It helps, in ways you may not even have expected :)

  • YES. You describe it so perfectly. All of it.

    I feel like right at the point where I get comfortable I push myself harder – as if it’s time to beat my own personal record. And gah, the panic / create / panic / create cycle – it becomes overwhelming, exhausting and sometimes lonely.

    We clearly have a lot to talk about in a few days.

    • I have always felt the exact same way. It’s when I become uncomfortable that the awesome things happen. Either a project that seems way bigger than I am or a work-out that looks like I’d die before I finish it – once through, I’m better because of it.

      Overwhelming, yes.

    • meg

      You’re right. Sometimes very lonely.

  • Meg, I’ve probably said this a million times in the last year but you have been an absolute inspiration for me in 2011. Okay so technically you’ve been an inspiration since 2009 but this last year really blew it out of the water for me. Partly because my soul cried out for it and partly because your blog convinced me I could do it, I made a huge (financially, physically, emotionally) leap to switch careers. And one year later I just finished my first month as a full time massage therapist. And I’m really good at it, and it terrifies the crap out of me. I heal people for a living and it blows my mind. Success is far scarier than failure indeed.

    But if you can do it, then I can do it. And for all your openness and your encouragement and your fearlessness, I thank you.

    • meg


    • Anne

      Addie — Wow what a wonderful story! Good for you for making the leap into a career that’s meaningful for you.

    • Congratulations Addie! This is exactly why I keep coming back to APW every day. Meg, you’ve created a space for this amazing community, and encourage us every day in your writing and in each post that goes up on this site, to push ourselves harder, further, and not to listen to anyone (or any of our own thoughts/fears) standing in our way. Thank you, Meg!

  • Wow! Congrats! Seriously, I know the feeling. Started my first business at 15 through a program, so I thought I knew how to operate a business. Opened so many businesses afterward, which I failed at all of them. Currently working as a ”fancy” program coordinator, while preparing for my big jump, I’m leaving in February to be on my own again, and hopefully I did learn from my past mistakes.
    This post, I’ve got to keep in my bookmarks and read, and read it again. It’s fun when you meet other people going through the same thing as you. Well, for you, you’re already one year in, and probably 100 steps ahead. Some wishes it, some hopes for it, but only a few do it. So you actually merit an award for that alone!!!
    I might repeat myself, but congrats again! I know how this is BIG!

  • Ms Fran

    I’m having a wee cry into my desk reading this. I started reading APW because you wrote honestly about yourself and here you are still doing it and being a complete star.

    Go you!

  • Richelle

    You are hauling up your own star!

  • What an amazing story. I have that exact same feeling every time I do something successful. Every. Single. Time. You have done in one year what some companies do in ten. Well done Meg!

  • YAY TO THIS. I love it! All of it! Also I’m glad I’m following your lead and posting month-by-month about my 1st year of self-employment… because isn’t it so cool to look back on your year like that? The good, the bad, the difficult, the joyful? Yes. :)

    Lastly – have you read the book The E-Myth Revisited? A fabulous book about being an entrepreneur and I’m loving it so far! (1/3 of the way through…)

    • Hi Christy,
      Thank you so much for turning me on to APW and Meg’s story! You and Meg are given me the willpower to make 2012 my “GIVE IT MY ALL and THEN SOME” year!! I am so proud of you both! And excited for this year!! I started working with a marketing consultant to kick me into gear! I am hoping to be solely in business for myself in 2013!!

      So ready to ride the waves!! Oh and totally going to order that book right now!

      • Yes Sarah!!! I love it and can’t wait to see all you’re going to do this year!!!! Here’s to an amazing 2012!!!

  • KateW

    I’m really glad I started my day off reading this article! I’m an actor who’s planning a practical wedding, and I identified with so many of your statements about working for yourself. Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to make it, if I’m on the right path, if in the end I’ll be glad I took this path – so thanks for reminding me just to do the work. I’m going to go do that right now! Congratulations on the one year mark – this is a wonderful resource and community. I only wish you had more Canadian vendors listed!

    • SARAH

      More Canadian vendors!

  • KA

    “I went through large parts of my twenties consumed with worry that I wouldn’t make something of myself, that I wouldn’t live up to my own internal standard of success. I have something inside me, wound up like a spring, that won’t let me stop until I’m creating something and putting it out into the world.”

