I am all about the high-level strategy when it comes to career development. I have links for days, a stack of business cards, a listing of tech meetups around the world, and more in my career compendium file. In one of my sessions, I can give a client a tailored plan on how to start dominating their field depending on their networking archetype, their content creation preferences, and intersecting interests. These sessions can be for brazen careerists, side hustle heroes, and freedom-minded entrepreneurs.

Want to go from zero to hero in your space?

Come out of nowhere, then end up seeming everywhere in your niche?

Let’s talk then.

HOWEVER, while I can craft a plan until the cows come home and then career counsel the cows, it’s up to the client to implement it.

As always, in all things, your results depend on you, boo boo. You are the only controllable factor after all.

Harsh but true observation: Most people don’t have much get up and go with the follow-through to match.

Note, I am not talking about people with health issues and other hard limits on their energy, career momentum, etc. I feel for those people and they aren’t the ones I am talking about so don’t get it twisted.

I am talking about the ones who know that they were made for more, can do more, but throw around excuses as their potential rots within.

I have been that person.

I wasted the bulk of my twenties before I realized that the clock was ticking. I kept waiting for my life to begin without understanding… it’s already begun!

Life is now. And now. And now. Time stretches on but a year can feel endless yet over in a snap when you are living in a rut, denying your potential, and smothering your dreams with a pillow of mediocrity.

If you are reading this then I have a feeling that you ready and raring to make things happen in your life. It feels like tough going, right? Implementation feels hard at a first. It’s like training for a marathon.

Maybe you have started projects then let them slide. Or maybe you have done a lot of research, took some notes, and then balked at step two. You might have even joined a networking group or a course then faded out after a week. This is pretty normal. Even the top mentored courses have a drop out rate higher than 30%. Starting is easy, follow-through is hard.

Truth is that it’s not lack of knowledge, support, or tech tools that holds most people back in their careers or businesses.

Its mindset and the ability to keep going when the roads get rocky, seas get choppy, and you feel lost in the wilderness. They also call this grit.

Mindset and grit are essentially shorthand for your ability to emotionally regulate yourself in response to stimuli and prime yourself for intentional action.

Motivation evolves.

Willpower needs frequent recharging.

Discipline takes time to develop.

Working on your mindset is how you can take the resources that you have and the strategy/knowledge that you have gained then run down your goal with them.

A healthy positive mindset is how you see yeses instead of nos. It’s how you find open doors among the closed. It’s how you accurately take stock of the hand you’ve been dealt instead of deciding to fold because it’s not a bunch of aces.

In Brazil, they have a word called jeitinho which means “to find a way.” It’s how you can look at what you have, what you don’t, then be a magician to conjure what you need. You can’t find a way if you aren’t looking for one. Grit is how you can keep your eyes on the horizon even if it is raining.

A gritty mindset can be honed over time. The best way to develop this for yourself is to keep your promises to yourself. You don’t have to say yes to everything, but if it matters to you (truly matters, know the differences between whims, wants, and needs) then commit to it. Don’t be that ‘one-day’ person.

My boy Yoda once said, Do or do not, there is no try. It’s true for the Jedis and its true for people.

The next thing that you can do is stop making excuses and pushing the blame for your failures, lack of trying, etc. You can’t find a solution when you are looking for excuses.

That was hard for me. I was educated enough to be able to develop a long list of societal limitations from the patriarchy to my finances that could/would hamper me. A lot on that list was true, but a lot could be overcome, planned for, or was just BS of my own making. Know the difference. A real barrier to success can be strategized around. Mental blocks need to be pulled out.

A third important step is to mind your own business, stay in your own lane, and quit sipping the haterade as you judge others. Jealousy ain’t cute, honey.

I know because I have been that hater and I caught a glimpse in the mirror.

The grass is greener where you water it.

