You Can't Plan an Inspired Life
Tama Kieves illustrates how trusting intuition and dreams can lead you to embrace a life of infinite possibility.
When you’re following a path of listening to your true desires, you will love and wrestle with this truth: You can’t plan an inspired life. You can’t imagine how everything, or even anything, will fall into place. And yet, crazy, kooky, powerfully aligned you, you know it will.
Yes, of course, “If you don’t have a plan, you’re planning to fail.” It’s a popular adage bolded in PowerPoint presentations in traditional corporate circles. But in case you didn’t get the memo, we’re not marching to the bullet-point drill. We’re listening to a dynamic, on-location wisdom moment by moment. It’s about following instinct more than dried ink. No, we’re not charging into a fire without a helmet. It’s a bit more like charging into all conditions, bringing the fire with us. We embody a love that creates opportunities wherever we go and whatever we do.
Now I’ve heard some individuals of faith say, “God is my copilot,” but I’m guessing they don’t put “Him” as the cosigner on their bank loan. You see it gets kind of awkward when you have to tell people that the core of your business strength is not your résumé, research, or strategy. It’s your connection to the universe, your empowered mind, a dazzling, expansive feeling, or “The Dude.” It’s probably fine when you talk to your weekly levitation group, coven, or evangelical praise family, but with other people, that rock solid trust can evaporate like morning dew. Then it can feel as though you’re skydiving into concrete, without a parachute, a prayer, or a PowerPoint presentation.
I remember the night I made the decision to self-publish my book This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love. I was listening to my best instincts, my “guidance,” and I was adequately comfortable moving forward without a business or marketing plan. That is until I sat next to her, the Queen of Judgment on steroids. I was at an ex-boyfriend’s house for a formal Passover dinner. Of course, this woman, undeniably a social Brahman, was perfectly put together. She reminded me of a china plate—showcased, hard, and trimmed in gold. As I sat down, I felt as though my hair grew wilder, my panty hose bunched up, and I’d forgotten to floss my life. I had a bad, squishy feeling inside, like sitting down on gefilte fish.
Something in her know-it-all nasal intonation made me feel like I simply must justify myself to her—my choices, my past with the ex-boyfriend, my latest therapist’s theories, and what exactly I planned to do with my hair. I wish I could have just passed the horseradish and shut up, but I have a little boundary problem. She kept asking me questions and I kept drooling out answers. Everything sounded wrong, but I kept gunning forward with information, like when you flood the engine with gasoline or rub a stain too many times, until it’s worse than ever. It was bad. I was trapped at the table with unleavened bread, parsley, and the interrogator with pursed peach lips at my side. “Let my people go,” says the King of the Israelites in the evening prayer book. Suddenly, I really understood the desire for exodus.
It didn’t take her long to drag out of me that I am a writer and of course out came my freshly hatched intention to self-publish a book. Now I really wanted to change the subject, tell her about sex with the ex-boyfriend, sex with all my ex-boyfriends, anything but my precious book. But like a hound dog, she knew a steak bone when she smelled one. My publishing plans were the evening’s chew toy.
“You’ve never written a book before?”
No, I said. I managed to swallow the fact that this one had taken me 12 years of my life to write.
“You don’t know anything about publishing and you’re starting a publishing company?”
I looked sadly at the matzo in front of me. I bonded with totally flattened bread.
“You don’t know anything about marketing or distribution either?”
There was a pile of business books in my office, many unread. “Not too much,” I mumbled.
Believe me, I know how this sounds to someone rational, because I have a big, fat, logical brain. It sounds like I’m saying that I’m walking out into oncoming highway traffic with a blindfold—but it’s okay because the blindfold is purple and says “I believe in miracles,” if you wear it backwards, or was blessed by this master shaman, well, a middle-aged realtor, who completed the mail-in course over the weekend. Really, how can I tell Judgment Woman that I’m following an inward knowing sense and that this feels large, true, and right in bones I didn’t even know I had? I can barely acknowledge this truth to myself.
“Very ambitious,” she said nasally and knowingly. Very ambitious, as in you’re a nut job and stay away from my children.
