MF 097 : How Denise Mills Pivoted to Full-Time Writer by Becoming an “Expert at Failure”
Updated: Jun 17
Denise Mills is a full-time writer who has been featured in many publications, including The Huffington Post (US and AUS). Today, Denise will give you the gift of moving forward by helping you let go of perfection syndrome.
Successes at a glance:
Full-time freelance writer featured in:
Degree in Bachelor Business (Accounting / Economics).
Post Graduate Diploma in Chartered Accounting.
Certifications in Travel Writing.
Blogger at Denisemills.net.
Check out Denise’s guest blog: "A Life On Her Own Terms".
How Denise gets inspired to conquer the day:
For Denise, how she sees the day centers around her mindset. For over a decade, Denise worked as an accountant. She was proficient at it, but it didn’t inspire her. Her days were simply a drag to run the clock out until quitting time. She was tired, deflated and not able to see beyond the immediate hour. Things got so bad that at one point, Denise had a health scare and when some medical tests came back clear, she was actually disappointed! Denise had to make some changes. First, Denise left accounting and went into teaching. Teaching wasn’t something she was thrilled doing but she enjoyed it more than accounting. That first step was important because it broke the decade-long cycle of being stuck in a job that she didn’t enjoy. From there, Denise was able to make pivots into a full-time career as a freelance writer, based on a passion she has held since she was young. Today, Denise has a completely different outlook on life and that starts w/ the day ahead. First Denise is grateful to be alive. This is a complete 180 turn from the dark period when she hoped her medical tests would turn out to be worse than they did. In contrast to her tax accounting days when she would wake up at 7 am and have to drag herself out of bed, today, Denise wakes up at 5:30 am with a mind full of gratitude. The reason for this is that the career pivot not only shifted her mindset but her body and health. As an accountant, Denise didn’t eat or sleep as well as she should have, thus contributing to each day’s struggle just to get through the hours. Since her career shift, Denise sleeps better and is more mindful of what she puts in her body. To kick off her morning, Denise will spend one-hour writing, followed by a half-hour of meditation. Denise stresses that the half hour of meditation is important since even when you love what you do, you can get overwhelmed by the amount that is on your to-do list. So a daily dose of meditation helps Denise clear her mind and refresh-reset so she can make the most of her day. Moving forward listeners, if you’ve been following the show, you’ve heard many guests talk about the power of meditation and still time. Does it still seem uncomfortable or foreign to you? Well, it was for Denise. In her words, she used to think sitting still was the most “stupid” thing ever. Denise’s advice to you is “don’t put so much pressure on yourself.” Many of us resist trying something new because we’re not sure we can do it. When Denise first started meditating, she hated it! She felt impatient because she felt like she had to be doing something. She also felt like she wasn’t very good at it because, like many of us, Denise had a hard time clearing her head of the many thoughts, worries, and obligations that weigh on us each and every day. So how did Denise eventually come to enjoy and embrace meditation? She gave up. She gave up wanting to be good at it. What holds so many of us back from doing anything new, even something as beneficial as meditation, is that for many of us, we either have to do it well or not at all. That little imp inside your head called “perfection syndrome” does more to prevent you from moving forward than not being good at something or even being bad at it. So Denise is giving you a gift today: she is giving you the OK to go ahead and try meditation even if you’re really bad at it. Give it a try. No one is grading you and there is no raise or promotion riding on whether you’re good at meditation. But if you keep with it, the benefits may open up doors you never imagined. These are the steps we take so we can pivot and move forward.
Setback or failure that led to pivot and shift:
Denise is a self-proclaimed expert at “failure.” In fact, she takes pride and is quite passionate about this admission. Denise takes this further by questioning why we, individually and as a society, put such a stigma on failure. Failures will come along the way, it’s part of the journey when we decide to make a big change. For Denise, one such failure happened while she was teaching. As an accountant, Denise neither had the time nor energy to devote to her love of writing. When she transitioned into teaching, she could carve out the space for writing. One of her early ventures was an online magazine. Denise has always been passionate about connection and authenticity and this project was one of her early attempts to channel that thru her writing. While the magazine gained quite a bit of traction and a loyal following, ironically, Denise found it to be an isolating experience. The reason was that while she was passionate about it, she found it hard to find others who shared that same level of passion for the project. Eventually, the project closed. As Denise reflects, you could see this as a failure. However, keep in mind failure and success is all relative. She enjoyed the experience and it gave her an early opportunity to explore writing, which she now does full-time. Contrast this with her 10 years in accounting, where Denise did her job well and could be considered a “success” but was absolutely miserable. Moving forward listeners, give yourself a gift: take from Denise’s story the ability to not let fear, perfection syndrome or those haunting little doubts stop you from trying something. You will have “failures,” projects that won’t turn out right or may turn out completely wrong. But if there is one thing that Denise’s story and that of so many others tell us, it is these experiences that allow us to pivot. It’s not about playing safe behind your cubicle doing something that you know how to do by heart. That doesn’t grow you. It’s about taking those risks that can allow you to grow and move forward. As for Denise, you can hear in her voice that she has no regrets about that first online magazine. As she shares, she could very well do it again but this time with the benefit of having learned from the first experience. That, moving forward listeners, is what it’s all about.
Resource or cultural experience that inspired Denise to move forward:
A Fortunate Life by Alfred Facey (Hardcover | Kindle): an inspirational story of an Australian man who overcame many challenges throughout his life and yet was able to maintain the perspective that he had a fortunate life. This book helped Denise change her mindset.
How Denise stays organized and manages her time:
Denise’s advice: meditate and write down a few things you’re going to do that day. And remember, if you don’t get it all done, it’s not the end of the world!
Favorite app / website / resource or productivity hack:
Set email rules: auto-direct incoming messages into specific folders. Denise has rules for friends, clients and interests.
Support the Podcast:
The Corporate Cliches Adult Coloring Book: makes the perfect stocking stuffer or white elephant gift.
Try out Audible (affiliate link).
Try out Amazon Prime (affiliate link).
Denise’s Advice for you to Move Forward:
Stop searching! Chasing after something is what causes us stress, anxiety and to give up. Instead, try things. You can start as a hobby, join a group while in your day job. More importantly, trust that it will lead to something else. If you’re in a situation where your day job is consuming so much of your time that you can’t explore anything else, consider a stepping stone, as Denise did with teaching. Find something that can help pay the bills but give you more time to explore what you’re truly passionate about. Finally, trust that giving yourself permission to explore and try things will lead you to somewhere better. As Denise shares, you don’t have to have it all figured out and what’s more important than having the right answer right now is having the right mindset that will take you where you need to go. Denise has shared several practices including meditation, writing and email rules that can help put you in the right frame of mind so you can pivot and move forward.
Connect with Denise: