Hey there, I’m Jennifer Blanchard. You may not know this about me, but I’m the author of a badass novel called SoundCheck. (If you love chick flicks, romance and stories with strong female leads, you will LOVE this book.)
The reason you may not know this about me is because I rarely talk about it.
In fact, I have a hard time talking about it. A much harder time than talking about the shadow career I’ve built over the last decade.
What’s a “Shadow Career,” you ask? It’s a phrase coined by Steven Pressfield in the book, Turning Pro. What it means is when someone remains an amateur in something they’re actually meant to be doing, and instead goes pro in something that is actually a shadow-version of what they really want to be doing.
For example, a person who really wants to go explore the world and travel to every country and write about it instead builds a career as a museum curator where they get to talk about and teach other people about exploring the world and traveling to every country. So they’re teaching about the thing they want to do instead of just doing the thing they want to do.
Another example, wanting to be a successful novelist, storyteller and entertainer, but instead of pumping out novels and screenplays, the person instead creates a business being a story coach and teaching other people how to tell stories. (Cough-cough… I don’t know ANYONE who’s done that!! LOL)
Basically you’re still using your natural-born gifts and talents, but instead of using them for yourself you’re using them to help other people or to do some other kind of work besides the work you’re really meant to be doing.
Here’s how Steven Pressfield explains it:
“Sometimes when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow career instead. That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. It’s shape is similar, it’s contours feel tantalisingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us.”
Kinda hits you right between the eyes, doesn’t it?
The first time I read that paragraph was a couple years ago. My accountability buddy sent me a copy of Turning Pro, raving about it and saying that I HAD to read it. So I did. And it was then I first heard about the shadow career.
It made me laugh, to be honest. Because I felt like I was reading my life story.
Of course I built a shadow career. Of course I built a business around doing the thing I really wanted to be doing. Of course I spent a decade of my life becoming a better storyteller, but instead of fully using that skill for my own soulwork (writing stories and entertaining people), I used it to help other people write better stories.
Self-awareness is hilarious sometimes. Or at least, that’s how I choose to take it.
I could’ve freaked out and panicked that I’ll never live the life of my dreams because I’m living a shadow career and I’m not really fully doing the thing I know I’m meant to be doing. But I know that, in life, you can pivot at any moment any time you choose, you just have to set your mind to it and take action. That keeps me calm. I have the power.
And to be totally honest, I didn’t fully accept that telling stories and entertaining people is what I’m meant to be doing… until LAST NIGHT.
I was finishing up Mike Dooley’s Playing the Matrix, in time for my Dream Life Or Bust book club discussion of it (you can watch the replay of the discussion here), and thinking about the biggest takeaway I had overall. And that takeaway is to be general.
Rather than being super specific with your goals and dreams, just be general. Focus on the general end results and stop trying to micromanage the details. The Universe knows what you want through your thoughts, words and actions. So there’s no need to be overly specific.
For the last few days I’ve been thinking about my goals and dreams, in more general terms. Asking myself how I’d describe what I want to do, be and have. I’ve been journaling on it and writing it down and playing with phrases in my mind.
And last night, the in general answer for what my purpose in life is came to me.
When it hit me, I kinda just laughed. Immediately I thought of the shadow career concept and realized that’s exactly what I’ve done with my career and business so far.
Because what I realized is that, in general terms, my purpose in life is not to teach storytelling to other people. It’s not to be a coach. It’s not even to inspire, motivate, empower and educate people to go after their dreams (although that’s beome part of it).
My purpose in life is to be a storyteller and an entertainer.
It’s to move people through my stories and my words. To keep them flipping pages as fast as they can. To keep them glued to their seat at a theatre when they have to pee like a mofo from the large drink they consumed during the previews, and yet they decide to hold it because they don’t want to get up and miss the movie. (Yeah, I want THAT kind of impact!!)
I want to inspire, motivate and empower people through my writing and my storytelling. Through how I bring life’s truths alive in a fictional reality.
THAT is my purpose and my mission in life.
And up until last night I wasn’t owning it. I wasn’t even fully aware that’s what I’m really meant to be doing with my life.
But shadow careers are really good at hiding the truth from you. Because you’re making an impact. You’re doing something good. You’re helping others. And you enjoy it.
Who can argue with that? That’s a totally legit and respectable way to earn a living and build a career.
But it will still always just be a shadow of the thing you’re really meant to be doing.
I’m here to make an impact on the world. And I’m here to do it through my stories, through entertaining people and through my messsage.
I am not a coach. I am not a teacher. I am not a transformational leader.
Those may be things that come to life through me as a byproduct of living my actual purpose, but that’s not who I really am, at my core.
I am a writer and a storyteller and an entertainer.
THAT is who I really am, at my core. THAT is the thing I’ve been running from for most of my life. THAT is the thing that will change everything for me.
Whew… fucking scary.
The realization was scary, but writing it down and now admitting it publicly… even scarier.
Because now there’s no more hiding. There’s no more running. There’s no more excuses for not fully living my purpose and being who I really am.
I am a writer. I am a storyteller. I am an entertainer.
It’s who I’ve always been. It’s who I will always be. It’s who I was always meant to be.
And no amount of running or hiding or ignoring will ever change that.
So now, friends, I step up to a whole new level. A level that is really and truly the dream-life version of me. A level I hadn’t even been considering until this moment.
But now that I see it and it’s so crystal clear; now that the crack has shown and the light has gotten in… I want more.
I no longer want to live in the shadow of doing what I’m really meant to be doing. I want to live in the light.
I want to be the light, and as a byproduct, inspire millions of others to step out of their shadows and into the bright, shiny light that is living their dream lives, fulfilling their purposes and doing their soulwork.
Dream life or bust,