It has been almost a year since I last posted an article on Wish Dish and there’s been a bit of change since then. If you haven’t had a chance to read my first article please do so before continuing with this one. You can find it here: http://thewishdish.com/she-did-it-her-way/
In life, some people are where they are at by mere chance. They leave it up to others to decide their fate. They lack true direction or desire. They avoid making a decision for fear of making the wrong decision, so they make no decision. They wait for things to come to them instead of going after them, especially when their vision is unclear or unknown.
I know this because I was that person 6 months following my first article in December 2015. I was (and still am to some extent which I’ll explain later) an independent consultant who traveled the globe delivering sales, leadership development and employee engagement training to large organizations. I made good money, earned miles every time I flew that has allowed me to travel to other countries for less than $150 for a found trip ticket and did I mention that I enjoyed doing the work I did? In the midst of all this I noticed something. I was comfortable.
In addition to independent consulting I had this side project or maybe you could call it a hobby, I hosted a podcast called She Did It Her Way that was gaining traction but not growing. In my head at the time I thought, “But that’s okay,” because at the time I wasn’t truly focused on it. It was until the past three months that it has become my full time focus.
The first six months of this year I convinced myself that I could grow my consulting practice and She Did It Her Way at the same time.
This is where it got tough but to be completely honest, I made it more tough than it needed to be. Had I listened to my gut sooner I would have made this decision at the beginning of the year versus waiting so long.
Why did I wait?
Because I didn’t want to chose. I wanted both worlds: successful consulting company and a full functioning podcast (that would eventually turn into a full on brand).
I had one foot on the dock and one foot on the boat. Sooner or later I would fall into the water, not stabilizing my two feet on any ground. It was like the time when I was at Target and I kept going back and forth if I was leaving or not. It wasn’t until I made the decision to leave that opportunities started showing up.
It wasn’t until I decided to put all my effort into She Did It Her Way that things started happening. In the past few months alone I’ve gotten closer to the brand, the business and more importantly, the listeners.
You can’t work on your business until you know your business. And you can’t know your business without being in your business.
Do I still take on consulting projects, you betcha! As every entrepreneur knows there will be days, weeks, months even years where in the beginning, your business won’t bring in revenue to sustain your personal need of income so you go out and work other jobs to support you. Needless to say the days I’m working a project are a bit longer because I still put time in for She Did It Her Way.
You don’t sign up for entrepreneurship because you want to work from home, think it’s an attractive title or because you think it would be fun or even better because you’ll be wealthy.
You chose entrepreneurship because you love solving problems. You chose entrepreneurship because you believe in something so much you’re willing to devote all your time and energy to it for long periods of time when you feel nothing is happening but you keep telling yourself by faith that there indeed is something happening, maybe yet unseen.
Everything I just shared and especially the last few paragraphs is what I continually tell myself on a daily basis.
Everything in life is a choice. Your attitude. Your life’s work. Your spouse. Your friends. Everything.
Don’t leave it up to chance. Chose.
When I moved to Athens in ‘95, it didn’t really feel like a choice but more of a default. I had a free ride at UGA with scholarships and grants, and my highschool sweetheart would be going there, so why not?
Fresh out of college at 22 and ready to take on the world, I instead met the man who would become the father of my child and we decided to stay in Athens–for the moment. Just temporarily, I told myself, until we could figure out our next step as a family. I got an opportunity to open my own boutique, Remnant, selling my work and the handmade pieces of others.
But by 27 I was a single mom and unable to keep my business afloat while adequately supporting my child. My friends were moving on to bigger cities and even other countries, dreams I shared but saw no way of making a reality.
Instead, like so many of my artist and musician friends, I spent my nights in service industry jobs, renting a cheap apartment whose location allowed me to get by without a car, and working on my passions when I could. I continued to sell my work at events and shows, while holding down two or more other jobs, and unsure of how to make my art my living.
I knew that I was happiest when I was making things, and being around others who did the same. I never felt more at home than when I was at a craft fair, getting to know other creative people and seeing what they do. But I couldn’t see a way to translate that into my day to day life.
Unbeknownst to me, during this time the seeds of my future were being planted. A friend suggested that since I had so many connections with artists in town, maybe I should just start my own market.
