Great Enthusiasms

Kath Chalmers’ musings on business, marketing, and other fun things in life

Do what you love and love what you do

25 Years of Doing Work I Love

Twenty-seven years ago my greatest dream in life fell apart. A book called “Wishcraft” by Barbara Sher helped me recover and thrive. I had accidentally purchased the book a few years earlier in high school.  We were studying “The Crucible” and I misread the title as “Witchcraft.” Little did I know that the book was actually filled with magic.

For years I was obsessed with joining the Foreign Service. I began studying for the Foreign Service Exam in sixth grade. I avidly read “World Press Review,” “Foreign Affairs,” and the “International Herald Tribune” throughout high school. After reading Wishcraft, I started talking to teachers and professors to learn more about how to prepare and began flow-charting my application plan.

In college, I stuffed my resume with leadership roles in several campus organizations and studied like crazy.   I tagged along with friends to their “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age” class for fun. Professor Loch Johnson was kind enough to let a wonderstruck freshman sit in. When former Secretary of State Dean Rusk told a group of UGA students that History/Poly Sci was the best preparation for getting selected, I immediately changed majors from International Business to the liberal arts double major. (So stupid!)

Then two things happened that changed everything.

First, one of my best friends, a summa cum laude Russian Studies major, took the only foreign service job she could get – driving a truck at the Moscow embassy. She was a hell of a lot smarter than I and that’s the best she could do? Her excited descriptions of life working in the embassy didn’t sound like a good fit for my creative and entrepreneurial spirit.  [Edit 2024: Her entry job turned out to be a great start to begin showing her brilliance – President Biden made her the US Ambassador to Russia. We’re in good hands.]

Second, I went to study European Economic Development at Science Po in France for a year to build my language fluency and international relations knowledge. There, I got to see in person the mind-numbingly boring work that clerks at the consulate had to do all day in the dingy, institutional office. I learned that choice locations like Paris usually went to people with well-connected families or after many years of service. 

The prospect of spending my life stamping visas for cranky tourists in a dingy office in some backwater Francophone dictatorship was too depressing to contemplate. It just wasn’t for me. All those years of work were for nothing! Instead of being a well-prepared candidate entering a challenging global career, I was just another unwanted liberal arts major. My parents insisted that I go to law school. (Thank God I I refused after seeing the boring-ass stuff my boyfriend was learning!)

Fortunately, those copies of Wishcraft and What Color is Your Parachute were still on my shelf.
I analyzed all my high school and college projects to figure out what I truly enjoyed and used the exercises in the books to figure out what plan B should look like. Communications, marketing, budgeting, analysis, and creating new things popped up over and over on the list. I got a summer job translating equipment manuals at Michelin and learned desktop publishing and how to use a Mac.  That experience opened the door to an internship doing marketing for some apartments.  

Then, I graduated right into the teeth of the crash of 90-91- the worst economic recession since the Depression until 2008 – and couldn’t get a single job interview. (I feel your pain, Millenials!) “Wishcraft” came to the rescue again. I used its techniques to figure out how to put together a business plan, pitch for a loan, and seize an opportunity to purchase, renovate, and re-sell houses with my brother. I loved managing the project and decided to get an MBA.

As finished my MBA, I realized that mobile technology was going to change the world – I just knew it! I dove into learning everything about cell phones, the underlying technology and the carrier market by reading industry publications and doing info interviews. Used the Wishcraft process again to figure out how to get a job in mobile tech without an electrical engineering degree, finally landing a marketing analyst gig with a carrier.

At BellSouth Mobile, I learned to crunch data, analyze market info, write copy, and work with sales reps. In 1995, I got interested in this new thing called the world wide web and taught myself HTML to create my first personal homepage. Cellular experience + the ability to build a website got me a job in Silicon Valley just in time for the Dot Com boom. When my husband took a job in DC after the crash, I transitioned to marketing mobile alerting enterprise software.

Since then, I’ve had a blast marketing enterprise software for dozens of companies as an employee and a consultant. I started a marketing agency and my own software startup (when it ran out of funding, I even learned to program). Now I work for a bigger tech company and have started learning a whole new set of technologies.

Marketing and technology change all the time. Every week of every month of every year for the past 20 years, I’ve learned something new in my field. From copywriting to direct mail to web to digital to social media to 27 different marketing software applications – it changes all the time and I still love learning the latest innovations. 

None of this would have been possible without Barbara’s wonderful Wishcraft book and the wonderful success team her community of readers has created. I was even fortunate enough to participate in a live success team group led by the amazing Beth Lyons. Every major accomplishment that I’ve enjoyed has been due to her amazing process – and for several years due to the amazing reader community on her website’s bulletin boards. I’m so grateful for that careless high school girl’s purchase! It led me to a career path I love and could never have predicted.

Update May 2020: Barbara Sher passed away on May 10, 2020, at the age of 85. Undoubtedly she has already begun exhorting the angels in heaven to try new things, dream crazy dreams, and have more fun than they could ever imagine before meeting her.