Hard Lessons for Hard Times

I know a thing or two about hard times. I’m an ex-alcoholic. I’ve failed more than I’ve won. I’m a trans woman with PTSD. Out of that — I’ve built my own company, I’m a widely published writer, started angel investing and just hit 18 months sober.

My advice is for real 🖤

✨ Don’t take anyone’s shit. You might think you’re paying dues. You’re just learning compliance. You’re better than that. You get to decide how people treat you.

You get to set your standards. I think it’s easy to feel as though we have to look to someone’s job title before we answer them, look to their reputation before we reject them, or think about the long term before we speak our minds.

But that’s just not the case. You can’t live a life where you continually sacrifice your self respect and your mental health in exchange for an imaginary payoff one day down the track.

I’ve been blocked by Marc Andreessen and Paul Graham and Mia Freedman and I still have a career. Don’t take shit. Don’t bow to power.

✨ Your worth does not come from how other people see your job; your home; your hustle. Your worth is innate. You were born with it and nobody and no circumstance can take it away from you.

If you’re living a life that makes you proud, that makes you happy, and that meets your needs, that’s what matters. If your path is to build companies, record albums, stay home with the kids, work a 9–5 that lets you focus on reading mystery novels and learning how to cook the best Mac and Cheese in the world — that’s fucking great. Do that.

The opinions of the people around you don’t earn your self worth. You’ve got all the self worth you’re ever going to get the moment you’re out of the womb. Embrace that and use it to live your own way.

✨ Trying to convince people you are someone or you have something is a waste of time. And everyone can see through it. The people you’re pretending to be don’t waste their time pretending.

People who are truly wealthy ain’t on a mission to convince you they’re truly wealthy. Case in point? Donald Trump. People who are truly happy, ain’t trying to convince you they’re happy. They’re being happy. People who love what they do don’t have to weave a narrative about it.

They’re out there living. Go ye and do likewise friendo.

✨ This is the most important lesson I have ever learned. It’s the most important lesson you’ll ever learn, when you’re ready for it.

There is nothing more rebellious, more revolutionary or more counter cultural than being kind. It’s the only way to truly go against the grain.

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Joan Westenberg is an award winning Australian contemporary writer, designer and creative director. She is the founder of branding and advertising firm Studio Self. Her approach to messaging, communication and semiotics has built her reputation as a writer, and she has been named as one of the leading startup voices in Australia by SmartCompany.

Her writing has appeared in The SF Chronicle, Wired, The AFR, The Observer, ABC, Junkee, SBS, Crikey and over 40+ publications. Her regular work can be found on Pizza Party, a blog about creativity, culture and technology. Joan is the creator Transgenderinclusion.com, an open-source workplace inclusion hack, and the author of the book #DIY, a manifesto for indie creativity.

Chaotic good. Award winning creative director & writer, ft. in Wired, The AFR, SF Chronicle, Junkee. founder tinyspells.xyz / thisisstudioself.com ✨ She/Her.

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