Cat looking into the mirror and seeing a reflection of a lion.

“I believe in ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I believe that today all it takes is that drive to keep pushing yourself. You should never give up on your dream. You’re holding one of mine in your hands . . .”

I’m afraid of success.

Although there are several accomplishments of which I am proud of, earlier this morning as I am thinking of how to finalize this first issue of UA, I’m overcome with a sense of dread I hadn’t felt until this very moment. For the past few weeks, I have had a blast reaching out and connecting with contacts, both old and new, who’ve graciously allowed their stories to be shared with you. I was still running strong only yesterday when I sat down with fellow model, Jessica to review our photo shoot before sending off the final selections for editing and I was fine moments earlier before cracking down on my words of encouragement to you. Well, the time has finally come to wrap up the last few details before considering the next step, publication, and it is not a sense of accomplishment that greets me.

My passion has always been to help enrich the lives of others in ways I find creatively fulfilling. Everyone finds passion in something, but passion alone is usually not enough. Usually, it’s the desire to express oneself or help others that drive the artist to move beyond just having passion alone. We have a message we want to convey. It may be a message of love or acceptance, of encouragement or of writing a wrong, maybe even of just enjoying the simple, complexity of life.

This entire issue of UA is about listening to your inner drive and following that dream until it becomes reality. In life, we go down multiple paths, some of which turn out to be dead ends, but there is always a lesson to be learned. From every experience, no matter how bad, I have come to find the good in it and to become a better, stronger person from it. I use what I’m feeling to fuel my drive. The more you do something, the more you fail, the more experience you’ll acquire and those same dark moments become the tools you use to reach your success.

Don’t be afraid of the fire. Don’t be afraid of failure. That fire is an opportunity to learn more about who you are in a tough situation. That’s when your character is being tested and strengthened.

Everything you need to succeed for whatever you have sent your heart on is already inside of you. Many people seem lost like they are waiting around for a sign or for someone to point out to them what they’re meant to do in life, but I believe that’s something only you can know. To find out whatever that “it” is you have to put some effort into it and not be afraid to fail continually, because that’s inevitable.

It’s scary sometimes because many times you find yourself starting out alone. You have no idea of what you’re doing because you’ve never done anything like it before. Friends and family especially can be the most discouraging critics of all. However, if it’s in you, you will find a way. I continually hear this voice in my head as I observe others who are where I may want to be someday. It’s a voice that encourages me to learn what I can from them. I’m learning more and more that you do not have to know everything before getting started.

You don’t have to know everything to get started. It’s exactly like putting the cart before the horse. You learn from experiences as you move along.

If you wait every time for the “right” moment or for when you feel “ready” you are losing time and missing out on learning from the experience. My mentality is you should always be willing to learn so that when opportunities come you don’t have to question whether it is something you should do based on if you’re prepared or not. I’m not saying jump at every chance and get in over your head, but I am saying that once you’ve found your niche, you should adapt a mentality that is open to growth and not one of fear of failing.

You’re not going to just walk into success blind. It takes planning and a lot of effort on your part, but it is worth it. When work doesn’t feel like work, it’s always worth it! Once in life, people owe it to themselves to go for it, full force!

Once in life, people owe it to themselves, at least once, to let go. Go all out. Make your dream a reality. Just give yourself one shot to make it. It’s your life, so you owe it to yourself, at least once.

I respect that “underground” community of artists who take up their cameras and capture compelling moments, or who’ve built their home studio in their basement, or whatever form of art they have chosen. I respect the ones out there who believe strongly in what they do and are finding positive outlets to share something beautiful with the world. I want to create something that unifies our community and to let unsigned artists everywhere know that you are not alone. The other hard thing about starting out is that sometimes it is difficult to find the right person who connects with your vision. In the long run, it can cost you more to work with the wrong people.

Even today, I sometimes lament not having a real mentor or someone who cared enough to invest in my pair of wings, to watch me fly. Not everyone is fortunate to have that. Sometimes you just leap and tumble and fall all on your own, knowing there’s no one there when you do, to help pick you back up. I wouldn’t change a thing about how I grew up. Each new challenge is an experience to grow and learn more about the world and myself. The good and the bad mold me and it’s why I’m where I’m at today in terms of character and confidence.

You don’t have to be certified or receive a formal education to have something inside of you. Those are tools that have their pros and cons. All you need is to feed into that inner drive. Keep going. Your chances of realizing your dreams are already higher than 100% of those who quit after the first try or who never even try.

It’s already inside of you. You just have to surround yourself with the right environment to let it out.

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