(Or "Life Lessons From The Snowy Slopes")
I didn't learn to ski until I was about 11 years old. We went up to the mountains north of Tucson, my mom put an edgy-wedgy on the tips of my skis claiming that they would help me learn (but, really, this was the first in many life lessons about self-esteem that I would experience as I reached puberty). I want to say she pushed me down the hill and crossed her fingers, but that didn't happen. She skied right beside me, patiently showing me how to pizza-french fries-pizza-french fries my way down the bunny hill. She invested in ski lessons. She coached me throughout my childhood over and over and over again. Her patience and endurance in trying to teach me how to ski must have been out of this world. I don't know how she put up with me.
Because, I was a nightmare,
I was terrified of falling, impatient to be an expert after one lesson, angry that I couldn't just "get it", embarrassed when I fell down. I was a snotty pre-teen. I didn't want to wear my mother's old skiing outfit from the 70s. I most certainly didn't want to be encapsulated by an enormous puffy jacket that made me look like StayPuft Jr.
We would have ski trips throughout my middle school years where we'd drive up north into the mountains and visit the small ski resorts where my technique would have the chance to grow. Each time we went, my mother would gently push me to go farther, do one more run, take the next turn a little faster. She let me try out snowboarding (the most EPIC fail since I was scared to even get off the lift and it had to be stopped so I could get down).
It's this same "practice-makes-better" mentality that my mother instilled in me with learning how to ski. Little by little, I figured out how to turn and take the hills faster, how to swish around in deep powder, how to dip and bend. I felt beautiful skiing downhill. I felt confident. I felt alive.
It's this same practice that I applied to my early days of social media management and digital marketing. The very first steps, I needed guidance and tip-toed myself, step-by-step, into more experienced territory.
When I started my business, I was shown the basic SEO ropes by a friend who had been doing social media marketing for a while. And then, I watched webinars, participated in local events, purchased ebooks and followed major influencers. I purchased online courses and started to push myself to expand my skills. I made these social platforms into one big experiment to prove to myself I knew what I could do and do it well.
Now, I feel like a practiced downhill skier. Confident. Capable. Comfortable. From taking the green slope and managing a simple Facebook account or skiing down the double black diamond of a national lead generation or email marketing campaign, the skills that I continue to acquire can only add to my previous experience.
I am only as good as I push myself to be.
And I want to push myself farther.
When I was a kid, I had lofty plans.
I wanted to be a lawyer, a veterinarian, a librarian, a teacher, a professor, She-ra Princess of Power.
When I was a teenager, I wanted to learn at least five languages. So I tried teaching myself German and Gaelic (not an easy feat - I gave up after a week). I took Farsi for a year. Studied French religiously since sixth grade. Studied American Sign Language for two summer school semesters. Struggled to learn Russian. Twice.
When I was in college, though, I felt like I was finally, slowly figuring things out. I was going to major in English. I was going to get my Masters and then my PhD and I was going to fulfill my lifelong dream of being formally educated at the highest level in some kind of field that was generic enough to appease me.
Then I took Sociology classes, Psychology classes, and Business Classes. Started nannying. Worked long hours in customer service and retail jobs. Dated a bunch. Partied a bunch. Worked some more.
Basically, I grew up. And when I grew up, I realized that as long as I was doing something that felt good to my soul, I would be happy.
Classic Millennial dilemma: How do you do something that feels good to your soul without selling out but still being able to pay the bills?
Again, I figured I had the answer. I continued nannying and so loved the time I spent with kids that I decided I wanted to be a school counselor. Enrolled in a Masters program and realized (several thousands of dollars later) that I was entirely dissatisfied with the program and my potential to (possibly never) get hired.
So, then, I became an entrepreneur. I purchased a babysitting and petsitting business from a local woman. I figured I could still do something with children while cultivating a career. So I dove headfirst into making this business succeed. And I dove deep. I started by creating my own website and designing the graphics and layout to perfectly convey what I wanted my brand to be online. I created new social media profiles. Learned about SEO. Learned about paid advertising and target markets. Taught myself the fundamentals to making a small business survive and thrive in my town. Networked with other small business owners. Partnered with non-profits. You name it, I was doing it.
Sure, I was stressed out. I was working all the time. I wasn't making a ton of money. BUT! I was in this sphere of constantly learning something new, meeting new people, discovering new marketing techniques, and new ways to share my message with my community. I started to really dissect what I loved most about owning my own business, what I spent the most time on, what really fired me up.
It hit me - it was digital marketing. I finally hit my stride. I felt like I had finally found something that utilized all of my skills really well and still pushed me to grow.
I realized that as long as I could write great content, design engaging social posts, strategically advertise online for my own business - I could do the same for other businesses, too.
The world of online marketing is full of bright minds and creative voices from pay-per-click execs to content-strategy professionals. The digital marketing field is vast and constantly changing (in part, thanks to Google that keeps pushing the envelope when it comes to consumer-driven data). But that is what I find the most attractive about being in this business - the wide array of skills that you need to be an online marketer. One day, I'll be managing social media and the next, I'll be writing an email campaign or a blog post for a local business. I'll run ads for Facebook and Twitter or I'll be posting gorgeous photos on Instagram.
The dance between being analytical and nurturing my creativity is so appealing and so perfect - I couldn't be happier. I've been doing digital marketing and social media management for almost three years and I am still being challenged and learning new things. The days don't seem any duller up ahead and I've realized that I am so happy doing what I'm doing.
Meg is the owner of Oh Hello Digital and, when she's not writing for her clients, she'll take time to share her digital marketing insights and advice here. Want to connect with her? 👇