Four years ago, I lost my job. I was sad, angry and unsure about what I wanted to do next. I knew, though, that I didn't want to go back into the corporate world, where the chances of another layoff down the line would have been pretty high. Yet, I was confused.
I didn't have infinite new business ideas to start something on my own. No one in my family or my inner circle had developed an entrepreneurial muscle. I felt lonely and was scared sh*tless of the unknown. A year later, I started blogging. At first, I did it for myself, and then, gradually, for other people's blogs. It took me a year to decide I wanted to take the next step and become a freelance writer.
Why that long?
Fear. Fear of failure.
According to a recent RBS survey, this is what stops 60% of the polled women from turning their passion into businesses. Lack of self-confidence is their worst enemy. Also, women don't take as much credit as they should for their accomplishments.
My story is the story of many women out there who, at different stages in their lives and due to various circumstances -- forced or not -- start reinventing themselves. Being resolute, moving on when something doesn't work without fretting over every single mistake and setback takes guts, but brings the greatest results.
That said, I wanted to get the perspective of three very different and strong women. They are teaming up to discuss their personal journeys in a series of seminars called "The Art of Re-Invention," to be held in Paris in December 2013, about how to reinvent yourself by following your passion.
These women are: Laurel Holloman, a talented former actress-turned-painter, Miki Turner, an award-winning photojournalist with tons of experience covering sports and entertainment, and Isabelle van Rolleghem, a sharp-witted business woman and winemaker.
Three years ago, Holloman left behind a 20-year acting career and chose to live and breathe art ever since. Based in Venice, CA, she is now an established abstract expressionism artist reaping the rewards of the successful exhibits she had over the past year in France, Italy and Germany. And this is just the beginning.
Turner was the first African-American female to write a regularly featured sports column at a major metropolitan daily, The Oakland Tribune. She resides in Los Angeles and specializes in travel, event, sports and portrait photography. Turner released this year her first photo book called journey to the woman I've come to love, a collection of empowering affirmations on self-acceptance from women who came into their own. Her upcoming full color book, Tomorrow, will feature children from all over the world and part of the proceeds will go toward the education of young boys and girls from underdeveloped countries around the world.
Last but not least, hailing from Belgium, van Rolleghem lives and makes wine in Montpellier, France. She recently combined her longtime passion for the wine from Longuedoc with her love of art in creating L'Interpretation, "a delightfully balanced Merlot full of plum and blackberry flavors complemented by toasty, chocolate spices and rich ripe tannins." The label on the bottles of L'Interpretation features one of Holloman's paintings from her 2010 Tribeca series called "Bullet."
What connects these three women apart from the love of art, wine and travel?
"I think the main thing we have in common is that we are strong, adventurous women that carve our own path," said Holloman.
"I think our common bond is that we're at the point in life where we want what we want and don't want what we don't want. Also, we're very supportive of each other's endeavors and it's so cool to know that there is someone you trust and adore out there rooting for you. Sometimes, that makes all of the difference in the world," explained Turner.
van Rolleghem added: "Certainly the art of living well: sandy beaches, crystal blue sea, delicious food and yummy wines. More seriously, a sincere and solid friendship, based on the pleasure of seeing each other succeed in fulfilling our aspirations joyfully."
Turner came up with the concept of "The Art of Re-Invention" and then everyone added to it. They all agreed, while vacationing in Jamaica early this year, that they should do something together as there is an audience that would benefit from sharing their journeys.
"The hope is to share with others what it felt like to make changes in our lives so that we were loving what we were putting out into the world with our creativity and work," stated Holloman.
"[We have] the desire to share our individual and common achievements with a public that follows us and encourages us," said van Rolleghem. She will discuss the journey and the reasons that have led her to turn her passion for wine into a business and, as the "cherry (icing) on the cake -- as we say in French -- the pleasure of having it combined with my love for art."
Turner added: "Basically, we'll be sharing our journeys and answering questions. I think we're at a very pivotal time in our lives and if people are willing to listen, we're willing to share. And, I think we're just as interested in hearing about other people's journeys as well. It won't just be a Miki/Laurel/Isabelle blab fest! It's about learning from each other."
The complex challenges women face when they follow their heart and take the leap of faith is an aspect they reflected on thoroughly.
Holloman, who is a single mother raising two young daughters, said: "I think making some of these changes is terrifying when others are depending on you. The financial security risk can be scary, but also a shift in identity is terrifying. For me, it was very scary but the feeling was so strong I had no choice. I am too passionate of a person to stay in a career that I am feeling nothing for, no matter how accomplished I was in it."
Turner elaborated: "I think just about everyone regardless of gender has a fear of the unknown. Americans, particularly, are less likely to take risks if it means giving up the "dream." You know, apple pie, house in the suburbs, golden retriever, 2.5 kids. But, in our economy you almost have to take more risks than ever before. It would be easy if you could take a pill to overcome these fears, but obviously that's not possible. For me, it just helps having good people around me who remind me who is actually in control of my life and how important it is to stay faithful. That's when I take that leap."
van Rolleghem hit the nail on the head when she added: "The problem with pursuing your passion is to stay focused on the goal. Sometimes others will tend to think that your passions are futile and will discourage you from following them.
"I think women are more stressed out by their professional and family responsibilities and need a lot more self confidence to fulfill their deepest desires and take risks. Yet, there is nothing more tragic than not trying. I think the words of St. Augustine sum it up perfectly: 'Whoever loses herself in her passion loses less than whoever loses her passion.'"
Holloman believes that sharing stories with other women is quite the way women inspire each other. She's confident that "The Art of Re-Invention" seminars will inspire other women to take risks and change their lives if they are unhappy in their current career path.
"The Art of Re-Invention" comes in response to the many requests both Turner and Holloman have been receiving for a long time. "I'm hoping that they'll be entertained, enlightened and empowered by our journeys," said Turner about the audience. She also endorsed her less known friend and co-participant from across the pond, highlighting that "Isabelle has a brilliant business mind and I'm sure she would be willing to share what she knows about running a company and starting up your own business."
On the other hand, van Rolleghem is hopeful that such an exchange "will be a source of inspiration and encouragement to undertake and accomplish small and large dreams."
At the end of the day, all that matters is to have the power to control the direction your life is taking by making better decisions, so you can make a difference and bring more value into the world.
Turner concluded: "I hope audiences leave these sessions with a renewed sense of who they are. Just because the three of us have varying degrees of fame, we're just like the folks who are coming out to support us. We walk in the light and sometimes step into the dark. We make bad decisions and we sometimes we just don't get each other. Culturally, we are very different. But at the end of the day, it's all good. We love, respect and support each other and that keeps us moving and grooving professionally, personally and spiritually. You gotta have friends."
For more information on "The Art of Re-Invention" visit the seminar website.
For more by Anca Dumitru, click here.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.
Follow Anca Dumitru on Twitter: www.twitter.com/anca1268