My Thirty-Something Life & Two Lists that Inspired it

How did you find yóur “life, inspired”? I will be asking this question to a bunch of exciting people that choose their own path and are rocking it.

How did they figure out where to go? And then, how did they make it happen?

They’ll share their insights & life lessons, and most importantly: how they put that wisdom into practice. Enjoy!

— Guest Post by Portland entrepreneur Margot Feves —

Dream big…
Do what you love…
Ask for what you want…
Be present!

Sounds like a series of inspirational quotes found in a wall calendar or Facebook post, right? These tid bits of wisdom may seem generic, but in fact they are the back bone of my journey to finding the best version of my thirty-something self.   It took me some time (a decade or so) to figure out how to put these expressions into practice.

At the age of 27,  I was living in Chicago, and my post grad life was very different than I’d expected. After my college years in San Francisco I pursued my dream career at a renowned advertising agency. But I háted the lack of creativity and absent upward mobility in my first job as an ‘assistant account executive’. So I changed industries to a distinguished catering company.   There, the company politics were overwhelming, (it’s true that sometimes a job, just like a boyfriend or an apartment, just isn’t a good fit) and ultimately I was let go for having a “bad attitude”.

In that jobless and frustrated moment, I needed change. I made the decision to pack up my chic downtown apartment, say goodbye to friends and celebrate a last night out at my favourite club.  I moved 2,000 miles cross country to “temporarily” live with my sister, her husband and their new born baby (they will be referred to as The Levs).  What was supposed to be a month or so turned into a year!

I thought making this move would allow me a better space to find a sense of direction, sort of like a clean slate.   My family, a very talented therapist, and endless career guidebooks helped me work through my frustrations. And two simple exercises were surprisingly effective to push me to live a more inspired life.

Here’s what I did:

  1. I made a list of my dream job – and I was relentless!
    1. What do I wear to the office? A suit, flip flops, a space suit…?
    2. Who are my colleagues & clients?  Do I call them, text them, write to them…?
    3. Do I travel for work?  Using a private plane or my company car…?
    4. What time of day do I work? Early morning meetings to late night parties…?
    5. How do I get to the the office? Walk 20 minutes, take the bus, drive…?

If you want to do this, DREAM BIG and believe if you ask for what you want, it’s possible you will get it.  In your list, include everything from formalities (dress code) to lifestyle preferences (walk to work).

As I reflect on a few of my grander asks, “flexibility to work remotely” was a very important one. And now, I write this article upon my return from spending 3 months living on a beautiful Caribbean island!

margot at little corn island

  1. I made a list of what I love to do during the normal weekly schedule.
    1. Are you one of those people that loves to fold laundry?
    2. Do you wake up to a sun salutation?
    3. Is baking bread or cookies your favorite passtime?
    4. Do you constantly peruse the internet for good airfare?
    5. Are you checking the stock market and following CNN?

If you want to do this, be attentive to what makes you excited during the week.  I suggest taking a couple days to formulate the list including both the mundane (sorting socks) and the fun (trying a new recipe).

Using the second list exercise, I realized I was loving taking on the role of “The Levs House Manager” which mainly included cooking.  I loved menu planning, preparing a grocery list, doing the shopping, assembling the meal and then the sigh of relief when the Levs walked in the door and dinner was ready.   Considering I had never cooked in my life, it was the list that made me realize how much I loved it and how I could create a business plan around helping people with one less night to prepare dinner!   I could be my own boss and start to check off things from list one, ultimately creating my dream job.

I used the Levs kitchen as my testing ground for what was later incorporated as Dinner At Your Door (DAYD). Within a few months I had a client base, preparing and assembling 30+ meals each week.  I signed a kitchen lease and moved the growing business to a more professional space, which the Levs were thrilled about! I had already broken the garbage disposable and ruined countless pans, but they were so supportive.

In 4 years, my dreaming big paid off.   With my entrepreneurial imagination running wild I worked with a programmer to write code for the online checkout, employed a team of 3 to execute the meals, hired an ad agency to create branding and then a pivotal moment of expansion came in the Autumn of 2012.  I believed the only way to grow DAYD and ultimately sell was to expand!   I boldly asked for what I wanted…my own kitchen property which turned out to be so much more!

With the support of my family I purchased a vintage building.  At the time of sale it was operating as a restaurant with four apartments upstairs.  DAYD moved operations to the new location and I was conceptualizing a unique use for the restaurant space.  Five months later I hosted an official grand opening party for Opal 28a boutique event space, vintage accommodations & commercial kitchen.  I was working 80 hour weeks but living out my dream job based on the attributes of that list way back when.

At 32, I proudly sold Dinner At Your Door to focus solely on Opal 28.  Everything was coming together—combining my work experiences in Chicago, my entrepreneurial endeavors with the dinner service, and the bullet points of both of the lists!

Now at 34,  Opal 28 just turned 3 — My team is a trusted family bound together by loving what we do; working with blushing brides,  bartending, cooking, preparing event contracts, decorating for the next party; it’s what we refer to as “Opal Stoke.” I recently purchased my team custom Nike Air Maxs—if your feet are not happy at work how could you be?

Margot Opal team

So, if you think making lists sounds boring, remember this: I recently came across both of my lists, which I had not looked at for 5 years.  Nearly everything on both lists had been checked off! Those lists were fuel for overcoming frustration and re-directing my subconscious towards my definition of success.

I am now unapologetically confident in my entrepreneurial endeavors and started truly living the inspirational quotes mentioned in the introduction.  So I challenge you to make those lists! Dream big, ask for what you want, do what you love…. And then, when you find yóur success, allow yourself to be present: lean back a little and enjoy what you created… before making another round of lists!

Margot profile shotMargot Feves (34) owns and operates award winning boutique event space Opal 28 in Portland Oregon. She splits her time between Portland, Oregon and Little Corn Island, (Nicaragua), travels the world and is contemplating new ventures.