It’s a glorious day when you find a book combining a person you respect, a subject you love, and a message you desperately need to hear. All three came together for me when I picked up It’s Your Universe by Ashley Eckstein. Part autobiography, part workbook, 100% inspirational guide to following your dreams and living your best life.
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It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make It Happen
If you’ve come across any level of pop culture merchandise over the past few years, you’ve likely seen Ashley Eckstein‘s work. She is the owner, creator, and ultimate fangirl behind Her Universe, the clothing and accessories line that was the first to allow women to fully embrace and showoff their fandom. Eckstein grew up a fan of Star Wars, always lamenting that there was never merchandise or clothing specifically for female fans. Being cast as the voice of Ahsoka Tano in The Clone Wars animated series finally gave her the connections she needed to develop a brand specifically for fangirls.
It’s Your Universe details the path Eckstein took from Disney fan to actress to entrepreneur, including her hurdles and her successes. The book is split into five sections: Wish, Believe, Do, Transform, and Trust. Each chapter includes stories from her life and career, and offers guidance for how others can use what she learned to fulfill their own dreams. This book isn’t just a passive read, however; throughout it, Eckstein provides prompts and space to write your goals, and challenges you to think about the ways you can actively start to achieve them. It’s Your Universe is also visually stunning, filled with colorful art from the talented Ashley Taylor.
Without going into too much detail, because (spoiler alert) I absolutely recommend you pick up a copy of this book for yourself, I wanted to share the themes in It’s Your Universe that spoke to me personally.
Play to Your Strengths
We’ve all been there: feeling discouraged because we can’t stop comparing ourselves to other people. It’s easy to fall into “small fish, big pond” syndrome, where you question the point in even starting something new because of how long it will take, or number of successful and established people in that field. How many times have you become your own personal roadblock by stopping yourself before you even have the chance to try?
Rather than being so hyper-focused on where people are right now, take a step back. Recognize that everybody who is successful had a beginning, and it looked vastly different than where they are now. Most of them openly acknowledge that. You are also doing yourself a major disservice by simply aspiring to do what another person is currently doing or to achieve the success they have. Your voice, insight, and experiences are what make you unique. Your goals and the approach you take to pursuing them should be equally unique.
Always Have a Plan – and Multiple Back-Up Plans
Okay, so you’ve busted through the self-doubt about getting started…now what? Eckstein speaks a lot in It’s Your Universe about not only having a plan, but having a series of backup plans because it’s inevitable that you’re going to have to change course along the way. Coming up with a plan can almost be as intimidating as the choice to start something new. Where do you begin?
Think about your dreams and what you ultimately hope to achieve. Then, start to work backwards. What steps or benchmarks do you need to accomplish to realize that dream? Break that down even further. What is one actionable item you can do today to get you closer to completing one of those steps? Congratulations – you’ve found your starting point! Each morning when you wake up, think about (at least) one action you can take that day to work towards your goals. Then make sure you follow through with it.
And let’s be realistic for a second: not every step you take is going to be a successful one. That’s okay! It’s actually a good sign, because it means that you’re taking risks and trying out new things. If an approach you take results in a rejection or doesn’t land the way you thought it would, don’t let that be the end of the story. As Eckstein says, “hear the guidance” that is being offered behind the no, make some adjustments, and approach it again from a different angle.
The People You Have in Your Tribe are Invaluable
I want to shout this one from the rooftops, y’all. And it’s applicable no matter where you are in life or your journey. But for the sake of this post, we’ll stick to discussing it in context of pursuing your dreams.
Each person you choose to surround yourself with is important. It can be because they’re someone you can learn from; someone who supports you unconditionally; someone you trust to give you honest feedback; someone you can just have fun with when you need a break. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a lot of these traits overlap in the same people.
Have you ever had a conversation that’s ended with someone saying, “Let me know if you need anything!”? How many times have you taken that person up on their offer? Just like we all tend to get in our own way when it comes to starting something new, it is SO EASY to talk yourself out of asking for help or advice because “that person didn’t really mean it.” But how do you know, until you try? You could be missing out on a lot of advice, feedback, and opportunities by not reaching out and accepting what is already being offered.
Who Would Benefit Most from This Book?
The quick answer is that any woman who needs encouragement or motivation to finally work towards fulfilling their dreams will get something out of this book. The absolute ideal age range would be girls in their teens through their twenties. But even as someone in her early thirties, It’s Your Universe still spoke to me. A strong message of empowerment and inspiration is ageless. And a love of Disney is a bonus, as Eckstein relates a lot of the lessons she’s sharing to various films and characters.
If you’ve read It’s Your Universe, I’d love to hear what aspect of Ashley Eckstein’s story or lessons made the biggest impact on you. And if you haven’t read it, you can pick up a copy on Amazon by clicking here, or visiting most major book retailers!