Growing older, I’ve have started pondering on how I’ve managed to pivot my issues into my superpowers. My issues include social anxiety, introversion, and specific time management routines which are completely unsuitable for the regular corporate work environment. I want to show you how I didn’t just create my dream job overnight and that it was a long journey ahead of me when I started age 20. In this post, I will give you some behind the scene insight on how I’ve dealt with my bugs and updated my old system to an upgraded version. I won’t be talking about affirmations, visualization or meditation. This is not a positive psychology methodology or a crash course on how to feel better about yourself. This is a summary of years of my own trial and error process. Just because this works for me doesn’t necessarily means it will work for you, but you might as well give it a try. I will share my story honestly just so you can see how failures have brought me where I am today.
What I’ll share with you in this post is a collection of ways I rebranded my bugs into my opportunities in my head, and as a result, created a job that not only makes a great living but also lets me live my life fully without any unnecessary compromises. Being surrounded by people we communicate well with is essential to happiness, at least for me. I have eliminated people from my life that spread negative vibes and all of those who are still here are here for a reason.
I have more issues than Vogue, but how about yourself?
It all started quite early for me, somewhere around high school. Although on the outside I appeared very confident, extroverted and social, on the inside, I felt the opposite. Being surrounded by a large number of people made me anxious and uncomfortable. This was paradoxical because I loved speaking on stages and sharing my passion with the world. However, in those moments I felt that my message was more important than me and the focus was on the message instead of myself, so there was no stress. But as soon I step off the stage and people start coming towards me I felt the need to be lifted up in the sky like Homer Simpson in that Simpson Halloween special. This was very hard to explain to my friends because they had the opposite problem. Majority of them was afraid of public speaking.
Another trigger for my anxiety was going out and drinking. I never particularly enjoyed drinking and I hated smoky venues. Attending venues with loud music, lack of proper air-condition or a large indoor concert was causing my panic monkey to appear. This was the case especially in the winter because the music I tend to enjoy, such as jazz and rock is mostly performed in dusty, shady, underground spots in Belgrade. When I enrolled Belgrade Universtiy my situation got worse. Suffering from depression and constant mood swings, it was very hard to focus and perform at a level I knew I could. I always carried a book in my purse or a journal and a pen where I could zone out in the middle of the class if I felt it was all becoming too much for my taste. I hated loud sounds, bright lights, and crowded rooms. People perceived me as arrogant, but I didn’t perceive them as anything, I wasn’t even paying attention to them. I had my close circle of two friends I could count on and never needed any group’s approval. When I was invited to a party, conference or a meetup, I would spend hours analyzing the venue, speaker and schedule to see if this is something as beneficial to me as to skip reading or writing at home. I would always much rather stay and listen to a TED talk, attend a class on Coursera than go to an event just for sake of being seen there.
My first job was in digital marketing at Estro Communications, where I worked with three other interns who’ve become very close friends of mine. This small group was within my comfort zone. My second job was in ad sales marketing in VEVO. I remember it as if it were yesterday. The company was located on the 25th floor on 4 Times Square, Conde Nast building. I was so impressed with this beautiful space on the 25th floor, but I have also noticed how many people there were in this open space. It wasn’t as noisy as I imagined because everyone was wearing their noise canceling headphones. Occasionally people would snack on chips and carrots or laugh loudly, but it was never obnoxious. After 3 months of working here, I have noticed how many times during the day I felt the need to walk out to Bryant Park, zone out and be alone. I would instead go to the kitchen, play pool with my colleagues, and go out for lunch instead of ordering takeaway and eat in. I was coming as early as 7 am before anyone else was in the office just to have my breakfast and coffee alone in peace and observe the busy Time Square from the 25th floor. This enabled me to leave at 4 pm and avoid crowded train ride home. Every week, celebrities and VEVO signed artists were hanging out with us in the office, eat pizza and perform. I kept wondering how these music celebs managed to keep it all together. So many fans, so many absurd requests, so much information, noise and tension directed towards them. I started exploring what they did to unwind. Majority of them were into meditation, hiring life couches, attending the psychotherapy sessions, running, exercising, eating healthy…I’ve tried and tested their methods and some of them worked, some didn’t, but I was fascinated with finding my answer to this question. At the end of the day, we all need our little space to breathe and unwind, don’t we?
After that job, I’ve returned to Serbia and started working for ManageWP in autumn of 2012 where I was surrounded by geeks. Programmers, developers, and designers, these amazing people were completely in my comfort zone. I love nerds and nerds love me back. We are all awkward and no one is invading anyone’s personal space. I really enjoyed being surrounded by people who worked there and some of them became really good friends, even startup cofounders later on.
