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Taking the Dream Path Less Traveled
You’re a one-of-a-kind dreamer, with a dream just as unique as you are. There’s beauty in novelty, but sometimes being a dreamer that strays from the status quo can feel a little lonely. Achieving your dream can seem extra challenging when so few are making the journey with you.
Take Angela Laughlin for example, an American Family Insurance Agency Owner who aspired to follow in her dad’s footsteps doing car restoration and modification — a historically male-dominated industry. That may sound pretty intimidating, especially when there are few women role models. But Angela was able to break through! She shared her story with us, along with her top tips for making space in the car restoration industry by finding creative resources and skills to pursue her passion.
How to Find Your Unique Dream
Identify your passion
Still trying to figure out what your dream is? Start by looking within: What is something you’ve always loved – even as a kid? Before adult tasks like jobs and bills got in the way, what made you happy growing up?
For Angela, days spent working alongside her dad on cars was what got her excited for the day. While she remembers other girls her age reading Teen Vogue, Angela grew up reaching for Car Craft magazine. She and her dad worked on her dream from a young age.
“I wasn't quite 14 when my dad and I bought my first car, a ‘66 Chevelle,” Angela recalls. “When we started building it, it was a great bonding experience for us. When I was growing up, my dad was really busy, so to spend that time with him was huge!”
Building that Chevelle when she was 14 was a pivotal moment for Angela in finding her passion.
“My dad picked that car because it was a car he wanted in high school and couldn't afford,” Angela says. “I actually still have it. It’s a very desirable classic car. After we bought it, I had people offer to buy it before we even started doing anything to fix it up, and I’ve had a lot of offers over the years. But I would never get rid of it — not with all the memories I have from building it with my dad.”
Whether it’s exploring what you love to do today, or revisiting something you enjoyed growing up, following your passions can lead you to pursue a new dream.
Distinguish your strengths
Remember, part of what makes your dream unique is that you’re unique, and you bring your own skills, ideas and creativity to your dream. For example, a lot of car collectors might focus on fine-tuning the engine until it’s purring. But for Angela, she discovered she was able to apply her knowledge from her degree in apparel design to automotive upholstery.
“My husband and I restore cars together now, and when we work together, I get to do a lot of the planning/sourcing and interior work,” she explains. “I have a degree in apparel design, so it was a natural transition to turn my focus to the interior part of the car restoration process, and that’s been fun for me!”
When you’re striving to break into your desired industry, it’s important to look for what makes you different and uniquely perfect for the job.
“There are a lot more women getting in the motor sports industry, which is great to see,” Angela added. “Some of the best motorcycle drag racers are female because they're typically lighter and they’ll go faster on a bike than someone bigger.”
When it comes to pursuing your passion, Angela points out it’s important to know your strengths and where you might need help.
“There are times when small hands like mine can reach places where big hands like my husband’s can’t. But, then on the flip side, there are times I have to get help to break a bolt loose because I’m not strong enough.”
And that’s the beauty of diverse dreamers pursuing similar passions – your ability to work together with your unique skills enriches the experience for everyone! Think of your weaknesses as just opportunities to invite others to help. Here are a few ways you can get the right people in your corner.
Find your support system
Rarely can any dream be accomplished — especially one that feels like a path less traveled — without some help along the way. Angela recalls how fortunate she’s been to have had support from everyone from her family to an entire town!
When you’re a young girl building her own car in a small town, word gets around. The good news for Angela was she was in the right town for her passion project.
“Most people, especially when I was young and building my car, were really happy to help with whatever they could,” Angela shares. “The transmission that's in my car came from a guy who was friends with my dad. He generally doesn't sell things, but he knew we were looking for that transmission and since he knew it was for me, he sold it to us cheap — probably cheaper than he should have. Overall, people were excited to see a younger person into classic cars.”
Angela’s family, her husband in particular, keeps her inspired.
