Charlotte Ottaway, also known as Carly, is the founder of Web of Words, where she helps purpose-driven entrepreneurs create meaningful connections online through blogging and social media marketing. She is a freelance writer and editor with interests in conscious entrepreneurship, creative muse, generational differences and the future of work. Her work has been published in Canadian Business, Zoomer Magazine, The Globe and Mail and The Huffington Post Canada. She also co-founded The Reply, an online magazine for millennials looking to break the status quo.
- Best advice you’ve ever received? How do you currently implement that advice?
One of my favourite quotes, said by Mark Twain:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Since a young age, I think I’ve had a hunger for risk. I try not to let fear get in the way of life experiences. I like to remain free and flexible, open to whatever opportunities come my way. I believe I really applied this advice when I started my own business. I didn’t let the fear of failure stop me from chasing my dreams. I didn’t want to build someone else’s empire; I wanted to create my own. And I wanted to make it happen now, in my twenties, before I got too comfortable in a 9-to-5 role (although let’s face it, I will never be comfortable in the 9-to-5 world).
There’s something to be said of being practical, of course, but I also knew I’d find a way to pay the bills; I’d find a way to make it work. Sometimes, you have to get a little desperate. Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster of a ride, with inconsistent income streams, tight deadlines, disappearing clients. The obstacles are inevitable. I’ve always believed it’s better to embrace the problems as they arise rather than to dodge them and miss out what you might discover on the other side.
- If you had 5 minutes to teach someone something new, what would you teach? Why?
I’m sure it would taken longer than 5 minutes, but I think one of the most valuable lessons would be to teach others to look past the fear of the unknown. Entrepreneurship is definitely not for everyone, but so many of us accept the corporate role with the 2-hour commute because we think we don’t have any other choice. The truth is, we make our own choices. If you don’t want to live a status quo life, don’t work a status quo job. You can choose to take the life path that is presented to you, or you can choose to build your own. But don’t, for one second, believe the decision is not completely yours to make.
- What is your driving force, what pushes you to do what you do?
Honestly, I think it’s my love for life and the awareness that I do not control what tomorrow will bring. About three months before I quit my 9-to-5 job, my best friend was in a tragic car accident. Her injuries were life threatening, and she was lucky to survive. In the span of a few seconds, her whole world was transformed. Something was stolen from her that day, and for three years now, I’ve watched her fight to get her “normal life” back – to return to the nursing job she loved, to follow through with her plans to wed her high school sweetheart.I truly believe every day is precious, and I am so grateful to be able to do what I do. I think one of the greatest mistakes people make is telling themselves they have “more time.” We think we have a lifetime to live out our dreams. I think the time to do it is now. This is what inspires me to show up and go to work everyday.I am also very fortunate to have a strong force of family and friends around me who support and encourage me when I need it most. We all have those days, and we need someone we can turn to – someone who will help us scrub the grass stains off the knees of our pants, and tell us to “get back out there.” For me, that person is my husband and business partner, Luke.
- How do you believe your work connects you to others?
Words and stories have connected us for centuries. Now, with websites, blogs, email lists and social media, storytelling has evolved and I believe it’s created even more opportunity for us to build connections we never would have had the chance to create otherwise. We can converse with someone on the other side of the world in 140-characters and the simple click of the button. We can share our experiences for the world to see, attracting people who believe in the words we share, and want to be a part of what we are doing. It’s incredible, really, the power of storytelling. Everyone has a story. Some of us just need help discovering what that is, and sharing it in a meaningful way.
- What is your superpower? How do you use it?
I think I have a knack for helping people discover personal strengths and truths they never knew were there. I love interviewing people, and learning about their lives. I especially love connecting with purpose-driven entrepreneurs, learning about why they do what they do, how they got to where they are, and where they want to go from here. This has become a valuable skill in my job, as I become the voice for my clients, crafting their beliefs and dreams into stories for the world to read and share.
- How do you prime your mindset for success?
I remind myself to take a step back every once in a while and reflect on where I am, where I came from, and where I want to go from here. Often, this means going somewhere new, exploring a different environment. I really enjoy going for hikes with my dog. I find being surrounded by nature helps me connect with my roots and what is truly important to me. It’s easy for us to get distracted by the pay check, the client work, the hours we put in, but we have to make time to reflect, express gratitude, and set plans and goals for what’s next. Once I’ve had a chance to let my mind water, I return to my laptop, put fingers to keyboard, and just let my thoughts pour out onto the page. Writing has always been the most effective path to clarity for me. It also helps that I write my goals down and track my progress along the way. I am always motivated by the simple act of checking items off a list.
- Name a time or situation you needed to dig deep within yourself to overcome adversity. How did you do it?
The decision to quit my full-time job and make the leap to self-employment was definitely the most difficult choice I’ve made in my career so far. Ever since graduating, I’ve been freelance writing on the side of my full-time jobs. A few months before giving my notice, my boss gave me an ultimatum suggesting I had to choose between my passion for journalism and the work I was doing in social media. I didn’t feel like I should have to choose. If anything, my freelancing experience was only improving the work I was doing full-time. Not to mention, the glass ceiling in my current role was definitely in sight.During this time, I was working on a passion project and looking to start an online magazine for millennials with a colleague of mine. We called it The Reply, and the launch was a huge success. I realized then that my career was heading in a different direction and I had to follow it – I had to find out what it would lead to. Up to this point, I had been building up a cushion of savings for the day I finally made the move, but I ended up making the leap sooner than planned. It was a big risk, but one I haven’t regretted for an instant. I feel like I have grown more in the last year and a half of entrepreneurship than I did in the first five years of my career. The first few months were tough – my husband and I were living on an extremely tight budget and there was a lot of uncertainty. But then things started to flourish. I quickly learned the importance (and advantages) of believing in yourself, being flexible, and being a risk-taker.
- What do you do when you need to MINDSHIFT?
I think I’m a very intuitive person, and I’ve learned to really trust my gut. Doing so has helped me overcome many obstacles both in work and life. It also helps me recognize when I need to take a step back or make a change, when something doesn’t feel right. I also tend to journal my way through difficult decisions or emotions, and when I am feeling a little low or lost, I look to surround myself with people who inspire me to be the best version of myself – other entrepreneurs, artists, or family and friends. My work as a writer and home-based business owner can feel isolated at times, so creating a community of support is so important to my success.
At MINDSHIFT NINJA we are in the business of helping people do better by thinking better, and one of the best ways to do that is to showcase people doing great things. If you are a MINDSHIFT NINJA (or know someone who is), let us know!