A Note from author Angela Mitchell: February 2021 — I am thrilled to announce that I am finally writing a book — and quite honestly, I’m doing it before I am ready!
Here’s why: This project has been in my mind and on my bucket list for more than a decade. Every New Year’s day — when I sit down to make my to-do list for the year — I kept knocking down a rung, figuring that someday I’d be ready. But as we are about to have the first anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic, I find that the business, if created in 2015, is strong but shifting, and my nonprofit Kids Code Too is ready to launch in new and exciting ways. So when I woke up on New Year’s Day 2021, I found myself saying aloud: What the heck. Why not write that book — now?”
To get the ball rolling: I partnered with editor Hope Katz Gibbs at Inkandescent Publishing Co. In the coming months, we will roll out the book chapters so that you don’t have to wait another day to begin living your best life.
First, I want to tell you my story: To understand my mission and vision, I’d like to tell you where I came from, what I’ve learned, and how I’ve learned the hard way about the importance of putting my ideas into practice. Scroll down to read the book’s introduction. I hope this will inspire you to take a deep breath and start before you are ready to roll out the big dreams and goals you have for yourself. Let’s go! — Angela Mitchell, author, “Start Before You Are Ready.”
Challenge Yourself To Start Living Instead of Existing
By Angela Mitchell, CEO, and president, CASE Management Consulting
Here are a few questions that I ask myself at the turn of every new year.
- Are you living your best life?
- Have you reached your full potential?
- Do you know what your purpose is in life?
And this is the big one: If you died today, would you be ready?
- Did you travel everywhere you wanted?
- Did you experience everything you ever desired?
- Did you fully love yourself? Did you reach all of your professional goals?
- Did you meet your personal goals?
Over the course of the years since I launched CASE Management in Washington, DC, I have found that I can now answer YES to all of the above.
How was I able to overcome my self-limiting beliefs? It was something my Dad taught me and a lesson that he insisted that I’d embody before he died. Perhaps most importantly, he made sure that I passed on these lessons to others. Therefore, my book’s goal is to ensure that you, too, will be able to say YES by the time you finish it.
This is how we will work together: We will be rolling out the Roadmap chapters monthly so you can read and practice as we go. Then we’ll publish it as a book so you’ll have the whole package in one spot. Either way, keep a journal for yourself. Write with a pen, pencil, markers, or crayons. Jot notes in the margins, keep track of your dreams, and keep creating and re-creating goals for things you will start to do before you are ready! Most importantly, I want you to start waking up every day with the thought: “I am living my best life!”
Is this actually possible? Of course, it is. I know because I have lived it. Growing up in Arlington, VA — just a stone’s throw from Washington, DC — I was sheltered and oh so very protected by my loving parents. Our middle-class family was frequently referred to as the Huxtables (remember, from The Cosby Show). Friends would tell me that I reminded them of Rudy Huxtable, for I am the youngest and only daughter in the house. My brothers, who are 6 and 8 years older than me, were well known in Arlington’s athletic circles and for a good reason. They were the best of the best in every sport they played — basketball, baseball, football, tennis, and more.
I was the little runt following them around to games and trying to be like them. When introducing myself to new people, their eyes would light up when I said my last name was Goodwin. “Are your brothers Sean and Goodie? You must be great at sports!” That is the moment the highest bar was set.
My parents had “good government jobs,” as friends used to say in a slightly condescending tone, mostly because I think they were jealous. My dad worked for the National Science Foundation, and my mom worked for the Marine Corps. No matter what, Mom was always at home to cook dinner, and Dad was usually running home after work to change into his athletic gear to coach a Little League sport.
When I was 7 years old, I started to envision what I wanted my life to be. Of course, I wanted to be like my Mom and Dad — go to college, land a good job, get married, have a few kids, own a house, drive a nice car, and earn enough money to live comfortably. But, in addition to watching weekly episodes of the Huxtables and living a lifestyle that looked so similar to theirs, what else could I have, want, and be? They looked happy on tv, and I was happy at home.
Or so I thought. As I reflect on my life leading up to 2015 (my pinnacle year), I realize that I spent a whole lot of years trying not to disappoint people. I saw this to be true on the TV show I so admired as a kid, as well as in my own family. I was only slightly aware through my teens and 20s that I was following leads and paths that others thought would be good for me. I made my parents proud, made my teachers clap in admiration, and made my friends look up to me.
