I Owned It!

What that really means

Jason Zook from Wandering Aimfully
Jason Zook from Wandering Aimfully
© Jason Zook from Wandering Aimfully

“The way things have always been done is NOT the way things have to be done.” — Jason Zook

I don’t know what it is about the fall season, but it seems like the last few years, it’s the season of self-awareness for me. I tend to come upon big revelations and this fall is no different. I wrote a post at the end of last year when I had one of my biggest revelations and I’m about to do the same here. I guess this time, it’s not so much of a revelation as it is a confirmation of the things I’ve been feeling deep down and have been hesitant to let out.

I’m a fairly new WAIMer (Wandering Aimfully Member), a membership community designed to help independent creatives live to create instead of create to live, but I already feel like I’m at home. It reminds me of the Puttytribe community and the way it felt to be understood. I could write a long-ass commentary on the benefits of joining these communities but that’s another post for another day.

I want to talk about a specific aspect of the Wandering Aimfully (and even more granular, Jason Zook) community. This concept of “Owning Your Weird.”

Most of what I’ll be commenting on comes from his newly released book, Own Your Weird. [Go get a copy of the book right meow, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Also, I’m not getting paid, sponsored or whatever for promoting his book. I’m just a huge fan.]

Yes, Jason Zook is not the first person to coin this term or come up with the concept, but he’s the first person, in my opinion, who exemplifies it. In his work, life, and advice. To me, it falls under the BOOKS YOU MUST READ IF YOU’RE GOING INTO BUSINESS category.

Right away, Jason drops a gem in the introduction: your life is bigger than your business. And it’s not that it’s this great “a-ha!” statement, but it’s a reminder that in the world of online business and #hustleporn and #optimizing that there is actually more to life than business. I think those of us who are self-employed or business owners sometimes forget that. We’re so fired up to “make it” that we forget that “making it” doesn’t mean anything if we’re not actually living.

In Chapter Two of Own Your Weird, Jason talks about an issue that not only have I personally experienced, but is a major problem in the online business world right now. And that’s all the “buy my {insert product/service} and you’ll have a $10k launch, too!”

I have fallen for this bullshit more times than I care to admit. Thousands of dollars wasted on courses, programs, etc., that promised I too could have a fabulous launch with customers begging to hand over money… if I followed their blueprint.

Spoiler Alert: It never worked. Ever. Not once.

And inevitably I felt shame. I felt embarrassment. I felt as if I wasn’t working hard enough. Wasn’t smart enough. So I could relate to what Jason says in the book:

“In the context of following a clearly lit path to a “six-figure-launch,” it felt like I failed miserably. For a split second I went back over my work, comparing it all my PDFs and step-by-step checklists. Where did I drop the ball?”

His revelation: Your blueprint is not something you find; it’s something you create.

Herein lies the truth behind those wildly successful business owners and their launches: they didn’t “find” their blueprint, they created it. It worked for them. But it’s their blueprint. Not yours. Not mine. Not Joe Smith’s. Maybe your blueprint looks eerily similar to that course creator’s who made $100,000 in their first launch. But if it doesn’t? That’s okay, too. Most of ours don’t look anything like what we’re being told it should look like.

Once I was able to realize and accept that I failed by a set of standards I couldn’t possibly relate to by using someone else’s system or ideas, I was able to come back down to reality and make changes to my expectations and goals.

Jason Zook from Wandering Aimfully.
Jason Zook from Wandering Aimfully.
© Jason Zook from Wandering Aimfully

It has taken most of my life to realize that goals are dangerous. Yes, they’re amazing and wonderful things that motivate and encourage us, but they can also be deluded and deceiving.

Jason touches on one of the most popular dangers of goals: when they’re not aligned with your values or idea of success. He says, “At the time, it seemed clear to me. Money and fancy things = success = happiness.”

I’m sure some of you are denying thinking that you’ve had this goal before. But you’re not doing yourself any favors by pretending. I’ve been there. Even in the last few months, I’ve felt the pull to manage my goals according to a similar value/success system. Money + thriving business = success. But at what cost? And what does that success actually look like?

I wouldn’t know, because I realized I couldn’t reach that goal as it was based on what society told me I should want. It was a goal based on what I felt ashamed of. It wasn’t a goal from my heart or values or true vision of success.

Interesting tidbit: Jason’s wife, Caroline, was the deciding factor in joining their membership community. She’s the one I first felt aligned with, understood and felt a connection with. But as I learned more about Jason, I realized that they were both “my people.” I identify with Caroline on so many things, but I see a lot of what Jason talks about in my life too. Also #couplegoals, amiright?

In all seriousness though, his values, for one, are almost spot-on with mine. When it comes to defining our goals and version of success, I agree with him that it’s imperative to look at our values and our “why” beneath them.

