You are Qualified

I get a lot of questions about my lifestyle. What do I actually do for work? How do I travel so much? How did I get to where I am?

They are questions about my path, about what I’ve learned along the way, and about the boxes I needed to tick in order to get to next level upon next level.

And I always answer the questions–  but it’s never been about the boxes. It never will be.

A couple of summers ago, I got fired from my first attempt at a 9-5 office job. My first reaction was panic. I had taken that job because it was what I thought I should have done. It was a stepping stone while I figured out the next step. It was logical. It had a steady paycheck and health insurance.

Back then, this blog was my hobby. It was a way for me to process my experiences, to connect with people, and to contribute something, even if it was just rambling from my restless mind. I wondered what it would be like if the blog was my full-time job. I looked at other bloggers and wondered how they did it.

I didn’t think I was qualified to make Erin Outdoors my job. I had no idea how I would even go about that. I had no experience in journalism or photography or social media or freelancing. I didn’t have any friends doing anything remotely similar.

So I took the full time job because I thought it was the right thing to do. I thought it was my obvious next step– a way to buy time while I prepared for a freelance career I might someday pursue.

Getting fired really expedited that process.

My options were to go get another full-time job, or to try out a more mysterious creative path. The latter had less knowns and less security, but I was done buying time. The longer I waited, the more I realized that waiting to be “ready” was just some bullshit excuse I bought into. So I made a list of my skills and ideas for how to monetize them.

At first, things were slow so I got busy learning. If I had time to be frustrated with a lack of progress, I had time for another job.  I was an intern. I was a volunteer. I was an assistant. I took every opportunity to learn a new skill. I found people I looked up to online and paid attention to everything they were doing, down to the last detail. And I stayed consistent with my craft. I wrote when I didn’t feel like writing. I worked for free if it meant getting my name out to the right people.

I wanted blogging jobs, so I started calling myself a blogger. I was my only advocate, so I had to be really good at it. I had to be good at telling people why I was a perfect fit for their project. Why I had so much to contribute. Even when I didn’t believe it 100%, I knew I would work hard. I knew I would do my best.

I was often terrified. I thought someone would see through me– that they’d realize I wasn’t qualified. What I now know just a short time later, is that the most successful people are often not the ones with all the degrees and qualifications. The most successful people are just the ones who work hardest. The ones who don’t take no for an answer. The ones who stay up late and wake up early in pursuit of their dreams.

People want to know how I got to where I am. It has nothing to do with ticking boxes, and everything to do with experimenting. I’m not here because of where I have studied, or because of what cameras I use or what platform this website is hosted on. I’m here because I decided to take a leap, pay attention to what worked, and do more of the things that did.

I have learned over and over again that there is never a perfect time for you to pursue your universe-sized dream– the thing you don’t know how to do, but feel pulled to anyway. Take as many classes as you want, put it off for a few years, tell yourself you’re not ready. It’ll still come chase you down.

How many blogs had I written when I started calling myself a blogger? Two.

You decide on your title. Identify yourself as who you want to be, and go do the thing.

Don’t you dare call yourself unqualified. Nobody knows if you’re “qualified” or not– qualify your damn self.

The life you want to create is yours to make. You already have every qualification you could ever need. Curiosity, ambition, and the vision of the dream is more than enough.

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  • Reply
    Hannah Myers
    March 27, 2017 at 11:05 am

    This was such an uplifting post to read today and it came just at the right time. As of late, I’ve struggled with being vulnerable and trying to understand that vulnerability is more synonymous to courage than it is to weakness. I’ve been trying to take off the mask and hope that the real me isn’t too disappointing. It’s realizing that even when I fall, I can get back up and that putting myself out there doesn’t automatically equate to failure. Seeing what you do and how you enrich your life and most importantly the lives of others is so refreshing. I just came upon you within the last year or so and it’s such a wonderful thing to be able to see someone tackling down what they hope and aspire for most. Watching you take each barrier and each hardship and yucky emotion and transforming it into something that can be beneficial to you even in the most crazy and ridiculous and unknown ways is truly great. I’m rooting for you, Erin. I hope you continue to grow and grow.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      April 23, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Great to hear that, Hannah! The real you is beautiful AND flawed. Falling is part of the process; we all have to spend time on the ground to see what we are made of and what it takes to get back up again. Can we view failure as a great teacher? On your team, Hannah! xo

  • Reply
    March 27, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Love this. Exactly what I needed to start my week. It’s important why we call ourselves, and how we carry our intentions.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    Great post! It does make such a difference, our attitude towards ourselves. That inner critic can sometimes be very loud with opinions…who do we really think we are, what on earth are you thinking, you really should be doing this you know. And it’s up to us to silence that inner critic and embrace when really moves us, inspires us, what we love…and as you say, do the thing!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      April 23, 2017 at 9:14 am

      Thanks Tracy! Our inner critic can be louder than anything else sometimes, but it is not the wisest voice in our lives or in our hearts. xo

  • Reply
    March 28, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    I like good blogs, I like folks with hard held convictions, I like being challenged, I like well thought out ideas, I like being encouraged to go somewhere I may not normally go. I like another’s take on ideas, I like originality, I like people who encourage others, I like people who love people and are not shy about it. I like the people who follow blogs like this one. I like that there are choices for a life different for folks who don’t fit the pattern. I appreciate what you do, I think, no, I know it’s important. It’s difficult to explain, being allowed on your journey is special, thank you

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      April 23, 2017 at 9:14 am

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment. You are a great writer, Michael!!

  • Reply
    March 29, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Love it, couldn’t have said it better. Thanks Erin, for all of your inspiration and energy.

  • Reply
    Jessie Squires
    March 29, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    So inspiring as always! I am currently blogging as a hobby because my full-time job doesn’t allow for the space I would like to do it as my job, but I still identify as a blogger. I also started a few different blogs before landing on this one. The key for me was to write about my passion, which in my case is hiking and being outdoors :)

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      April 23, 2017 at 9:15 am

      Thanks Jessie :) Identify with what resonates! Nobody can tell you differently. xo

  • Reply
    GJ Seth
    March 30, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Great post. It’s easy for us to second guess ourselves. I’ve been putting in a ton of work, and I catch myself doing the same thing until recently. I am who I am. I know what I’m working towards. And I decide on whatever it is I choose to become.

    We should collaborate :)

    Check out what I’ve been doing over at my site.

  • Reply
    Cassie Nugent
    April 4, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Hi Erin! I write an outdoor blog, too. It focus is fishing, hunting, and living and loving life with my fiance Greg! I loved this advice on just jumping write in the blogging! So encouraging! :)

  • Reply
    May 24, 2017 at 6:38 am

    Just quit my job to pursue photography and blogging full-time and this is so relevant it hurts. I think so many times people are so caught up on knowing what the whole, exact picture is going to look like which is just paralyzing. You’ve got to submit to the journey and trust that you’ll figure it out along the way.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      May 24, 2017 at 8:26 am

      So glad this resonates, Hayden! I’m about to post something today I think you will like. Good for you for taking a risk- it’s something most people will never do. And it’s impossible to know the whole picture before you start. You’re doing great.

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