She went on to ask more about my marketing plans. Now it’s not like I hadn’t asked myself a thousand times, “How will I get this book into the world? How will I distinguish it from a sea of other self-help books?” But all I ever got in my journal was this immediate directive, “Just put it in the river.” I knew inside it meant to devote myself to writing and designing the book with every fiber of excellence I had. Then to put it in the stream of life, sell it to my clients and students, and see where the current takes it. Still these thoughts sounded more like clumps of tea leaves or fairy tales than strategic initiatives.
Yet something in me just knew that I was meant to do this and there was no risk. I’d always believed the river knows its way to the ocean and that passion, excellence, and commitment will always forge a way into the world. But I just couldn’t choke that out to Peach Lips because it sounded like a Nike ad or the creed you’d learn at Sunny Saints church camp. I also didn't mention that I was listening to an inner voice that I believed to be a creative energy or a supreme power calling me to my ineffable, true mission. Hey, we were in a gated community and I wanted to get out of there. Years later, though, all puffed up with distance, I wish I could have quoted the Sufi mystic Rumi to that insistent earthbound woman, “Don’t ask what love can make or do. Look at the colors of the world!”
She may have felt her chakras open on the spot. Or, she may have switched her seat.
These are the kinds of things that will happen on this path. The world will demand a reasonable answer of you. Others around you will want a predictable map of your intentions and plans. They want to hear about your research and projections, not your latest angel sighting, coaching session, or meditation. And you will be standing there with some hummingbird joy that you can’t explain and that you can’t dismiss. You will also know that if you turn away from this sweetness in favor of reason, you will lose your way to everything you believe in and resign yourself to a shell of a life, haunted by the truth you’ve denied. Let me cut to the chase and save you sweat, wasted potential, and years. It’s worth a bit of discomfort to feel more infinitely alive than you ever thought possible.
This is what happened after the incident with Peach Lips. I self-published my book, “put it in the river,” and started enjoying startling local success and movement. My book hit the Denver Post best-seller list and the Denver Business Journal best-seller list. Then, four months later, I got an email that said, “I am the fairy godmother you’ve been waiting for.”
The email was from a former vice president of marketing and publicity from a major New York publishing house. She had read my book late one night in the midst of her own career transition and decided she wanted to get the book into the hands of major players. She knew the president of Tarcher/Penguin—Penguin, one of the largest publishing houses in the world, and the company I had always fantasized about. Tarcher bought my self-published book. Not only that, but they kept the design, the title, and my writing intact, editing maybe 10 sentences. May I say that again? They bought my book, the book I had written for 12 years without an agent, editor, or publisher in sight. They bought the book that my soul had begged me to write. They not only bought the book, they offered me a lucrative contract, with solid publicity plans. Finally, I even had lunch with the president of Tarcher in New York City. You can take that to the river, and the bank.
Now how could you logically plan for that? How could anyone ever foresee that arc? Take 12 years to write a book in Denver, and another year to design and print it, because just when you “put it in the river,” some publishing bigwig in New York City will face her last broken, soot-covered straw, quit her job, and stumble upon your nonpublicized work? How could you make the right person fall in love? How could any rational human being plan to connect the dots this way? Yet how can any rational human being negate the impossible mastery of all those jeweled beads coming together in such an intricate and meticulous pattern that would ultimately uplift tens of thousands of people?
This kind of “coincidence” still doesn’t prove anything, say the skeptics. But that’s only because it hasn’t happened to them. Because when improbable perfection happens to you, when the “Hallelujah Chorus” sings in your bones, you know you are not alone. You know you are where you are supposed to be. You know there is an inspired, nonlinear way to succeed. You know that just because you don’t have a plan nailed down, doesn’t mean you’re a loose screw. You’re not choosing chaos. You’re choosing accuracy. You’re listening to air traffic control instead of a map, because if you’re flying in new conditions, that’s what you do.
This is what I keep learning again and again. We are loved and we are guided. We have extraordinary faculties embedded within us. Nothing is denied. It’s hard to let go of control and guarantees and the peculiar comfort of fitting in with people who don’t really embrace a life of possibility. Yet it’s amazing to allow yourself to dare your own authentic walk in this lifetime, to listen to the love within you more than your fear, and to discover a consistent constellation of abundance that dwarfs the scope of any plan.