Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finding Your Happy: Shannon Kaiser interview

As I've said before, I love inspiring people who use their talents to help others. Shannon Kaiser is one of those people. I've never interviewed anyone before, but I've always wanted to. Shannon was nice enough to let me ask her a few questions.

Shannon once followed a career path that she hated. But it wasn't just the ideal "I hate my job" syndrome. It made her feel empty, lost, depressed, and not good enough to break free. She cried all the time and turned to self-abuse and drugs. She felt like a prisoner of her own life. Shannon's true love was writing. She began cheating on her advertising job with writing. ( She had found her real passion, but felt too afraid to leave her secure job and secure paycheck to pursue what truly made her happy.

It was a scary journey for her. But she made it out alive and is now a happy, healthy travel writer.

I'll stop talking (typing) now and share Shannon's interview with you:

Q: At what point did you realize that advertising was not what you really wanted and how did you feel when you realized that? I realized advertising wasn't the best fit for me in 2008 when I was sent oversees to New Zealand for a work assignment by the ad agency I worked for. On that trip, I was so thankful to be in a new country, but the work I was doing felt forced. I couldn't connect with it or the people in the office. I wanted to spend time exploring the country, and that is when I realized my desire for travel writing. At the time, I felt depressed, hopeless, and stuck. It wasn't until I learned that I could change my circumstances that I gained confidence in my dream. But if I were to be honest with myself, even in college when I was pursuing a degree in advertising, I felt a tiny nag that something wasn't quite right.

Q: Most people turn to harmful actions when feeling empty or depressed. Did you ever result to doing anything extremely harmful to numb the pain? Yes, sadly my journey went to some dark places. I ignored my inner voice for so long that I turned to every harmful action possible. I went through periods of trading one addiction for the next. I was a workaholic (70-80 hour work weeks), bulimic, exercise maniac (3-4 hours of exercise a day), sex addict, food addict, and a drug addict. I turned to self-abuse and sabotage because I didn't see a way out. But now I know there is a healthier, happier, and more compassionate way to live. And treating myself the way I did only kept me from getting what I really wanted. But by going through each dark moment, I was able to learn what it really feels like at rock bottom. Now I can relate to people going through the same thing and I can genuinely help them.

Q: What advice do you have for people who genuinely feel like there is no place for them in the world and that they have no real passion? I can relate 100%. I felt this way for the majority of my life. Feeling different from everyone and feeling like I did not belong and that there had to be something more. My advice would be simple. Follow your heart. Remember that you do matter and that you are greatly important. The world needs you and your greatness, so shine your light and trust yourself. Also, recognize fear for what it is. A false indication of reality. Learn to become friends with your fear. When we want something, that little voice comes into our head and says we are not good enough, strong enough, rich enough, etc. It is our duty to say, "Fear, thank you for your contribution, but we are going to bust through because I am good enough, strong enough, and I have everything that I need." Some actual things that helped me were praying and meditation. I asked myself what I valued in life and made a list of my top five values and created a life around those values. This helped me find a place for myself. I started to meet people with the same values.

Q: What is your favorite place that you've traveled to so far and why? I loved Paris because of the food and the self-realization that came from traveling for two weeks in a country where I didn't speak the language. It is a beautiful thing to immerse yourself in the unknown and work your way through getting comfortable. My overall, most memorable experience was Morocco. I ventured into the High Atlas mountains and slept on the sand in the open Sahara Desert. Riding a camel and hanging out with local Berbers drinking mint tea was the most intense evening of my travel life. Seeing people make a life out of nomads through the desert with nothing more than the clothes on their back, but still so much peace and happiness in their hearts was inspiring.

Q: What kept you motivated in following your true passion? Leading from my heart, rather than my head kept the passion and motivation alive. Also, reminding myself why I am doing it. I want to make a difference and inspire others to love their life fully. I ask myself how I can be of service to the world. The notion of combining my passions and values together in a job is rewarding and if I wasn't doing it, I would feel like I was dying. So the motivation is always there. However, there are times when I feel like I am working too hard. When it feels like an uphill battle, that is when I step back and relax. Sometimes, not doing anything at all is the best course of action. I judge each day by the seeds I plant, not by the harvest. Everyday I let my heart lead me to the best course of action towards my goal. And as long as I am planting seeds, I am on the right path. Because the harvest always comes. Just trusting is key.

Q: What was your greatest challenge in getting to where you are right now? The biggest challenge for me at first was busting through the fear. The fear kept me paralyzed for years and that is when I turned to some not so healthy things. Then I outed my fear and it wasn't so bad at all. In fact, it felt way better. The second most challenging thing was trusting. Leaving corporate and branching out into the big sea of the unknown was terrifying (more fear) because I didn't know what would happen, where money would come from, etc. But learning to trust was critical to my success. Also, having patience. I have learned to be patient because I may think that I want something and I want it now, but as time unfolds, it may not have been the best thing for me in the big picture. For me, learning to trust that everything was in the right order and that I was always taken care of was huge. Also, letting go of expectations. I had all these expectations on what would make me happy. Having X amount of followers/fans, making X amount of dollars, etc. But the real value of success has been recognizing the blessings that I do have. And even if the outcome doesn't look like I imagined, the feelings of peace, happiness, and love are always with me. And that is true happiness and success for me. 

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring travel writers or just aspiring writers in general? 1. Declare your worth. Many writers shy away from their dream because they have fear, whether it is not feeling good enough, smart enough, etc. Turn that fear around and believe in the power of you. 2. Write. Write when you take trips anywhere, even to the bar down the street. Everything can be a story. And get your messages out there. Submit to blogs, editors, etc. Network at events. Volunteer to write for local magazines and newspapers for free. Just keep writing. 3. Follow someone you like. Look out in the market and see who is doing what you want to do. Align yourself with them to see what works, then make yourself different by being true to you. Learning from example is a great way to get footing into the world of writing. 4. Read travel writing books, how to be a travel writer, get on Press release lists from tourist boards, and start a blog. A blog is key. 5. Forget what you hear from everyone and follow your heart. I can't stress this one enough. People will always be keen to share how they did it and how that is the only way, therefore convincing you that that's how you should do it. But trust that there is no right or wrong way. Only you know what is true for you. So always ask yourself if it feels right or if it feels forced. Always choose the path of least resistance. It will help you make your dreams come true faster.

Shannon is currently working on securing a literary agent for her first book, Find Your Happy: An Inspirational Guide on Loving Life to the Fullest. It is a memoir in which Shannon shares the tools she used to pull herself out of depression. She wants to help readers remove blocks to reach the happiness within. Shannon suspects the book to be out in 2012.

Shannon's website:

Thank you Shannon for answering my questions, and thank YOU for reading.  

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