Tama Kieves career coachThe times. . . they are a changin’. So many invested in corporate America. They figured if they just put in a good 30 years, they would be safe, solid, and vested. They would have all they needed.

But then the layoffs struck. And broken promises fluttered to the ground. People realized that there is no safe path. They are no longer as easily seduced by corporate America.

Having tried the path of security and gotten burned by it, people are no longer as willing to suppress who they are. “I think that’s just phenomenal,” says Tama Kieves. “I love that.”

Tama is a sought-after speaker based in Denver, Colorado. And as a career and success coach who ditched a corporate law career, she attracts clients who have achieved a lot in traditional terms. They are lawyers, doctors, CEOs, and engineers, among others. “They tasted of that fruit and it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be,” she says. “They hit the top of the ladder, but then realize, ‘Oh my God, this is the wrong ladder.’”

In her  book, Inspired & Unstoppable, she describes the thought process that leads us up the wrong ladder pursuing “linear success” over “inspired success.” Linear thinking has us hatch all these plans. I’ll go to school, and then I’ll get a degree and then I’ll get a good job, then I’ll get a good bonus, and then I’ll get a good swimming pool. “All those linear steps make sense to the mind,” says Tama, “but they don’t make sense to the soul.”

Inspired success is about being moved, Tama says. What moves you? With traditions and conventions falling away, there are no “safe” paths. The only safe thing is your passion, your energy, and your genius, says Tama. “To me, your passion is your greatest security.”

Where inspired success is a goal

If you have a creative dream, inspired energy, or you have this creative genius inside you, it’s never secure to deny it or put it off, because it’s going to kill you, she says. When Tama was in law school at Harvard, law never felt like a good fit. And later practicing law, she was miserable. She recalls that she was exhausted, depressed, and scared all the time—because she was holding back everything she was meant to do and everything she was meant to be. “If you are holding back your life force, thinking that that’s going to make you more secure,” she says, “it’s crazy.”

Linear steps makes sense to the mind, but not to the soul.

It can be hard to convince people that they need to break free from “ordinary consciousness” to be their brightest selves. Often Tama will speak to an audience of people who are not in their element or are stuck in a job they don’t love. They’re not breathing. They don’t feel alive and creative. And there she is telling them: You can have any dream. “If you follow your joy,” says Tama, “it’s a portal to your capacities, to your genius, and to resources that you don’t even know you have.”

They may well think she’s speaking a foreign language or has watched too much Oprah, she says. To understand why it’s so hard for some people to imagine their more joyful selves, consider the caterpillar and the butterfly. “The restrained self will always see a restraining world,” Tama wrote in one of her books. Just think of all those people who blame and focus on factors holding them back. They never take the first step on a journey to a new life and self.

“The reason I’m so excited about helping people tap their inspiration is because I know that every single person has more power and possibilities than they know,” she says. When you tap what moves and inspires you, you’re being called into completely different realms where you will do things completely differently. “The butterfly is going to fly rather than crawl,” she says. “That’s what I think we are all being invited into.”

Tama’s own path was not linear at all. She spent 12 years writing her first book, This Time I Dance, for, as she tells it, “not a dime.” It took 12 years, because it took 11 years to heal or to believe she could do the work and to believe it would go out in the world. In reality, it probably took only one year to write. “A lot of us doing alive, creative work are doing so many different things on so many different levels, it’s not just a linear thing,” she told Project Otter.

Some people figure she had a money buffer, because she was a Harvard-trained lawyer. But she says she did not, because she had buried her hatred in shopping for clothing. When she quit her corporate law job, she decreased her expenses. Along the way, she tried poetry and waited tables, because it sounded fun. She started teaching classes and coaching people. She didn’t realize she was going to end up becoming a national expert. People now ask her if she will help them find their dreams or their greatest love. She tells people on a creative inspired path that one thing leads to another, leads to another in ways you can’t imagine. “Where you start off isn’t where you end up,” she says.

She has said that she would never have ended up where she did—had she followed a conventional path. After writing her book, she self published it. It began to take off through word of mouth. Four months after that, she received an email that said, “Your fairy godmother has arrived,” in the subject line. It was from a VP of marketing and publicity at Random House who had somehow found Tama’s book, and it struck a chord. She loved the book and wanted to get it to a major New York house. And she did. You can hear her tell the story in a TedX talk.

The inspired life can’t be planned, she says. As an unknown author, Tama would never have ended up where she did, had she followed a conventional path. She couldn’t have planned the sequence of events and miracles. But unlike some people who speak of finding your bliss, she’s not all “woo woo.” She doesn’t want people to be misled into thinking that once they find what inspires them, they will be joyful and on the path of bliss. It’s not like all doors will open and angels will come out and escort you, she says. No, that happens on Tuesday. “On Wednesday,” she says, “you freak out again.”

This is the first of a two-part series. This installment describes a structural framework for living an inspired life. The next will explore steps you can take to be your brightest self.