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Finding Your Own Path With Paula Pant

Paula Pant, host of the Afford Anything website and podcast, joins Jillian to discuss career change and independence.

Growing up in Cincinnati as an only child, Paula was at the top of her class academically; however, she was also the one that would always get picked on, bullied, and made fun of, because she was the only person of color in her class.

Her experience in school led her to believe that, socially, she was always going to be rejected, and she had low ambitions and expectations for her future. She wanted to work with animals because animals never judged her or made fun of her skin color the way people did.

“Animals were a judgment-free zone in a way that human beings were not.”

We often hear advice to “be yourself,” but in Paula’s experience, that advice always blew up in her face. Her culture and the person she was didn’t align with the culture surrounding her, and she felt like she didn’t fit in. Paula developed different sides of herself that come out in different situations and cultures, and with certain people.

“The cliche advice is ‘just be yourself.’ But that doesn’t work in an environment where other people aren’t open to accepting you as you are.”

Paula’s parents strongly wanted and pressured her to attend graduate school. Now that she has her own business, her parents are proud of her, but it was difficult for her parents to accept that she wasn’t going for a graduate degree.

After she graduated college, Paula began writing for a newspaper–a job she really enjoyed, despite its low pay. The people, the work, and the experience she loved and would have continued with had she lived in an earlier time. However, it was clear that newspapers were decreasing in popularity.

“Once I realized that the future of journalism was going to be much more entrepreneurial, and much more online, I knew that that was the direction I needed to go in.”

Becoming an entrepreneur would allow her to do what she loved and have the freedom and independence she desired in her life. It was the perfect next step.

Paula’s parents had come from poverty in Nepal and craved security, structure, and a normal middle-class life, and they tried to pass on that desire and goal to Paula; however, Paula wanted the opposite: flexibility and independence.

Paula realized that whenever she had to talk herself into doing things, she was compromising for others’ external expectations and usually didn’t want to do them. She knew that the direction toward independent entrepreneurship was meant for her because she was excited about it–excited about the journey, flexibility, and what she could do.

“Follow your enthusiasm; follow your curiosity, because that’s the thing that’s real.”

Over the years, Paula has learned to listen to herself through the way she reacts to questions other people ask her. If someone asks her a question, and she feels like she has to provide a bunch of valid reasons for her answer or decision, that’s a red flag for her that she’s trying to convince herself.

“I look for the things that trigger me; I look for the things that arouse my defenses, and that’s where I know that there’s a discrepancy between the way my heart feels and what my head wants me to feel.”

Paula did struggle with navigating the impact following her passion had on her relationships. It was impossible for her to convince her parents of something they had their mind already set in. When Paula had something she wanted to do or follow in life, she just did it, no matter how critical or disproving her parents were about her decision. If she would have had those conversations, she feels like it wouldn’t have gotten anywhere and would have done more harm than good. It’s nearly impossible to help people understand if they don’t want to understand.

Paula has come to realize that, often, when people are giving you advice, they are telling you what they think they would want in your situation, rather than what they think is best for you. It’s best to not take advice personally; rather, to see it as a reflection of the advice giver.

Jillian has found the same to be true as a coach. People want her to give them advice, but what she actually tries to do is help them organize what they want and reflect it back to them. Only you can truly know what you want to do with your life.

“I don’t know you. I don’t know what you should do with your life; I don’t know what your purpose is, but I trust it is in you.”

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