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I’m not as successful as you think I am.

I am, however, as successful as I need to be.

That feels wonderful to say because few things are as exhausting as trying to maintain a facade about your life and what happens inside it. Likewise, few things are as satisfying as knowing you have and are enough.

A while back, a reader took me to task because she realized from one of my posts that my business is not the primary source of income for my family. Here’s what she said (edited for privacy):

I have been reading your advice about leaving well-paying jobs for work you love [for a long time] and was seriously considering jumping ship to “make my dreams come true.” I used you as my career-changing role model, believing in all you wrote and assuming you were now making enough money to support yourself (and anyone else who was part of your life).

What I see now is that you are relying on your spouse for income. This is a HUGE caveat that I don’t see mentioned anywhere else on your blog. Perhaps you don’t think it’s relevant to your message — but I’m wondering how many other readers might be assuming what I did and falsely reassuring themselves about their own futures?!?

I don’t take offense to these questions. I know how important it is to have a sense of hope that what you want to do is possible.

Unfortunately, no role model can really provide that for you.

That doesn’t mean role models aren’t useful. Knowing that other smart, talented people are making big changes in their lives and coming out okay should be a big relief. It’s a good indicator that if you’re reasonably smart and plucky, you’ll figure things out too. That’s what I call hope!

There’s a huge difference between “career change is possible” and “this idea I have for a new life is feasible.” Too many people try to mimic someone else’s success (probably because that’s exactly what a lot of people advise you to do).

The goal is not to replicate someone’s exact strategy, but to understand the parameters and trade-offs you have to work with.

Here are 3 questions you can use to drill down on someone else’s experience in order to evaluate the feasibility of your own dreams.

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I have a love-hate relationship with deadlines.

On the one hand, they stress me out. I worry I won’t be able to finish in time, that the quality won’t be up to my standards, that people will be disappointed in me.

On the other hand, those exact fears are what drive performance. Disappoint people who matter to me? Shoddy work?

Not this overachiever.

Before I left London, I made myself a schedule and a commitment. I would get up at 6 AM every morning and write for about 2 to 3 hours. After that, I could do whatever I wanted. But the writing came first.

I made the necessary arrangements. My daughter would spend two weeks with her Grandparents while my husband turned over our flat in London.  Then I committed to my Luminaries Club members that I’d report on how many words I’d written by our next call–just two weeks after the big move.

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If I knew of a way to stop telling myself lies, I would.

A couple of CIA agents wrote a book called Spy the Lie, where they reveal the “tells” people give when lying. For example, if someone pauses to answer a question they should easily and immediately know the answer to, they’re probably lying.

As a mother, I already knew this.

If I ask my daughter if she ate five servings of fruits and vegetables last Thursday, she’ll understandably pause before answering. That’s a hard thing to remember. But if I ask if she brushed her teeth this morning and she pauses, she’s probably lying. (She’ll usually do a hard swallow too, another big tell. Poor kid.)

But those kinds of “tells” are useless when evaluating your own internal voices.

For example, sometimes I get caught up thinking about how to create a six-figure business. I spent a week strategizing what products I could offer and dreaming up creative marketing ideas. I got really specific, running numbers for different scenarios, re-evaluating based on my known optimistic tendencies, etc.

It was a lot of work, but it was fun work. Until I realized what having a six-figure business would really mean.