Think Big With a Happy Mind

Wynwood Wall in Miami, Florida

My design professor one day showed students his fantasy master plan amusement park design if it were ever to be built. He designed this amusement park so it would be bolder and cooler than Disneyland and thought of the rides, attractions, and themes for each. It was a hand-drawn, complete set of construction drawings and plans where he figured out every little detail. At the the time, I naively thought it was silly of him to waste so much time and energy to do all this work for a park that would probably never come to life. Why would a 50 year old guy spend so much work on this crazy pipe dream? 

Maybe I was a little jealous that he was able to do this in the first place. But truthfully, it was because I was used to thinking small. I never did anything that bold, that different, or that big. On top of teaching and having a professional job, this professor did something for himself and was happy to work on his dream side project, regardless of what his 19-year-old students or anyone thought about it. He didn’t need anyone’s permission to go do the thing he wanted to do and just kept pursuing his dream anyway.

I never found out if his amusement park ever got built, but I do know this: if there’s anything I learned from his class, it is to not be afraid to think big. This professor wasn’t even a well-known landscape architect and his expertise was grading engineering, not amusement park design. But he followed his dream that made him happy and whether it comes true or not, all that effort was still worth it to him.

I used to do the right, “small” things that got me somewhere in life, but not where I wanted to be. I did things within my comfort zone and never thought that I was capable of doing more. I felt unfulfilled and unhappy. Though, as I looked deeper into myself and rediscovering who I was and wanted to be, I realized being comfortable and doing possible things wasn’t enough for me. My newfound mental clarity and calmness helped me figure out what made me happy and redefined my purpose. My purpose wasn’t to go to college, get married, and have a 9-to-5 job. I found out my true purpose was to use my creative work to help others heal and rediscover themselves so they can live a fulfilling life. This is what I was meant to do be doing and even if I don’t make a huge profit or reach millions of people, at least I did something that made me smile every day. 

We can pursue big things simply because they make us happy, feel alive, and be ourselves. Doing big things give us a bigger purpose and adds a lot more meaning to our work. It’s okay to do small things, but I encourage you to try to think and do bigger with a happy mindset. This professor didn’t let his academic or professional role define who he was; he defined himself by thinking and doing big in his own time.

When you build something on your own, you are building yourself too. So the more you do this, the more courage you have to do big things. It’s not to say that you won’t still be absolutely terrified every time you put yourself out there; I get the jitters too, every single time. But I keep doing it because I have a little bit more courage each time.
So, don’t be afraid to go wild with your ideas and don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it. That’s what life’s all about: positively disrupt the world and dare greatly!

You Can Be Your Own Inspiration

The next time you hit a creative block, try looking inward for inspiration.

You have a lot more to say and more feelings to express than you realize. We just think they don’t matter or are not important enough to look for inspiration, so we seek out external sources as we’ve learned to do so. There is nothing wrong with Googling ideas or use music, art, books, or other media for inspiration – I refer to these all the time. But I think true inspiration can come from within, based on the unique blend of your personal emotions and experiences.

Pete Docter, the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar, draws from his personal life and experiences for his storytelling in his movies, from Monsters Inc. to Inside Out. The character Riley from Inside Out was actually inspired from his daughter growing up and dealing with conflicting emotions from being an outgoing kid to a shy teenager. There is something deeply raw, personal, and relatable about using your own feelings and experiences that no amount of Googling will ever bring. What makes his movies captivating are not grand schemes and made-up gestures, but his genuine feelings and deep life experiences captured in his movies. It’s no wonder why so many of us, including me, cry in every Pixar movie.

Music artists and rappers draw from their own emotions and experiences all the time too, like Taylor Swift. And they are not shy about them either and are incredibly bold about vulnerable topics such as heartbreak, betrayal, and loneliness. I also think the feelings of distraught and pain are the foundation of a lot of good music out there, so don’t be embarrassed about feeling this way either. Don’t feel bad for feeling. 

We can let our emotions slide or we can look deeper into ourselves and find out what feelings are brewing inside. I used to use Google as a crutch for inspiration, but nothing truly creative came out of it. When I finally started doing self-work and self-discovery, my feelings and the journey of finding myself became the sources of my inspiration for my art, blog, and messages. I slowly peeled the layers of myself and expressed my deep feelings and process into my work. It felt very uncomfortable, vulnerable, and scary to truly see myself and share my experience, but I believe it gave a refreshing and relatable perspective on what I was going through. While my situation was unique to me, other people were able to resonate how I was feeling too. It’s fascinating how the more layers of yourself you expose, the more people would feel the same way too.

