Not long ago my husband and I took our teenage daughter to see her first music concert at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater. The guest artist was none other than Lindsey Stirling, a dancing and violin virtuoso. You heard me right. Dancing AND violin.
Such hybrid talent nearly sidelined Stirling’s career in the early days because she was told she couldn’t be both things at once. If she wanted to be taken seriously as an artist, she had to choose. Dancing. Or violin.
As millions of her fans know, Lindsey Stirling bucked such conventional wisdom. Her determination to embrace her full identity by producing the kind of music and dance she loved in spite of the critics bears lessons for all of us. Stirling is so much more than a YouTube sensation, she’s a true original.
Have you ever felt forced to choose between two passions? I have. I am both a professional writer and a professional speaker, and sometimes those worlds collide. I happen to hold an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from a top graduate program, and I happen to have authored two books, the award-winning memoir Both Sides Now: A True Story of Love, Loss and Bold Living, and a new book, Because the Sky is Everywhere, which offers hope and reassurance to children and families who have experienced loss. I am immensely proud of all three achievements: the MFA, the memoir, and the illustrated book for children.
I’m also humbled to be a motivational speaker who empowers audiences to move beyond disappointments, failures, and losses in business and life. Hard experience taught me that staying stuck is never an option; change, no matter the circumstances, is the only way to move forward.
Like Lindsey Stirling, I, too, was told to choose. “Be a speaker, or be a writer, but don’t try to sell yourself as both,” said more than a few professionals in the speaking industry. The same feedback was reflected back to me in literary circles. Naturally, celebrity status would have exempted me from this “rule,” but I am not a celebrity, nor do I wish to be. Writing and speaking are equally important to me, so after a few years of bouncing in one direction and then the other, I finally decided to be authentically me.
Be brave enough and bold enough to follow your own path. You can be more than one thing, and within reason, so can your business. Think wide but true, and integrate those parts of your work and life that make you whole.