Not surprisingly, I had a blast interviewing this Thing Finding Thursday Guest: Michelle Ward. We sang, we laughed. We talked about Things. Don’t know Michelle? Well, lemmetellyaabouther. In my mind, she coined the term “amazeballs” (and if she didn’t, well she certainly may as well have…the word sums her up). I met her in NYC last May and have been a fan of her effervescence and light ever since that first jubilant hug. She is a funny funny, dedicated, and bombastic firecracker completely devoted to helping creative people devise the career they think they can’t have – or discover it to begin with.
So, I guess it’s pretty clear then, why I invited her to say more about Things, non?
With great delight (and the suggestion that you turn the volume down…we are highly excitable), allow me to present Michelle Ward.
Interview with Michelle Ward for Thing Finding Thursday
Your Thing is likely linked to your uniquity. Genius. Blessed, relief-filled genius.
Tweetworthy Michelle-isms (for your sharing pleasure)
- Don't negate anything. Everything counts. Everything's on the table. (TWEET IT)
- Uniquity is what makes you you. That makes you different. (TWEET IT)
- In finding yur thing: What do I believe? What do I know? What have I learned? (TWEET IT)
- In finding your thing ask : What do I love that's been consistent? What do I do well? (TWEET IT)
- For 1 WEEK suspend the belief that s.t. doesn't count/ u can't make a career out of it. (TWEET IT)
Transcript of edited interview (for your reading pleasure)
Tanya: All right. Michelle Ward!
Michelle: Yes, Tanya Geisler!
Tanya: What's your thing? Tell me what your thing is.
Michelle: It's your thing! Oh my god, I'm going to sing everything with you right now.
So my thing is that I'm the When I Grow Up coach, and I help creative types devise the career they think they can't have or discover it to begin with. So, all throughout their career transitions, they don't know what they want to be when they grow up. They know what they're doing isn't working, or they know exactly what they want to do, but they can't even think how they can get there without moving into their parents' basement. Or they have their thing and they're doing it, but it's not working out quite as they want. I work with those people! As the When I Grow Up coach. That's my thang.
Tanya: How did you find it, honey?
Michelle: Oh, my god! Um, the short story—and it's probably still going to be a little long, it's a very—my thing is that I use 10 words when I could use three—um, it's part of my thing.
I started out as a Broadway baby. My life was my musical theatre. Performances, school plays, blah blah blah. Since I was six. I got into NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, very prestigious! Early acceptance for their musical theatre program, and was so excited, thought that was my ticket to Broadway, freedom, wonderful career. Graduated a year early because I wanted to start pounding the pavement! Was excited to get out there and do it.
Tanya: That's also your thing, by the way.
Michelle: Oh, totally my thing, totally my thing. And so after about five years of pounding the pavement I kind of had to acknowledge the voice in my head from went to being like, very tiny, in the back of my head, and very quiet, to like, getting louder and louder and becoming like a monster and eating my head, and saying, like, this isn't what you want to do as a grownup any more!
And it was traumatic, and heartbreaking, and devastating. It was like my best friend died or I lost my right arm. It was horrible. But I found life coaching, I think because I was so conditioned that I was doing something that I loved as a career that it was unacceptable to me to do something that I didn't love as a career. And at the time, I really listened to that voice and said, “Okay. I'm not going to audition as a career any more. I'm not going to pursue acting.”
I was working like a grownup job, 401K and insurance, it was the first time I had insurance which is very not through my parents, or whatever. And I had a horrible boss, and I liked aspects of the job, but the environment was terrible, and I was like, I know I can't stay here. What else can I do? And I wanted something grownup, and I found life coaching.
So that didn't work out at all.
But it did! Because I was—it made so much sense for me to be an entrepreneur once I really started dissecting things and looking into things and what I would love. And the thought of helping other creative types through their career transitions, and being the coach that I needed at the time, for other people—like, that was it! Like, that's all I wanted to do. So that's how I found my thang!
Tanya: So, in a lot of the work that I do with my clients, there is an absolute no, like, a deal-breaking no. There are chronic curiosities. There are itches that want to be scratched. These are all, sort of, places that we look. And I'm in love with your, Look for your uniquity.
Michelle: It's one of my things that I love to talk about, and I really work with my clients on, because, A, it's how I feel like I built my business in the way that I did, and why I'm able to do this full time, and be, like, be as successful at it. But, yeah, I'll own it! I'll own it!
Tanya: Yeah! Own it, baby.
