A Healthy Dose of Courage
I grew up in a small town in Italy – I lost track of how many times I was told I was too independent for a woman, or that I had to pretend to be less smart, so I wouldn’t make others uncomfortable. I wish I could say these comments did not affect me, but of course they did. I both determined to not let them stop me and felt extremely hurt inside, feeling I had to choose between living at my full potential or being loved. Underneath it all, though, there was this powerful call… and I sensed from a young age that I was meant to answer it.
The experience taught me something crucial to my work: our mind and the interactions we have with others are the most powerful forces in our lives. I could choose to make myself small to please others and fit in, or I could answer the call. Thankfully, I opted for the latter.
Photograph by Genevieve Shiffrar
As soon as I graduated high school, and just 18 years old, I left home and landed in Los Angeles a year later. This was so uncommon at the time – that a young Italian woman, still a teenager, would move to the United States alone – that I did not meet another Italian woman who had done the same until I was in my thirties. Literally not having people exactly “like me” around broke me out of many prejudices and assumptions: it was painfully obvious how ignorant I was about other people’s experiences. And at the same time, I learned to connect with others through an open heart and and open mind, leading to wonderfully deep relationships.
This experience also taught me to have deep respect for the struggles we all go through. Whether it’s lack of confidence or external resources, whether it’s chronic disease or a sudden accident, people every day cope with obstacles. I used to assume everyone else had more money, more luck, more advantages (yup! full victim mode!), until I realized comparisons of every kind are a trap. We live at the intersection of our inside and outside world – work on one and the other shifts. Pretend only one exists, and you severely limit what is possible for you.
My Career Journey
I was one of those kids who knew what she wanted: I wanted to tell stories visually. I studied film and photography in college, and loved the dark room, creating something from nothing, delving into the intricacies of non-verbal communication.
- My fine art photography won awards
- I made an award-winning short documentary film that was broadcast on PBS and shown at colleges all over the country. It was mentioned in over 200 publications and it helped change the national conversation about student debt.
- I worked as a wedding photographer for many years, starting as the assistant of one of the most sought-after professionals in the field. I worked on over 100 weddings, from photographing a friend’s small intimate ceremony in their living room, to working on a 20-hour long million-dollar wedding celebration.
- While building my business I taught Italian and discovered I had a knack for teaching. And loved it. I also trained students on how to prevent bullying in their schools. This work made a profound impression on me and helped me develop more compassion and resilience for all I had experienced as a kid and for others.
There is only one word worse than “business” in art school – marketing. As a photographer I had to find clients – or I wouldn’t eat. This was a powerful incentive to overcome my internal resistance to marketing. As I learned marketing strategy and applied it, I discovered I really enjoyed it. And I started to think of doing it full time.
Then I felt stuck – is it even possible to change careers? Do I need to go back to school? Am I crazy to make a change after spending all my life wanting to be an artist?
Repurpose Your Purpose
Formal education does not teach us how to transition to a new career, nor how to navigate today’s changing professional landscape. As I started to research how to change careers, I basically found only advice that could broadly be categorized in two big buckets: manifest your way to wealth and happiness vs. you need an MBA, money, connection, a supportive family, 10 years of experience, and a spotless record of making good decisions in order to succeed. Ugh.
So, thanks to my many years of learning teaching, facilitation and training skills, marketing and branding, and my deep interest in philosophy, psychology and spirituality, I developed an out of the box and very effective way to figure out what I could do with what I already knew. Within a few months of implementing my strategy, I found a job at a tech company, where I built a marketing team and achieved record results. I grew my income exponentially in just a couple of years, and my career grew fast – I made it all the way to Marketing Director in record time.
So many people around me were and are going through the same feeling of being stuck and not knowing what to do next. So I tested teaching my process to a group and to individuals. And Repurpose Your Purpose was born. Since then I have led workshops, spoken in front of audiences of more than a hundred people, organized many events and panel discussions in Los Angeles, and coached individuals and groups from all over the world. I contributed my expertise to a number of online publications, including Glassdoor Blog, CNBC Make It, Bustle, and more.