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TALENT gets you noticed, MAYBE and looks, sure, for a moment.
But the only thing that gets you a seat at the table in this town, is FORCE OF PERSONALITY

I’m talking about complete and utter confidence in WHO YOU ARE.

When you have that, people are drawn to you–they don’t know why–but suddenly they NEED you.

And they will turn their lives inside out, to BE with you.

But you have to work your ASS off.

And you have to be the one, willing to do the things that SCARE everybody else to death.

That’s the difference between TALENT and SUCCESS.

This conversation happened between a budding new actress and her agent in a new show called The Arrangement.

The new mid-century inspired fence at our friends cabin in Sooke (Vancouver Island) this past weekend.

I loved this so much because it explains so many things.

Why there are so many gifted and talented artists in the world who are BROKE. When I meet these talented people, I always think “That’s just not fair”.

Even I have said this at some point: “Look at that person, how good they are at marketing, they’re not even talented”.

Internet marketers that I follow, will say things like, “Hey, you only need to tape 15 minutes of content a week and then–look-it’s-so-easy-anyone-can-do-it–you just break it all up into smaller sound bytes and spread it around on all of your other social media marketing channels.”

Even if this were true, there’s a lot of preparation and time that taping a GOOD 15 minute video takes.

“You only need to work really hard for the first few years, after that you can coast.”

WRONG. There’s no such thing as coasting. That is a big LIE.

Internet marketers selling ‘The Dream’ of ‘Making money working from home’ will say that to get you to buy their products. Then, once you’re in, they tell you how hard you have to work.

If any of you follow Gary Veynerchuk, all he does, is talk about how hard he works and how hard you have to work if you want to have the life you’re dreaming about. His rantings about this on his video blogs, Instagram, Insta stories and Snapchat are famous.

But Gary has a social media agency where he works with Fortune 500 companies. He’s not selling anything to you or me, except maybe a book. And then when ever he launches one, he’ll say, “Hey everyone, you know how much awesome free content you get from me, and how I never ask for anything? Well, I’m asking now, please buy my book”.

Force of personality.

I love this one because I have that around my system. Anyone who has attended my workshop will agree with that.

Do I have complete and utter confidence in who I am in every other area of my life?

HECK NO. I secretly and not so secretly (because many of you know this about me) worry that I turn people off by my oversharing and direct personality. And I have the evidence to prove it, trust me.

But I certainly have complete and utter confidence around what I do in the world of colour.

I have put in my–at this point–20,000 hours. And colour is no longer a mystery for me. And my mission in life is to make it less of a mystery for everyone else too.

And do I work my ass off?


Our friends cabin decor. A vintage mid century bird.

 Does it look like that when I’m talking about leaving town Friday morning to go to the Island for the weekend (where I was this weekend)?

No, but what you don’t know is that I usually take Friday afternoons off because by then, around noon, I’m just burnt out from writing and working all week.

Then Saturday is my full day off.

Sunday, I’m back to writing again because I’ll have a post that I need to get published for Monday or at the very latest, Tuesday.

If I’m particularly excited about a topic I’m writing about, I’ll write anytime. Right now it’s 9:52 on Saturday morning and I’ve been writing this post since 6:45 AM, right after I posted two images on my Instagram feed, after I got up at approximately 6:15 AM.

Does that just sound like too much work?

It might, but when you do what you love, it mostly doesn’t feel like you’re working.

And I also want to let you in on something else you might not know about me.

I didn’t know I had this driven, type A personality until I discovered my passion.

Up until then, I worked in different sales jobs, because often if you’re not formally educated (which I wasn’t) you’re either in food service or sales.

Even when I did my first colour course and decided I wanted to be an internationally known colour consultant, I still can’t say I ‘worked my ass off’ at that point. I struggled like everyone else, being self employed where business is up and down, working out of a paint store to build my experience. For some of you, that looks like a retail job in design somewhere or maybe you have a line of products you sell to the design industry.

Two shades of grey here, what are the undertones? (taken in Sooke while touring around)

 One thing I did do though, was book colour consultations if someone wanted one almost at ANY TIME and often at the VERY LAST MINUTE. I wanted to be able to walk into any house and know instantly what the right colour was and that did happen, but only after I’d been in literally hundreds of homes over a period of four years.

Am I willing to do the things that SCARE EVERYBODY ELSE TO DEATH?

That’s a good question. I don’t think I do this enough, but I definitely agree that success comes to those who keep pushing past their comfort zone.

