Hey Travel Family,
Over the years Matt and I have had the pleasure of doing interviews or panels where we’re asked questions about Little Grey Box. Before we started out, I remember being totally baffled by how blogging worked or how people would make any money from it, let alone making it a viable career. I guess that’s a big part of why I love answering questions about what we do! It’s great to share how it all works and give others the information they need to start their own creative outlet too. I know how much Little Grey Box has changed our lives for the better and the more people who get to experience the same kind of happiness, the better.
While most of the questions we get asked are easily answered, there’s always one that has caused me to pause; “What was your big break?” or, “What was the turning point?” I’ve always struggled to answer this because we haven’t had a big break and there hasn’t been a single job or occurrence that has drastically changed things for us. When people ask us this question, I always answer honestly, explaining we haven’t had one and, for us, it has been a grind to get to this point and we still have a long way to go.
Don’t get me wrong, things for us have definitely grown. When we first started we were earning no income from the website and now we earn enough to pay all our bills and live a happy, fulfiling life. We used to struggle to get clients to work with us, sending out pitch emails to try and engage brands and find opportunities to create great content but we would often be turned down or just never hear back. Now, most of our jobs come about from amazing brands approaching us about working together.
Things have definitely grown but it hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been handed to us and it hasn’t been without sacrifice, struggle and doubt. Where other creators have seemingly shot up out of nowhere with amazing opportunities like being ‘suggested users’ on Instagram or finding huge growth on YouTube, we’ve felt like we’ve been grinding away in the trenches trying to keep things moving forward.
There have been so many days where I’ve felt like a huge failure. You know the kind, they’re always those days that sneak up on you and all of a sudden you look at your life and think, “Really? This is me? This is what I’ve accomplished?!” Honestly, I thought things would look different for me 5 years after leaving my job. I guess I thought by now Little Grey Box would be bigger than it is and things would be much easier. That train of thought has gotten me down so many times and led me to be hard on myself about a lot of things. I guess when a business is your own and, frankly, revolves greatly around you, it’s hard not to take every perceived failure or inadequacy personally.
I’ve always believed it’s important to trust the timing of your life and everything happens at specifically the right time, for the right reason. But when you’re pouring your heart and soul into something day after day, year after year, making huge changes and sacrifices in your personal life to keep it going and after five years you feel like you’ve only moved forward a little bit, it can be heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking. I looked at my life after five years of gut-busting work and I was disappointed in myself and all the motivational posters and ‘dream big’ memes couldn’t do a thing about it. Dream big? What do you think I’ve been doing with my life?! If I dream any bigger I’ll end up President of the United States!
I would read stories of people who have found the success they sought in their lives, saying things like, ‘It’s always darkest just before the dawn,’ or, ‘I busted my butt for 10 years and just when I was down to my last penny everything changed!’ I even tried to take comfort in news articles about people who found great success after starting later in life. At the end of each year, I would say to Matt, “Next year’s our year. Everything’s going to change! Things will be easier.’ But, you know what, things didn’t change and they didn’t get easier. Each year would be the same as the last; we would have to hustle and grind and work our butt’s off to make enough money to live and try to book enough jobs to create content to keep doing this thing.
Like clockwork, another interview or panel would come up and someone would inevitably ask, “What was your big break?” and all of what I’ve just written would flash through my mind. I would picture myself bundled up in bed with Matt and my mum trying to comfort me as I wailed, “I’m a failure,” in-between sobs or I’d remember standing in front of our annual calendar telling Matt, “This year will be different!,” hoping against hope I was right for once.” As I said, there has been no big break. There has been no magic day where all of a sudden we picked up 100k subscribers or followers and brands have deemed us worthy of working together and we’ve suddenly started making enough money we don’t have to worry about things. We have had to hustle and grind for every opportunity, every follower, every piece of content and, you know what, I realise now that’s our turning point.
I don’t know what it feels like to wake up one morning and suddenly have a huge number of people love what you do enough to follow you. I don’t know what it feels like to gain millions of subscribers over the course of a year and have brands beating down your door to work together. But I know what it’s like to fight for every single subscriber to your YouTube channel and be damn proud of all 27,000 of them. That number pales in comparison to others but it’s our number and when you know how much went into getting to that point, it feels really good to celebrate it and be proud of it rather than beating yourself up for it not being higher. While I don’t believe people should base their happiness off social media follower numbers, when they’re directly tied to your ability to do what you love, those numbers take on a different meaning.
At the end of last year, I had a lot I needed to let go of. I needed to let go of hurt, anger, disappointment and sadness in my personal life. I also needed to let go of the last five years. I had to release the disappointment, struggles, feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy I’d been carrying around with me. I had to let go of all the successes and life lessons too because, sometimes, it’s easy to let yourself be defined by the past, even the good stuff when there’s still so much waiting in the future. For the first time, this year has been our year and things have actually changed. We’ve changed and what we create has changed too!
I’ve realised if the dream you’re pursuing is making you feel bad about your reality, it might be time to change the dream. I was so focused on when our ‘big break’ moment would happen I didn’t realise it may not ever happen! I didn’t realise right now I’m building the pathway to my success one piece at a time and it feels so good to earn every achievement. I’m my own big break and rather than beating myself up about all I haven’t achieved, I need to take time to celebrate and honour what I have.
Matt and I aren’t unique by going after our dreams. All over the world, there are people trying to achieve their dreams and I guess I wrote all of this just to say that sometimes the path isn’t how you imagined it but that’s okay. While a big break might be ideal and make things easier, it may not be what’s in store for you but that shouldn’t be a deterrent or valid reason to quit. Yes, some will find great success through their big break and that may be crushing but some people need to be their own turning point and if you spend all your time waiting for something to happen, you might miss what already is. My grandmother has a very crude yet effective saying, “Wish in one hand, crap in the other and see which one fills up first.” Disgusting? Yes. Disturbingly accurate? Also, yes!
Even though it baffled me as a small child, mostly because I didn’t quite realise dreams have no physical weight and felt I had far more dreams than toilet trips, I get it now. My Nan’s, ahem, unique way of highlighting the value of action holds great meaning. You can sit around all day wishing things would go your way or you can give a crap and make them, even if you have to fight for it every step of the way. Trust me, one of those things is going to get you closer to your dreams faster than the other ever will.
Have a great weekend, I’ll talk to you next Friday. Be sure to watch part one of our New Zealand road trip video (below) and catch part two on YouTube over the weekend!
Love, Phoebe x