    No wonder you are a hero of mine.

    Crazy that it’s been a year since you went fulltime and announced book. Both feels like forever and yesterday. It always amazes me how babies and books take less than a year to be born. Seems we spend more of our lives waiting to be ready than making things. happen.

    • Umpteenth Sarah

      “Seems we spend more of our lives waiting to be ready than making things. happen.”

      This amazing post and now this amazing comment both struck a chord with me. I’m in a career type job and now there’s opportunity for advancement…. I’m new, and there are people who have been here longer who might want it, but the job is open now and it won’t be later, and I think I’m the best person for the job. Even though I’m scared I won’t get it, I think I’m going to go for it, and if I fail, fail forward.

      Or, to quote Beckett, if we fail, we can always”Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

    • meg

      “Seems we spend more of our lives waiting to be ready than making things. happen.”

      • Yes. This. I loved when you talked about what success can look like from the outside. It’s so easy as an outsider to think, well they are super human magic beings who are lucky. But no, it’s work, it’s making that success happen each and every day, and that’s what you’ve showed me this past year. Congratulations on all of it, the amazing the scary and the success.

  • Ms. Whatsit

    Congratulations on a successful year! I came to A Practical Wedding, of course, for the wedding planning advice/inspiration. These posts on your journey in self-employment/business/publishing have really been a wonderful bonus. Thank you!

    I have just accepted a full-time position that I know I’ll be good at in a field that I’ve been working in for a while. I’m happy that I’ll be making more money and have benefits, but it’s also been a little bittersweet. I really want to be writing and publishing a novel. And I really want to have a life that centers around making that happen, not around a 9-5 job with a 1.5 hour round-trip commute. Everyone around me is so proud of me because this is a more “career” type position, as opposed to the string of “jobs” that I’ve had for most of my life. And I’m proud of myself, too. But I’m a little sad, because this isn’t the career that I truly want. I’m just not sure if the career I want is even possible, talent-wise or financial/practical-wise.

  • Laura

    “This year at least, I found that things did not happen to me, as much as I made things happen.”

    This. I am trying like hell to make my 2012 all about this. I have goals for myself, I need to step up to the plate and work towards them every single damn day.

    This week has been one where the real-world-job just seems to be crushing and static–like nothing can ever change, and I’ll be stuck there forever. But, clearly…that’s not the case. I need to work damn hard to make that change…and I’m good at working damn hard. So thank you for this bit of morning inspiration. And wow–congratulations on your one-year-mark!

  • So, so proud of you. :)

  • Ms. Neptune

    I came here for the wedding advice, (which I still use and appreciate!) but long after my wedding I’ll stay for the life advice. As if ‘reclaiming wife’ wasn’t enough, you continue to inspire me professionally, Meg. Thank you for being such a wonderful role model. Your honesty is appreciated and your bravery, much admired. Congrats on your first year down!

  • Meg, there’s something extra special about posts like this, where you share parts of the experience of starting up on your own, running your own careers and let us in on the ups, the obstacles and the emotional thought process.

    It’s good to be reminded that going after what you want is scary, and success can be scary – and that the feeling that you’re out of control, or failing or struggling to stay above water can be part of the process. It’s nice to have someone to tell us up front that success doesn’t always feel the way it looks from the outside.

    You are truly inspirational.

  • Katie

    Just have to say that The Art of Fielding is my favorite book of 2011 and I was tickled that you started this post with a quote from it. And rather than saying congrats, I’m going to say good luck…because I’m sure you have a whole list of sh*t you still want to accomplish.

  • North Star

    “Life gets better, but it sure as hell doesn’t get easier”

    So true. I remember thinking when I was younger that as I became an adult things would get easier as I had more experience and my own means to do things.. And I suppose some things have gotten easier, but there’s always new challenges to be met.

