Monday, February 24, 2014

"Someday" is not on the calendar

There is a dream that I have had for about 6 years now. This month, I actually did something to make it happen.

I've been a salsa dancer for most of my adult life. I started dancing when I was 21 and never looked back. I had finally found my identity in life, my purpose. When I went to a salsa club, the feeling of the beats flowing through my body immediately made me feel like a fish who had finally found water.

About a year later I  was introduced to the world of ballroom dancing, and soon after I made a living of teaching dance. A seed was planted at that time. A seed of desire. I began dreaming of owning my own studio someday. I dreamed of my own dance classes, my own name on a business, my own students.

Unfortunately, Someday is not on the calendar. As time went on, my dream slowly became more of a hazy thought. Like a fuzzy memory of a dream after I've woken up too quickly and tried to remember it hours into the day.

After realizing I couldn't make more than minimum wage as a dance teacher, I moved on to the corporate world. This was where I was taught what would later become the roots to that seed. The roots to my dream. As a manager for the corporate office of a small company, I was taught several things about running a business. I worked there for two years, each day I felt my wings growing. I managed the sales, the advertising, the front office staff, the hiring, firing, training of sales reps, assisted in writing a training manual, among other things. By that time I felt like my wings had expanded as far as they could in that environment.

It's been a couple years since I've had that job. My dream, which was a distant memory to say the least, has been awoken in the most startling way.

I've re-enrolled in school to become a court reporter, and I work a part-time job as a size model for Hot Topic. And although I'm in my 30's now, I still struggle to make ends meet. I am always behind on rent, scraping together quarters for gas, and the idea of trying to pay back any debt on my credit report is laughable. I've received my w2's in the mail. I made less than $9,000 last year. I was loathing the feeling of being broke and poor for the rest of my life, like I've felt is my destiny for so many years.

So in early December last year, I decided that I would start teaching salsa lessons to make extra money. I wanted to do it on my own, not look for a studio to work for. So I built a website and posted it on Facebook. Within a week two of my friends who I used to teach with contacted me and said that if I needed help teaching they'd be thrilled to help me out. Both of them are stay-at-home moms now, so I knew they were not expecting, or even wanted, full-time work. They're both highly qualified, skilled, and trained exactly the way I am, so I trust their abilities.

Suddenly my eyes were opened and I started to realize how many more possibilities there were in having three dance teachers instead of just one. I restructured my website, wrote a business plan, put an ad in a local newspaper and applied for a Groupon. I was so excited! But I'm smart enough to know that a successful business is not built over night, and definitely not built with the type of budget I have. With my small budget for advertising, on my opening week I still had no students enrolled. But my excitement is still sky high. I am finally taking steps towards my dream. Towards my dream life. I've found something I'm
passionate about. Where there's a will there's a way!

Steve Jobs once said that you have to be crazy to start a business. The amount of time that you have to put into it and the amount of failures you will have before success would be more than enough to make any sane person give up. I'm already starting to understand what he's talking about. I am proud of myself for taking a step.

I know that the life I'm living now is not the life I'm meant to live. I'm capable of SO much more. I completely resonate with the last scene of Wanted. It sums up exactly how I feel at this moment in my life.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Death to New Year's Resolutions and How to Set Goals

At a mild stab at a new hobby last year, I created this blog as a journal, of sorts, for me to share my thoughts, ideas, and actions for getting out of debt. After writing a few entries, I lost sight of my vision, got bored, and ended up abandoning it after just six entries.

Today I remembered that I had this blog and came to visit it, and what to my wondering eyes did appear? 556 views on my blog! I was utterly amazed. I'm sure that's a small number to some people who blog full time, but for someone who is new to this and did't actively do anything to promote this site for several months, I was ecstatic.

So I am back again (yay for New Year's Resolutions!) to take another stab at it. But to be honest, I don't believe in making resolutions. They are just so vague and ambiguous, and are too easy to lose sight of by February. There's no way to know if you've achieved your resolutions and there's no sense of accountability.

For example, some that I've heard recently include things like: spend more time with family, eat healthier, volunteer, be the best parent I can be, and get more organized. The problem with all these types of 'resolutions' is that there is no way to track your progress. By the time December roles around, if someone were to ask this person how they did with their resolutions, the answers would be just like the resolutions themselves - vague and ambiguous. Who knows if they really did what they wanted to do?

I am a strong advocate for goal setting. And for me, goal setting comes with a lot more than just a goal. It must include a plan of action, check points for progress and a final deadline, a list of people to help me, possible deterrents, things I may need to learn in order to achieve it, and finally, what the benefits will be for achieving the goal. If any of this sounds familiar to you, maybe you're familiar with Zig Ziglar's 7 Steps to Goal Setting.

That's a lot of steps! Sure is a lot more thought than what most people put into their New Year's Resolutions. So here we go....

Goal #1 Write a minimum of one blog entry each month.

This one will be easy enough to track - by the time December gets here, I'll have twelve blog posts, minimum (and I've already go one down!). I'll have until the last day of each month to write, and therefore, I'll also have twelve checkpoints for progress. In the event that I miss a month, I will make up for it the next month. I don't have any friends that are into blogging or tracking personal finance, or (my personal favorite) business, so I will rely on my friends in the blogosphere for my inspiration. A couple of my favorites include Tonya from Budget and the Beach and a couple that blogs together on Planting our Pennies. Both of those blogs are just fantastic! Possible deterrents will be my lack of ideas on topics to write about. So this will force me to be more active in my efforts of saving and budgeting. If I'm doing both of those every month, I'll have something to write about, however small. I like the idea of this goal, because I'll have twelve months of progress to look back on by the time December gets here. Deadline will be December 31, 2014.

Goal #2 Complete the 52 Week Money Saving Challenge

This one will be fun and easy! Best benefit: I'll have $1378 at the end of the year to be proud of. Currently my bank account sits at $0 and has been that way for a while. Reason? Living paycheck to paycheck. I plan on remedying this problem this year by increasing my income, which we'll get to in a minute. This is easy to track progress week by week, and in the event that I somehow get behind, it'll be so easy to catch up. I'm putting a twist on it though. Instead of following it week by week. Each week I'll see how much I'm able to put aside and chose from the list. So on week 5, if I have $10 that I can squirrel away, I'll put it aside and scratch week 10 off the list. On week 35, if I have $50 extra, I'll cross that off the list. If on week 40, I've only got some spare change left, I'll scratch week 1 off the list. There is no way I'll mess up on this one! Deadline will be December 31, 2014.

Goal #3 Start a Dance Company

My favorite one! In my attempts to increase my income, I'm starting a dance company. On February 17, I'll be teaching my first class. I have about 5 years of experience in teaching dance, but I've always worked for someone else. This time I'm venturing out on my own. I have many dance friends to lean on for support, ask questions, use as substitutes and celebrate with! I'm learning how to build a website and I've also found a business that will host a scheduling and payment processing site for me, that I'll be able to link to my website. I'm very excited about this! I have a whole set of plans, goals, deadlines, dates, and charts that go with this one. I'll keep that separate from this post, but I'll keep you updated on my progress and whether or not it even works! LOL Oh! This can be one of my topics to write about each month! See? I'm solving problems already. :)

Those are the three goals that I am going to focus on the most this year. I'm going to be taking two trips this year: one to South Carolina for a sibling reunion, and another to Maine in November to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. I will be conscious not to let either of those get in the way of any of my goals this year! I'm also going to school full time and I already have a part-time job, so I've got a lot on my plate. I look forward to reading this again in December and seeing how the year went!