(Original post from Career Contessa ):
Ahyiana Angel wears many hats—as an author, podcast host, and chief encourager, she has proven her passion for helping others, and made a successful business out of pursuing that passion. Her journey is one with many twists and turns, woven together with the desire to be true to herself in whatever way possible. From running a successful jewelry company side hustle while working for the NBA (yes, the NBA)—to writing a book, having a blog, creating a podcast (and really, a movement), Ahyiana Angel has “paid attention” to her self through it all. Here’s her story, with honest advice on how you can follow your own dreams—even when they’re ever-changing.
I went to college thinking that I wanted to be a physical therapist, but—and people always laugh when I say “Do your research” but this is where research comes in!—I got into my first physics class and I was like, “What the heeeeck did I sign up for?! No, this is not me! I’m not even a science girl!” That was around when I realized that [physical therapy] is almost like becoming a form of a doctor. Physics is a crucial part, biology is a crucial part, the sciences are something required to excel in this profession. I thought, “I better find something else and quick.”
So, I went to the College of Business, and I ended up gravitating to marketing because it was more creative.
On Working for the NBA—And Her Big “A-Ha” Moment
I’d say that my interest in sports and basketball was…acquired. I happened to see an [open position at the NBA] online. It was based in entertainment, and I knew that I could do the job. So I applied for it. I ended up getting an email back, and they called me in for an interview.
I stayed there for six years. During [that time], I co-created a jewelry line and it started doing really well. It was featured in Italian Vogue and Nylon Magazine, Beyonce wore the earrings, people like Amber Rose…
At a certain point, I got bored with my job at the NBA, but that outside job sort of kept me going. It was like I was going to the 9-to-5 to fund what I was doing on the side and to make it possible for me to do more. But that’s also when I really started to think, “Hey you know what, maybe I need to think about what I’m going to do next because this is not fulfilling enough in this capacity.”
[I started] entertaining positions at other companies. I did interviews and things of that nature, and then eventually I just had this a-ha moment. I thought, “Maybe these other positions at these other companies aren’t working out for a reason. Maybe I need to pay attention. I could take a PR position at another company, but I’m probably going to be equally as unhappy once the thrill of the ‘newness’ wears off.”
I realized I needed to go back to the basics in terms of figuring out what I was interested in. I knew that I was more of an artsy, creative person, but I had never really taken the time to nurture that. And that’s what you need to concentrate on.
I started thinking about what I was naturally good at, and writing was one of those things that just kept popping up. I realized as a publicist—as a good publicist, a well-rounded publicist—you have to be able to write. That’s the reason I gravitated towards PR. I enjoy writing. And I’m a creative writer. So that’s when I decided to explore the idea of writing a book.
On Writing Her Book, Preseason Love
It’s important to let people know what you’re doing. You don’t have to scream it from the rooftops, you don’t have to tell everyone, but you should tell a few people that are close to you, and that you trust. I told one of my coworkers at the time that I had started writing and researching the process. I was researching everything from like how to write a query letter to how to get an agent—all these things I had no clue about. I started pitching agents and sending query letters, and had gotten a few interest letters back.
On a trip to Miami for NBA Finals, two things happened: one of the agents that requested a partial manuscript responded back to me. He said “I love the storyline, I love what you’re doing, but unfortunately I can’t represent you because as the manuscript is right now, I can’t take it to any of my editors.” I was crushed.
[But] at the same time, that friend from work sent me [information about] this writing boot camp in Maryland. It was a very close timeline, but I figured out that I could get back to NY, take a bus to DC where I had friends, stay with them, rent a car, and go to Maryland to do this boot camp. Just thinking about it made me tired. But I decided, “If you really want this, you have to do something out of the ordinary.” So I did it. I signed up for that writing boot camp, and I basically met my publisher there.
On How to Find Your Own Career Transition
Once I made my transition, people became very interested in my story, telling me how they wanted to do something similar. They were really inspired by my journey, and I realized that there was this natural encouragement thing that I had going on that I had never really paid attention to before. It had always been there—people would always come to me, and I was always wondering, “Why are you coming to me? It’s not like I know everything.”
I always found myself encouraging other people, so after the book came out, I paid attention to the natural trend of what was happening. I paid attention to myself.
That’s the major part of the journey. You have to start understanding yourself. Understanding your likes and your dislikes, what drives you, what fuels you, what you need, what people need from you, what you’re good at, what your core strengths are, all of those.
I started to pay attention to those things [personally] and I realized that, although writing was great for me and it was a strength of mine, it didn’t allow me to connect with people in a way that was being required of me by the universe. I made the pivot, I switched the name, and I completely made the podcast all about Switch, Pivot or Quit. The way that people gravitated toward that change? Amazing.
Her Advice on Goal-Getting
Know your big goals, but don’t think of everything in terms of your big goal, every day. Start breaking it down, take it in smaller pieces. Because when it seems more approachable, that’s when you’re able to tap into your energy.
I journal in the morning, and I write down three things that I want to be accountable for, for the day. That doesn’t mean three things that I want to be accountable for to make my life the best life it could ever be—it’s just immediately, what do I want to work on? What do I want to achieve or try and accomplish that day? And that will get me closer to where I’m trying to go ultimately, but it won’t make me feel like I don’t have the capacity to do all of this.
On Making Pivots
Once you make that big leap, and you don’t have a cushion to fall back on, you’re more willing to take chances. You’re more observant of what’s going on around you, who you are in this space, and what you probably need to be doing. You know, it’s been a journey, figuring all of this out, and getting to this place.
At one point, I thought “OK, the way that I’ll connect with my audience is via YouTube.” No! That wasn’t my way, you know. You have to pay attention to what comes naturally to you, what works for you, what ticks for you, and podcasting and talking, that’s my thing. It’s always been my thing. I just had to pay attention to that.
And the Misconception of Perfection
The other thing is perfection. It annoys me when people say, “Oh I haven’t launched yet, I’m not doing that yet because I want it to be right. I’m a perfectionist.” OK, that’s BS. That’s an excuse. You’re letting fear hold you back because you know that you might not be good at it—but that’s OK. Most of us aren’t good at the things we start initially when we start them, especially if it’s outside of your traditional skillset. You’re not going to be good at it in the beginning, but you have to give yourself a chance.
I let go of this idea of, “What is everybody gonna think?” I don’t care. I’m doing what’s right for me. And I’m making a difference in a way that feels good for me. As long as I have people in my inbox telling me how I’m making a difference for them, and how they appreciate the work that I’m doing, that’s what matters.