  • Meg, thank you so much for writing this. These posts have by far been some of my favourites this year. I am someone who spent their whole career trying to get somewhere in theatre, doing everything I was ever asked to do, getting into the best schools and companies only to realise that maybe it isn’t for me. The last 3 years have been scary limbo land as I try and muddle out if I can leave something which people so closely identify with who I am but something which ultimately makes me unhappy. Trying to leave it behind is the hardest decision and I am very much still trying to force myself to make it. You have proven that we don’t need to be satisfied with our lot, that we can try new things, that the whole world is available to us and that we have talents just waiting to surface. I am going to breathe a little easier this week I think. Thank you.

    • Steph

      I feel like I’m in a very similar situation where I’m currently trying to get out of a career that I’ve spent a lot of time working towards. It’s scary. It’s scary to even tell friends and family that I’m making a leap into something else. So, I’m right there with you. Good luck with everything!

    • Different field, same dilemma here. It is super scary, especially since exiting would make it extremely difficult to ever get back into this career path if I end up regretting the decision. So I wait and ponder more. You’re not alone. *hugs*

      • Mary

        If you’re not 100% passionate about what you’re doing most of the time or 90% passionate about it all of the time, then do something else! Seriously, life is too short to spend so much time wondering about it.

        I left my stable, lucrative job in my mid-twenties to work in an extremely risky field (non-profit) and that did not work out. But it led me back to grad school, which did work out. Despite the poor job market, I have no regrets. I would have regretted it so much more if I’d stayed in my stable job.

        • Thank guys. Its horribly scary. I think the thing that has been the most difficult is my own sense of pride. To admit to people that this maybe isn’t for me is really hard and you go through a sense of mourning with it. I am in the later part of my 20’s and have realised I have been quite bitter about it all for some time but I think and I am very nearly at the point where I am just going to follow my nerve and go down a different road. Kind words like yours are exactly the type of push I need!

  • Class of 1980

    Now you know why I say “You never arrive.”

    That destination that you once thought held the answer to everything? Well, it turns out you need to learn to juggle when you get there.

    We’ve been in business for 10 years now and we still get terrified because we have to keep reinventing the business to stay in the game. Have a winning formula? Great. Guess what? The world doesn’t stand still. Outside forces will eventually show up and rearrange everything you once relied on.

    But you are RIGHT. If you show up every day, that’s usually enough to keep the ball rolling and to make adjustments as needed. Also, that works better than trying to see too far into the future and making plans on the unknown.

  • Meg, you are amazing. I have read so many comments over the past year here saying “This post is what I needed today!” So now I’m going to say it. This post is what *I* needed today! I’m currently in the limbo between the end of college (just finished in December! Hooray!) and having a life where I’m starting to sell my ceramic work (hopefully enough to support myself… eventually). So reading your posts about jumping into self-employment and creating your own business is super inspiring to me. It makes me think, “If a smart, awesome lady like Meg can do it, maybe I can too!” I’m with you on the “being there every day” thing. That is something that I chanted to myself under my breath every day to get myself through college, even when it was unbearable. But I don’t have the hang of “failing forward.” Could you explain a little more this wonderful-sounding thing where a failure doesn’t have to be soul-crushing? Or guide me in the direction of some resources to read? And again, thank you thank you thank you for everything you do here at APW!

    • meg

      I talked a lot about it in the month seven post! Those are my best thoughts on it :)

  • “this series is winding to a close” ?

    I love these business/life lessons. Hope you continue to do some kind of monthly update on the running of APW!

    • meg

      Possibly. I’m pondering what it might be. It might not be monthly, but be topical instead, ie, after the book tour I owe you guys a wrap up on writing a book. The self employment series is done, because self employment doesn’t really describe my life anymore. The issue is, now that I’m a small business owner, it’s tougher to write these things. Much of my job is managing my amazing staff. And while I can be frank about my internal life, I can’t be frank about that, because I need to protect their privacy. So it’s a debate. We’ll see how it plays out.

      • Anne

        Please do consider continuing this series. This series has blown my mind!

      • kyley

        As others have said, I really hope this series considers in some form or another. It’s been among my favorite part of APW this past year! Obviously it will look different; I look forward to what it might be like.

      • Hana

        This has been my favorite series to read last year, hands down. I was really looking forward to it every month.

        As I’m currently in a job I don’t love, but studying so that I can do what I love, this series has been so inspiring. So from now on, although you might not talk about “working for yourself” per se, I’d really like to read about similar type of stuff. It’s very inspiring to read about you working for your goals. A few years ago, I also very much enjoyed reading about your thoughts on personal finances.