My next job was in Air Serbia in autumn 2013 as a cabin crew while I was trying to make enough money to sustain myself and help my family while waiting to get a seed investment for a new app I co-founded with a friend of mine. Almost one year of the cabin crew job was enough for me to realize how uncomfortable I was with other people managing my time, constantly changing my flight schedule and my health and private life was suffering a lot as well. I couldn’t have a stable and healthy routine, exercise regularly, eat healthily and have the freedom to organize my time. I couldn’t plan any travels, social gatherings or anything for that matter. My social life was suffering and it was virtually impossible to organize anything with my friends who had stable jobs.
My goal back then was to one day create a job for myself which will enable me to have freedom over my time because time management was always a passion of mine and I was always a productivity geek. I believe that you can’t be at your best while working for someone else. Especially if he or she is taking control of your time without the proper knowledge and experience on when and how you perform at your best. Being part of a large system was really never my thing, I preferred creating my own systems that are catered to my taste.
I was very happy when I quit this job and received 30.000 seed investment to develop my app in Dubai. We moved there on February 14th, on Valentine’s Day and I thought it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Three months later I was out in the streets of Dubai, homeless, broke and broken, but that is a topic for another post. What made me upset in Dubai was that I worked 24/7 which meant I had no time to unwind and relax. I couldn’t even find time to read books or exercise or take care of my nutrition which ended up damaging my health horribly in the long run. We had so little money that we were eating the same thing every day. Those cheap kids sugary cereals and Subway tuna sandwich. Somedays I would decide to skip lunch so I can treat myself to a smoothy or cold drip coffee with my favorite barista in Rider Cafe. The thing I learned here was that working your ass off 24/7, 7 days a week without a clear strategy leads to failure, not a success. I was stepping over my boundaries and paying a very high price for that self-abuse.
In April 2014, I moved back to Serbia and decided to take time for myself to heal both physically and emotionally. I started exercising yoga and regaining my health with proper nutrition. I enjoyed charging my batteries with books, blogging, good food while being surrounded by friends, and family. I thought to myself: You really need to relax and unwind now, to recharge, gain your health back and then see what you really want to do with your life. But, not two weeks have passed and I got an offer to become a Head of Marketing for a UK startup and I said YES! The stupid FOMO was about to take over my decision-making process again. I packed my bag and left Serbia again. This time I was living on the beach in Limassol, Cyprus with 15 people from all around the world who came to hustle with the same vision. Living by the sea has its benefits, but sleeping in bunk beds with six girls in one room and one bathroom wasn’t one of them. Although we rented a huge place, living with 15 people and preparing food in the same kitchen was a total mess. Not to mention using the bathroom and cleaning all the time and going to bed early wanting to sleep, while others want to stay and work late or play beer pong. Even though this experience was a total mess, I learned so much about what I like and dislike, what are my needs and wants, how I would love to manage my workload and time in the future. I learned tons about inbound marketing, social media, sales and I consider it a great experience altogether. I even managed to fall in love and get my heart broken. But that is a story for another blog post.
I returned to Serbia and started working as a marketing consultant for startups in September 2014. Most of the startups I helped were based in New York, which was obviously because I had the strongest connections there and people were endorsing me because they were happy with my work. I worked mostly in the tech, travel and food industry. Somehow, I have learned to let go of FOMO and focus on what makes me personally happy. I have started managing my own time, working for myself the way I liked it and with people with whom I could make mutually beneficial collaborations. This newfound freedom unleashed my creativity and enabled me to write more, do more and be more. My blog grew and became one of the most popular ones in the region and clients started calling me to give talks on conferences, attend blogging events and collaborate with brands. My readers were and still are people who want to step it up in their career and make bolder life choices. They are educated, smart and invest their money in their health, education, and travel. I am proud to have grown with my readers, all the way back to 2011. My most popular blog posts include those about getting a full scholarship for studying in the USA, traveling the world for free, starting a startup, working from home, working as a cabin crew, being invited to attend the Nobel Peace Prize, living in 5 cities, starting a blog, turning a blog into a profitable business, etc. Everything I ever did in my life I shared with the world. I wanted to leave breadcrumbs behind me so readers can follow my footsteps and have a light at the end of the tunnel if they get lost. I wrote about productivity, discipline, focus, determination, training and fitness, healthy food and so much more. I was finally in the place where I was me, my talents were blossoming and I was making money in marketing consulting, blogging and public speaking. One magical week after I returned from London in November 2016, this idea came up: I want to do workshops and teach people how to turn their passion into profit just the way I did it myself.
