Work With That You’ve Got

Start Small, Dream Big

Every life has its ups and downs. Whatever your background, education, or experience, life has its way of testing you. We are all different. What we desire and aspire in life are different. So, it only makes sense, that how we achieve our goals can be realized in infinite ways. For me, starting with small daily sacrifices will grow overtime to reach my dreams.

I grew up in a humble home. I am from a middle-class 90’s immigrant family. My childhood consisted of Saturday morning cartoons, public school, road trip vacations and a blend of Filipino-Canadian culture. I never felt like we were lacking in anything. But in my graduating year, I began to feel very anxious. I did not know what I wanted to do. I thought art school would be best because I was at least interested in art. But I simply could not afford to go. Overall, university looked, in my eyes, like paying to go to high school all over again.


My parents went to university in the Philippines. They received their degrees and acquired well-paying positions. But once we came to Canada, it meant nothing. My dad told us, develop a skill and make a business from it. A great skill can be applied anywhere, unlike a degree. As a teenager, I was not really looking that far into the future. All I got from high school was an understanding of all the things I did not want to do: math or science. So I decided to go to college. My dad explained that the courses were shorter and not as expensive. The risks were lower. If I did not like what I learned, at least I did not lose too much time or money from it.

When you do not have much money or assets to play with, your decisions tend to be more thought out. I took digital graphic design in college. I really enjoyed learning about this new world. It combined both art and technology which I liked. But I knew that I needed to learn and grow more. It has been 5 years since those first steps. Looking at those humble beginnings to where I am now is crazy.


A Goal That Motivates You

Figuring out what you want to do in life starts with figuring yourself out. One can argue that you are not what you do, but aren’t you? Bakers bake, painters paint, teachers teach and designers design. It took a long time (even now) to figure myself out. The design and creative world is always changing and expanding. There are newer niches and positions, such as Social Media Coordinator and WordPress Template Developer.

A big asset to achieving any dream is to know where you are going. A lot of us can find ourselves at the start of something - starting university or college, starting your career or starting a business. I cannot micromanage how I will achieve my 5-year plan because I do not know what will happen that far into the future. But as long as there is an aim, I have a direction that I am motivated to work towards. This is essential because to accomplish your goal, you will need to sacrifice and learn. Everyone thinks that learning is easy, even when it is something that you love. As a solopreneur, I am learning about business outside of my design skills. Your dream pushes you outside of your comfort zone. And if your dream does not motivate you to keep pushing when times get tough, you may need to ask yourself if this is the right goal for you.

Doubts are normal. I question myself many times. When work gets slow and I am not making enough or I struggle to be consistent and motivated. Am I feeling this way because this goal no longer motivates me or is it because there is something more that I can do? After considering this, I know that there is always more that I can do. I love what I do. It inspires me everyday. It took years to change this perspective. I used to get depressed when I saw great work because I knew it would take me forever to create something like that. But as I gained experience and more confidence, I developed a healthier view and positive admiration of great design and art.

Be careful criticizing yourself. We can be affected by our environment, experiences and peers. But at the end of the day, you are your worst critic. You can be hyper critical or hyper complimentary. Either way can be damaging. Too critical and you lose patience with yourself and deter any growth. Too complementary and you do not discipline or challenge yourself. A driving force to succeeding any goal is motivation and positivity. So make sure that your goals align with your passion.


Starting From the Bottom

It was a humbling experience when I was no longer angry when my parents asked me to apply myself for another job. The reality is that freelancing is tough. I have been very fortunate with the patience and support of my parents. They never pressured me to do anything I did not want to do, rather supported as best they could my creative passion. But they understood the reality of life. Getting to your dream job takes time. And not all of us have the luxury of that time. Time is money, and if you do not have enough time to make money the way you want, you will need to get that money somewhere else.

I know in a lot of blogs people say that they do what they love, not for the money but because they love what they are doing. I understand that sentiment. But not all of us are there, especially at that start. After a year of freelancing, I had seasons where I was earning pretty well. But when work slows down, it is devastating. I needed to regroup, start applying again, meeting and scheduling interviews. It has been months since I have had a steady work flow.

When I was starting out, I wanted to focus solely on designing. I did not want to do anything else. Any time away from designing, I felt, was a step back. So when I did not get a job right away after  college I felt very discouraged. Was this really wanted to do? Was there more I could do? Thankfully, the skills I learned landed me a job as an intern at a newspaper. I applied my skills and grew. Although all of my work experience and education did not seem to revolve around design, each experience worked toward who I am and how I think today. I travelled to Germany for a year, I worked in retail, I learned how to take care of myself though fitness and diet. Overall, it may not seem complimentary, but in my mind these experiences are building blocks.

My trip abroad taught me to open myself up and to be brave. Working in retail, I learned to ask the right questions, to listen to customers, to work in a team and how to conduct and present myself to others. Though my health journey, I am learning how to balance my life, practice discipline and self-control and how to mentally and physically stay healthy. Every experience you have is a building block.

Do not be ashamed to take a part-time job while designing and building a business. I am not. This was the mindset my parents had for my family. They made ends meet in order for my family to have enough. It did not matter if it meant that they had to start working retail at the mall or in factories. Their motivation was to provide for their family. Could they have done that comfortably with high-paying jobs in the Philippines. I am sure they could. But they knew that the opportunities in Canada were greater. Every experience was always a brick that they were laying down for the next opportunity.

So with this mindset, what are you willing to do? Is your goal worth your sacrifices and discipline? If not, maybe your goal needs to change or there is something more you can do. If so, then the next step is to start planning to making that dream into reality.


Planning Your Dream

So once you have found a direction, what do you do? I see accomplishing a goal as planning a trip. There are several basic questions to consider: where you are going, how will you get there, how long will it take to get there, what do you need, what do you have, what you are lacking, are you going with someone, will you have enough resources to get there?

Have you ever planned for a trip? I am currently planning one to Calgary next month for a summit. It is my first time planning a trip for myself. I could see many similarities planning my flight and accommodation with organizing my schedules and meetings. The major events and changes in a year dictate my smaller, daily decisions. When you have something to work towards, how to act now must change to serve your goal.

For example, in preparation for this trip, I booked a flight and hotel. Once I get to Calgary, how will I get around town? I will take taxis. Therefore, I will need to budget for transportation. How much and how often do I plan to take a taxi? Around $50 per trip for maybe 6 trips. I found out that the hotel has a shuttle service to and from the airport. I can save a couple trips. I may carpool with someone at the event, we can split the costs.

Planning your trip or goal requires you to ask questions and produce solutions. In order for your dream to become reality means working with what you’ve got - your brains, your creativity, your skills and your motivation.

In all, every dream is made up of little pieces: experiences gained along the way, lessons learned and trials overcome. Like in previous posts I have touched on the notion that life is a series of games or races (inspired by Jordan B. Peterson’s writing is 12 Rules for Life). Your goal may lead you down a road that requires you take on another job or going back to school. It may seem like a side step or setback. But it can be another building block to an avenue of thought or people you would never have met otherwise. Be positive, be motivated. Have your goal bring life to you. It may not always lead you to happiness, but it will lead you to the greatness you envision. ■

Patricia Atienza