How to be successful in life!

by Jessica Holsman

Dear Jess,

I’m in second-year uni and studying biotechnology. All my life, I've been an average student and I was always focused on anything other than my studies, but in high school I decided to take up science because I find it interesting.

Now I'm struggling to keep up with my studies and I’m worried it will all go to waste.

I have no idea what the next five years of my life are going to be like for me. Most of all, I'm struggling with the idea that I'll never be great, I'll just be average for my entire life.

I don't know how to handle this and it’s something that I spend most of my time worrying about.

I think I emailed you of all people because I've grown up watching your videos and thinking to myself: ‘How awesome would it be if I was just as driven, organised and ambitious as you are.’

Anonymous x

Hi lovely,

Oh my goodness, as I was reading your message I felt so incredibly moved… I feel like so much of what you have written hits me right in the heart and I just want you to know you are so not alone in having these worries! I honestly just wish I was standing right in front of you and could give you a big hug.

I am always so blown away by the impact that my work is having around the world and it’s really humbling to know that you’ve grown up watching my YouTube videos. It means a lot that you feel comfortable to reach out and share your struggles with me. I hope what I am about to say will make a difference and help you release the worries that are weighing you down...

When it comes to knowing where we will be in five, or even ten years from now, the truth is, we never really know. We can plan all we like, set ourselves goals and tell ourselves we’re in control, but we’re not. Take it from someone who had a 10 year plan that completely changed overnight.

I thought I knew exactly where I was going and what I was going to be. I studied really hard in my final high school years, I got accepted into my dream university and degree, then into a postgraduate diploma, juggled 3 volunteer jobs and a part time job simultaneously, received a full scholarship to study a Phd and planned to combine it with a masters degree in psychology and follow in my supervisors' steps. I put so much pressure on myself to succeed that I was struggling to thrive, or better yet, survive. All the pressure I put on myself took a toll on my mental and physical health and I remained so stressed about the future and the need to be in control. I know this isn’t where you are, but I couldn’t bare letting you, or anyone else think that my life was and is perfect and all about kicking goals and smooth sailing.

Yes, I am definitely driven, ambitious, organised, stubborn aka "headstrong" and passionate which has helped me be the action-taker and goal oriented person that gets things done, but I’ve also learned to be trusting. I trust in the timing of life, in myself and in the opportunities that are meant to present themselves to me so that I can make a difference while being true to myself. (Also, a little disclosure but sometimes my house is a mess, sometimes I procrastinate and miss uploading a blog post or newsletter, and sometimes – although thankfully not recently – I let self-doubt creep in and have temporarily lost the drive to continually commit to my work.

You mentioned you’re scared that all your effort will be for nothing if you can’t keep up with your studies and that you’re lacking direction with your future. When I read this, it reminded me of the exact moment when I went to tell my supervisors at university that I wasn’t going to continue my Phd because I wanted to pursue my own business (YouTube and starting my stationery line, Educationery). I know social media makes things look so easy but it was far from it. I sat in my car afterwards and cried because I was so scared that the 5 years of university I had dedicated myself to was going to be for nothing. 

I couldn’t see at that time that all the skills would serve me in the work I do now, like writing my book and blogs, organizing and building my business, and the necessary communication skills I rely on to connect with beautiful viewers like yourself. Sometimes, we can’t see how our past or present will serve our future but I promise you this; it will.

As for being average, you are far from it! You are destined for greatness but it’s up to you to tap into your potential and find a way to be of service. I’m so grateful that I have found a career that has pushed me to be the best, most fearless version of myself already but I know it can take time. I was once a second year uni student, carrying her books and laptop to class, meeting with my lecturers and trying to understand statistics so I could pass that dreaded unit. I was once that anxious teen trying to find direction and sense even a glimpse of control over my future. I had a part time job in retail selling shoes and I’d babysit my high school math teacher's kids on Saturday nights.

I guess my life was also pretty average and some might say that I was too?

The thing that sets successful people apart from what you might consider to be average, is heart. It’s passion or a longing to want to do something meaningful. It’s the people who treat others with kindness and compassion and know that we all are here for a reason. There’s no one else on the entire planet just like you. That’s pretty amazing and so when you think about it that way, no one is average! We might have different skill sets and some of us are more creative or academic in different ways but we are unique. Please never fear being average because it’s not in your DNA.

Also, to achieve greatness in life takes time and effort. I know that some people look at the work I do and find inspiration in what I’ve built over time. My older sister is my biggest fan and repeatedly tells me how much I inspire others but it never sinks in. I feel like I am just being myself and leading by example. I face my fears head on and I constantly ask for support and help from the people around me to become my most confident self. In saying that, it’s taken me 5 years of university, 2 degrees, 3 volunteer jobs, and 5 years since starting my stationery line and YouTube channel to be where I am now (and a whole lot of blood sweat and tears, pep talks from friends and family and a dozen self development books!) 

There’s a quote I came across this week that said, ‘the fastest way to overnight success is 10 years of constant dedication.’ ;)

I also want to take a moment to focus on the fact that being great is not something that is only achieved through a successful career. Being great and not feeling ‘average’ means coming to terms with who you are and loving everything you have to offer this world. I did something a few weeks ago that’s helped me and I really want you to try it too! Pick a mirror in your home that you walk passed regularly (eg. bathroom sink mirror) and with a whiteboard marker or lipstick, write these words down. “I am enough.” Look at it. Say it daily. Eventually your mind and heart will believe it. You are enough and you are doing the best you can. 

You will always be enough and if ever you feel like your goals are running away from you, all you have to do is reach out and ask for help.

Love, Jess x

P.S This post is going out on my 29th birthday! Thank you for trusting me with your problems, for loving my work and for the opportunity to not only help you, but share a part of my story with you as well.