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“Many of the great achievements of the world
were accomplished by tired and discouraged people
who kept on working.”

-Anonymous

From the unpredictable world of Wall Street to the even less predictable world of fiction writing, I am pleased to bring you today’s interview with dream chaser, Suzanne Anderson.

Q: Tell us about yourself. What’s your dream and how are you working towards it?
SA: I started my working life on Wall Street. I began working as a secretary for a Japanese Investment Bank and over the course of eight years worked my way up to Assistant Vice President in Corporate Finance. I left that job in 1994 because I wanted to find a job that I felt passionate about. My two biggest heroes are my brother, John, who pursued his passion to start his own business as a building contractor, and my mother, Adeline, who has spent her life in early childhood education and loved every day of it.

Since then I’ve had careers teaching overseas and working in commercial real estate, however, my greatest passion, which is to become a published novelist, has eluded me and been the greatest source of happiness (when I’m writing) and failure (when my novels have been rejected time and again).

I’ve written three and a half novels off and on over the past fifteen years. Originally my dream was to make a full-time career of writing novels. Unfortunately, each of my previous novels was rejected by very wonderful and talented agents. I was also rejected by a couple MFA programs that I applied to in hopes of improving my writing!

I continue to dream of becoming a published author, however, I’m also looking for full-time work, enjoying writing for writing, and putting less pressure on getting published. Which may be a positive thing or a cop out, I’m not sure.

Q: Describe a gray time in your life. How did it stand between you and your dreams? How did you overcome it?
SA: Right now! In December 2009, I fulfilled one long-time dream by moving to the mountains of Colorado. The lease on the house, however, expires at the end of May. I originally expected that I’d find a job in the first month here and then buy a house. Since I haven’t found a job, I can’t buy a house, and therefore I have to decide what to do at the end of May. Should I stay here, or try another mountain community? I don’t know the answer to that yet.

While I continue to send out resumes and look for a corporate job, I’ve started a freelance writing business. And after a year of silence, I’ve started working on my novel in progress. I’m currently 55,000 words into what will be a 100,000 word murder mystery.

The May 31st deadline is probably my greatest source of pressure and fear right now, as is dipping into my savings in lieu of an income. There are moments when I panic and think, what will I do? Time is slipping away, I’ve failed again! And then there are moments when I remind myself that somehow these things always seem to work out at just the right moment. My job is to keep working and be aware of unexpected doors opening.

Q: What fears have you faced as you chase your dreams?
SA: My greatest fear is that, having failed in the past, I will never be successful, especially since I have been working at the same career goals off and on for several years. The toughest obstacle for me to overcome is not seeing progress from my efforts. Failure is part of the game, but success, even small ones, help us to keep our momentum moving forward.

During these times, especially when we are focused on a lofty goal, it’s easy to discount our small achievements. For instance, while I’ve never been paid for my writing, recently I’ve had a couple articles “published” on More.com. It’s easy for me to discount this achievement by saying that they’ll take anyone’s work; after all, it’s free! Instead, I should remind myself that even this small step is a step forward.

Discounting our efforts is destructive because it saps the energy we could use from these little victories to let us know we are on the right path. And while that’s easy for me to write, it’s also something I have to remind myself of on a daily basis.

Q: What inspires you to keep pushing forward when the going gets tough?
SA: The alternative – giving up – is worse than pushing forward. I am a strong believer that each of us is created with a purpose to fulfill in this life. I believe it is my duty to find a way to fulfill my purpose, using the talents that I have been given, and overcoming the obstacles or shortcomings I have also received. That’s the bottom line, easy answer. The more difficult answer is that pushing forward is something I struggle with every day. Some days, the productive ones, are easy. It’s a lot more difficult when I’ve given my best and my work is rejected or a resume sent out doesn’t get a reply. On those days I remind myself that success is often a game of numbers, wins go to those who keep trying over and over and over again.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone else who is struggling to move beyond the gray and follow a dream, what would it be?
SA: How about more than one?

  • Get up every day and take action toward fulfilling your dream. No matter how small or great, do one thing every day that moves you a step closer toward your goal. And then keep track of your progress. Whether it is an Excel spreadsheet that tracks the growing word count on that novel you’re writing, the miles you walked, the sit-ups you did, the cold calls you made, or a journal or blog where you record your progress on cooking your way through Julia Child’s French classic (yep, that’s how that movie got made!), just do it. As time goes by, you’ll be amazed at the progress you’ve made. It will also provide a reality check when you get discouraged by your lack of progress and then realize, by checking your log that it might be due to the fact that you haven’t actually sent out a resume/written/jogged in over a week!
  • Share your goals and dreams with others. I have received amazing encouragement and support from my family as well as my online friends, they’ve also become a source of very useful information and even new paths to pursue.
  • When the critic in your head lists all the reasons you will fail, tell it to shut up! Or better yet, give it examples of how you’ve succeeded in the past, and what you are doing right now to succeed in the future. (Which is a great reason to keep track of the progress you make in all those little steps you are taking each day, they make great progress reports to debunk the inner critic.) I also keep a growing pile of inspirational and positive thinking books on my nightstand and read a few pages every night before bed because I’ve found that late night tends to be the time when my inner critic comes out to play.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Yes, I know, Oprah thought of this first, but it really works. When I am feeling most discouraged, I’ve found that making a list of just five things in my life that I’m grateful for is not only humbling but a powerful reminder that things are actually better than I think.
  • Find a way to give back. We receive so much help and encouragement from others when we’re struggling that it’s easy to forget that we need to offer the same to others. You’ll also be amazed at how much better you’ll feel…and don’t be surprised if it opens new doors. Goodness has an amazing way of multiplying.

To read more about Suzanne Anderson, check out her blog at www.suzanneanderson.net.

Are you someone who’s chasing a dream? If so, I’d love to hear from you! E-mail me at: erika (dot) liodice (at sign) hotmail (dot) com.

You would think that the son of Gloria Vanderbilt could do anything if he really wanted to. But at 24 years-old, and with no formal journalistic education to speak of, Anderson Cooper wanted to be a war correspondent but couldn’t land a job.

This month we’re reading Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival by Anderson Cooper. In the early pages of his story, we learn of Cooper’s steadfast perseverance. He didn’t let a journalism degree (or lack thereof) stand between him and his dreams; instead, he dove head first into his passion and traveled to war-torn lands with nothing more than a fake press pass and a home video camera. It was through this giant leap of faith and unwavering persistence that Cooper finally landed his first job as a foreign correspondent a year later. And as we know, he built a mega successful career from there.

The roadblocks that Cooper faced early on are similar to those that so many of us face. Whether you got a degree in the “wrong” field or can’t seem to land a job in your dream profession, Cooper’s early struggles remind us that persistence, mixed with creative thinking, can help you seize a game-changing opportunity.

In life, sometimes you have to start at the bottom in order to get what you really want, but, as Cooper’s success demonstrates, from small beginnings come great things.

Conversation starter: Did you ever have to start at the bottom in order to pursue your dream job?

Share your story by posting a comment!

Read along! This month we’re reading Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival by Anderson Cooper.

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