One thing I kept doing as I grew in my career, even though it scared me, was ASK FOR THE MONEY. Designers have a really hard time doing this, they become friends with their clients and then it’s over, now they’re working for almost free.

But every time I didn’t open my mouth and ask, I would give myself a lecture later in my car and I would promise myself that next time, no matter how uncomfortable I was, I would ask.

When I first started working in the paint store selling colour consultations, our rate, back in the day, was $50 an hour. Well right away I thought “Who can survive on that?” We have to drive to their house and drive back? That’s NOT enough money. So right away when asked what we charged to make a personal visit, I would say, “We charge $50 an hour and it’s a minimum of 90 minutes”. So, then, even if I had picked all their colours in one hour, I would make $75.

I think that contributed to why I got fired after only two months of being in that first store. Not because there’s anything wrong with that, but probably more because I was making up the rules on my own.  When I talk about the business of colour on day 3 of my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops, I advise everyone to bill a minimum of two hours when they go out to a clients home.

We give our best, money saving advice in that first visit and it’s a disservice to the client and to you if you go ANYWHERE for just one hour.

But after being fired, I did not give up and that’s why I’m here today.

Anyway, it wasn’t until I started getting some traction with my blog, that I started working harder and harder. And I was happy. I wasn’t working for anyone else anymore, and that was a huge relief for me, being in charge of my own universe helped drive me forward.

When Terreeia (my VP of Business Development/Slave Driver) makes loving suggestions like “Maria, everyone’s doing Facebook live, you should do it too”. That’s when I cringe, freak out at her and start stressing about video.

That wasn’t the platform I started on, eight years ago, so it doesn’t come easily for me. Plus I’m not 30 and cute anymore. I have wrinkles. . . and bags under my eyes. . . and it’a harder to look good in the spur of the moment.

I need makeup. . . and the light has to be just right. . . it would be nice if it was proper to always take a selfie with anyone who wants a picture with you, at least there would be some hope of getting a natural smile when you can see yourself, haha. See example below:

Maria Killam (my new glasses)

When you really and truly find out what your gift in life is, and you do it long enough where you get some experience under your belt you start getting more BRAVE. The confidence will begin to shine from within you and then you’ll become a force of personality.

Related posts:

Who Says You’re not Creative?

5 Steps to A Design Career without the Formal Eduction

On Success, Compromise and Living Your Dream

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  • Maria, I want to thank YOU for giving me the confidence that I needed. Before I took your class, I felt like I still worked FOR my husband, and I didn’t feel I deserved to be recognized for my talent. I’m still a work in progress, and have a long way to go, but I can’t tell you how many times my husband has said “you have really come into your own.” Looking back on making the decision to spend “that much money” on a class…was SO worth it. What you say about loving what you do, resonates so much with me. So many of my friends are retiring, and here I sit at 5am writing this and loving every minute of what I do!

  • Jill says:

    What. A. Fabulous. Post. (Clapping my hands). Thank you for writing this. I feel like you wrote this for me! I am a force of personality and I love it! ?

  • Gina says:

    I love this post. My decorating and home staging business will celebrate it’s four year anniversary on May 1! You’ve been such a huge part of building my career, Maria (and my new house!). Thank you for all you do and share!

  • Asking for money just never seems to get any easier does it? I’ve been working as a graphic designer for 7 years now and I still feel guilty. Your post about what it cost/took to build your new website really helped me place value on my own work though. And it actually is what led me to purchase an exterior colour consult from you (which I can’t WAIT to implement come spring). I think when we place value on other’s work, it helps us value our own as well, and vice versa. I’m still not all gung ho about facebook live etc — but I’m not particularly interested in being “an authority” on things either. I’m not a teacher — at least yet. 🙂 Who knows what the future may bring. And for the record, you might not be 30 any more, but you are definitely still cute.

  • Thanks for sharing the universal struggle! I think we can all relate! (Plus…you’re still cute!)

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    Hi Maria,
    I know that one of the reasons I love you so much is because you are everything I’m not. I admire your qualities so much. It’s so evident that you work hard at your passion. And you are so fortunate to have found what your passion is while you’re young & could build your career into what it is today.
    I am the exact opposite. I never knew what my passion was. I had a baby when I was young so I had a responsibility to her. I was looking for security & found it working for the phone company for 35 years before I retired.
    When I was growing up my father was a veterinarian who worked at a clinic for someone else. I asked him once why he didn’t have his own clinic & he said he didn’t need the headache. I guess that’s why I thought working for someone else was perfectly fine.
    I think entrepreneurs also need folks like me to do the work that helps them succeed. So I’ve always considered what I’ve done as a value-add.
    But at 5 O’clock I could go home to my little girl who was my EVERYTHING!!

