How To Stop Playing It Safe

published Jul 7, 2017
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(Image credit: Andy Wickstrom)

Fear is a very convincing liar. It masquerades as a friendly internal voice — as something just trying to protect you from professional or financial ruin — but it often overstates the actual consequences at stake. And the thing that fear almost always forgets to mention? How miserable you might be if you don’t even try to follow your dreams. Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you think it might be easier to play by “the rules,” do what others want you to do, or follow tradition and play it safe, listen to the insight and wisdom of these seven women in creative careers below. They share what they’ve done to banish fear and keep being bold and badass…creatively and professionally!

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Her home in Los Angeles rocks a 1950s aesthetic and is filled with colors, textiles and light. Her debut novel, MIRROR IN THE SKY, was entirely written in her dining room, and her upcoming novel, LIBRARY OF FATES, will be released July 2017.

Truthfully, I spent most of my teens and early twenties playing by the rules, respecting the very institutions that don’t necessarily serve people like me, and believing in a meritocracy. I think this comes from being an immigrant in this country. I started out just as my parents did — believing that this society is inherently fair (I know, right?). At some point, I realized that playing it safe didn’t make me feel safer. It just made me feel as though I was stagnating, and living someone else’s life.

A few years back, I quit a cushy office job, went through the breakup of a nearly decade-long relationship, moved from the home I had lived in for many years, all while attempting to write my debut novel. I don’t think I learned to banish fear by doing anything unique or extraordinary — I just went through the fear and uncertainty of life, day by day, listening to this tiny voice within me that said “do this terrifying/crazy/absurd thing.”

The call to pursue your best, most honest, most authentic life never makes sense. It costs money and time and relationships and sometimes even your sanity. But I don’t think we’re here to be nice or be good or not make waves. Your life is a once-in-eternity thing. I learned to listen to that quiet voice within me and after years of listening to its (often scary, highly inconvenient) requests, I don’t question it anymore.

(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

Along with her husband Jayden, Caroline runs Woodnote Photography and Coco Carpets, two companies that combine a love for travel with an eye for all things beautiful. Their Los Angeles rental is full of color and pattern.

Sometimes I think I’m almost the opposite, where I complicate things because I want to be so not-play-it-safe that I never actually finish a task because I’m so set on being unique and original and doing something that hasn’t been done before. It’s all been done before. That’s okay.

(Image credit: Samara Vise)

She was the first woman in state history to be nominated by a major party for governor of New Hampshire and is currently the host of the radio show The Attitude. She lives in a bold attic apartment of a grand Victorian she inherited from her aunt.

I was always the dutiful daughter, I never questioned my parents, I let them dream my dreams…My first act of rebellion was when I decided to run for governor in the early 1990s (I was the first female candidate on a major party platform for governor and beat the party chairman and five0term congressman in the primary only to lose to John Sununu’s Attorney General in the November election). When I called my mother to tell her of my decision to run, she got quiet and then told me I couldn’t possibly run for governor, who was I???? Didn’t I know I would embarrass the family? That was it, from that moment on I decided not only was I going to buck tradition but her fears could no longer be my fears. I needed to make my mistakes and own them but I got to define what direction those decisions were going to take me. My house is a reflection of me, my head, my art, my color and I love it!

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

She’s the owner of Material Life, a Lower Ninth Ward shop where she sells items that reflect black cultural identities. But she’s also a photography historian, writer and editor with a passion for art and her black roots. Her colorful Seventh Ward home in New Orleans is bursting with history.

I have rarely played it safe professionally — life’s too short. And I have a strong compass — some would say stubbornness — that guides my choices. I think that just comes down to personality traits, but I will also credit a very, VERY supportive family. I’ve probably sacrificed a lot of opportunities that would have led to more financial and career stability, but less contentment and creativity. The one job I took for safety and stability resulted in the worst five years of my life — it nearly killed me. I’m exactly where I want to be now professionally and I live in the best city in the world, so I have absolutely no regrets.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Paco runs a consulting firm called The Hell Yeah Group, where she help creatives understand finances. She’s also been building a non-profit called Allies in Arts, with a friend. She’s also played in bands since age 17. She shares an art-filled Los Angeles home with her wife Jenn.

The majority of my career has been playing it safe. I bucked the tradition because I realized it was my only choice to grow and be happy — or rather, the better choice between the illusion of certainty and the risk of carving out my own path. There isn’t a banishment of fears, there’s only re-confronting them and reaffirming that the path I’ve chosen was in fact a choice.

(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

Judy is a textile designer known for her designs inspired by nature on pillows, throws, rugs and other soft goods for the home. She lives in a beautifully designed loft in the Union Square area in Manhattan, which she shares with her two teenage sons.

When I started my career, I took my own path. I did not end up taking a job in a company and working my way up through the ranks. I decided I had something to say and struck out on my own, letting fate take its course. I had no idea where it would lead me, but I knew I was a painter and I had a particular vision that could translate into beautiful products. From scarves and later changing over to home decor, I was able to grow my business. I never really played it safe, but on the other hand, I did have to play by some of the rules. I bucked tradition and created something of my own that I have stayed true to, but on some level you need to be able to listen to others and play the game.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Jenn is the co-founder of Twofold LA, a boutique firm that specializes in residential and commercial interior and event design. She’s also a visual artist, designer and photographer. She shares an art-filled Los Angeles home with her wife Paco.

I have difficulty recalling a time I’ve been compelled to play it safe. I’ve always done what I wanted to do. It’s always been my personality. I don’t banish fear, I just face it everyday. It’s exhilarating.

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