It’s so cliché and yet I can’t think of another word to adequately describe what happened to me on Friday. As with any epiphany, it was found in an unexpected place – a tweet from Trevor Young:

It all started with a tweet

And now some quick background.

This time last year I was suffering from what you might politely call A-Grade burnout. The kind you get when you are:

  • the VERY hands on owner of a boutique design firm that employs three staff and services over 400 clients;
  • trying to be an awesome mum to an 18 month old child;
  • and an awesome wife;
  • and run a household;
  • and be a good friend, sister, daughter etc;
  • and still find the time to do all the things you love like running and reading and writing;
  • and the rest.

So how did I deal with this burnout? By doing more stuff of course! Over the ensuing six months I launched blogs, created new side projects, listened to every podcast I could get my hands on, signed up for and did every relevant online course I could find and basically said ‘yes’ to every opportunity that presented itself.

Why? Because I had created a life for myself that I didn’t love and figured if I opened myself up to every opportunity out there, I would find something that would be ‘my ticket to freedom’.

Really, all I did was make myself obscenely busy and it came as no surprise when I had a breakdown a few months ago.

In my head things have been pretty good since that point.

I started seeing a psychologist and my husband took over running my business.  I started working from home on my million side projects and I felt like I was moving forward. I did a short writing course I have wanted to do for ages. I worked on my blogs. I came up with a thousand ideas for things I could do to generate an income from my blogs. I even went to a blogging conference in Melbourne to find out how to find readers and how to monetize my blogs!

Then on Friday I listened to the podcast Trevor linked to, and it blew my mind.


I have no idea how this guy Steve managed to score an interview with Penelope Trunk who is kind of a big deal in the online world, but somehow he did. And during the interview he asked Penelope what advice she had for people like him who were looking to escape their jobs and make money in the online world and achieve the ‘freedom’ they have been looking for.


Penelope went to town. You really have to listen to the podcast because it is awesome (if peppered with cringe worthy moments).

While listening to her grilling Steve, it hit me.

I am him. I am that person chasing the dream – the ‘freedom’ dream. I am that person working hard on my blog(s), trying to build a readership so that at some vague point in the future, I can start to leverage that readership to make money. I am that person who can’t articulate my life goals and tell you where I am going and how I am going to get there because I don’t know!

Penelope makes some strong statements in the podcast:

  1. If you’re looking at someone else’s life and wishing you have the stuff they have, ask yourself whether you’re willing to do what they did to get that stuff. More often than not, the people in the world with craploads of money who fly first class also work 18 hour days and spend a heap of time away from their families. Do you want to do that?
  2. Unless you’re independently wealthy, everyone has to work 8 hours a day. Whether it is being a stay-at-home-parent or a banker or an artist or a tradesman or the greatest online marketer in the world, everyone has to ‘work’. Forget the BS of ‘find something you love doing and you’ll never work another day in your life’. Whether you love what you do or not, it’s still ‘work’!
  3. Once you’ve got that sorted in your head, then you ask yourself: “What do I want to spend my 8 hours a day doing?”

There is a LOT more to take away from this podcast but the three things above formed the core of my epiphany.

In my head, my goal over the last year has been to lay the foundations for creating some level of passive income where, if I had another baby, I wouldn’t need to work in the first three months of their life. Fact is though; I don’t want to do all the things necessary to create that passive income. And as Sonia Simone reminded me recently (in the comments here) there’s an awful LOT of work involved in creating a ‘passive’ income – work that I wouldn’t enjoy and work that takes a huge amount of time!

The other thing I have been doing is laying the foundations for a career in consulting. I certainly have the skills and knowledge to consult on a range of topics, but the simple fact is, doing one-on-one consults is a negative energy thing for me – I am good at it, but it drains me.

So what do I want to spend my 8 hours a day doing? What energises me and makes me happy? It’s pretty simple really – I want to design and I want to write. That’s it.


I am a creative person. I love nothing better than being in my study, by myself, working away on my computer. I love having peace and quiet to create.

