Five Years to Independence: Year Two – The Year of Confidence

If you’re just tuning in, this series of posts is about a self-improvement (ick, I hate that term) a self-developmental program that I’ve put myself through twice (yes, twice) which I call Five Years to Independence. If you follow the steps, yes it takes a long time, and no, no harm will come to you, and, in the end, you’ll feel better about your talents, and will find yourself accomplished in your field.

This plan works for you if you are not currently using your chosen talent to support yourself. If, for example, you are a fine painter, but you spend your days checking tax returns for a living, this plan is for you. I myself spent half of my life trapped in a succession of customer service positions before I figured this out.

Year One was all about not looking back, about honoring the road you’ve chosen so far in life. Although it hasn’t led you to success in using your talents, it has led you here.

And here is where we begin Year Two – The Year of Confidence.

Although this year is about self-confidence, it’s not the point. The point is that this year you express, believe, and totally embrace confidence in your talent. Whatever it is.

If you dance, this year you are a dancer. If you write, this year you are a writer. If you act… and so on and so forth.

This is the year in which you give yourself permission to be who you really are. You stop making excuses as to why you’re not that person: you be that person.

It takes a lot of courage to stop thinking of your talent as “well, you know, I dabble in watercolor,” and to instead refer to yourself as a painter. But that’s what this year is all about: courage.

One of the key parts of last year, the Year of No Regrets, was that, while you stopped kicking yourself for never having trusted your talent, you also worked in your art. You wrote, danced, sang, built a resume, even if only you saw it, which says Yes, I Am That Artist.

So, in fact, you are that artist. You write/dance/sing/act/paint. Whether anyone has seen it or not is immaterial. There is now artwork in the world, which you created. Artwork, by its very definition, is created by an artist. And that’s you.

Now, if you skipped the working part of the first year, it’s okay. Start working now. Now. Don’t put it off, or you’re wasting your time.

So, yes, that is who you are, but it does take some courage to admit it. You don’t have to go get new business cards. You need to tell your heart of hearts every single moment of every single day that you are a practicing artist. If you doubt yourself, look at the work you’ve accomplished.

If you are a performance artist, your road is both more difficult and more rewarding. A painter’s painting is a forever thing, but that moment when you catch the audience’s heart – that is fleeting. If you’ve ever done it, you feel it in your soul. For you to practice your art, you need to put yourself in front of an audience so you can pursue and perfect those moments. It’s harder, because you need to be cast in role – I recommend acting classes, either in workshops or for college credit, or both. Community Theater is always a very useful option. But it is so rewarding, because those little moments are such emotional highs. I know, spoken like a true actor. Funnily enough, I chose writing instead.

So, do you now what to do here in Year Two? Be it. Live it. Stop dreaming of it and become it.

So, here is my caveat about the Five Years to Independence: you have to define success. You don’t quite see my name on billboards, or find my novels at Barnes and Noble (yet).

Here’s how the plan has worked for me: I spent literally twenty-eight years in the customer service industry. Starting as a simple rep, I worked my way up through the ranks until I was a corporate director. When that company was sold, I moved on to become a partner in a service business, where my primary function was customer service. All the while, I dabbled in acting, in voice-over, in writing. The Great Recession crashed my business, and I found myself working part time at Bank of America helping people negotiate their failed mortgages.

It was then that I started this program, having built it as I went, and figured out who I really was, and what I wanted to be. I wrote my brains out in the Year of No Regrets, and sold my work for pennies to a number of online publishing sites. In that year, I became a writer.

In the next year, I decided to focus on a practical use for my writing, and learned how to be a technical writer. In the summer of that year, I got myself hired as a full time technical writer.

That, to me, is a huge success. I make my living, pay my bills, support my family, through my art as a writer. I no longer say that I dabble in writing – I do it every single day. It’s not prose or poetry, but it’s my art. And I love it.

To be sure, there’s much more to come – I have two novels, Droppington Place and Marigold’s End, that I’m marketing right now (for you marketers out there, did you notice how I slyly built two links right into this post? I know, I know, brilliance at it’s best).

The caveat, then, is that you must define your success. Getting to where you want to be requires mapping a road. Now that you are confident as an artist, you need to start thinking about where you can ply your trade.

That comes next, in the Year of Accomplishment!





Five Years to Independence – Year One

One thing about new years is that they bring new opportunities – it’s a line in the sand, a place to denote the difference between then and now, what you were and what you will be.

If, this year, you are looking to free yourself from the same, non-productive you that you’ve always been, the FYP (Five Year Plan) could be just the ticket, the cat’s pajamas, the bee’s knees, and so on.

Now, right out of the box, I have to tell you, I HATE self-help books, plans, and all things associated with them. HATE ‘EM! So, this is not a self-help plan. I’m just explaining what worked for me. There. I said it.

The FYP will help you if this is you: You’re talented (you know you are, people have told you, etc.), but you are afraid to trust that talent. What if you find out you’re not all that talented? What if you’re a fake? And so you live your life on the day to day, working a job because you have to, but all the while that urge to be something greater than you are bubbles away inside because, dang it, you know you are talented.

That was me. Luckily, financial circumstance eventually forced me to the point at which I had to face the talent monster and either fish or cut bait. That’s when I figured out the steps, painfully, and fitfully, to the FYP. I ran it the first time out of desperation, making it up as I went, and it worked. Now I’m running it again to achieve my goals.