Remember that when you are looking over at your neighbor’s yard, assuming that they must have had some advantages that made them get ahead. Some of the most accomplished people have hidden traumas, hardships, and struggles that they don’t wear on their sleeves. If you are in the States and reading this, keep in mind that almost 44% of all U.S. Fortune 500 Companies in 2018 were founded by immigrants or their children aka people who started on the bottom and worked their way up to the top.

Always be aware that the ‘overnight’ success that triggers your green-eyed monster probably hustled for years to make that ascendance seem effortless.

There is enough success to go around. Your unique vision of success can’t be the same as another’s. You’re not chasing after the same prize even if you are in the same industry. Even for business owners, your clients will be attracted to working with you because you are you.

Focus on you, boo, and what you’re serving up. Unless someone is hiring you, working with you, supporting you, or helping you grow, they don’t concern you.

Discipline, grit, and mindset along with a clear aligned goal will get you far in this world. It’s up to you to decide where you want to go then build a strategy to get there.


After five years of being a career coach and over two running my own online business, I have a different perspective on careers, personal branding, and the nature of work. I have advised hundreds of people, maybe over a thousand, through job hunts, graduations, and career changes from homeless teens to VPs. There is one piece of advice that I have given that is universal.

Think like a freelancer.

If you act like you are a mercenary in the job market, then you have an edge on your competition. Most people are asleep at the wheel when it comes to their jobs.

I see it in the web developers who stop updating their githubs, the manager who stops networking, the professional who stops going to conferences, the designer who lets their portfolio domain expire, etc. They get a job and think the battle is over.

Oh, you sweet summer child.

As a Kardashian would say, I can’t EVEN.

Maybe it’s because I grew up working class with five siblings and had a job and a side hustle by sixteen. 

Maybe it’s because I graduated in a town that never recovered after the Great Recession. 

Maybe it’s because I have had a few jobs lost from budget cuts and company failures.

But I believe that your resume should always be updated, your portfolio fresh, and your network alive.

This is how you maintain a recession-proof career. I have had people complain about this philosophy and say that I am drinking the kool-aid with the hustle culture. Cue a giant eye roll.

It’s not that hard to take an hour every few weeks to do an industry happy hour or five minutes to add a bullet point to your resume when you get a promotion. Its easier than a giant to-do list when you need to job hunt again.

You should be primed for opportunities. This is why some people seem lucky. It’s not luck, they were just ready when someone opened a door for them. Not every door opens again.

And yes, sometimes you will need to HUSTLE when the door opens!

Right now, I am knee-deep in a few projects because I am taking most of September off. Unexpectedly I received a scholarship to do a writing retreat with a best selling self-publishing author (who also has a Ph.D. in Literature). I have a few manuscripts under my belt. They need polishing. It’s a big task and yeah, it has cut into the socializing that I could be doing this summer. However, how many times would I get a chance to write in a French castle with my writing mentor and nearly a dozen published authors?

This is a golden opportunity so I came to the mountains of Bulgaria and settled into a writing-editing groove. Sure, I have gone to the hot springs, had a friend visit, etc, but I also have said no to outings and yes to working harder on some business projects to give me the space to take September off. I am making my self-imposed deadlines.

This opportunity also came to me because I was networking online, took a book marketing course for professional development, and I was fresh in the retreat host’s mind. There were four people who couldn’t accept the scholarship before the hosts thought of me. If I had decided that I was employed, had enough clients, and didn’t need any more of that book learnin’ then this wouldn’t have happened.

Why would it have? You have to put your hand out if you are going to catch something.

It was a golden opportunity but it wasn’t perfect.

September is a busy month for career coaches, I had only a month left on my Schengen Visa, and I was looking at rearranging lots of things. However, I know that writers who do this retreat end up with finished manuscripts, in Forbes, and with their book marketing plans plotted out. It’s a blend of learning the craft and learning the business which very few programs actually teach you. Golden opportunities will find their way to you in inconvenient times and in guises that you might not expect.

Be flexible. Opportunity knocks, but maybe it sounds like a Mariachi band.

