“I’m a fan. You’re a voice of originality in a world too little of it.” Seth Godin
Let’s face it: Nobody loves what they’re doing anymore. Everybody’s got their panties in bunch because they spent the last 5 years, 10 years, 15 years building a career that has turned out to be one big, fat, disappointing shitshow.
And, of course, that doesn’t include the other stuff yet, either: The stuff that everyone’s scared to admit. Like the fact that you don’t actually love being married, or owning a great big house, or maybe even having kids.
And that’s pretty fucking scary.
Because this is life and those were the options and you did everything you were suppose to and holy hell did you excel. You’re finally to the point where you have things like cheeseboards and wine glasses (different kinds for red and white, you guys!) and you’re not showing up hungover to the DMV to renew your driver’s license anymore and YOU EVEN STAY HOME ON FRIDAY NIGHTS.
So what gives?
Why do you feel like a hollowed out shell of an asshole? Why do you feel like you’ve somehow let yourself down? Why can’t you just be happy? You have everything you wanted, right?
In the year 2009, I felt just like that.
I had an amazing job selling online and print advertising for a magazine in Philadelphia, and had spent years working my way up the career ladder, from PR to marketing and eventually to Account Executive. I had built a house with my then fiancé, which was crazy to me, because it had the one thing I had always longed for: Stairs.
Because I hadn’t just been working my way up the career ladder; I had been working my way up the socio-economic ladder as well. Where I grew up, in NEPA (short for North Eastern Pennsylvania, where the city of Scranton, one hour away, had the closest shopping mall), my mother and I lived in a 1978 gold and white tin mobile home trailer, and I spent every ounce of energy I ever had trying to escape that thing. After all, there was nothing more embarrassing than having to crawl underneath its vinyl skirting with a hairdryer on blistery winter mornings to heat the frozen water pipes before school. (Especially when the other kids were already walking to the bus stop—TORTURE.)
So I became a young woman on a mission. First, I competed (and won) a fully paid private scholarship to college, offered by Andy McKelvey, the founder of Monster.com, based on entrepreneurial potential and financial need. Then, I went on to not only complete one college major, in Public Relations, but another, in Spanish, because two degrees seemed like more insurance than one. Insurance that I’d never, ever find myself living in a trailer again. Then, in between landing my first job at a TV station, and my mother suddenly dying, I sold our trailer, and everything in it, and took off for the city, where I got a new job in PR, and enrolled in grad school for Linguistics…just in case.
I took out a car loan. Rented a fancy apartment. Shopped at Nordstrom’s. Ate at Ruth’s Chris. And I worked my way up every single ladder in front of me.
Eventually, I built the house (and even insisted on having a flat screen TV in every room—including the bathrooms), furthered my career into advertising, had the perfect guy, and finally figured out how to poach a god damn egg. (Okay, fine, I’m still working on that part.)
And yet. And yet—once the busyness of the day had faded, and I’d crawl into bed, and be left with my own thoughts, I was terrified.
All the work I had done to escape my past felt so…inconsequential. I had been expecting everything to finally fall into place, but I found myself, there in the city, with everything I had ever hoped for…and more miserable than ever. Where had I gone wrong?
Eventually, I started rebelling. This admittedly wasn’t the smartest way to go about things, but when you’re in the thick of a crisis—and that’s exactly what this was—you do the craziest things. I left my fiancé. I left the house was had just built barely a year prior. And soon, I would quit my job, too—which was only the beginning.
I would go on to make a series of bad decisions that would eventually land me sleeping in my car in a Kmart parking lot, with no where to go, and no savings left to save me.
I had hit rock bottom, and I hadn’t even seen it coming.
Suddenly, I was faced with a decision: I could go crawling back to my old boss, and my old life, and everything I had grown to despise, or I could take a risk.
Long story short, I took the risk. I went from nothing to my first $103,000 that year, and then the next year tripled that, and ever since, have gone on to earn $1 million dollars writing from my Macbook. I live part time in Philadelphia, part time in Costa Rica, and part time traveling the world to places like Italy and London and Chile and Argentina. I no longer feel trapped by the life I’ve created for myself, and I no longer wake up in the middle of the night feeling like a failure. I no longer go through the motions, sitting through rush hour traffic wanting to stab myself with a plastic knife, and I no longer worry about climbing the career ladder, because I’ve created my own career—one where I call the shots.
For me, it’s about how much life you squeeze out of your years—not how many years you squeeze out of your life—and fortunately I figured out in time that the internet is ripe with opportunity if you know not where to find it, but how to create it.
And building my own creative business online changed everything for me. So that’s why this is called The Middle Finger Project, of course—because you’ve got to have enough guts to be an original with your life and your career, in order to finally feel at peace with yourself.
It took me a long time to figure it out, but now I’m here to help you fast track the process of taking creative risks with your career and business—hopefully so you never find yourself sleeping in your car in a Kmart parking lot in the middle of the night. Because let me tell you what: You haven’t seen cranky until you’ve had to roll a sweatshirt underneath your head as a pillow.
Want to talk more about how I did it? Enter your email address here, and I’ll send you more details—including some of my favorite things I’ve written, designed to light a fire under your ass.
But don’t tell the rest of the world just yet. For now, it’ll be our little secret.
Because if I can rise up from nothing?
You can, too.
P.S. Look for an email from “Ash / The Middle Finger Project.”
(Represented by: Writer’s House NYC Literary Agency.)
“You’re the best writer on the internet.” Best-selling author & speaker Michael Port upon meeting me at a conference (I swear I didn’t bribe him)