Any Road Will Take You in the Right Direction

An excerpt from Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life's Work!

Years ago I gave a talk to some enthusiastic college students about “How to make it as an artist in the world.” They were hungry for direction, assurance, perhaps a notarized guarantee, and a way to paint the world without cutting off their ears in the process. They were taking notes because they wanted to get this right, and maybe avoid a divorce, an illness, a bankruptcy or heartbreak. I wanted to tell them that life doesn’t offer rubber gloves. They wanted strategy, formulas, commercial fool-proof techniques, and bullet points that they could memorize.

I wanted them to take a bullet, so to speak—for their soul’s true life. I wanted them to take risks, consume risks, billions of them, as though they were hungry baby birds opening their beaks for worms. I wanted them to know that everything was safe because everything would teach them and eventually activate their bionic strength and fire. I wanted them to know that openness would strengthen them more than caution and protection. I didn’t say this to them, so I’ll say it to you: “It doesn’t matter where you enter the stream. It doesn’t matter how you begin. Just jump in.”

I’m not being cynical or flippant. Instead, I am confident—confident in all our abilities to find our way to our good. I want you to know that you can’t screw this up and that as A Course in Miracles teaches: “Nothing real can be threatened.” I want to feed your willingness to explore, taste, dive in, take a chance, and cultivate emotional cojones and a deep love of your own experience. Experience is the best “life coach” on the planet, and it will dish out anything you need to let go of your old stories, victim theme songs, wobbling knees, and baby fat.

The blank page teaches us to write. The stage teaches us to perform. Even surgeons have to learn on real-life patients with real-life consequences, though I hope they do that in the backwoods somewhere, and maybe only on people who don’t love golden retrievers. There’s no getting it right before getting it at least a little wrong. In Grace Eventually, Anne Lamott shares how she learned new behaviors: “I learned … by doing. It’s a terrible system. If I were God, I would have provided a much easier way—an Idiot’s Guide, or a spiritual ATM, or maybe some kind of compromise.” But we don’t get the compromise. We move forward or we feel the desires within us begin to rot like peaches in the sun. No one steps into “the big time” with maiden feet. All of us have to flounder or lurch through mud that turns into stardust.

Perfectionism, or thinking you can start only with airtight credentials or airbrushed opportunities, or the ideal schedule, is not your ally. To me, it’s the fussy aunt of procrastination. Perfectionism holds you back, and tells you “you have standards.” Those aren’t standards. They’re issues. They’re insecurities that can heal only with mercy, patience, and moving forward in your life. Remember, conditions do not need to be “just right” for you to succeed. You have a passion. You bring the love and secret ingredients with you. You’re like one of those dehydrated meals people take on camping trips, instant lasagna and brownies, just add water. Wherever you are, the magic goes with you. Everything you dare will take you where you need to go, at least eventually.

In my creative writing workshops, students often ask me, “What if I’m not good enough?” I know it sounds like a fair question. But it’s the wrong question. The real question is “Am I willing to become good enough?” Are you willing to practice, learn, sweat, shine, and dedicate yourself to growing? Are you willing to start where you are, stop judging it, get down on your knees and serve the excellence you possess inside you? That excellence will take you anywhere you need to go.

Think about it. What is the need to immediately “do it right” costing you? I love how Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön discusses this devastation: “Being preoccupied with our self-image is like being deaf and blind. It’s like standing in the middle of a vast field of wildflowers with a black hood over our heads. It’s like coming upon a tree of singing birds while wearing earplugs.”

Take off your earplugs, your shackles, and your hood. Expose yourself to the success of learning and growing. Take a step forward right now, even if you don’t have the right shoes on. Stop thinking about it and shrinking inside. Your gifts are real. Your love is real. The wildflowers sing to you from the hillside. Everything you do will strengthen you. You cannot fail by moving forward.

Tama Kieves, an honors graduate of Harvard Law School, left a corporate law practice to write and embolden others to live their deepest desires.

Full Bio and Programs