What began on a whim–the very first holiday market was put together in a little over two weeks with a group of about 20 artists–turned into my first true sense of connection to the broader community here. As Indie South Fair grew, I came into contact with people I otherwise wouldn’t have known–people that weren’t in my social circles, but who also wanted to make a living doing what they loved.
The feedback was encouraging, with people telling me how well they did at my markets and how much they appreciated my hard work. It felt good, knowing that I could facilitate the dreams of others as I worked toward my own.
As time went on, I met people who weren’t itching to get out to Brooklyn or San Francisco or Portland where many of my friends had gone. People who saw Athens as fertile ground for cultivating some of the more cosmopolitan aspects they sought without sacrificing the slower pace of life we all appreciated.
I began to see that there was an opportunity to help create the town I wanted to be in without uprooting my family or my life, alongside people who truly cared about their community. I started to embrace Athens, not as the college town I never left, but as place that already has the makings of everything I want, and the people willing to put in the work and time to realize their dreams here.
My Fall event more than doubled in size, and my Holiday event swelled with almost a third more artists–not just locals, but people from far-away states who are hearing about all the great things Athens has to offer and want to see for themselves. Athens has shown me that it loves what I do, and I love doing it here. Now I am collaborating with some of the other businesses that have sprung up to promote and serve our creative community.
I sense a fresh energy here, one that seeks to maximize the potential while preserving the original charm. I see myself as being able to have an impact and a voice in our community, as someone who creates something that has a ripple effect throughout our town. Many people are moving here not to go to college but to make a life here, recognizing that Athens is worth investing themselves in.
Indeed, I made such an investment myself last December, in buying my first home here. It’s an historic in-town property that has a special place in the Athens music scene and in the hearts of many who have passed through it.
It feels good to know I will have a hand in preserving it. Also this year the man I fell in love with closed the distance between us by re-locating from Atlanta to make his home here as well.
This year, after living here almost 20 years, I can now say I have chosen Athens as the place I want to make my home and make a difference. A small corner of the world that feels like mine, and that I want to share with others.
Serra Ferguson is the founder and organizer of Indie South Fair, a series of markets featuring local artists and craftspeople that pops up around town throughout the year. This year’s December holiday market featured over 100 vendors and created tens of thousands of dollars in holiday spending on local businesses. Check out Indie South’s smaller pop-up shops at Broad 9A in the Chase Street Warehouses the third Sunday of every month, and keep an eye out for their Valentine’s Market February 6 at Creature Comforts.
Sometimes when you think you have life figured out, you get a curveball. On some occasions not only do you get a curveball, but you get the 3-2 curve- the ultimate surprise. The 3-2 curve is what my family got on February 24th of this year.
My wife Jill, who works in a doctor’s office, felt something on her chest that was out of the ordinary. Dr. Weldon, her boss and our friend, examined her right there in the office that morning. He confirmed her fears when he told her that he believed there was a high likelihood that the mass he had examined was cancerous. Dr. Weldon left his office, where he had a full slate of patients to see, and came to tell me what he had discovered. He didn’t have to do that, especially with the work load he had during the day but because of the magnitude of the situation I am so glad he did. He laid out the process and the steps ahead of Jill and how she was going to whip this evil thing that had decided to invade our lives. We were still afraid none the less.
The next week or so was a blur. Go see this doctor, go see that doctor. Jill was getting poked and prodded like crazy. Miraculously, we got things done in a week or ten days that would normally take a month or more to get done.
Her oncologist told us she was getting things done so fast he could hardly keep up. This is the first of many times I saw a higher power at work. There are no doubts that only because of the hand of God were we able to have tests and answers so quickly and smoothly. I thank God for this because waiting for information is brutal. Even though one of the answers we got was that she did in fact have breast cancer, at least we knew what we were dealing with.
I always preach mental toughness to the kids that play for me. Perhaps more so than any specific fundamentals, players need to train to be tough. I try to teach kids that there is absolutely nothing you can do about what has happened or will happen. Furthermore, your success on the field and in life is going to depend largely on how you respond to adversity.
Bad things are going to happen. You have to focus on the here and now as well as your reactions and emotions. There is an old cliché that says life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond. I try (sometimes poorly) to keep a calm exterior even when mistakes or adversities happen. Be positive. Focus on this pitch. Players and coaches can’t let emotions get the better of them. Be in control.