        For me, this kind of posts are the ones I love the most on this site. Meg, you’re like a big sister inspiring me to do my best to do what I dream about. And then I love to read the comments of the readers who are going through similar situations. So please, do a new series on something similar.

    • Aurélie

      Thank you Meg, for this wonderful year of making us dream through your fears and success.
      Those are the posts I’ve been longing to read every month and I hope too that you’ll go on with the monthly updates, even if they change a little since your situation has wonderfully evolved.

      I received my copy of your book two days ago (I bought it on the great book buy day but it’s taken that much time to come all the way to Paris) and every time I open it I’m thinking to that post, one year ago, when you explained that you had signed a contract and the the tweets letting us ponder how fast you were writing… It’s been so great to feel included into your creation process, even from afar, and I’m so delighted to read now the fruit of your hard work (even if, like surprisingly a good portion of your readers, I have no weddings coming whatsoever – you’re just that a good writer).

      So I guess I just wanted to say thank you and good luck and please continue!
      And when you’re scared and panicking, just think of all of us, reading you and loving you over the waves and haze of the Internet.

      • DanEllie

        I’ll echo Sarah T and Aurélie – please don’t stop this series! I understand that the evolution has changed and that it is critical to protect your staff, but you’ve made it in a way that many of us don’t have models for. It’s incredibly rare for people to be this blunt about the glory and the fear. Please keep talking!

        In particular: How do people take the leap from self-employed to employer? How do WOMEN do it? How do you manage? This is a larger question for the staff maybe – what is it like to be on the inside of a organization like this?

        I know for one I’m not ready to leap to self-employment, but am contemplating a shift and I want to do more than pay the bills. How do you find good managers in addition to good ideals?

        • Marina

          This. This this this. There’s so much to talk about in terms of both small businesses and women-run businesses. And I truly love your perspective on it, Meg. I can’t believe there’d be less to write about. :)

          • meg

            There isn’t less to write about, but there is less that I can write about appropriately, respecting everyone’s boundaries. Which is why I need to pause and figure out what’s next on this front.

  • Meg, I have been enjoying APW for several years. I am so proud of what you have done and so excited for what you will do. You have given me smiles and tears and been a source of much inspiration. Reading APW has totally informed the way I think about weddings, marriage and community building. I will continue to return here daily as I go through the very scary, but oh so exciting process of starting my very own baby business. Here’s to your year number 2 and may it only get scarier and more rewarding!

  • Have I ever mentioned, a million times, how much I love and value this series of posts? You say it like it is, and voice the worries that I have in my head, then tell me how I should perceive it (instead of me worrying about everything). I appreciate it so much.

    Congratulations to a year of working for yourself!!

  • Congratulations, what you’ve done is so awesome! I totally understand the fear and anxiety parts–that, and not quite enough motivation are why I still work at my day job instead of jumping with both feet into something I really care about. Congrats again!

  • Thanks so much for this post Meg. In fact, thanks for the whole series. I have some big dreams related to my blog… but I’m holding back for some reason. I guess it’s the fear of failure. I feel as though I’m at that point where I either push forward and 1) fall on my face 2) succeed like never before or 3) carry on before and nothing will change.

    I know if I were advising someone what to do, I’d say ‘Go for it!’

    So that’s what I’m going to do. And I have you, in part, to thank for that.

  • Wait a second … this series is coming to a close?! But, but, these have been some of my most favoritist posts each months!

    • meg

      I’m not really self employed anymore. So there is that. We’re figuring it out.

  • Jen

    Hey Meg-

    What a great read. I definitely hear the echo of “that person must have something greater/bigger/more magical than I to accomplish those things.” It’s kind of crazy how often you learn lessons over and over (and over and over) again.. sometimes I’m like “UH HOW HAVE I NOT INTUITED THIS YET?!”

    Anyways, total congrats to you on living boldly. :)


  • Kelsey

    Thank you, Meg. I really love this post. And congrats!!!!! Job well done :-)

  • Meg, I so admire your honesty and your sharing your authentic self with all of us; I have to repeat what so many have said — you’re an inspiration. You remind me to get going Every Day, you remind me that panic is part of the equation when working for yourself, you remind me to laugh out loud at myself and you always, always remind me to Be Me and no one else. Thanks, don’t stop these awesome posts!

