Before-and-after carousels on Instagram are fun, aren’t they? Nobody loves a good dramatic home improvement reel more than I do! I mean, it’s inspiring! We all enjoy these kinds of posts because they show us what’s possible, while simultaneously leaving us stumped on how someone was able to go from “this” to “that” in the blink of an eye. But, real life isn’t a social media trend. Most successful people don’t just wake up one day with everything in their laps. So much of what we see online and even sometimes in the split seconds we run into people at the grocery store or an event can appear to be…overnight success stories. But I know better. Don’t get discouraged by the pace of your journey, and don’t compare it to others. Instead, focus on the goal ahead. I have a few tools to get you started.

Believe It Before You See It

“You are only crazy until you succeed, then, you are genius.” – Kim Chestney

I knew I wanted a career in design and TV. So, I created my website and portfolio and gathered other key pieces including lifestyle photography well before I actually needed them. It was an investment to prepare all of these things, and there was no guarantee they would materialize at the time. I didn’t have brand deals, I wasn’t designing mansions, or all over TV. But I knew I wanted those things in some form.

By the time I did in fact need those elements, they were up and ready to go! People might have thought I was crazy to invest so much in those parts of the process so early, but for me it was simple. I could envision the life I wanted, and nothing was going to get in the way of me having it. Remember that your path doesn’t have to make sense to everyone else. It only needs to be productive enough to get you to your goal! Identify where you want to end up, then work from the end to get to where you start. That’s what I call reverse-engineering life. It’s why when people see my product lines, shows and more, they often believe it happened so quickly. No, it was YEARS in the making. Trust me, prepare now for what you’re working to achieve later. 

Let Your Yes be Yes

This one is simple. Be open to opportunities, and say yes when they come your way. I find that many people miss out on connections, events and chances to learn simply because they think an opportunity doesn’t fit what they’re working towards. The truth is, sometimes the things that come your way aren’t a perfect match. But simply being willing to put yourself out there and grow your skills is a huge part of achieving your goals. Your “yes” today, even to engagements, events, and deals you feel unqualified for, become the building blocks for what you will be an expert in later. Experience doesn’t come all at once. You gain it bit by bit, but only if you’re willing to accept the process.

When I was starting out all those years ago, I said yes to many panels, networking events and speaking engagements that I didn’t always have a great deal of experience with. I found myself in circles with people from industries that had nothing to do with mine. Today, many of those people have been clients of mine at one point or another. Others have referred clients to me! Say yes and do it scared. Show up and let people see your face and learn your name. Whether you know it or not, you’re building bridges, nurturing relationships and connecting pieces that all relate to the larger picture.

Be Savvy in Your Starting

I’m proud of my achievements. I have built a successful eponymous design firm with several projects under our belt, I have numerous magazine features, and I’ve hosted many TV shows. Does that sound like bragging? It isn’t. Despite how lovely that all appears right now, none of that came to me overnight. Owning a retail store as a teenager and falling in love with designing window displays led me to seek out other creative endeavors. Many years later I was an estate manager who started understanding the power of construction and design. I eventually took a complete bet on my own ability to create space by building my own company. With each undertaking I learned more about the design industry. I made contacts with contractors, architects and plumbing experts. I honed my craft through wins and losses, proverbial mountaintops and valleys, and lots of sleepless nights and sacrifices. I knew I was where I was meant to be.

You might not immediately enter the field in which you wish to work. If life puts you in a job adjacent to your dream, do it, and do it in excellence! The pace isn’t important but the performance is. I realized early on that every single job I had gave me the chance to be a better designer. I learned about marketing and branding when I worked for a luxury yacht manufacturer. I learned all about real estate when I was flipping my first properties. I never turned down a chance to improve and grow, and much of that I credit to the very beginning of my career. Simply…start…somewhere. We all had to.

You aren’t behind if your career doesn’t look like the feeds you follow on Instagram. You haven’t made a mistake if things aren’t taking off right away. Success is more of a slow cooker than a microwave. No matter what it looks like, nobody builds everything they have without work and time. Remember that social media is a snapshot of someone’s development, and you’re often viewing the end, not the beginning. Use these tools as a starting point to make your dreams a reality. It will be worth it.

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