And then one day, to my publisher’s surprise, I found myself the author of a bestselling book related to this. And suddenly things exploded. Those opportunities I was circling for years were just pinging in my inbox. It was like my little island I created was attractive and everyone wanted to come and visit.
And so I did just what you expected at that point when my star was at his highest and I had a breakdown. I disappeared from the scene very quietly and turned down everything from keynote invitations — I mean I didn’t create anything new in that time either; I just couldn’t.
But the weird thing was at that same time the national press saw me as this sort of expert in entrepreneurship and location independence, I was kind of like the post to go for digital nomads. Every time I’d get a call I would think, “Why are they talking to me?” Yes, I had a business that I was running from around the world but I didn’t feel like the person the magazines wanted to write about.
I mean for starters, digital nomads are supposed to be these sort of frugal travelers without a home who live out of their perfectly packed suitcase with like I know 2 T-shirts all year or something. I mean, I am terrible at packing. Seriously it’s not a key strength.
My hobby is interior design. I can’t stop buying cushions. And so I felt like my messy liminal self didn’t have anywhere to breath. I was like they’ve got this one wrong. And I don’t even want to be what they think I am.
Just to be clear if that happened earlier it wouldn’t have been a problem, right? I just would have stepped into my differences without a second thought. It wouldn’t have even bothered me.
But not now. You see, in my mind it was fine to be all messy and liminal when you were the scrappy upstart. But there was still that 16 year old girl who believed her teacher, who believed that proper success meant fitting into one place properly and staying there. Others would kill for that opportunity, you’ve all heard that? Play the part.
But I couldn’t keep talking about this stuff while feeling that way. So I took time out and went on a journey to figure this out. And it finally clicked one day that the people I most admired, people at the top of their field, I’m talking real household names, they didn’t do things the way I was telling myself I had to do them now. They didn’t let success on their island and turn it into a trap that defined who they could be or the one way to do things.
Instead, they turned their island into a boat and they moved it along with them. Take Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat Pray Love’, her major bestseller about a part of her life. Now, she could have written of that one story forever, right? Going on a speaker circle and talked about that one thing on a loop.
But instead she holed up in a small town and wrote a novel about 19th century plant collectors. And then went on the TED stage, talked about creativity, released a book on that. And you know the funny thing? ‘Eat Pray Love’ is how most people first heard of Elizabeth Gilbert. But that wasn’t even her first success.
The 1990s movie ‘Coyote Ugly’ was based on an article she wrote about her experiences working in a bar. And imagine if she had stopped then. If she had said, oh, writers like me or any are meant to take these steps from here. Oh, I might feel too different. Now I am too far along, hide all that away. I mean, no!
Instead it was about moving forward with her island. And as a result, she has made a much bigger impact than had she stopped and said, “That was it.” You got one go. Now stay still.
It doesn’t have to be that dramatic, of course. There were certainly more subtle evolutions out there. But this theme was consistent among anyone I admired who was world class in what they did.
You see, up until then I thought that embracing your differences and your liminal nature was kind of a tool, like a nifty marketing approach you’d would use to stand out or get an edge when you were younger or new.
I thought it was a tool, but what I didn’t realize is it’s who we are. And right now is your time as a liminal person. Right now the world is changing so fast. There’s no way to predict what specialism or skill will be in demand.
Except for one thing: The ability to bridge genres, to navigate industries in change to be, in a word: liminal. And that’s what you have already.
And what is more: The world needs you. At a time when the world is putting up its borders and trying to divide people into this or that, we need people like you who can struggle those borders and bring in fresh perspectives. We need you now more than ever.