Waiting doesn’t help anyone. I have seen friends in the business space sit on courses/services/ideas and find that the moment had passed. The market has moved on. I have seen that happen with job seekers all the time. They see their dream job and procrastinate until it closes. The door closed.

You don’t need to have regrets about missing opportunities when you are ready for them.


The power of positive thinking has been selling books for decades, pushing clicks, is responsible for Tony Robbins and some people are sick of it. The backlash against the positivity does rage in medium articles, forums, and blog around the net. I get it.

Especially after encountering some life coaches who preach the equivalent of sticking your head in the sand to keep your vibe high. Sometimes it feels hard to be positive. We have all seen the news articles.

  • July was the hottest month in human record.
  • You can’t go to a mall without a kevlar vest in the US.
  • There is a turtle somewhere with a plastic straw stuck in its nose.

The neighborhood has really gone downhill.

But, as a former history major, I ask you, was the neighborhood that great, to begin with? We are the species that brought the world Genghis Khan, the Triangle Slave Trade, and World World 1. Humans have always been a real mixed bag.

The universe is pretty chaotic and who knows what will happen next? I am hoping that some white hat hacker cancels all the student loans and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream falls from the sky, personally.

There is a middle ground between smoking a cigarette declaring the god is dead and being a Pollyanna with your fingers in your ears. You can have realistic expectations and still be reasonably positive.

To quote an underrated Joss Whedon show, ‘if nothing we do matters then all that matters is what we do.’

Your life is now. You have been given blessings and opportunities that few in history have gotten by virtue of being born in the computer age. What will you do with it?

Sure, you will probably fail at stuff, your projects might turn out to be harder than you expected, and someone online might say something mean to you. Trolls gotta troll.

I don’t know, call me what you want, but that has never seemed like a good reason to sink your dreams. Failure is a byproduct of trying. It shouldn’t be a deterrent because regrets are worse.

I grew up in retirement town, surrounded by the elderly and I never met one who said, I should have shrunken my goals and did less with my life.

Life is a Choose Your Own Adventure experience. We’re all trapped here and we aren’t taking anything with us when we go. You might as well live it up while you can.

I don’t say these things because my path has been easy, I say this because I have gone through hard times.

Reality can bite. Big deal. Sack up and go for it anyway.

Be a dreamer. Chase your goals, forge a new path for yourself, dance to the beat of your own drum. If you have the moxie and the wit, you might not hit every target you aim for, but you’ll hit more than you think. It’s better than realizing that you existed for decades and never really lived.

Choose your own adventure and live a life where you can say that you did it your way!


In a recent podcast interview, I was asked a time travel question on what decision I would have changed when it comes to finances. It was easy for me to say that I would have changed signing a lease with a romantic partner too soon. That decision snowballed and was compounded by external job losses due to budget cuts then the end of that relationship caused the implosion of my life structures, routines, etc.

My stable life as a mild-mannered librarian who craved stability had been turned upside down.

Essentially the universe kicked my ass.

Cue quarter-life crisis.

Everything changed and I realized that I needed to start over.

I found myself changing my people, places, and things. I started working as a career specialist for an inner-city drop-in space. I moved in with my best friend. I discovered personal development. I also did all the things that I wanted but couldn’t due to dress codes so I got an undercut hairstyle, pierced my nose, and dyed pink streaks in my hair.

Delayed hair rebellion, I guess.

It was hard to start over but that clean slate was what gave me space in my life to start a remote business and begin my journey as a digital nomad.

That kick in the pants got me out of the door.

Would I have stopped listening to the digital nomad podcasts and actually have done it without the booty kick?

I don’t know. I doubt it.

I was like Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit. I would have stayed in my Hobbit-y comfort zone without that push to go on the adventure of my life.

I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to live and travel in over a dozen countries, meet fabulous people, have speaking engagements on three continents, and make a difference in the careers of tech professionals around the world.