As an Enneagram 4, INFJ and Multipotentialite, I’ve come to realize that it’s not money, a wildly popular business or even a $10k launch that I desire to achieve.

It’s freedom and control.

But it wasn’t easy to come to that conclusion. It took an incredibly difficult situation and the subsequent loss and grief of that situation to realize that to be truly happy and successful, I needed to be the one in charge of my decisions and future. I needed autonomy to pivot when my gut told me to. I needed autonomy to experiment and chase what I was certain would work, even if it was “weird.” The flexibility to change my life and circumstances based on my environment, health, interests became one of the most important values in my life. And unfortunately, those values aren’t in alignment when you work for someone else.

But that alignment is hard to see when you’re blinded by the success and goals that you think you should be working toward. For example, by all accounts, I was successful and reaching certain goals in the position I once occupied. I had a great title, made good money and worked very hard. When I talked about my position to outsiders, they often looked impressed and sometimes, even envious.

But the truth? I wasn’t happy. I felt like a failure. I had reached “success” and achieved “goals” but they weren’t MINE. They were someone else’s. And I was both comfortable and scared. See the thing with achieving other people’s definition of success is that there’s a certain comfort in it. You fit the mold. You do what you’re told. You don’t deviate. You are rewarded. You enjoy the safety of seeing the same deposit number in your bank account every two weeks.

But when you strike out with a different mentality, it’s scary. It’s uncomfortable. It’s risky.

And it’s worth it. I hate that I had to have an awful experience to learn this. I hate that relationships I built and nurtured over the years dissipated quickly after I learned this. I hate that I felt like a complete and total failure most of the time those first few months. But that’s why it makes the discovery of alignment so much sweeter.

Now, when I think of my version of goals and success, it always comes back to the values I want to live by.

The control I seek is not in wanting to control all aspects of all things. It’s the empowerment that comes from it. I don’t want to ever be beholden to someone else’s standards, expectations, and version of success. When I succeed, I want to feel like it’s because I empowered myself to succeed. When I fail, I want to know that I failed by my standards and measures not someone else’s.

This goes hand-in-hand with flexibility because, the ultimate form of control for me is…knowing I have the power to change. Pivot. Re-assess. If I want to spend a weekend on that crazy-ass idea I just came up with and move forward with it — I can. If I want to take a week off because #burnout is real and undertreated — I can.

Aligning my goals and definition of success with my values allowed me to see that I’m not as far behind on them as I thought. It allowed me to see that because they’re aligned with my values, I’ll always be working toward goals that matter to me and that’s beautiful, my friends.

Here’s where I admit that most of Jason’s book up to this point were beautiful confirmations of what I already knew. I wasn’t expecting any brilliant “OMGTHISISSOAMAZINGHOWDIDINOTKNOWTHISBEFORE?” moments, but there was a section that stuck with me. I’m sure it’s because the message it highlighted was the fear I’ve been saddled with since my difficult situation at the beginning of the year. The fear that I was going to fail again. I spent so much time wishing and wondering how things could have turned out differently if I’d done X or Y and living in fear of failure that I wasted those precious hours instead of working forward.

Jason sums it up pretty well here,

“I could begin to understand that this unfortunate ending to the story was not what defined the business, my idea, or five years of my life. It especially didn’t define who I was as a person. That ending was simply a stepping stone to something else. Sure, it was a stepping stone that hurt, stressed me out, and left me angry at times. But it wasn’t the final stepping stone. It was actually a very important piece of my entrepreneurial journey that taught me a lot.”

As I re-read that passage, I get shivers because I can just as easily insert myself and my difficult situation into the paragraph and see that I’ve reached the same conclusions. I couldn’t see it at first, but I do now.

It was an obstacle that became an opportunity.

Why is it important to realize that? Because as Jason goes to show in the subsequent chapters of his book that when you turn obstacles into opportunities, the empowerment is incredible.

For me, it’s a bit like going from the “damsel-in-distress” perspective to the “I’m going to Katniss Everdeen your ass.” Basically, it aligns perfectly with the values of control and flexibility. An obstacle can become a chance to pivot, change and influence the outcome. Plus, going with the Hunger Games metaphor, if you’ve already survived the game, there aren’t a whole lot of obstacles you can’t learn to face.

Owning Your Weird is less about embracing those “quirks” of yours and more about using what sets you apart (your values, goals, version of success, processes, systems, etc) to build your life and business.

It’s truly empowering to realize that the “long way” — being yourself and following your gut — is the “shortcut” to success. And yes, it’s scary as hell. But aren’t most worthwhile things?

Image for post
Image for post
© By Jade Eby, inspired by Caroline Zook art

P.S. An additional moral to the story — just read the damn book. There’s so much more that I didn’t touch on and it’s worth it to read about them all.

Written by

Creative Empowerment Advocate • Novelist and Certified Trauma Recovery Coach • Professional cat-herder

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