All my best moments (professionally) over the last few years have come from writing something I was particularly satisfied with or designing something I was particularly happy with. Everything else has been a chore.

So no more!! As of now there are no more side projects, no more multiple blogs, no more pressure to feel like I have to take up every opportunity offered to me, no more hard-core networking, no more turning over of a thousand ideas in my head and feeling pressured and stressed because I can’t do everything!

What is my life dream?

It is to get rid of all unnecessary stress in my life and spend my days doing things I enjoy. Things that give me the time I need to enjoy my family and have time for myself. Oh and I want to go and live in a provincial French town with my family for six months before our kids are of school age.

How I am going to achieve this?

I will leave my husband in charge of Swish Design and I will go back to being a graphic designer for Swish. And I will write! I will write here on my blog for pleasure and I will write for magazines and clients for money. I will find out what we need to do financially to make the French dream a reality, and then make it happen.

Every other pie I have my finger in is going in the bin :)


Update September 2012: How did I go with making my dream a reality?



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  1. janef says

    hi Kelly
    thanks for sharing…the podcast is excellent and totally thought provoking!
    sounds like youre heading in the right direction!

    • says

      Thank you Jane and thanks for stopping by! This podcast came around at JUST the right time for me. I thought I had found my ‘new’ direction … but after hearing the podcast, I realised my new direction wasn’t actually something I would enjoy doing on a day-to-day basis! It would be nice to think that we could work these things out for ourselves, but sometimes you DO require an outside voice to point you in the right direction :)

  2. Nicky says

    I am so proud of you. And excited for you!!
    As a reader, and a friend, I think are 100% spot on and you must follow your heart with this new goal.
    It makes total sense and is YOU.
    I loved reading this, thank you for sharing.

  3. Angelique says

    Congrats! It looks like you are finding yourself. Seems like a great plan and a realistically achievable one. Might see you in France – We’ve pencilled in 2014. :-)

  4. says

    Hi Kelly,
    Thank you so much for featuring my Podcast interview with Penelope here! And I love the fact that you actually had a real life changing experience by what you learned about yourself.

    To be honest, I was shocked by all the attention my post has gotten, but I’ve come to realize that SO many people saw themselves in my shoes as she was tearing me apart. And that’s what has made it so valuable. I’m just a regular guy (who has become good at getting interviews with successful people), who thought he knew what he wanted.

    And as you heard, I was wrong. And you realized that you didn’t know either. It took an ass whipping from Penelope to open my eyes up and I’m so very thankful for it. And not just for me either. When I read this post, I felt very lucky to have been part of something that could have such a powerful effect on another person.

    You sound a lot like me in many respects and it sounds like you have made some pretty important decisions already. It’s inspiring to me to see that you’ve declared that you want to write and that’s where your real passion is.

    I don’t know you but I honestly hope that you stay committed to the goals you’ve mentioned here. It sounds like you are and I’m looking forward to watching your progress…..

    Thanks again

    • says

      Thanks for stopping by Steve – I can’t thank you enough for putting that podcast up, warts and all! It was just the slap in the head I needed to realise “what the hell am I doing?!! I am chasing a dream that involves me doing stuff I *don’t actually enjoy doing*!”

      I look forward to seeing where you go from here as well :)

  5. says

    I think there are some of us that are a bit addicted to business. But I completely agree that the question to ask is, “what do I want to spend my days doing?” and then go from there. Lately I’ve had to ask myself what about blogging do I not enjoy (ie, design, marketing) and can I contract out? One can drown in all the to-dos if they try to do everything.

