“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes. Although it’s unclear who these words are attributed to, I owe a debt of gratitude to the wise soul who so beautifully articulated my existence in two sentences. I have spent my entire career as that proverbial fish out of water. Completely sold on a specific image of success — the high-powered, beast of the boardroom, Olivia Pope meets Annalise Keating hybrid, I targeted a corporate profession as a means of achieving this ideal. I did pretty well, amassing a solid resume with great organizations, even working with some dynamic real-life versions of the fictional movers and shakers that I had sought to model myself after. It was an invaluable experience that I credit with building my confidence and business acumen, but it grated against everything within me. I have since surrendered to what I know to be my purpose — writing, sharing our experiences, and using my voice to change the way people see themselves.

Let me pause here to give a shout out to everyone who is about that structured gig life. To all my educators, retail managers, and corporate bosses, I see you out here making moves with your regular income, paid vacation and cushy benefits. I applaud you.

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I tried really, really, REALLY hard to be you but I’m just not. This article is for all the other just not’s that are hungry for something they can’t quite describe. You know who you are — that brilliant political mind masquerading as an accountant, that hilarious stand-up comedian posing as a trucker, that gifted nurse impersonating a beautician. If you’re thinking about making a go of it, here are six tried and true steps to turning your passion into your profession:

1. Pay attention to your gift.  There is something in you that is dying to get out. No matter how you try, you can’t suppress it. You love doing it so much that when you’re engaged, hours and hours can go by before you remember to eat or sleep. It’s effortless, it comes as naturally as breathing. You didn’t create that, it came here with you. That’s your gift.

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2.Don’t sweat approval. You’ve identified your gift, you’re super excited and you want to shout it to the world. What you really want is for folks to be excited with you. You want their eyes to light up when you tell them about it. What you’re looking for is approval. This was easily my biggest challenge but I have learned that when going after something that falls outside of the norm, you might not get a ton of “atta girls.” Don’t sweat it. Stay low and grind.

3. Get over your guilt. I come from a long line of solid hard-working, blue-collar folks that would have given anything for the kind of opportunities I walked away from. “Purpose? Passion? Girl please,” said my internal dialogue. I felt guilty for not being satisfied where I was until I realized that there was no shame in wanting more. My ancestors labored and suffered and marched to put me in this position. I honor their sacrifice by living out every ounce of potential I inherited from them — GUILT FREE.

4.Throw out the stats. Every failed dream begins with the phrase, “What are the chances?” If your dream is big enough, chances are that the chances of achieving them are pretty slim.The reason they are slim is not because they’re impossible, but because everyone else is looking at the same stats and opting for the safe route. Are you willing to abandon the safe route? Your answer to this question has to be “yes.” This is not to say you shouldn’t prepare, or research, or have a plan, but the pursuit will require faith. You have to believe more in yourself than in the odds.

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5.Find your support system. So, we’ve already established that you’re not going to get everyone’s approval. HOWEVER, you do need people — positive and supportive people that will hold you down. Can’t find these people in real life? No worries, you can create them! My support group consisted of a few friends and family, but when they weren’t available, I adopted that throwback Lauryn (The Miseducation) as my encouraging big sis, Maya Angelou became my wise grandmother and Jay-Z’s “So Ambitious” became my theme song. Combined with lots of prayer and journaling, this was my support system that kept me focused and energized toward my goals.

6.START! Have a vision. Create a vision board. Do whatever it takes to keep the goal in front of you but most importantly — start. Start doing whatever it is that you do. You won’t know every step that gets you from here to there. There will be stretches when you have no clue what to do next but you have to wake up every single day and start.