Is your dream practical?
prac·ti·cal / ˈprak-ti-kəl /
: relating to what is real rather than to what is possible or imagined
: likely to succeed and reasonable to do or use
: appropriate or suited for actual use
Let me ask again, is your dream practical?
Probably not. If it were practical, by definition, it wouldn’t be a dream. It would be doable.
Yet, some people do end up fulfilling their dreams. What’s different about those people and their dreams? The difference is those crazy few choose to redefine the power that practical has in their lives. They decide to loosen the grip of guarantee that threatens to choke the life from their futures. They come to the conclusion that though following along the expected path gives a sense of security it will never produce strength.
Twentysomething author, Leah, was creating stories before she could even actually write. Her very first documented story was written in the third grade, and she’s been writing her stories ever since.
Once in college Leah switched her major right before her junior year to Early Childhood Education because “it was practical.”
“I really chose to do teaching out of fear,” she said. ” I was so focused on needing to have a job, so I stuck it out even though I hated it.”
After graduation, Leah married her high school sweetheart, Zach, and began teaching at a private elementary school because they needed the money as newlyweds. After a full day of teaching, Leah would come home and write her own stories all evening, essentially working two full-time jobs. At the same time, she also started freelance writing for various clients as well as editing for the popular lifestyle blog MaieDae. In addition to her full plate of writing and teaching, Leah began her martial arts training in Hapkido and Taekowndo, in which she is now a black belt and blue belt, respectively.
“I really loved working with kids, but I couldn’t do the drama and the politics that came with the job. It just became so soul killing,” she said. “I realized that teaching is not just a job, but a calling. It wasn’t my calling.”
Recognizing his wife’s passion for writing was only continuing to grow, Zach encouraged Leah to stop teaching and to find a way make writing her profession. After two years of teaching, Leah took a leap of faith and resigned from her job to pursue writing full-time. Though it was a financial risk, Leah walked into the unpredictable world of freelance and self-publishing confident that she was making the right decision.
That was a year ago. She has since self-published two books in a trilogy as well as a novella.
“Self-publishing has let me learn the process at my own pace,” Leah explained. “Plus, it’s more cost effective.”
With traditional publishing, you have to pay people like agents, editors, and graphic designers. By publishing her books independently, Leah filled all those roles herself while learning the ropes. She is currently working on two new novels that are set to be released by the end of this year.
Leah also formed her own LLC and her freelance career is growing. She is the “Administrative Maven” behind MaieDae as their chief editor and business administrator. She is also writing for various blogs, including her own blog.
Leah’s first love will always be her stories. She is energized by developing her characters and plots. She says she ends up putting a bit of herself in each of her characters.
Leah’s advice to other twentysomethings is “Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”
Photo Credit: Savannah Wallace
In our twenties, we realize the cost of basic life, and, sometimes, it’s a rude awakening. Mom and Dad aren’t buying the paper towels and toilet paper anymore, and we realize that life is…expensive. But we also become grateful for having the opportunity to have our basic needs met, especially since so many people around the world don’t have the same luxury. Developing countries are filled with “lack” – lack of water, sustainable food systems, and adequate resources to provide for everyone. Although monthly bills can be a stressor, our twenties are a time when we start to realize just how lucky we truly are.
This attitude of gratitude pushes many twentysomethings towards giving back to others. Many of us find our calling to help those in need with a cause we find near and dear to our hearts, whether it be hunger, poverty, child welfare, etc. Trevor, 23, is one of those twentysomethings and he decided to improve the education of not only those in his community, but for people around the world.
Two years ago, Trevor started TeachTwice, a social venture that educates children and their communities through stories and the exchange of culture. The concept is simple – a single book, written by authors from a developing country, provides parents in the global marketplace stories to read to their children, and gives financial support to schools in the country where the book originated. “I really believe education drives the economy which drives development,” Trevor says.
With a team of like-minded student volunteers, Trevor began TeachTwice with the mission of improving education systems in developing countries and exposing U.S. students to different cultures. They have already published two books, from Uganda and South Africa. And they hope to be a model to other nonprofits worldwide.
Through his work with TeachTwice, Trevor hopes to demonstrate to other organizations how to be more business savvy and sustainable. He stands behind the belief that even when TeachTwice is not making a lot of money, they are still accomplishing great things with their business model by employing writers and illustrators who are making an impact on the industry, economy, and education of their country.
Trevor and the team have recently realized the importance of distribution channels in order to reach as many markets as possible. They are currently selling books domestically and using any profit to integrate the books into the education systems of the originating countries. Right now, they are exploring the many ways to sell books in America, despite a dying publishing industry, through online book space like Amazon to physical space like local bookstores, schools, and libraries.
And their hard work is paying off. TeachTwice has been featured on the local news, they’ve signed a significant contract for distribution, and have formed a partnership with Nashville’s Public Library system.
Since graduating in 2012, Trevor, looking for not only a steady income but also a way to continue doing what he cared about, turned down a consulting job for a part-time opportunity to work with the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery. This job allowed him to work with TeachTwice as much as he needed. The Center, knowing Trevor, “really understood TeachTwice and supported it,” he explained, and they let him work as many or few hours as he needed to in order to continue to support his organization.
As fate would have it, Trevor’s work at the Vanderbilt Center led him down another career path. He realized the importance of what the Center was doing – creating drugs and making huge strides forward in medicine for diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Schizophrenia. After being inspired by this work, he felt like he could add more value to the Center by giving them his marketing and business skills he gained through leading TeachTwice. Since most of the employees are researchers, they had not put the time into thinking about how to market themselves and become more business savvy. Trevor pitched himself for a new Business and Marketing position – and the Director created it for him.
One of Trevor’s favorite one-liners to give when people ask for advice is, “I think success is in constantly moving forward.” For example, there were months when nothing would happen for TeachTwice, and then ten wonderful things would happen within one week. Trevor believes that if you pursue what you’re passionate about and focus on doing what you love, things will move forward for you.