This is Year One: The Year of No Regrets

You know you’re talented because you had a gazillion and one opportunities to prove it. You shined that time you played the drunk in the community play. They loved that portrait you painted. They all laughed at that skit you wrote, or gasped at your song.   But that was way back then. And yet, and yet, you still dabble in the arts – you think about it. If only…

In my case, it was in high school. I was such a hit in the drama department, was mister funny pants and mister showbiz. I was gonna be somebody, except… except I dropped that golden thread of confidence when I made the transition from a big fish in a small pond to a minnow in an infinite sea. I let the thread go.

The Year of No Regrets draws a clean, bold line between yesterday and tomorrow.

The first step in the FYP is to let go of what you could have been. Kick it out the door. You ain’t that now, amigo. You coulda, woulda, shoulda, but you didn’t, and that’s an irrefutable fact.

But you know you are talented. You still painted that fine portrait, sang that fine song, acted that fine soliloquy, wrote that fine skit. The talent hasn’t changed. Maybe it’s little rusty, but it’s still there.

Creep up into the attic of your mind and dust off that treasured talent. It IS still there! You can still paint, sing, write, act, kick-box, whatever talent has always called you.

Life is all about the road you choose. You could have chosen the rich and famous artist road, but you didn’t. Something kept you from taking it.

For me, and for you I suspect, it was fear. Fear of failing. Fear of finding out that I wasn’t talented. Fear of being judged by my peers, or, worse, by people that don’t even know me. What if they thought I was a dud?

In the Year of No Regret, you admit that you didn’t take that road. Admit it: I didn’t pursue my dreams when I was younger. No judgment there, just a statement of fact.

Now that you’ve said it, you can let it go. Let the Four Winds carry it where they will, for it is yours no more.

Don’t speculate on where that road could have led. The only road that counts is the one you choose today.

Choose a new road today. Decide that today’s road, and tomorrow’s, and the ones that follow, are roads of confidence.

Respect the fact that you made good choices along the road you’ve followed. You are a reasonable, respectable person. There’s nothing wrong with the road you’ve followed so far.

Best of all, that road led you here, to this juncture.

The Year of No Regrets means that you don’t look back with sadness for where you haven’t been, but with joy, because it’s made you the strong, capable person who is ready, now, to face your talent.

It’s all easy to say, but it is sooooo hard to do. That’s why this plan is a five-year: each step takes a full year to become a habit so that you can succeed.

Each time you hear “I shoulda…” in your head, turn it around to “I’m gonna…”

Each time you think “If only I’d…”, remember that you’re going to, soon.

Every time you replace a regretful thought with a positive action statement, you become stronger.

Oh, and don’t think the FYP is some passive thing, amigo. There’s one more thing you need to do this year:

Get to work! Sing, or dance, or paint, or write, or do whatever it is that you do. No one has to see it or hear it, but you have to explore it.

Each time you practice your art – YES, YOUR ART – you gain confidence.

On one hand you’re getting stronger, and on the other you’re getting more confident. And you have 365 days to do it! Win-win-win, in my book.

Hey – maybe I’ll write a book!


A New Year, a New Heave-Ho

I have no idea what that title means – what exactly is a “heave-ho?”  Is that, like, a prostitute that throws up? That might be a “heaving ho.”

What I was trying to say is that a new year is a chance to do something new. Do you think that’s true? Out with the old year, in with the new? A chance to clean-slate your life?

Whoa, a clean slated life? Ditch everything that came before? The past? Just skip it. It’s a new year! A New Opportunity!

What a buncha hooey, right? Isn’t last year like, you know, last week?

No, no my authorial friend, it’s all right here, right now. Beyond getting a new calendar and changing your computer settings, a new year is a chance to change your mindset to success.

Yes – you. Success. All you have to do is focus on success, try your hardest to achieve it, and who knows what can happen. If you shoot for the stars, you just might make it to the moon.  You might also crash in flames, but we don’t talk about that.

Gee, Mr. Reinhart, what in God’s name are you talking about?

I’ve been working on a five-year plan, but I’ve run off the rails. Here’s how it works:

Year One: The Year of No Regrets. Leave whatever happened in the past in the past, and don’t look back. Accept that now is now and make it the best now it can be.

Year Two: The Year of Confidence. Now what the past is in the past, be confident and move boldly into the world, doing what it is that you do best.

Year Three: The Year of Accomplishment. This is the year you use your skills, talents, and confidence to accomplish great things.

Year Four: The Year of Sustainability. Now that you’ve made this great accomplishment, this year you build the structure that makes your success repeatable and reliable.

Year Five: The Year of Independence. This is the year you use the structure you built last year to move out of the traditional working environment and roll on your own.

So, right now I’m in Year Four, sustainability. The problem is that, while I made a huuuge stack of accomplishments last year, none of them was of the type that I can build upon to build a sustainable income outside of the traditional working world. Rats.

So, this has to be Year Three-A, The Second Year of Accomplishment. This year is the year to achieve that amazing thing, that huuuuge accomplishment that establishes myself as a creative guru, an unmistakable with oodles of cash pouring through the transom. That’s gauche, I know, but, really, wouldn’t that be the coolest? Tell me, in your heart of hearts, couldn’t you go with a future like that?

So, back around the long circle to the beginning – this is the year. This is it. Take a look. Go hang out at your local bookstore and watch for my novels to appear. I might even do a book-signing or two.

This year. Watch.

Better: this year. You do it, too!