How does my workday look like now?
I wake up around 6:30 and my morning routine includes preparing my tea and breakfast in peace, writing my morning pages, lighting my favorite candle, watering my flowers, meditating for 10 minutes and reading on my Amazon Kindle. I don’t use my phone or laptop one hour upon waking up and this brought me a lot of peace and calmness, as well as clear focus. I think it also makes me perform better during the day. I go to the gym with my trainer 3x a week, go for my therapy session once a week, meet with friends for coffee, do no more than 3 marketing consulting sessions per week and one workshop every Saturday. In my spare time, I love to learn new things, read new cookbooks, draw or paint, write, listen to podcasts, read blogs, meet with my friends, go to the spa, massage or treat myself to a fancy dinner. I answer to email in the mornings or evenings and I love this five sentence email policy.
Occasionally I get paid to fly around and blog about it, or do educational talks and workshops, from Slovenia to Montenegro, where I get to meet people with whom I might never cross paths otherwise. This was my dream job and I created it myself. You can do it too and don’t settle for anything less. In the evening, I read or listen to podcasts, and I am in deep sleep around 10 pm.
I love having the abundance of free time, passive income, and location independence and couldn’t imagine my life any other way. I love to write, read, learn, travel, meet new people, flavours, and places and my job enable me to run away for a weekend abroad anytime. This freedom, time, health and money abundance is what I always wanted to create in my life. Now I am focused more on contributing to causes I deeply care about and those are education, healthcare and female empowerment. I contribute in my own little modest ways, but it brings a smile to my face and heart.
HOW TO KNOW WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
After that Dubai and Cyprus experience, I have felt like my personal life battery was constantly running low. No matter how much time I’ve spent relaxing, visiting SPAs or having massages, my battery was constantly low. It took me some time to realize these batteries weren’t going to charge themselves. I’ve figured that in order to be happy you need to create a job that suits your lifestyle. We don’t have the same needs and wants, someone likes 9 to 5 job and safety, someone likes spontaneity and freedom. We are all unique and working mom and young student looking for an internship definitely don’t look for the same job position. Someone is more flexible, someone is more rigid and you should really become self-aware enough to know what works for you and what doesn’t. You need to know when to stop and cut ties that bind you to your so-called safe position and let yourself manifest your wildest dreams.
Reflecting on how unpredictable my life has become. Travelling from one spot to another, working from hotels, trains, cars and plains. Writing blog posts, giving lectures, doing marketing consulting, doing charity work…Not having a proper exercising, eating or sleeping routine. Not that I don't like it but sometimes it is intimidating and overwhelming to process everything that is happening. Do you feel the same sometimes? 🦄
ON SETTING UP AND MAINTAINING PERSONAL BOUNDARIES
What I perceive as a game changer for me was that moment after Cyprus in which I realized that I don’t need to push my boundaries and step over myself in order to be successful. I can be as introverted as much as I want to if my clients get what they paid for. I also learned to set my boundaries upfront and let clients know what my terms are. If they don’t like it, they can always find someone else to work with. There are many other people who are in this business and everyone should find someone whom they can connect to and whose way of communication suits them personally.
I would much rather make less money and feel happy, strong and empowered in my business than make millions and be miserable and step over my own boundaries. This lesson I learned was extremely helpful in my personal life as well. This year I suffered from severe back injuries in March, broke my sacrum and fractured three spinal discs, also had my tumor and ovary removed in May and was struggling with depression because I couldn’t exercise for over 6 months and this had a very bad impact on my mental health. If I didn’t set and keep clear emotional boundaries I probably wouldn’t be here in this capacity to write this to you today.
In 2018 I want to focus on expanding my business, launching a journal brand, working on my book, starting a podcast, and creating a Facebook group for all women who attended my workshop, where they can connect, collaborate and share their passion projects, as well as ask for help and support when needed.
I also plan on moving back to NYC in April, visiting Sydney, Tokyo, Amsterdam, and Montreal. I would love to spend my summer in France and attend a cooking school, practice my French and enjoy magnificent nature. I would love to get in best shape ever and maintain my health because I believe that is the most important thing.
I hope this blog post inspired you to create a perfect tailor-made job for yourself and don’t let anyone else create your life for you. Good luck and let me know if this post was helpful.