  • Thank you! Success is scary as hell :) Even 3 years in, I can still relate to your “work/panic” cycle

    I’m so proud of you, Meg! Congratulations on your first year. See you at Alt?

  • THIS: I was absent the day that the “nothing is more terrifying than success” memo got passed out. Or maybe that memo never got distributed because no one wanted to be the asshole that said, “I got what I wanted, and it’s scary as shit.”

    God. That’s what I feel like every. single. day.

    Congratulations on your first full year of self-employment! I am so personally grateful for this amazing thing you’ve built. And watching you grow has been incredible and inspiring.

  • Self-employment is an experience full of nuances. Good post. Thanks

  • You are such an inspiration to me, Meg. The more I read APW, the more empowered and in-control I feel. You and I have a lot in common, too. I was also a theatre major in college (in Chicago) and I started a theatre company after graduation. Like you, I found that it wasn’t financially sustainable so I went to the opposite end of the spectrum and applied to law schools. After going to a top 25 law school and working in a private firm, I felt stifled. Like I wasn’t being true to myself. I just quit my firm job to start my own photography business (12 days ago, to be exact) and I am terrified. Reading your story and knowing you felt/feel the same way makes me feel less alone in this. Thank you.

  • Moz

    I cannot tell you how relevant this post is for me in my life right now. Thank you.

    In a year I will write to you and tell you how it went.

  • I feel like this post talks almost as much about failure as it does about success, & yet I must have missed the part where you failed. It looks like a supremely brilliant year to me and well deserved. Thanks for taking us all along for the ride.

    • meg

      I fail every day. Sometimes pretty hard. I’m just private, so I don’t tend to write (or even tweet) when I fell on my face and am crying. I wait till I can tell you, “I fell on my face, I cried a lot, and this is what I learned.” But so much failing this year. It’s so bound up in success.

  • There really isn’t anything scarier than success. And nobody really says that out loud i think. It’s nice to hear it and not feel that it needs to be something that holding me back. Somehow I missed this golden piece of wisdom the first time round but i might have a new philosophy… “The only way I know how to be successful is to fail, over and over again, and learn from it”

  • Look at you, Ms CEO! I like how we’re seeing your face on the blog more (or it feels that way). And I have loved this series, big-time. Now I just need to grow a pair of balls and DO SOMETHING. Thanks for being awesome, Meg.

    • meg

      Good! I’ve been so busy that I worry you are not seeing me enough. So good. And you have the nerve lady, you just have to figure out what it is you want to do. That’s the hard bit. I mean OTHER than all the fabulous stuff you already do.

      • More Meg, that’s always been my mantra. ;)

  • “I spent years feeling around in the dark, trying to figure out what else would work for me, scared out of my mind that I wouldn’t find something and that my time would run out”.

    I am still there. Completely despise where I am currently but lost as to what I want to do. This series has been great and I hope it continues in some fashion. We are trying to start our own business which will eventually lead into our own restaurant but in the meantime I live in the constant terrifying state of will this small business idea work? Is this the right move? Am I happy?


    • KA

      Psst. Just checked out your website and I think it’s a great idea. Cause, uh, who really has time to can 200 of their favors? Someone, I guess. But that’s not the point! I think you’ve found a wonderful and delicious niche. :)

    • meg

      Only way to find out is to try. That’s the scary bit. And that’s the only advice that’s real.

  • Congratulations Meg! It is always inspiring to read about what you’ve been able to accomplish and I really appreciate your honesty when discussing the hard parts too.

  • Congratulations on the first year! And thank you for this post. This is exactly what I needed today, as I contemplate leaving my slightly cushy job to take one that has less possibility for progression except that it will give me time to start building my own business…. which is a very scary thought…. Will this job actually give me the time I think it will?…. will there even be the slightest chance of my business taking off?…. will the new job but lesser income be a bad choice towards starting my business or will it be all worth it…. I don’t know, but I know that now is my chance to jump and if I don’t…. that thought is scarier… Thank you.