    • Kelly Exeter says

      I don’t know how you felt after the ProBlogger conference Kristin, but gee I was overwhelmed! It’s been so freeing to go from “ok what are all the things I need to do to make money from these 4 blogs I have” to “you know what, I can make money in other ways, ways that require a lot less time, ways that I enjoy!!!”. Which means I can just BLOG for ENJOYMENT!! What a concept ;)

  6. Veronica @ Mixed Gems says

    Thanks for sharing this. I don’t know how I came across the post but I’m glad I did. I’ve not had the chance to hear the podcast, but your epiphany points were fodder enough for me to think about my life. I’m not whe you are. I’m currently a SAHM on parental leave. I work a regular day job and am starting to ponder what I want out of it all since I have to return next April. I don’t know what I want to do nor what else I can do since I’ve done the same thing for so long. The lure of finding “that” thing that brings liberation, and fulfils my dreams and desires, is there but I’ve no idea what that is, if it exists. I’m also not sure I’m willing to put in the extra personal hours to make it happen, especially not with two young girls. Maybe that’s where I have to work out what trade offs I am willing to make and the opportunity cost of these. Food for thought.

    • says

      Hey Veronica – definitely listen to the podcast! It will give you heaps of focus and it basically says exactly what you have mentioned above … there are things we may aspire to, but we don’t want the life that is associated with those things (like say long hours at work, heaps of travel).

      Realising that there is that trade-off means that whatever you do decide to do, you will hopefully find that nice balance between the ‘things you dream of’ and the “life you actually want to lead’!

  7. says

    I wish I had written this blog post! You have articulated exactly what has been going on with me for the past 12 months or so. My maternity leave allowed me to stop and try to decide what I wanted to do in my life instead of running on the corporate treadmill for 50 or so hours a week for others to make money (slightly different from you but a similar stress). I love writing and reading and feel very inspired to follow in the footsteps of others who have made a success from blogging/writing/online business, but I realised if I am trying to emulate their success I am doing myself an injustice in the long run because my focus is on them…not me. Not to mention being online is like opening Pandora’s box. I put pressure on myself to do it all, instantly!
    Your epiphany has sparked one in me too and for that I am very grateful.


    • says

      Oh Sian – thank you – that makes me really happy that this post spoke to you! It took me such a long time to get to the point above but once I got there, it has influenced every decision I have made since in such a positive way!! You should definitely listen to the podcast I linked to in the post – it was HUGELY eye opening for me!!

    • says

      Hey lovely – I hope you are doing ok? The podcast definitely helped me see how the ‘dreams’ I was chasing were quite removed from the reality I craved! Let me know if ever you want a chat – sometimes it’s nice to download on someone outside your immediate circle … and I am a really good listener :)

  8. Ink Paper Pen says

    Wow. I’m off to listen to that podcast. Isn’t it funny how these things turn up right as we need them? I’m feeling this way right now, and hopefully that podcast will give me some perspective. I’ve abandoned my blog, but holding onto the blogging world for some reason…i want to write but not sure if blogging is help or hindrance.

    • says

      Do you know what it clarified for me Gill? That I want to use my blog as an ‘author platform’ and as an online resume for my writing and editing. I don’t want to make money directly from it because the things you need to do to make money from your blog, they don’t appeal to me. I love that my blog is somewhere I can write about whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like … no pressure and no stress.

      I will be so interested to hear what you take away from the podcast!

  9. says

    Hi Kelly
    I have been reading these recent blog posts-wondering when you are going to slow down-you were making me dizzy! I think it’s great you decided to stick to 2 things that make you happy, rather than working too hard in many projects. Goodluck-making the decision is the hardest bit. Xlisa

    • says

      Ha ha yes I know it does seem like I have a lot on .. and I do. But everything I am doing at the moment is either writing or design … so it’s all very easy to manage and best of all, not stressful at all!!

  10. Ink Paper Pen says

    Actually the podcast link won’t work for me. Perhaps it’s expired? Shame! I so wanted to listen!

  11. says

    Hi Kellie I hung off every word of this post. I’m so delighted you’ve reached this point. I’m at a similar stage in my life, waiting for my epiphany which seems so tantalisingly close. Would you mind emailing me the podcast if you can find it? I would be so grateful. I’ve just Googled it without success. Thanks. J x

  12. Yessy Garcia says

    “I am chasing a dream that involves me doing stuff I don’t actually enjoy doing.” This truth just set me free! Is there a new link to the podcast? I would love to hear it.