You have heard the analogy of the duck that is calm as can be above the water while kicking like crazy underneath. Many times that is me during a game. Now I have to practice what I preach in real life situations, not just some baseball or softball game.
My prayer, especially during these early days, was for God to give me peace when I was around Jill. Even though I would be churning underneath, I would need to be calm on the surface for her. I continued to tell myself that God is with us, and He loves us (Isaiah 43:2-4).
There is no doubt God answers prayer because every time I would go home I found peace and strength that I hope was of help to Jill. On several occasions when I would go lift weights in the morning before school I would just sit on a bench in the weight room by myself and cry. Thank God, when I would return home to get ready for school I would always find the peace I needed to be strong for Jill.
There would always be a calm when I was with her. I would try to pump Jill up and tell her, “You are going to be fine. You are going to whip this thing and will be known as a survivor for the rest of your days! DO NOT BE AFRAID!!” Having said that, I am not sure how much she needed me. She was pretty strong from the get-go. I have grown to admire and appreciate the strength she has shown through all this. Sometimes I think she is calm both above and below the water.
God never promised us that all of our days would be easy but He did promise in Matthew chapter 28, verse 20 that He would always be with us. We also know that God did not give us a spirit fear but of love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). Since this is the case, should we give in to human nature and be afraid or worry? No. I would encourage people to choose to praise God even in the biggest storms. That’s right. Jill has cancer. Praise God
(Psalms 34:1, 150:2)! Admittedly, this sounds odd. But, if I may make an observation, I think that this is where many people go wrong in their lives when adversity hits. Please do not misunderstand me. I’m not casting stones, and I am not implying that I have all the answers.
Rather, I understand that human nature is to want to feel sorry for yourself and want others to feel sorry for you, however I believe God wants us to refocus on Him when turmoil hits our lives and praise Him for all the absolutely wonderful things He has done in our lives as opposed to sitting back and saying, “Oh whoa is me”, or getting angry at God and questioning His sovereignty. The Bible offers wonderful words of wisdom in James 4:8 where we are told: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Even though there is evil in this world and bad things happen to good people (Jill is a WONDERFUL person by the way), understand that God is still in control and THAT ALONE is a reason to praise His name and to continue to live and enjoy life.
Jill and I have become acutely aware that most things in life are just not worth getting upset about and losing sleep over. Furthermore, there is always someone else battling demons and could be going through much worse circumstances. Nobody, unfortunately, is immune to the trials of life. Hopefully, if someone else was going through a trial of some sort, they have seen hope in me and my family.
I have made it a point during this time to NEVER give people the impression that our lives were anything other than wonderful. While that was not always easy, when asked how I, we, or Jill was, my response would always be: “Outstanding”, or “We are blessed”.
No, I wouldn’t pretend that nothing was going on. I would be honest about Jill’s treatments, the side effects she would experience, the fear of losing her hair, the anxiety of having to make potentially life changing decisions, or anything else people would ask about. But, I want to use this as an opportunity to let people know that life still MUST be lived. Even though we got the 3-2 curve, we are able to keep our hands back and we still intend to hit the ball hard.
I thank God for Dr. Weldon and the hand he had in getting us pointed in the direction we needed to go. Unfortunately, Dr. Weldon passed away suddenly a month or so after Jill’s diagnosis. I tried to thank him for everything every time I saw him. I hope he knew what he meant to us. Moreover, the love and support our family, friends, and fellow community members have shown has been and continues to be overwhelming and humbling to say the least. Thank you does not even come close to covering the gratitude and appreciation we have.
Jill’s prognosis is good and we believe that this bump in the road will soon be a distant memory. If you are going through a hard patch, you will have to decide whether the circumstance is going to dominate you or whether you are going to hold your head up and keep moving forward.
I have heard it said that the same boiling water that hardens the egg softens the potato. I hope Jill doesn’t mind being compared to food but she is an egg :). She is a great example of the fact that a positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you. Life will not always be easy, but I would encourage everyone to PRAY and PRESS ON! Remember, Psalms 145:18 says that the Lord is near to all who call on Him. God Bless!