When the bad, the inconvenient, the unexpected happens, we naturally focus on what the losses were instead of thinking of what we can now put in its place.

Sure, there are plenty of terrible events that can’t be reframed, I get that. You can’t Pollyanna everything in life. HOWEVER, there are silver linings of a lot of events when you look for them.

Life is easier when you regroup and look for the next step instead of looking back with regret. We can either think that things happen to us or that things happen for us.

The choice is yours!


Imagine that I am writing out a permission slip for you. It looks just the like ones from your school days except instead of your teacher’s neat penmanship, it’s my lazy hieroglyphics-looking scrawl.

It says, I, Sami Gardner give you the permission to suck at stuff.

Now fold up that piece of paper and put it in your pocket to save for a rainy day.

Why did I give you an imaginary permission slip?

Because if you are like many of my clients, you’re smart and probably pretty good at most of the things that you try.

You didn’t have to try that hard in school and got good grades anyway. At work, you are one of the quicker ones on the uptake. Even with hobbies and crafts, you get the hang of it without much of a struggle. You have fully embraced the idea of leaning in.

That is fantastic… except for when you actually have to try.

And that scares the HELL-o Kitty out of many high achievers even if they don’t admit it.

Job hunts, career change, and intentional designing your career and business are pursuits where you will always be on the failure-success roller coaster.

I have had so many clients where they subconsciously have this idea that if the job isn’t perfect then it’s not done. Or if they can’t do it perfectly then they shouldn’t do it at all.

FYI, perfection is a subjective illusion. Some people think that Hamlet is perfect, other people think that Twilight is perfect. Takes all kinds in this world, pal.

This focus on perfect and being good at something in one go is the most limiting of beliefs because it ignores a basic reality.

You have to push past the ‘I suck at this’ stage to get good at something. That learning curve can be longer than you want. Not everything will be a snap to understand and then do.

There are so many inspirational memes, embroidered pillows, and wall hangings that talk about how delightful going outside your comfort zone is. Dance outside your comfort zone, girlfriend!

Let’s be real, it can feel like you are dancing on nails out there.

Outside your comfort zone can be scary, awkward, annoying, frustrating, and embarrassing. It can be exhilarating but it can also make you want to run back to your comfort zone where it is soft, cozy, and familiar.

I have had to jump out of my comfort zone today. I sent off a piece of fiction to a beta reader and I feel like hyperventilating into a bag in between sips of wine. The running monologue in my head going along the lines of ‘oh, god, what if they hate it? What if it sucks? What if I suck? Waughugh.’

That last bit is just the sound I make in my head when I am nervous.

And in September I am going to take a running leap out of my comfort zone because I am going to France next month for a writing retreat. Even beyond the idea that other people will read my stuff (‘Waughugh’), I am terrified because I know that I am in for a lot of socially awkward moments due to the fact that languages are my kryptonite. My French is nonexistent.

I don’t even speak English well at times.

You know what, I will definitely suck at both French and writing at times. I am new to both. So, it’s to be expected.

I can’t get better at either unless I go through the sucking phase. I always probably will sacre blow at French too.

Yet we can’t get more comfortable with new activities, cultures, or subjects unless we give it a go!

The biggest reason for this isn’t because we are skill-building… its because we actually see how it is and how it was easier than what we built it up in our mind.

Humans are natural drama queens especially if we are smart and imaginative because we hyper analyze our situations. We don’t just make a mountain, we make the Himalayas out of molehills. Once you finally just do a thing, we take the mystery and inject reality into the situation which usually is that we didn’t suck that bad and if we did then no one really noticed.

The truth about the world is that most people are too focused on themselves to pay much attention to you. The rest of us are too busy navel-gazing or didn’t realize that you have even made a mistake whether it is with a UX Case Study or a hula hoop trick.

You’re the one who is hyper-aware of your faults.

Life is liberating once you understand that one fact.

So get outside of your comfort zone and as RuPaul says, prance my queens!