I get so many emails from lovely people of all ages, from cities as diverse as Mumbai, Texas, Rome, Oslo and Singapore, asking for advice on how to make their dream happen.
How do I move to another country? How do I find my dream lifestyle? How do I attract the dream girl/guy? How do I start my dream business? How do I learn a foreign language? How do I get my ideal body? How do I get my creative work out to a bigger audience? How do I make money from my passion? How do I teach myself if I haven’t got enough money for film school?
I don’t have the ultimate answer for all of these questions but I do have some stuff that works for me that might help you. I still have so much I want to achieve and if you ask me if I feel like a ‘success’ or that I’ve ‘made it’ I would answer resolutely: NO. However, I’ve experienced rejection, I’ve changed my lifestyle dramatically, I’ve taken huge financial, emotional and creative risks and maybe some of the lessons I’ve learned from these experiences could be of use to you and your particular dream.
How badly do you want it? You want a life that’s extraordinary. You want your life to look like a film. I don’t blame you. The problem is, I think we all want that. Who actively seeks mediocrity? So what are you prepared to do for this cinematic lifestyle that your friends and peers aren’t? What will you risk or work tenaciously at for years for the chance of waking up every morning euphoric about what lies in your day?
Why hasn’t it happened yet?! I’ve been trying so hard! We all think we’re ready for good things to happen to us RIGHT NOW. Certainly many talented people work away in the shadows for years. But the truth is, almost no one has reached their full potential in their field. There is always something you can improve or develop. It took me a while to learn this and I’m still trying to come to terms with it. It’s easy to think “but but… I’ve done this and that. Why are those people living that life I want when I’ve been working harder to get there?” Comparison with other people is poisonous. Life isn’t mathematically fair. Don’t waste your time trying to add up success like an equation. You’re incredible. You have something of worth. But have you ever considered that maybe you have the potential to be even more? Maybe all this waiting is actually leading you to a path where you will find a point of distinction that sets you apart from the rest? You are wasting precious energy feeling frustrated or scrolling through the lives of people who have the lifestyle you want. And if you’re sitting around feeling envy, you’re going to be blind to spotting opportunity. I couldn’t afford the time or cost of a second degree so I decided to teach myself to shoot and edit videos. Now I’m selling fully self-produced shows and I have complete creative freedom but every step of that process was a battle. Mood boards and inspiration are vital, but don’t just sigh over pretty Instagram pics of places you’re hoping to visit for a week in the summer. Set aside a year to learn the language, get a visa and move there. Try not to feel defeated by others’ success, lamenting “it’s easy for him/her, they’ve got ____.” Most people I know who lead spectacular lives have gone beyond just quitting the corporate 9-5; they’ve dedicated themselves like Olympic athletes to taking charge of their destiny. You only see them at the milestones, gracious and glowing – underneath the water’s surface they’ve been paddling double-time for years.
Dream big or not at all. I think it’s easier if you aim reeeeeally high. The fact is, if you’re working at making a change in your life, you’re going to be making sacrifices, being disciplined, working overtime… you’re going to have to find motivation every single day until you get where you want to be. You need a dream with such a power over your heart, that merely thinking about it energises you. Because it is THAT power, that energy that you can harness to propel you through all the lonely nights, all the obstacles, all the times when someone asks you out to watch a movie or grab a drink and you have to say no because you’re working on this project. It is hard to sustain discipline or to experience rejection, that’s why you need to be sure before you devote years to this goal that it is something you genuinely love to pieces so that any time you feel defeated that certainty will spur you on. Go for the goddess who’s unattainable, run away to live in the city that gives you goose bumps every time you fill in your address on a form, create the job that is based on what you do on your birthday. SOMEONE has to kiss her/live there/do that – why shouldn’t it be you? I wanted to live in Italy, become fluent in Italian; host, produce, film and edit my own TV shows, work for myself and never in an office; cook luscious food and have three-hour breakfasts every day; make enough money to afford olive oil, lingerie, books, cameras and plane tickets; travel to a new place every month; and fall deeply in love with someone who could make me laugh and blush every day. It was a greedy list. The only part of my story that involves luck is being blessed with two unusual parents who listened to my list and neither rolled their eyes nor handed me a credit card. They simply grinned like children and whispered conspiratorially, “We believe you can make all of that happen.”
Are you sure you know what your passion is? Deciding what you love is actually quite hard for many people. I’ve always known but my sister took years before she found her true calling. How well-intentioned yet annoying the phrase “you simply need to follow your passion.” There’s nothing simple about it. Most of us are deceived by the ubiquitous element of ego. In the afterglow of any kind of praise or public validation we confuse the heady rush from a compliment with that elusive ‘sign’ that we’ve found what we should do for a living. So how can you work out whether your ideal profession is actually going to make you happy in the long term? Subtract ego from the equation. Imagine you (and perhaps your lover) are the only ones left on the planet. Without the means to quantify your worth with clicks and likes on social media, without the chance of being lauded by industry peers and critics, without the possibility of adoring fans, without the ability to gloat to friends about your success… would you still get pleasure from doing ‘that job?’ People often use the old hypothetical of whether you’d still do the job if you weren’t paid; however, I think ego trumps avarice on things that fool you into thinking you’ve found your path. Think hard, what did you leap out of bed for as a child? Of course, our taste develops and our world expands dramatically as adults, but sometimes thinking of what you were good at or loved to spend your day doing as a child can give you a clue as to what you loved before your passions became self-conscious and financially strategic.