When I graduated from college, had eight offers from top government consulting firms. After I received my Master’s degree, I was presented with the Rising Stars in Technology Award. I was rapidly promoted at my job, becoming the youngest African American woman to reach the senior executive profit level at the Fortune 500 company. After four years of courtship, I got married, bought a house, bought a new car and a dog, had two kids — the white picket fence routine, right? Who wouldn’t want that?
But through it all, there was a nagging feeling that I couldn’t shake. As the years passed, it became increasingly clear that I was existing — not living. I was so focused on being the best at everything I did, I didn’t take the time to stop and think if these “things” were making me happy.
To be honest: I was scared to stop. In the back of my mind, I feared that if I ventured to pause, take a breath, and acknowledge that I wasn’t happy — that would mean that I was a failure, a fake, and a fraud. That would mean I was not being my authentic self, and much worse, that I wasted so many years following a path that would lead to existence and not my best life.
Here’s the good news. Because I always prided myself on being honest and having the highest integrity, I knew that if I wasn’t true to myself that no accolades, awards, promotions, or fancy cars could make up for not being true to myself.
But wasn’t it too late for me? I had committed 14 years to a successful career, and there were many employees that relied on my direction as a manager. I was in a marriage that looked great to everyone else, but I felt shackled — not because of my husband, but because deep down I didn’t believe that you should only love one person your entire life. The constraints and societal expectations that I needed to be a good wife were in direct opposition to what I felt in my heart — in opposition to what I truly wanted for my life.
I also felt responsible to my parents and brothers, and never felt comfortable traveling too far or for too long because I was the one who held us together.
Making my dilemma all the harder were the two beautiful kids that looked up to me and needed every bit of my attention, love, protection. What would happen to them if they didn’t have the security of growing up in a two-parent household, as I had. I had to put everyone else first — because that’s what selfless people do, right?
Then came July 2015. My Dad died. Before he did, he told me that now was my time. Even if I didn’t feel ready to let go of the life that looked so good on the outside, but felt so much less fulfilling in my heart, I had to make a change. Then one day. I did.
In my mind’s eye, I saw my Dad. He was sitting in his favorite chair singing joyfully, rocking his head to the music, a huge smile on his face. I heard him say: You are ready. Dry your tears, because, like me, I want you to say at the end of your life that you have done it all. You have lived a full life with no regrets.
It was as if those shackles I felt trapped by simply fell to the ground. On that day, I started living my life — my best life.
Are you ready to take the challenge to begin before you are ready? Before you answer, I want you to answer these three questions:
- Can you honestly say that you live your passion, or are you living someone else’s passion?
- Are you in the job you’re in just because it is paying the bills or because it is your passion?
- Is fear holding you back from realizing your full potential?
While I’d like you to be answering YES to the questions at the top of this article — I really want you to say NO to the three above. If your responses are reversed, this book is for you!
Buyer beware: This journey is not for sissies. First and foremost, you are going to have to face all the things that scare you. In fact, the most challenging part of goal-setting is identifying the fears holding you back from reaching your goals. More good news: Once you determine those fears/obstacles, you can plan to mitigate them before they occur and develop coping strategies to keep you on your new course.
More fun: Accompanying this book is the Start Before You’re Ready app. This is a critical part of your process to reaching your purpose because building out your full roadmap is a team sport. The app will allow you to connect with a community of others with similar desires to fulfill their purpose. Our crowd sharing community will also help you brainstorm ideas, set milestones, and overcome the obstacles that undoubtedly will show up along the way. But remember, you are not alone.
Now let’s get to work!
Exercise of the month: Each section of the book will include an action item. This first exercise is pretty easy and quite enjoyable. That doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging because it’s the first step in letting go of the past and envisioning the future. So have fun with it!
- Go to a quiet space and sit for 30 minutes.
- Have a notebook and pen by your side.
- Close your eyes and mentally create a vision board (if you want to learn more about creating one in 3D, click here).
- Focus on one aspect of your life — professional, personal, spiritual, physical, mental, and/or emotional). Just pick one because you’ll be tapping into your vision for each of them throughout the month.
- After an image comes to you, jot down what you see.
- Please pay special attention to the ideas and images that make you smile when you think of them.
- Note: If anything makes you want to jump up and start doing it now, put a circle around that idea with a marker!
- Tomorrow, come back and do it again.
- Ditto for the rest of the month. Keep jotting down ideas and seeing what makes you feel the most joyful!
- Your notebook should be a clarifying journal that we will continue to unpack and play with all year long at the end of the month.
- Now go out and enjoy yourself today — and every day!