“My husband's a big motivator because he's the kind of person that believes there's no stopping point when you start a project. The only stopping point is when it's done,” she laughs. “Whereas I’m a little bit more laid back and will want to step away for a bit when a problem arises instead of just rushing forward, so I think between the two of us, it's a good balance.”
Whether it’s your spouse, partner, friend or an entire town behind you, with the right support, there’s no telling all that you can accomplish. But your “what” and “how” are two very different things. Now that you’ve established what your unique dream is, it’s time to go after it!
6 Steps to Pursuing Your Unique Dream
Do your research
Go for it!
Turn obstacles into opportunities
When mapping out the first step to your dream journey, it’s important to start small. Remember to follow SMART goals and stick with something achievable that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-sensitive. It’s a great way to test the waters to see if this is the right path for you before investing more time and money.
For example, if you dream of restoring an old car, maybe your first SMART goal is to update the car’s mirrors by the end of the month.
Once you’ve set a small goal, do some research before you dive in. This is especially important if your goal involves using machinery or taking extra safety precautions. Here are a couple of ways Angela took the initiative to learn about car restoration:
Job shadow. Angela learned so much through working with her dad growing up. Finding someone to take you through their hobby or skill is a great way to get first-hand experience.
Online community boards. The internet is a great place to connect with people from all over the world, and more than likely, find others hoping to achieve similar objectives. Angela uses online chatrooms and boards to find the best tips and materials for whatever project or car model she’s working on.
Video tutorials. Before tackling that DIY project, go online to see if there are tutorials or blog posts showing you how it’s done, it could save you a lot of time — and stress.
And as you learn and grow through research, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions along the way.
“People are willing to teach you how to do something, so you just need to be willing to take that help and ask questions so you can figure out what you're doing,” Angela advises. “It's always good to reach out to those mentors or experts.”
Need some inspiration to get the wheels turning? Here are some questions for beginners specifically within car restoration:
• What supplies do I need?
• Do I need to buy those supplies, or can I rent or borrow them?
• How much time do I need?
• Is this a one-person task, or do I others’ help?
• What are the financial costs?
• What skills do I need to learn?
Once you feel prepared and confident, it’s time to give it a try! Sometimes the best way to learn is by doing.
“When my dad and I were building the engine for my Chevelle, I did most of the work myself. My dad guided me as needed, but I was in the garage with coveralls on and a torque wrench in hand getting down to work. I was really proud of myself and how it turned out.”
Remember, pursuing a niche dream requires a growth mindset, and according to Angela, that’s the key ingredient for success in car restoration.
“When I set a goal and want to do something, I watch a YouTube video and think, ‘Okay, well, I can probably do that,’ and I go for it,” Angela says. “You need to be open minded and willing to learn and try new things. If my husband and I want something done, we have to learn how to do it.”
It’s no secret that auto mechanics comes with challenges. Most vehicle owners have experienced car issues at least once in their life! So, imagine the difficulties that can arise when restoring one.
The global pandemic came with a lot of challenges, such as supply chain issues, which made essential materials and equipment nearly impossible to find. But that situation only pushed Angela to refine and sharpen her interior design or restoration skills.
“In March 2020, we started working on a Jeep, but with the major supply chain issues, we couldn’t get new car seat kits,” Angela says. “So, I took the seats apart myself and restored them on my own. I’ve always kind of dabbled in that, but that was when I really got into it. The Jeep turned out really nice, and we were able to enjoy it for the summer and then sell it so we could move on to the next project.”
With all this determination and hard work toward your dream, the purpose behind it can get lost. Remember, you started your dream journey because it was something you loved! Sprinkling extra fun into your projects can help you avoid burnout and maintain a positive mindset.
And there you have it! Whether you dream of breaking through barriers or achieving something that’s never been done before, you can still get all the help and resources you need to get to reach your goal. Because your unique dream deserves unique support.
If you found this article helpful, make sure to check out these self-improvement resources that can help you be the happiest, best version of yourself so you can reach all your dreams.