I walked away from my grandmother’s business when I was 21 years old. By that point, she had groomed me for three years to take over her taxes, insurance and accounting business by the time I was 25. I was really good at it. I handled all of the automobile and homeowner’s insurance and was second in line to the owner, my grandmother.
I worked full-time with my grandmother, and kept a second job in a restaurant 5-7 nights a week to help pay my bills. At 18, she told me I handled clients better than most of the adults she had worked with over her 40+ year career.
When I was 21, I made what everyone said was the stupidest decision of my life. I walked away from my grandmother’s business and to work full-time at the restaurant. My grandmother didn’t talk to me for years. Understandably so, she was hurt. I had no solid direction—just a bunch of ideas and dreams.
Decisions and detours
I wanted to go back to school, but I didn’t know what for or how I would pay for it. I just wanted time to figure it out — my own space and time to think.
I messed up a lot. I couldn’t get out of my own way and I lost direction for a few years. But I never let go of my ideas and dreams. I wrote notes to myself all the time in order to document my thoughts and get them out of my head. I knew I’d figure it out somehow.
It’s in my nature to solve problems. And figuring out the direction of my life was a problem that needed solving.
So, at some point during my 20s, I stopped believing I had made the stupidest mistake of my life and started to put the pieces together. In the coming years, I moved across the country alone (space and time to figure it out), finished college on my own dime, got married to one of the most amazing guys I’ve ever met and started a successful consulting business with him. We run our own podcast together and now we’re traveling Europe for three months (more space and time to figure things out).
Figuring life out, one note at a time
In all the years that have passed since working with my grandmother, I learned some seemingly small, yet important lessons.
One of the most important being, always, always keep records–take notes. I write down notes on everything: dreams, ideas, phone calls, meetings, events, people, the good and the bad. It’s all documented.
Whether it is acted upon or not, I always have a reference point. I attribute my success, as many twists and turns as it’s taken, to my meticulous note-taking. If you don’t write down your ideas, thoughts, dreams and hopes, how can they ever materialize?
Your ideas aren’t stupid and your dreams matter. But if you want to succeed you have to hold onto your dreams as tightly as you can, set short and long-term goals, work backward from those goals and put in the work.
Success, on your own terms
It’s not enough to just dream.
You have to sweat out the fears and let your voice be heard as you hit milestones and move toward your goals. Keep telling yourself and others what you want. Create your own opportunities.
You will find yourself in uncomfortable situations. But if you don’t go through uncomfortable times, you’ll never grow and be who you’re meant to be. Put in the work and give yourself the opportunity to be successful, whatever that means to you.
This article has been edited.
Melissa Rautenberg is the co-founder of Latin & Code, co-host of The Creative Hustler podcast, and a Strategic Advisor for The Agency Guy, a business consultancy referring brands of all sizes to the right marketing firm based on capabilities, culture, and strategy. Connect with @rautenbergmj on Twitter.