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How to let 'er rip in 2011

By Lian Dolan, Oprah.com
If you want to make this the best year of your life, be bold, take risks and say yes more than you say no.
If you want to make this the best year of your life, be bold, take risks and say yes more than you say no.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lian Dolan decided to make a bold declaration at the start of 2010 to just let it rip
  • Dolan took professional and personal risks, which ultimately advanced her career
  • Talking to yourself can make you focused and instill confidence
  • Dolan: "Today is as good a time as any if you want to make this your year"
RELATED TOPICS

(Oprah.com) -- Normally, I am not the sort of person to "brand" my New Year's resolutions. I prefer to quietly begin a new year with a few items on my personal to-do list that I keep to myself. That way, if I don't actually pull anything off, nobody knows.

But for me, the previous 12 months had been what they call in sports "a rebuilding year."

After losing a job that I loved, I had to rebuild my career and my confidence, both of which were in tatters. So I decided to make a bold, public declaration at the start of the year to just let it rip, because if I could embrace a new attitude, maybe my outlook would change too.

Over the course of 2009, I hunkered down personally and professionally, like so many others who found themselves scrambling for work. Having spent two decades in traditional media, I decided to grab onto the ever-changing world of digital media by producing my own podcast, recorded in my closet in a makeshift studio.

And, I wrote a novel, the hardest thing I've ever done outside of childbirth and Pilates. My hope was that one of these projects would pan out financially in the future.

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Believe me, there were some bad days as I wondered how, after nearly two decades of hard work and some professional acclaim, I ended up in a closet with a microphone. For inspiration, I taped a Post-It on my iMac: Adapt or die.

That's cheery, isn't it? But it summed up my sense of urgency to find something productive to do with my future. And fast.

When New Year's Day 2010 arrived, I was armed with my polished creative endeavors, ready to make things happen. Unfortunately, I don't really have a "Make Things Happen" personality. I had more of a "Things Happen and Oops, Here I Am!" style of career development.

To let 'er rip, I was going to have to take professional and personal risks heretofore untaken. To my surprise, once I started getting gutsy, I discovered that my let 'er rip persona seeped into all areas of my life.

Over the course of this year, I've sold a novel, tried Zumba, sent my résumé to a hundred Craigslist postings with zero responses, secured a sponsor for my podcast, set up a book tour, wrote a dozen unsold marketing proposals, was rejected by a half-dozen literary agents, sold a TV pilot, filmed a book trailer wearing a sandwich board on a crowded downtown street, lost 10 pounds, injured myself in a recreational parcours class, wrote thousands of words, walked my dog hundreds of miles and felt like a different person.

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Somehow, simply labeling 2010 as The Year of Let 'Er Rip really gave me the push I needed to make it a ripping year.

Have you hit a rut and want to shake up your life? Thinking about changing jobs, but don't know about the timing? Dying to try something creative, but worried about the results?

Here is my advice for launching your own Year of Let 'Er Rip:

Saying yes is as easy as saying no

In the past, I've said no to many professional opportunities for all the right reasons. I wanted to spend more time with my family. I needed some work-life balance. I was overcommitted at the kids' school so I couldn't possible attend the conference that would be really good for my career.

All of my excuses seemed totally legit at the time. But, in order to jump-start the Year of Let 'Er Rip, I said yes to everything that might move my career forward. Auditions I was never going to get. Meetings about projects that would never pan out? Lunch with complete strangers in vaguely related industries? Yes, yes, yes.

I learned that once I started to say yes a lot, hearing no occasionally doesn't matter that much.

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Do one thing every day that scares you

Yes, I stole this from Eleanor Roosevelt. I used to do maybe one thing every six months that made me a touch nervous. But, I could no longer be passive; I had to force myself to be more aggressive.

When a devastating call came from an agent who had changed her mind about representing my book, I put my head down on my keyboard and sobbed. It was my lowest point of the year.

That afternoon, I picked up the phone and called a publisher myself. The old me would have spent the afternoon eating Triscuits and cheese, watching "Sweet Home Alabama." The new me did the scary thing. An offer for my book came in three days later.

It's okay to talk to yourself

Every morning, I've said to myself, "Let 'er rip." In the beginning, I felt like an idiot. Once I got over my self-consciousness, I used my catchphrase to focus myself before picking up the receiver to make a cold call to a potential client or contact.

I've used it to psych up my writing partner when we were about to pitch a TV show idea. Guess what? It worked. Yes, it's goofy, but it's good.

Today is as good a time as any

As a mother and wife, I had a tendency to overthink the timing of everything. Phrases like "When the kids are older" or "After we get through this school year" determined my career path. But really, there is no perfect time to start a new job or go back to school or reach out to a colleague.

I realized I could wait around forever and never find the exact right moment to take a risk. Today is as good a time as any if you want to make this your year. I wish you luck. Eat well, stay rested and let 'er rip!

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