I now have ideas constantly flowing on what to draw and write about because I am so much more aware of my feelings and my life experiences. Instead of seeking inspiration outside, I have been using what I feel and experience in the moment and express them through my creative work. And the more you do it, the more it keeps coming to you!

You can still use your favorite music, podcast, books, and other external sources for inspiration. But I find looking deep inside yourself and really harnessing your feelings and life experiences can make your work incredibly intriguing, compelling and relatable. In a world where we feel invisible and disconnected, I think this can help you be more visible and connected to other people. It won’t be another blog post about the top 5 self-care tips or a fan art of your favorite anime. It would be something deeper and can resonate with others. 

I know you have a lot of feelings and emotions inside – we all do. But we don’t have to numb our feelings and experiences like we normally do. We can try and use what we’re feeling and experiencing into our creative work. The more you do it, the more confident you become and the more authentic you are to yourself. Dig deep, be inspired by your own self and maybe one day you can be a source of inspiration to others too. Good luck!

Make Your Mess Your Message

You are the author of your own story, regardless of the heartbreaks, rejections, and hardships you’ve gone through or you’re currently going through. Think of them as plot twists and help make your story more interesting.

I totally get not seeing the bright side when things don’t go your way, especially when the bad stuff keep piling up one after another. I applied to both undergraduate and graduate programs at my dream school and I didn’t get in either times. I was called pathetic by an ex-boyfriend after three weeks of dating and I went out with another guy a few times who just really wanted a one-night stand. I was never good enough for job positions I really wanted and simply accepted ones that paid the bills. As you can see, I have had my share of the soggy pie too, just like you and so many other people in this world.

What makes these setbacks interesting is what happens after. I didn’t give up and saw these failures as life experiences and part of my journey. That dream school I didn’t get into? I am working on a project with them right now. That ex-boyfriend who called me pathetic? He apologized for his immaturity back in college and we’re still friends today. The job positions I never got? I still didn’t get, but I now work in a job I chose to be in with a salary I negotiated for.

We can choose to stay down or rise up against the harsh realities of life. To be honest, I am just an ordinary woman who worked really hard on my achievements and extra hard on doing the self work to be the me I am today. I do not have any special skills to overcome my hardships, just my persistent willpower to keep moving forward and grow from these experiences. It helps to have a little bit of curiosity and some fun too. So don’t let the difficulties be the final ending to your story. All of us had gone through some sort of a hardship in life, the only difference is what we do after.

People who were nobodies became somebodies because they didn’t give up, were authentic to themselves, and chased their dreams. Steve Job’s story could have ended when he was kicked out of Apple in 1985, but he kept doing more and created Pixar a year later and developed the first Iphone 20 years after. He didn’t let any setbacks stop him and even had the courage to go on a spiritual journey which heavily influenced the design aesthetic of his future innovations. If he gave up at any moment in time, then a lot of the world we see today might have been very different.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg also fought hard in life and became an even bigger fighter for women’s rights and gender equality. In light of the sexism she faced in early childhood, the passing of her older sister and her mom before her high school graduation, and surviving cancer five times, she kept going and remained incredibly strong even in her final days. Her resiliency and perseverance made her who she was and she didn’t need anyone’s permission to be the woman she wanted to be in order for so many of us enjoy the freedoms we have today.

There are many other stories of people who have endured and overcame their struggles too, from Stacey Abrams to Steph Curry to Chadwick Boseman. Before their successes, they were just ordinary people who did something and didn’t give up, no matter what hardships they went through. They didn’t let a lost election, their height, or their cancer stop them from doing more. They did the really hard work and hustled, and was able to craft their own stories out of it. 

You are not alone when it comes to the struggles and hardships in life. We all deal with something but, unfortunately, not all of us believe we can overcome it. I am telling my story because I believe hitting rock bottom doesn’t mean you need to stay down. Getting out of something hard can be messy, scary, and a lot of the times very uncomfortable, but it is the best feeling to be free and to continue to write and tell my story. 

You can’t control what happens, but you can control what you do next. I hope you are able to find the strength to keep going and make your mess your message. Maybe you can also find joy in both your pursuits and failures. Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself or your dreams. Who knows, you can be the next ordinary person who can be extraordinary and live to tell your own story.