There’s a scary question for you.
Who IS the author of the story of your life and career as a freelancer?
It’s tempting to immediately answer, “It’s me, of course! I’m the author, protagonist and hero of my own story!”
But is that true?
Truly, honestly, I think most of us are secondary characters in other people’s stories.
This is particularly true of employees.
For example, if you work for Facebook, you’re a character in Mark Zuckerberg’s story.
If you work for Apple, you’re a character in Steve Job’s story. He may have passed, but it’s still his story.
If you work for a local plumbing supply company, you’re a character in your boss’s story, whoever he or she may be.
“But Nick, I’m a freelancer. By definition this is MY story.”
Hmm… are you sure about that?
As a freelancer you’ll always be the central character of the story. For the most part, you’ll be the hero too.
But are you the author?
I’ve been coaching and training freelance writers and copywriters for many years now. As a coach I have had the opportunity to hear many freelancers tell me their stories.
And here’s the thing… a lot of those freelancers were struggling to play roles in storylines that other people had created.
Here are three ways in which freelancers find themselves following someone else’s storyline:
1. When you’re carrying “story baggage” from your youth or childhood.
When I was in primary school I didn’t perform well academically, at all. So my teachers began to put together a narrative around my life and my future. It was a storyline that described the future of someone who appeared to be singularly lacking in gifts.
In my early twenties a career advisor told me to lower my expectations. (I wanted a job in advertising, but had no qualifications.)
On the plus side, I received encouragement and positive feedback from other teachers and authority figures while at school.
Mixed messages… lots of possible storylines.
Coaching clients have told me their own stories from their childhoods.
Some positive and some negative.
The thing is, we clearly remember a lot of these narratives about ourselves from our past, and they can have a huge impact on the scope of our dreams and ambitions today.
We need to unpack that story “baggage” and let go everything that might be holding us back.
2. When someone persuades you to follow their story, instead of yours.
Maybe you have a favorite guru you like to follow.
They tell you their story. Maybe it’s a rags to riches story. It’s a compelling story, because it shows someone rising up in the face of adversity and then achieving success.
You can relate to that story, because you’ve faced adversity too.
You feel that guru understands you, and can help you.
So when he offers a product, or service that allows you to follow the same path that led him to success, you reach out for it.
OK… time to hit the pause button.
Are you sure you want to follow his story? It may have got him to where he is today, but there’s no guarantee it will do the same for you.
You’d do better to develop your own story, the story of YOU.
In other words, don’t mistake other people’s stories for your own. Don’t try leading their lives, because you can’t.
3. When you mistake money for meaning.
I wrote about this in an earlier post.
It’s tempting to create a story for yourself that revolves around money. You create a narrative you hope will bring you tons of cash, a huge house, nice cars and maybe a boat as well.
Stories like that generally don’t do very well. Because those stories are rarely true to how you actually feel.
Most of us are looking for deeper meaning in our lives. We hunger for a higher purpose. Money may be a side-benefit of our pursuit of purpose… but it’s rarely the main driver in our lives.
So when you are working on the “new story of you” for the years ahead, don’t make it about money. Make it about the pursuit of a deeper and more meaningful purpose.
Take the first step in ensuring you become of the author of the story of your own life.
It’s actually pretty hard to become the true and sole author of your own story.
There’s all that story baggage unpacking that needs to be done.
Then we have to look at all the teachers and gurus we admire and make sure that while we can still learn from them, we’re not making the mistake of trying to live their stories instead of our own.
And then there’s the challenge of finding a meaningful purpose to underpin our own story.
Not easy. But worth it. So we can become the authors of the stories of our own lives.
NOTE: If you’d like some help or guidance in unpacking your past and creating a better story for yourself, check out my one-on-one coaching program for freelancers… “The New Story of You”
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