If you’re like most of us, you know that life isn’t just about work. Whether it’s an instrument, a writing project, or a marathon, you probably have a passion that occupies your mind during the quiet moments of every day. You may think to yourself, “How can I make sure I have the space to pursue my interests while I continue to thrive in my work?”
At Nordic, we have hundreds of examples of this. Take this one: Nordic Senior Consultant Alicia Pope has always had a passion for food and clean eating, but it wasn’t until last year – during an intense elimination diet to understand her potential allergies – that she decided to make it a side project. In January 2016, she started Eat Your Way Clean, a blog that promotes healthier, happier living via clean and intentional eating. She’s been cooking, photographing, and posting her advice ever since.
Here, she chats with Nordic about her journey with Eat Your Way Clean and her advice for other consultants in building a thriving passion project.
Q: How did you get started with Eat Your Way Clean?
Alicia: I’ve been gluten-free for a long time, and have made gluten-free recipes for a long time. But last year I started not feeling well, and I realized there might be a food I was allergic to but didn’t know it. In January 2016, I started an elimination diet – all raw fruits and vegetables – and I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do it unless I had accountability.
I wanted a place where I could put all my dairy-free, refined sugar-free, and nightshade-free recipes. There aren’t that many recipes that come out of the box that way, and I wanted a place that would force me to write them down and be able to recreate them from there. I wanted to be able to say, “Remember that nightshade-free pad thai with cucumbers? How did I make that?”
Q. How has the blog evolved from there?
Alicia: I’ve grown in a few ways. First, I’ve enjoyed getting better at photography. I go back and read something from a year and a half ago, and I realize how much I’ve improved and grown – sometimes by saying, “I can’t believe I posted that!”
I’ve also learned more about social media than I ever expected. Before I started this blog, I followed people on Instagram and Facebook, and I had no idea that many of them have teams of 10 supporting their work. It was like pulling back a curtain on all these influential people, and it’s been interesting to see a different industry and all the layers involved.
Q: You’re a busy woman. How do you keep yourself accountable for maintaining the blog and growing your passion project?
Alicia: Sometimes I fall into the “comparison trap” – I see another blogger who posts three times a week, and I feel guilty about that. But I have to remember, again, that these people often have teams who support them.
For me, it’s about balancing the blog with my work schedule. I work heavily Monday through Thursday, and I dedicate the afternoon on Fridays to my blog. For photo shoots, I dedicate a weekend to making seven or 10 recipes and shooting all of them in good lighting. I take the weekends to edit the photos and get them ready for the week.
Q: Are there ways that Eat Your Way Clean makes you better at your job as a Nordic consultant?
Alicia: I think having an outlet really helps. When you’re in the same industry for ten years, you naturally start asking, “Should I be doing something else with my life?” The blog lets me explore another path without changing careers.
When I have a weekend to take photos, play with light, and play with recipes, I get recharged. It gives me more energy to do the regular work that I do. I have a more grounded and balanced viewpoint on my work.
Q: What motivates you to keep the blog going, even on days when you’re tired or don’t want to post?
Alicia: Honestly, I just really like doing it. What motivates me is being able to see concrete progress. With implementations, you don’t always have something tangible to hold onto and touch and be able to say, “I did this.” With the blog, I look back a year-and-a-half, and I can see definite progress. I even look back two weeks ago and say, “I would do that differently now.”
I also really enjoy the process of improving my photography and my writing. If you force yourself to write twice a week, you’re going to get better at it. That helps me with consulting and communication.
Q. What would you tell newer consultants about pursuing a passion project while they do top-quality consulting work?
Alicia: The thing I tell myself all the time is, “Allow yourself the time to process.” In the consulting world, you’re used to things being fast-paced. In a creative process, you have to give yourself time. It’s the only way to progress. You’ll burn out if you move too quickly.
My advice is show yourself grace and allow it to be a fun process. If you don’t enjoy the journey, you’re not going to enjoy the end state. A passion project should be fun and enjoyable, and if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t make the time for it over other activities.
Q: How do you bring your passion for food and clean living into your job as a consultant?
Alicia: When I bring food to work, it’s always gluten-free and dairy-free, and I’m always advocating for clean food. One of my long-term goals is to figure out a way to get involved in people paying more attention to preventative health and wellness. I think a lot of disease management issues would be improved if we could focus on actual health management, via what we put into our bodies. I’m trying to volunteer with local farms to get more involved in that space.
Apart from that, the biggest way this impacts my work is the different skills I’ve developed. I’ve done business writing, but focusing on creative writing has improved my communication skills.
Q: Could you tell me about a moment when you felt your work truly impacted someone?
Alicia: I have two friends who were having stomach issues, and they were talking about it as if it was just their lot in life. As if it was just something they had to deal with. Over time and after talking to them about it, they eventually cut out wheat from their diets and felt better. One of my friends started having probiotics and drinking veggie shakes. I feel good when someone alters their diet a little bit and feels so much better. It feels like I’m having an impact.
Check out Alicia's work at Eat Your Way Clean.
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