  • Yes, Meg, this: “This year at least, I found that things did not happen to me, as much as I made things happen. And then managed the things happening. And then followed up on the things happening. Success didn’t happen to me, nor did my year feel like it was about success, except in retrospect. ”

    Especially the part about managing the things happening, and following up in the things happening. Amen.

  • I needed this today. Things have yet to click for me in my professional career. It’s not easy to “make it” as a fashion designer. I currently am praying my fancy secretary job will a)not drive me to insanity and b) allow me to start up my own business. Scary is right.

    This is why I love APW, it’s not just about “weddings” or marriage even… it’s about life and it’s about love. Thank you!

  • Meg Keene, CEO.

    Excellent. That is all :)

  • cianne

    Being newly engaged and a novice wedding planner, you are truly inspirational. I find that the mere reason for a wedding has become so lost in all the crap. I want to enjoy this time and not have to worry about living up to everyone elses idea of how a wedding day should look. I am excited to be a wife and a partner to my best friend. I want to have a beautiful day to celebrate our love with our family and close friends and I don’t want to feel bad for not obsessing over every detail like we are trained to do. I appreciate your honestly and know that I will refer to your blog in the coming months, to keep myself grounded on the true reason for a wedding.


  • Gillian

    I’ll be sad to see this series winding to an end. I’ve been living and learning from your experiences so far. I would love to continue to see thoughts about careers and success and making it, and panicking, etc. To be reminded that no one has everything figured out and that achieving your dreams is still allowed to be scary is very reassuring and makes me feel less alone, for sure.

    • meg

      I’ll still write about this stuff. I’m just not totally sure how it will look. Not the same, because things are always changing… as they should.

  • kathleen

    As a small business owner, I get the spinny fear of success- suddenly there is something to ruin or break, and suddenly other people’s bills won’t get paid if that happens, to say nothing of MY bills. And I agree that the transition from self-employed to business owner means a greater need for privacy, or at least for me it did. I find I talk less about work with my larger group of friends and community, but I talk about it a LOT more with a small group. I think of them as my advisers, though really it’s just my very smart boyfriend and very smart best friend. Where I used to want to talk with everyone about big dreams and how to structure my time and energy, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to talk about managing employees, or big legal things, or huge but un-crafted strategy with a large audience.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is, I get it. Share here what you think is appropriate, but yeah. We don’t have a right to your every business struggle or concern, especially when it involves employees. And oh oh oh- Many congrats on all your success- we are all so thankful for your hard work.

  • Georgina

    You said, “Success looks like everything magically coming together for another human, who (when it’s happening to anyone other than me) I immediately imbue with slight magical powers”. You did indeed make it look effortless so it’s amazing to hear what went on ‘behind the scenes’.

    Thank you for sinking your time, money, energy and faith into this business. I for one am grateful – until I found your website I had no idea that other people thought and felt the way I do. Finding a like-minded community has had a huge impact on my life, and helped me to feel 100% comfortable with the choices I have made regarding my upcoming wedding in April.

    Thank you and best wishes for year #2!

    • meg

      I make it look EFFORTLESS? I don’t know if that means I’m not communicating, or you’re not reading between the lives. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. For sure.

  • Meg – congratulations on all of your terrifying successes this year.

    THANK YOU for being “the asshole that said, ‘I got what I wanted, and it’s scary as shit.'” Thank you for sharing your journey & for articulating what it seems many of us have thought or felt but didn’t quite know how to put into words.

  • suzanna

    “Success is some of the most terrifying shit I’ve ever experienced.”

    Yep. Yeppers. Well put.

  • Christy

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I started reading APW posts because I am engaged and am planning a wedding and friend told me she thought I’d like the site’s focus. I STAYED because of posts like this. I identify with SO much in your post but that quote that opens your post hit me like a “wake up” arrow-in-the-heart from the deepest yearnings of my spirit. I have passions/projects that I want to snap my fingers and say that I accomplished sometimes, but my fears of what it might mean if I succeeded in quitting where I am at now to actually pursue those things that I think/hope (but don’t KNOW for sure) that will make me the most happy/fulfilled are the biggest obstacle to me fulfilling my own dreams. I and my fears are the biggest obstacle. It’s a frustrating realization sometimes, but a REALLY important one.

