Meet Leah Harris. She is a thriving multi-careerist who manages her many vocations with dexterity. She has a corporate job and finds time to pursue her interests. She provided so much great wisdom, I consider this “Part 1” and will feature her additional insights in a future edition.
Leah’s 6 vocations (and counting):
- Corporate Communications Manager at a metal trading company
- Soul singer-songwriter, pianist
- Co-owner of a Canadian education company
- Freelance digital brand strategist
- Runs an Instagram business as a verified public figure
- Recently wrote her first novel
The “Problem” with Pursuing Your Dream Full Time
At first, it was out of necessity. Though she loved music, it would be difficult to make a living on that alone. Like many artists, she found a day job and performed music at night. “I always felt guilty because people told me that I should pursue my music dreams full time,” she said.
She took the leap and became a full-time artist for six months.
“I didn’t love it,” she reflects. “I missed the structure of my day job, and I found that my time was not being used efficiently. Most of the ultra-late-night networking of my music gigs didn’t lead to much, and I felt disconnected from the rest of the world by sleeping in later.”
Further, she didn’t have the money to market her music. Of course, she managed to book several gigs but she just wasn’t happy with daily life.
“I ran out of steam, and I missed the comfort of having a diversified portfolio career – the feeling that I always had options,” said Leah. She eventually transitioned back to a full-time job by studying Facebook Blueprint courses and becoming certified in digital advertising. She took on social media, brand strategy, and influencer marketing projects and simultaneously toured for two years performing music around the world. “My marketing work funded my travel and music career, until I made it to New York on a music visa and start a career as a receptionist which became a full-time communications position.”
Advice to Aspiring Multi-Careerists
“Don’t let anyone convince you you’re wrong. There are a lot of strange things that happen when you find the right alignment and balance, including an unexpected increase in energy level, a decrease in the time required to complete projects thanks to constant stimulation and the crossover between industry connections, and access to new ideas and perspectives. Just because it seems impossible to balance it all, doesn’t mean it is. Somehow, it works – as long as you’re willing to do the work required to get into that position,” said Leah.
“The downside of this busy lifestyle is that there’s not a lot of leftover energy to waste. I’ve had times where I’ve lost motivation for music or fallen behind in marketing projects, and due to the overwhelming nature of my schedule, I found that it took a long time for me to muster up the energy I needed to get my momentum back after stopping. I have since made an effort to shift my perspective and ensure I have an effective system to fall back on whenever that happens.
For example, last year I had one particularly tough performance. The New York R&B open mics are exhilarating, but they can also be highly intimidating and intense. I hit the ground running when I first moved to the city, singing everywhere I could, as often as I could, and most of the time the performances went very well. But there was one night where I was brought onstage and ended up, for a number of reasons, leaving the stage feeling quite humiliated. This was the final slap that led me to crack under the pressure of my new life and the entertainment business.
It took some time for me to get back into music again, but my full-time job allowed me to maintain other aspects of my music career, like the growth of my Instagram account, while I worked on my mindset. I overcame this challenge by reminding myself that bringing passion back into my life would give me more energy. I worked music back into my calendar, in light, low-pressure ways, until I had collected enough energy to jump back in fully. I’ve encountered similar situations with each of my careers, and I always respond the same way: I take the first, easy step to getting over my failure or fears, even if it’s a really simple one. But as a preventative measure, I also try not to judge myself too harshly, on the one condition that I don’t stop.
On Balancing Family Time
“I always thought that if I really wanted to succeed, I wouldn’t have time for a boyfriend or too many friends. I didn’t want anything to get in between me and my music, which I had been chasing after for so long. It was such a relief when I discovered that the opposite was true. I’m in a healthy, inspiring relationship which gives me both the peaceful down-time I need and the encouragement to keep my different careers moving forward. It’s one of those inexplicable things I mentioned earlier: somehow less time does not equal less energy. Because the things in my life are in line with my values, they require less of me, and they help me to maintain momentum.”
A Day in the Life…
I follow a specific calendar, because otherwise there would be no other way to keep up with everything I want to include.
- 5:00 am: Workout/Songwriting.
- 6:00 am: Get ready.
- 7:00 am: Smoothie and coffee with my boyfriend.
- 8:00 am: Commute, which I use as a chance to focus on music.
- 9:00 am – 5:00 pm: Work, with a lunch break that I use to publish my IG posts and hashtags.
- 5:00 pm – More commute/music time.
- Evening: Songwriting/organizing/networking/live music – I have different days for each activity and a schedule carefully designed to make sure I’m hitting all of my focus areas.
- Weekends are mainly social activities, creating Instagram content, writing songs and recording demos, or meeting inspiring people for coffee!
Find and Follow Leah
Kabir Sehgal is a New York Times bestselling author, Multi-Grammy Award winning producer, US Navy Veteran, and CNBC Contributor. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Learn more about him at his website.