Cassandra Overby

To My Readers and the Fans of the Life Advice Blog Project:

Last November I made an audacious promise to myself, a promise to spend six months interviewing 128 everyday people for their greatest life lessons. I remember myself pre-blog, certain that six months would fly by (I actually considered doing my project for a whole year), convinced that the writing would roll off my pen (it didn’t), and confident that it would be easy to find a different person to interview five days a week (it wasn’t). When I made the promise to myself to see this project through, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. That’s probably a good thing. If I had known in the beginning how difficult my project would be at turns, I might never have started it. I’m so glad I did.

The Life Advice Blog Project is quite simply one of the best things I have done with my life. Ever. If you’ve had the privilege of using your time and talent for something you feel called to do, you know what I’m talking about. For several years, I knew my calling was to talk to people, learn their stories, and share them with the world. But knowing and doing are two different things. It took my commitment to the Life Advice Blog Project to make my calling come alive. It was when my calling was ignited that I learned my greatest life lesson, which comes in three parts.

One: In order to be fully fulfilled in life, you need to live your calling.

It took embarking on the Life Advice Blog Project for me to learn that there is a gaping hole in my life that can only be filled by living my calling. And I’m convinced I’m not the only one with a giant hole. I believe you have it, too, and that unless you live your calling, you’ll always feel like something is missing. I sure did. If you’ve never lived your calling, you have a lot to look forward to. Let me give you a preview.

Living your calling is a lot like being in love. Except, instead of being in love with another person, you’re in love with your purpose and life itself. There were moments during my project when I didn’t think life could get any better, when I felt amazingly complete. Intellectually, I knew that the world still had problems. Even my own life had problems. But during those moments when I was experiencing the spiritual high of living my calling, none of those problems mattered. I had the confidence that no matter what, my life was worth something because I was doing the very thing that I was created to do.

When you’re living your calling, those moments of bliss happen a lot. It doesn’t take any huge accomplishments to get them. At least, it didn’t for me. I got them every time someone sent me an email saying they were changed by something I’d written, or when I would genuinely connect with the people I was interviewing. I got them when my words came out the way I wanted them to, and every time I stopped to contemplate how honored I was to be trusted with a glimpse of a soul here and a portion of a life story there. For goodness sakes, I even got them when I talked about my project to strangers or finished writing for the day. If you want bliss, don’t go shopping or drink too much. Just live your calling.

Two: Living your calling is rarely easy.

Now that I have sold you on living your calling, I need to tell you that there is one big, unfortunate thing that goes along with it. Doing what you’re passionate about may be incredibly fulfilling and it may make you as high as a kite, but it is rarely easy. I think there is such a misconception that when you find what you’re meant to do, you stop being challenged and things automatically go well for you. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in my own experience, that isn’t true. At all.

There were many moments during my project when things were difficult. There were times when I didn’t want to contact another person for their story because I was overwhelmed or just plain tired. There were mornings when I didn’t want to get up and write. And that was even before I got writer’s block. Yep, for some reason, about a quarter of the way into my project, I came down with a pretty serious case of what is really a writer’s worst nightmare. Up until that point, I had written my profiles simply by sitting down at the computer and letting the words wash over me. I didn’t even use an outline. Once I got broadsided by my creative impasse, though, I would sit down to write, stare at the computer screen, and freeze. I felt amazingly overwhelmed by making sense of people’s life stories and trying to convey their greatest life lessons in a page or less. Sometimes the task seemed too daunting. Other times, I was terrified that any writing I did would be crap. That was a big deal, because sucking at your life’s calling is about the scariest thing you can imagine. If you suck at that, what hope do you have for anything else in life?

Even though things were difficult, I learned work-arounds that made them easier. For some reason, writing my outlines and first-drafts on post-it notes cured my writer’s block. And when I was afraid that my writing would suck, I mentally rehearsed my personal motto: “This is my damn blog. I can write whatever the hell I want.” It was such a rebellious thought, but it freed me to do the writing that only I could do. I knew that at the end of the day, all I could do was my best.

No matter the challenge, when you finally find something you’re meant to do, you keep working at it. You do whatever is necessary, because, finally, the work is worth it. The pay-off is there. You’re in love and that keeps you working even harder.

Three: No one can stop you from pursuing what you’re passionate about.

There is no one stopping you from jumping on this amazing journey of unbelievable highs and lows. If there’s anything I learned during my project, it’s that you’re the only person who can choose to live your calling, and you’re also the only person who can choose to not live your calling. It’s not up to the world. It’s up to you. You don’t need to wait until you get paid for doing what you love. You don’t need the world’s acceptance that what you are passionate about is worthy. You don’t need a book advance, a radically different life, a different spouse, or a different job. I love people’s stories, so I went out and collected them. If your dream is to write a book, start your own blog project, go out and interview people about something you’re passionate about, and pitch your project to anyone who will listen. The joy is not in being successful or wanted by the world, although that feels good. The joy is in doing what you love to do. It’s not about making money. Honestly, I would have paid for the honor of doing the Life Advice Blog Project. That’s how much I loved it.

I hope you gained some wisdom from my project and learned a life lesson like I did. My wish for you is that there were things that stuck out in your mind, that changed how you viewed life and improved your experience with the world around you. I hope you learned to give strangers the benefit of the doubt (the lesson I heard most often), that you decided to weave some silence and even forgiveness into your life, and that you gained the courage to be more uniquely you. I know I did.

All of the lessons from the Life Advice Blog Project are important in their own way. But if I could choose only one thing for you to take away from my project, it would be a better appreciation for doing what you were created to do. For me, it’s writing stories. For you, it could be helping disabled people or taking beautiful photos that capture the world around you. Whatever it is, do the thing you were created to do. The world needs whatever you’re in love with.

I know I am a wiser person now than when I started my project, and for that I’d like to thank the 128 people who shared their greatest life lessons with me. They gave me their stories, their wisdom, and their enthusiasm, and this project wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for them. My writer’s group also deserves a big thank-you for being a never-ending source of inspiration. Kudos especially go to Charisse Flynn, who introduced me to the Seattle7 Writers and brought many new people into my life, and Cassie Maull, who posted comments to many of my entries and never failed to make me feel like a rockstar. The greatest thank-you goes to my mom, Carol Veach, who was my number one fan and supporter. She proofread most of the entries before they were posted online, let me know when things didn’t make sense, and even stayed up late when I was falling behind and needing to post things last-minute. We were an editorial team of two, and I will be forever grateful for her help. It was wonderful to have someone who truly understood my project and loved it as much as I did.

Things you can do:

  • First and foremost, do the thing you were created to do. Find your passion and make it happen. There is always a way.
  • Keep in touch. Let me know how my project changed you or inspired you. Also, I’d love to hear about your quest to live your calling.
  • Help me find a publisher for the Life Advice Blog Project. If you know a great agent or publisher, pass their information along. It’s time for the Life Advice Blog Project to go out into the big, wide world and make a difference.

Signing off for now (but only until I start writing another book),

Cassandra J. Overby

1 Comment

  1. It was great meeting and helping you today Cassandra! Can’t wait for the book to be published. Wish you the best :)

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