    Keep up the amazing stuff.

    PS. I feel like you are an amazing example of what Brené Brown calls a “whole-hearted person.” If you haven’t seen this video, I highly encourage you to check it out.

  • I am so immensely proud of you, and so incredibly inspired by you. Then again, you know that, right?

    These are cut out and keeps, these posts. There is so much goodness for me here.

  • Jenny

    Brilliant post – I’m at the beginning of my own self-employment journey, and it’s great to hear that I’m not the only one in the panic cycle. What I liked best about your posts is that you DIDN’T make it sound effortless – you spoke honestly about the challenges you were facing as well as the emotional side of putting it all on the line. But you most certainly did face down your obstacles with CLASS! Gotta love that.

  • Marissa

    Meg, you’re my hero.

  • Jenni

    The ‘terror cycle’ is exactly what I’m experiencing as I write my dissertation … oscillating between “Panic” and “Keep working.” It’s comforting to know that others who seem to be “half-human half-magic” also experience the tearing-out-the-hair-panic moments! If they did it, I can do it …

    But as you said, it happens over and over. This particular cycle will end (hopefully sooner rather than later!) and the next terror cycle will begin with the next big step. I guess as long as we’re terrified, we know we’re challenging ourselves.

  • Rebecca

    Sounds like self employment and being a baby scientist have a lot in common. Turns out getting what you want is, indeed, some scary sh*t – and having someone come out and say it is incredibly affirming.

    Thanks Meg :)

  • Sarah R.

    I just wanted to echo the importance of showing up Every Single Day. I recently quit my very stable teaching job in order to pursue an MFA in creative writing (but I’ve not been accepted to any programs as of yet…). And returning full-time to the craft has been arduous and joyous, sometimes in the same day.

    When I participated in NaNoWriMo this year (actually winning this time, for the first time since I started five years ago!), we got a pep talk from Chris Cleave. These words particularly resonated with me:

    “The more I learn about the writing process, the more I suspect that there is no such thing as a bad day at the keyboard. Sometimes you need slow days where you work through a dozen ideas that aren’t destined to fly. It creates a kind of intensity that eventually goads your brain into giving you a good day…The good days are when you perform; the slow days are when you learn to perform better. The only bad days as a writer are the ones when you are too cowardly or too lazy to sit down at the keyboard and give it everything you have.”

    Give ’em hell, Meg.

  • “Life gets better, but it sure as hell doesn’t get easier. Which is how it should be.”

    My first year out of college I was on the bus on my way to work one morning and a high schooler sat next to me and started talking about how hard his life was and how much better things would be as soon as he graduated.

    I did not turn around and laugh in his face, but I was certainly laughing on the inside. Life gets easier after high school? Why hadn’t anybody told me!?!

    Some days I do need to remind myself that I wouldn’t trade the greatness that is my life now for the problems that seemed so large back then.

  • Thank you so much for these posts over the past year. I think I’m now beginning your journey. I went into business for myself, mostly for my blog and upcoming book, a couple months ago. I’m scared, excited, and roaring to go. These posts kept me inspired, educated, and knowing that someone else is going through what I am. And as someone that was convinced you were full of magic, I’m happy to see that if I keep working hard, I can end up a bit magical myself.

  • DNA

    This post is one of the things I love about this blog. Meg, I love that you can take complicated life changes, separate the different components into smaller and more manageable pieces, and rearrange them into something cohesive — something that everyone can learn from and take with them even if what they’re going through is completely different from what you went through. (I’m not exactly transitioning to working on my own at the moment, but I am at the early stages of preparing to leave academia, and it’s scary and nerve-wracking and I think I just have to not be afraid to fail.)

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  • One of my favorite yoga teachers once said “what happens when you get what you want? You have to SHOW UP FOR IT” this is what I hear here. You’re showing up for it. Just do the work and be true to what you know, there’s nothing else that you can do anyway! Congratulations on all your success. It is so well earned and I hope I meet you at the Boston book tour shindig!

    Keep truckin’ or er, trainin’?

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  • aly

    Funny, this post describes my parenting journey exactly. Congratulations on all you’ve achieved!

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