Michelle: I'm happy with where things have gone and how I'm doing, and I see that in every single arena. Especially people who want to be entrepreneurs. A lot of us—especially us ladies, who just want to like please everyone and not rock the boat, just make everyone happy, and help everybody and give our stuff away—it has to stop. It has to stop. You need to really be able to say, Who would I love to work with?
Because you know what? I get to say that those are the people that I want to work with. Whether you're going to be an entrepreneur or not. Even if you're like--You need to know what type of environment am I going to thrive in? Who are the people that I'm going to work the best with? Who is it that I want to serve? Who do I want to work alongside of? What type of people are they? And then, who am I?
So I can really—I hate using the word branding, but that's kind of what everyone understands—in terms of branding yourself as an entrepreneur, a business person for your business. Or, again, just kind of separating yourself from the pack if you're looking to get hired someplace else. But your uniquity is what makes you you, what makes you different, and I really learned that lesson a little too late, I think, when I was pounding the pavement as an actor, because it was just drilled into me that I had to not stand out!
I had to just—I can't wear anything that distracts from my face. My clothes had to be muted because the attention had to be, you know, on my songs, and, you know, I might as well just blend in with the other 450 twenty-something-year-old girls that were going for the same, you know, five parts that I was going for. And, finally, when I realized that that is the opposite of how I get cast—I get cast as like loud and broad and funny, because that's who I am, and what I do, and how I sing, and how I perform, I kind of went—
Tanya: And how we love you.
Michelle: Yeah. Well, yeah! Thank you. And I kind of went, why would I hide this until I got to the room and I started singing? Like, I need people to know this right away! And I bought a new dress that had bright polka dots on it, and I took new headshots with a bright blue background and did all these things to just put myself out there, and it was me.
And it was amazing what I saw. When I would come into the room, I would get this, like, lean-in from the table, and I could tell there was no one else that kind of came into the room the way I did.
I was getting a lot more auditions, I was getting a lot more call-backs. If I wasn't booking more jobs, I was getting more people calling me saying, You auditioned for me six months ago, and now I want you to come in for this—because they remembered me.
So, bringing that all into my business, and knowing I might kind of send people away, because I'm loud, and I say amazeballs a lot, and I use a lot of exclamation points, and could be I'm this--this far away from being, like, annoying enthusiastic. And if those people don't get it, like, good! Go away! I don't want to work with them.
This is who I am. This is who you're getting when you decide to work with me, buy something that I'm selling, you're going to get a 50-page, rhyming, career-change workbook.
Tanya: Yes, you are.
Michelle: You know? Like, that's what you're getting!
Tanya: So, my darling, how do—the people who are watching this are looking for their things, may well be in that spot of, I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be but it doesn’t—it's not quite fitting! What's the prescription to getting at our uniquities?
Michelle: Aah! I wish it was that easy. I wish it was—
Tanya: Come on!
Michelle: Fairy dust!
Tanya: You make it hard! I like it, I like it!
Michelle: It really is about looking within yourself to, What do I love to do? What are the rules according to me? Like, for me, sweet potato fries are the best food ever, and a day doesn't start right unless it starts with Judge Judy. Like, those are my rules! And also, never give up on your dreams! Do what you love! Follow your passion! Those are my things.
So like, really get into, What do I believe? What do I know? What have I learned? What do I love to do that's been pretty consistent? What do I do well? And really dig into those things. Put them all in one place, and then even if you can bring in the friends and family finding, bring in emails that people have sent you that say thank you for things, your reviews, your report cards, whatever—put them into one place. And once you start having everything in one place, you're going to see those threads, and that's a really good place to start.
Tanya: Is there anything else that you think that this group of really savvy readers needs to know about finding their thing, that you really want them to hold as they go off on their gorgeous days?
Michelle: I think that just, what comes to mind is just, don't discount anything. Don't discount anything! There is nothing is small, there is nothing that is inconsequential, there is nothing to discount. And really allow yourself—even if it's just for a week, just say, You know what? For this one week of my whole life I am going to just suspend the belief that, like—I'm not going to censor myself. I am not going to say that something doesn't count. I'm not going to say, but I can't make a career out of this! So what? Who cares if I love reading and I read 20 novels in a month? It doesn't matter! It's not a career!
Don't negate anything. Everything counts. Everything's on the table. Put it all out there, own it, acknowledge it. Put it in that one place. Write it down. Don't discount it! Please! I beg you!
Michelle: Okay, yes we have, and curtain! Scene! Your transcriber’s going to be like, “how do I”…
_______________ Psst...Know what else can help you sort out what patterns have been in your life? Assembling a group of peeps who have known you in different capacities and have different perspectives on you. Now if ONLY there was a program that could help facilitate that? Oh wait! There IS and it's called Board of Your Life. Huh.