Leading with your gut in business and in life.
by Sarafina King
From the time that I can remember, I have always based my decisions on a gut feeling. Call it instinct, your gut, vibes, intuition, etc. I have always been one that has been very in touch with it. I’ve always lived a kind of spur of the moment, jump at any opportunity, fly around the world, or at the seat of my pants sort of existence. My friends and family didn’t question my decisions because of my confidence that everything was going to work out because I truly believed it would.
Growing up in a single parent household, gave me the drive and determination to work my butt off in order to make things happen. So, at 17, when I dropped out of college (I graduated early, long story, for another article) and said I was moving to California to follow my dreams of becoming an actor, it could have been received as one of two ways. Luckily, I have and have always had an incredibly supportive mom. Instead of thinking that I should follow in the footsteps of every other high school graduate, going through the motions, spending tens of thousands of dollars, and still most of them having no idea what they wanted to do with their lives. I was very clear. I was going to California to be an actor. Everything has always been very black and white for me. I think many people may live in a grey area. To me, that way of thinking seemed pulverizing to dreams and life. So off I went, with $400 in my pocket to California. And the rest of the story is kind of crazy, mostly awesome, and little bit filled with, what???
I think most “overnight success stories” have a minimum of a 10 year build-up of behind-the-scenes of rejection, grit, and determination. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that’s advertised. Self-doubting thoughts can quickly get in your head when you’re a starlet just starting out in Los Angeles. Fortunately for me, I always kept busy by taking other jobs that felt right for me. These jobs were exciting and what most grown people would dream of. At the age of 18 I was running a fashion designer’s business, and at 26 I owned my own beachfront Pilates studio. Those jobs were serving their purposes and then some. I was never the starving artist, I was thriving. To all extensive purposes, life was grand. Although I did always have that nagging feeling of, is this it?
I met my husband in 2007, on our co-ed soccer team. He looked like Hugh Jackman from the movie, Wolverine. (I know, I know. Lucky me). After our first game together, we went out for drinks and I remember telling myself, “Do not like this man, you do not want to be in a relationship. He is perfect and you’re going to want to marry him.” And then my mind was silenced, yet again, by that little annoying itch of my gut that wasn’t going away and telling me that he was the one. I finally stopped fighting my gut and just listened and trusted it. After 2 months and 16 days he asked me to marry him and we’ve been together ever since. Can you imagine if I didn’t listen?
I wholeheartedly feel there are two ways to think about work. One type of person, finds their identity in what they do for a living. It’s very important that they do something that makes them feel alive. The second type of person, believes that work provides a lifestyle so that they can take care of their families. They feel alive when they are at home with their families. They live for the family moments and work is a necessity to survive but not to feel whole. I am the first type of person, with little bits of the second. I found myself owning a very successful business, living on the beach, married to the 2007 version of Wolverine, and thinking “Is this it?” I had all the necessary things to be happy in life, but for some reason, I was just existing. I wasn’t living. I think it’s important to recognize the difference between the two
I felt so torn. I contemplated selling my very successful business, but felt stuck because it was providing for me and my husband in a way I had never experienced before. This was the first time in my life where I had financial freedom. Basically, I was one of those people that could shop at Wholefoods for all of our needs, not just the “special stuff”. My gut was beside itself. It was trying in every way to tell me to move on from my business, but I wasn’t listening this time. I think this is when divine intervention stepped in.
In 2012, I injured myself at work and my spine collapsed like an accordion. I was unable to walk for some time and then underwent extensive physical therapy in order to get strong enough to have spinal fusion surgery. I now have a ten-inch cobalt steel rod in my spine and 22 screws. Becoming injured and relying on physical therapy to help me function again was a very humbling experience and it made me really think about my life. I kept having this repeating thought of, “Life is too short. What are you doing?” For the first time in my life I was physically stopped in my tracks in order to recognize the importance of living, not just existing. I decided then and there to sell my business. My company sold the day before my surgery and I’ve never looked back.
After my surgery I started to focus on acting again. It was then I decided again to listen to that voice that always led me down the right path. I decided it was time to make a move to Atlanta. I remember coming home and telling my husband that I was going give Atlanta a try. Two weeks later, I moved across the country. I can’t explain my need to follow my instincts, but it’s an overwhelming feeling of needing to follow through.
Atlanta has been an interesting move for our family. My husband landed an incredible job and absolutely loves what he does. I have landed quite a few acting jobs as well as expanding our family and making some tiny humans. I’ve also fallen love with wood working and interior design.
There’s a funny thing that happens when you get your “A-ha” moment as Oprah calls it. For some reason I was under the impression that one dream had to come before another and there was an order to things. Working actor, check. Husband, check. Kids, check. And according to my thoughts they needed to happen in that order. I think a lot of times people get stuck in what they think should be happening instead of letting go and checking in with their intuition about what feels right.
I have done many things that some people may believe were impulsive or even irrational. I was engaged after two months, I moved across the country because I had a feeling it was the right choice, I quit college because I didn’t feel it was right. All of these decisions were not impulsive or irrational it was just that I listened deeply to those gut feelings that have led me to where I am today. Most importantly, because I listened to my gut I also learned that dreams can change for the better.
If you’re reading this and questioning your path or feeling a bit lost about what is next for you, I understand. My advice would be that you’re on the right path if your soul is happy. My “A-ha” moment was the recognition that not everyone’s success story looks the same or follows the same path. I’ve learned that it’s important to check in with myself and to check in with remembering what my younger self had set out for. It’s important to ask yourself if it has changed. Has it changed for the better? Or do you need to reset and make yourself a priority again? If there’s one thing that life has taught me it is that we have no idea when our time is up. It is better to go down in blaze of glory than to be just existing and wondering what if?
When I was a kid, my favorite book-and-tape set was Sesame Street’s Lovable, Furry Old Grover in Please Don’t Push the Red Button. It was an electronic game before its time. The book coincides with the keyboard. The rules are in the title, Don’t Push the Red Button. What was my favorite thing to do? Of course, it was to push the red button against Grover’s wishes! By the end of the book Grover was beside himself because I repeatedly pushed that red button and it’s hysterical! Maybe that’s why I choose to live a little rebelliously or maybe it’s been ingrained in me from the very beginning. I have no intention of slowing down, people pleasing, or following the masses. I’m going to continue to follow my gut and push all the buttons along the way!
I’m not sure if its stupidity, stubbornness, or sheer determination but I have never once thought I wouldn’t make it. Have I made it? That’s entirely up to your own opinion of “making it”. Am I currently recurring on a tv show? Yes. Am I currently living in a house designed by myself? Yes. Am I married to the most incredible man, that was plucked out of the heavens for me? Yes. Do I have two remarkable children that make my world go around? Yes. Do you know who I am? Maybe a little bit better after this article, but probably no. Does that bother me in the slightest? No. I know in my soul there are great things for me that I have yet to experience. The idea that things need to happen in MY timeline is something I thought in my twenties. Things are going to happen, but my timeline may look a little different than my 17-year-old self may have thought. I am living my best life and my story is not even close to being complete. On the contrary, it’s just starting. And damn, it’s been a great beginning!
Sarafina King is an actress, writer, and producer in Atlanta. A Michigan born dreamer, she spent many years living on the beach in Southern California before her work took her across the country. When not on a film set, she’s most likely be caught with sawdust in her hair and paint on her hands.
Always creating, Sarafina spends her spare time renovating spaces and doing interior design. She is passionate about wood working, KitKats, and raising kind and respectful little Kings. You can find out more about her work at www.sarafinaking.com