Starter Stories: Meet Meg Lewis
Welcome to the world of Meg Lewis, boundless creator and proprietor of Darn Good, a destination for design, podcasts, books, workshops and videos. Meg is on a mission to make the world a happier place by showing people how to be 100% themselves. With Meg, we learn how being yourself makes anything possible, no matter what you dream of doing.
“It’s a great guide, I find, to ask yourself: ‘Can I make the world happier by doing this? And can I be myself in this opportunity or feel safe enough to be that person?’ That’s when to say yes.”
Q: You’ve followed your own very unique path for your whole career. So, let’s start at the beginning.
A: I’ve always tried to be myself and express myself. But I grew up in a community where I would get shut down a lot. I learned very quickly even when I was a tween that if you do anything that’s a little bit different, people will make fun of you. And it was happening to me all the time. I found it so frustrating. As soon as I turned 18, I moved to LA and started meeting people who were doing different things than I had ever seen before and who were successful. It was then that I realized it was okay to be different.
Q: How did you cultivate that difference to get to who you are and the work you do now?
A: A lot of what I’ve become over the years is studying what I don’t want to become. Even in school, I had such big plans for my life and I was very fearful that I wouldn’t be able to execute these plans if I just got comfortable. So very quickly, I developed a mechanism of not allowing other people to determine my success. And I knew that if I’d had a full time job, I would just want to please everyone and I’d probably stay in one place or career forever. I’d be too afraid to quit.
I realized I would have to just work for myself my whole life, but I had no idea how to do that. I didn’t know what I wanted to make or how, but I knew that I wanted to live this big powerful life where I was impacting other people’s lives. That is when I decided to start fighting for clients, in a graphic design sense, because I had that training and knew how to do that. I knew how to use the tools and I enjoyed it. At the beginning, I leaned on what I had and let it fuel me into figuring out how to actually survive.
I think as you are working for yourself and doing your own thing, you learn that you are capable of so much. If you work hard enough and gather as much information as you can and keep trying and keep pushing, you really can do anything.
Q: How conscious a process was this, or was it just something that you reflected on from time to time as you started doing bigger projects? Was there a map you set out for yourself that you followed?
A: Not at all. All I knew I had was the will to show the world a sense of my purpose. I can do this. I don’t need anybody to tell me what to do.
I’ve always been a person that lives in the present and I don’t like thinking about the future at all because I love surprises. I try to never look towards or plan for my future too much because then it’s not fun for me anymore. If I had a goal, say five years from now, then yes, I know in five years I will do that.
Throughout my career what I love so much is that if I leave all of the doors and windows open, in five years, undoubtedly, I will end up way further than I originally expected, but also in a completely different area than I could’ve ever imagined.
Q: Tell us about the project that began with the book Full Time You.
A: Full Time You is a book and video series that I created along with workshops. People go through this self- discovery process with the book and I don’t really get to talk to them much about the outcome. But, with the 1:1 workshops, I do get to work with people in real time, as they realize that the things that make them different are actually a good thing. And then, I get to help them create businesses, projects, offerings, or get full time jobs that reflect those things about themselves.
I’m always surprised at the results because the things that people find out about themselves seem simple in retrospect. I’m just asking them what about their personality makes them unique?
And that seems so basic and so easy and so obvious. But for everybody, we’ve been conditioned our whole lives to think to suppress those things. It’s really hard. And so, to be part of that process with somebody and to facilitate that environment is so important for me. It’s so hard to put it into the world, who you really are and what you really offer. But once you’re able to finally get over the emotional hurdle of doing that, it changes everything. Because then you start attracting people that want to be around you, clients and companies that want to work with the real you, and it’s so much more fulfilling.
Q: In the process of coaching with Full Time You, do you see a difference between somebody coming to you from a creative practice or someone who is from totally outside your field?
A: I don’t and it’s the most exciting to me. When I first started coaching and teaching these workshops, I was terrified because I thought, I’m not going to know how to relate to their problems. Who am I to be able to tell these people what to do when I know nothing about their field? I remember once specifically, I had a woman who is a doula, and I don’t know anything about being a doula. I’ve never even given birth and there’s so much that I don’t know. There were so many talks that I was so scared of, whenever I met with her. But I’ve since found this out dozens of times since: it’s that we’re all dealing with the same problems.
I’m working with people in regard to their true selves and their personality and relationship to their work. The questions and the process are the same for everyone. We’re all trying to figure out how to position ourselves to show what makes us really great. It doesn’t matter if I’m coaching a male design director at a large tech company or if I’m helping someone who’s a student. Everybody is really dealing with the same stuff and trying to solve this problem. I think that is extremely charming and it’s been really, really amazing for me to realize.
Q: With all the diversity among your own projects and all the different people and partners you work with, do you feel like you’re the same Meg walking through all of that?
A: There is always a balance, because I do really like being in control and I like doing things on my own. With Full Time You, I wrote, I edited, I published it myself, I ship every single book copy out myself. But I also love designing products for clients and other companies because then I can just give them a piece of artwork and it has its own life. And if I truly think that a project or a business of mine needs other contributors, then I bring in other people and it’s really fun to work with my friends. So, I try to do that as well as I can.
So much of it all begins in learning to suppress many things about who we are and what we want as we get older, because we develop various coping mechanisms. But being myself is about shedding away all of these things that the world has taught me I couldn’t do, and allowing myself to finally do them. So, I am absolutely the same person through all these projects, which I think is really cool. I’m just allowing myself to be more publicly myself than ever and I’m allowing myself to have the whole world completely open to do whatever I want.
Q: How does comedy fit into this for you?
A: Well, who am I to think I could do comedy? But I like to constantly change the kind of things that I’m doing. I like to be weird. I love to be silly and not take things too seriously. And I’m such a fan of taking traditionally boring topics and finding a way to make them lighthearted and fun.
So with humor and podcasting, that’s just another outlet for me to get my voice across. I think with my design work and the businesses that I create, my goals are all the same. I’m trying to make the world a happier place. Design allows me to do that in a visual way and podcasts in an audio way.
Q: On that note, can you tell us about your latest podcast, Sit There & Do Nothing?
A: The idea was for me, like, oh, I can offer something that’s different than anything that exists, and people probably want this right now. So, for example, what I’m doing with the podcast is the classic guided meditation of “you’re sitting on the beach”. You could feel the sand between your toes—but people are doing different things. You’re going for a colonic or you’re going shoe shopping with Paul Rudd.
In coming up with these ideas, I’ve had to learn how to be extremely, radically inclusive. I have to make sure that everything I’m saying and writing about is something everyone can do or imagine. And I feel like I can accomplish that goal through something that is really fun and lighthearted.
The work that I’m really doing with the podcast and everywhere is in being myself 100% and expressing who that is. And my goal is to inspire other people to do the same. I want to get people excited to see someone be themselves and then empower them to do that in their own lives.