Do you prefer the Telling or the Doing? Doing anything where others’ approval constitutes the majority of the pleasure you gain will feel intoxicating to begin with, but unless you enjoy doing ‘that thing’ on your own, for no one but yourself and perhaps a loved one, then over time it will transform you into a ‘compliment junkie’. You’ll be furiously churning out an arbitrary product in search of your next fix but indifferent to the creation process itself. It’s the same with choosing a lover. Which is more pleasurable to you: asking them about their day or tagging them as your partner in an envy-inducing pic on social media for an audience? Similarly, it applies to your environment. Do you really want to go to that city or do you simply like the idea of telling people that’s where you’re going? If people love your choices, bonus. But your pleasure needs to come prior to the public appraisal.
Okay Kylie, but what should I do TODAY to get things going? You’ve always felt sure you were destined for something exciting, a life less ordinary. You’re impatient to make things happen. You’ve set a date that you will depart on that plane or open that business or reach that ideal weight or fitness level but what should you do on a daily basis? I have so far to go but I can sincerely say I’ve found my dream job, I’ve lived in my dream cities and my lifestyle, while challenging, is what I fantasised about when I was stuck in an office. I made these changes happen by sowing seeds. You’re going to need to sow every day. I’m not being hyperbolic. This is a numbers game. When I talk about seeds, it could be an email to a potential mentor, a cold call to someone who could fund a project, an ad placed online saying you’re searching for an apartment to rent for three months in Rome, or developing your skills so that you’re more competitive in your market by studying between midnight and the birds waking. You can sit around and complain to friends and family about how unfair it is that you haven’t had anyone invest in your idea or discover your talent or perhaps you’re depressed by the amount of money it will take to move to a different country or afford film equipment. It’s harsh but the reality is – you need to work harder. Waiting around is frustrating but you’ve got to turn time into your best friend, make it work FOR YOU. When it was taking so long to get my projects off the ground I thought of all the things that would make me more employable or my dream more fulfilling, if only I had more time. Studying a language or a new skill is one obvious answer. Starting a blog is great, but don’t just hope someone will discover you – educate yourself with free YouTube tutorials to make your work the highest quality it can be.
The danger of being positive. Friends talk about ‘putting things out to the universe’ and hoping good energy and optimism alone will catapult them closer to their goals. I’m sickeningly optimistic but I advocate teaming hope with assiduity. You can visualise, you can surround yourself with positive people, you can read widely about others’ success for inspiration. I do all these things. But be careful about confusing ‘thinking positive’ as an excuse for just being lazy and not actually taking action. Unless you’re sowing seeds – putting little things in action to propel yourself towards your dream lifestyle every single day – then you won’t gather enough momentum to achieve anything more exciting than a three-day juice detox. It’s a tremendous amount of work when you’re creating this escape plan while still holding down your less-than-dream job or worrying about paying bills when you’ve just broken free. I found the extra work strangely energizing though, because by planting one seed a day your sense of movement towards the goal is ever-present. You might feel anxiety when you’re waiting for someone to discover your work. You might sigh and get serious Sunday night blues after you finish watching a movie set in the place you want to be living. You might watch a vlog by someone who’s doing what they love and feel totally depressed about how apathetic you feel about your own job. But I found that anxiety is often just a feeling that comes when we know subconsciously that we haven’t done anything to move ourselves towards our desires. The fear that these little private hopes for our life could remain fantasies. Even shooting off one simple email is something that will empower you and tell your subconscious that you’re taking this seriously and that although you’re moving slowly it is definitely in the direction of your desire. This kind of ‘industrious dreaming’ is like a muscle that you’re defining and strengthening. I have been ignored and rejected in more ways than you can imagine. But if you’re putting something out there every 24 hours, you’re more immune to disappointment because there are still six other things in your week that give you a shot at growing that beanstalk.
Dull choices can lead to the greatest adventures. My life is filled with beauty. I feel more alive than ever before. Sometimes I’m so excited about what the next day may bring I have to consciously slow my heartbeat or else I’ll lie awake til sunrise grinning inanely and scribbling down notes. THAT SAID, to arrive at this point, I was committed to being hideously antisocial, frugal and… well, boring. Most nights I was alone in the office at 11:30pm trying to earn extra money to buy a plane ticket. I was the loser that friends wouldn’t bother inviting to the party because I was always spending Saturday nights studying the Italian subjunctive or researching brands to sponsor a non-existant TV show. When I moved to Italy, I was the weirdo in the café stuffing serviettes in my pockets because I wasn’t sure I could afford to buy toilet paper that week. You’ve probably heard that quote, “live for a while like others won’t, so you can live long term like others can’t”.
The difference between daydreaming and living the dream. If you want to foster a hobby, by all means cultivate your craft on the weekends. But if your fantasy life/job/partner is an audacious ambition, then you’re going to need to drastically change your life on a daily basis. If you’re not weeping down the phone (or via Skype because you can no longer afford a phone) to a friend or family member with the words “What am I doing? Is this insane?” then you haven’t made a big enough change. Big actions beget big results. This doesnt mean you have to be foolish and risk things unnecessarily but it does mean you’ve got to commit to this plan with everything you’ve got. It might get to the point where you’ve alienated your friends, been rejected more than is statistically possible given your output, invested all your savings in your dream and had your mother gently intimate that if things don’t work out there’s no shame in coming home/going back to that job/marrying that ex who was really sweet. Fear not. All these challenges are signs you’re on the right track. Magnificent, seemingly impossible things won’t happen to you if you’re ‘working on it for a few hours every weekend’. Because that’s what 98% of the population is doing. And you, my dear friend, are destined for something greater.