Facing the Music

Article by:
April Cox, EO East Tennessee
April Cox
EO East Tennessee

I am more than my work. If there’s any lesson I’ve learned in the past year, it’s that work doesn’t define who I am. This is a story about how I learned to find my true self, take off the “entrepreneur mask” and face my dreams.

From a business standpoint, I run a full-service custom software development company. From a personal standpoint, I’m a music star in the making. When you’re constantly working, it’s easy to lose sight of the person behind the entrepreneurial title. I came to that crossroads last year, and I decided to make a change.

To recapture my true sense of self, I decided to create a “vision board” for my life. I purchased a foam board, gathered some magazines and began cutting out images with which I identified. I dug deep inside, found my inner-most desires and searched for photos that illustrated them. I didn’t think about five or 10 years from now, I thought about my entire life. Once I had enough images, I arranged them on the board, filling it with photos that inspire me to follow my dreams. When I was finished, I hung it in my office for all to see; it became a visual representation of me.

After completing the project, I took a step back and noticed that a huge part of my board was dedicated to music. Seeing my dreams from a visual standpoint and listening to my mental attempts to disqualify areas of the board helped me realize how effective I had been at holding myself back. For the longest time, I consistently chose to be someone I wasn’t just to maintain the order of things. The realization shocked me.

I’m a successful entrepreneur who works with reckless abandon to accomplish things others can’t— how could I be preventing myself from really growing? But that’s exactly what I was doing. Who I really am had been neglected because I was too busy identifying “me” as my work, and I wouldn’t let myself be vulnerable to my own dreams. I realized that limiting thoughts about my personal ambitions had similar affects on my work. I was deceived into thinking I was living authentically. Experiencing the spikes of doing great things in business, followed by the lulls of feeling like they were forced, was a clear sign that

I wasn’t. As entrepreneurs, I believe we can make millions of dollars but still lack authentic success. Creating the vision board helped me get over being embarrassed about my aspirations, and it showed me that to follow my dreams, I had to let the real me shine.

I have been passionate about singing all my life, but I never pursued it on a professional level. What was I waiting for? I began by finding a voice coach who could help me build my voice and determine what type of music star I want to be. I also started accepting opportunities to sing for events and began working with a local recording studio. Lastly, I tapped into all my business associates who were connected to the music industry and shared my dream. Today, I’m continuing to strengthen my singing voice, I just finished recording my first demo CD and I’m writing my own music in preparation for my first solo EP, to be recorded in early 2010. My dream of being a singer is coming true!

As I look back over the past year and a half, the vision board was the beginning of my realization that I was the only thing stopping me. When I created my board, I reminded myself who I was, what my dreams were and what I had to offer the world. In the end, I’ve learned that it’s important to illustrate your dreams, share them with others and recognize when you’re sabotaging yourself. I’ve also learned that in the course of sharing my vulnerability through visuals, the limitations and fears faded, which helped me build the perfect startup company: me. Its brand is the greatest version of who I am, and people want to be a part of it, whether I’m peddling software at work or rocking a concert stage.

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