  • Lucy Haines says:

    Oh Maria, You have certainly struck a nerve with a lot of us! Why is it so hard to ask for money for your talent? I have always struggled with this! I am a people pleaser and wish that I wasn’t so much. In the end I give away more information than needed and spend more time in unbilled hours. When you are so passionate about what you do, it is hard to figure out what should be billed. Does that make any sense? I too get angry with myself for not being able to ask for money. After I came out of college I worked for a high end furniture store for 28 years. We were not allowed to ask for a design fee because we advertised as “free design service”. We of course were paid a commission on what we sold so that took the pressure off as for asking for money. Since I became a freelance designer it is now a whole different mind set. I am confident in telling a client what needs to be done to make their home beautiful, it’s just that darn money thing!

  • Lucy Haines says:

    I forgot to mention how sophisticated you look in your glasses and I cannot detect a wrinkle on your face! You are so pretty!

  • Kay says:

    No one has answered undertones! Darker, blue; lighter, green?

  • Vee says:

    Since I am new to the design industry and as I build my business I will try to think of other industries to remind myself that pay is part of the course. When tech guys/gals perform computer work, they bill per hour and we all pay it. I see this service as no different. It is a service after all.
    When meeting new people I tend to be quiet and observe before opening my mouth. I don’t really let my personality shine until I get to know someone, as I can be blunt or sometimes not think before I speak, which can get awkward. Do other people who can “say too much” do this also? I have a friend who speaks so eloquently and I have taken notes from the way she talks. It has helped me. She is also the type who can walk into a room full of strangers and be everyone’s friend when she leaves. I’m still working on that.

  • Hey, Maria! This post caught my eye because I almost signed up for a 6-week course on mindset and appearance and the effect it has on whether you do well in your business. I do FB live on my page every week and have had the same thoughts on my appearance since i’m not young anymore. But I really don’t think that matters as much as how you present yourself and where your internal mindset is at. I think we all struggle with this. Especially that voice that says “I’m not worth what I’m asking for.” That voice is stupid so don’t listen to it! 😉 So I didn’t sign up for the course, but I did buy a book on the subject called “The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism” and have started reading. If anything, it’s at least interesting and a start on changing that mindset for me. Thank you for sharing this

  • Great, great post. I appreciate your honesty, as always. And you are SO still cute! Nothing wrong with a few wrinkles. I just turned 40 a couple months ago and am trying to make peace with the ones I’m seeing appear. 😉
    This past year I’ve read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, and also Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. Lots of things in this post remind me of their central concepts- work your ass off, find your passion, speak your truth, and get comfortable with feeling the fear/vulnerability and doing it anyway. As one of your longtime readers, it’s been so cool to see you and your business grow. I have yet to make it to one of your workshops- since moving to a small town in Washington, I’m doing a little less design work and more of my own art/painting. I still may have to do a color workshop someday though, I’d love to learn more and to meet you and Tereeia! xoxo

  • Robin says:

    What an amazing and motivational piece of writing Maria. So much to consider and such a good feeling to finally know who I am and know what I need and want. Also the best feeling to figure out what I’m good at and make a living doing it. Now for the fierce part lol. I’m going to step outside my door tomorrow with that brave attitude and conquer the world! LOL Always appreciate your frankness and your talent. Thanks for sharing and encouraging.

  • Donna Hoover says:

    Maria, I have been a fan of yours since I found your color blog in very early days. I read frequently and rarely comment, but this post knocked me off my chair. I agree it takes a great force of personality to pull off what you have done.. you have it going big time and good for you! Your color system, your open heart and your working your ass off has blossomed into a challenging and enjoyable life’s work. For myself, a fancy education and color theory classes provided me with academic knowledge many years ago. I used my force of personality to get going on restoring old New England homes and making them beautiful again..using my instincts (and history) to choose colors. As an interior architect and designer for 25+ years, I thought I knew all there was about color and its effects. When I discovered your writing and sharing of your color system, I was re-energized about learning new ways to think about and use colors. I admired you then, and today I want to thank you for making a huge personal impact on my life and those people that I help. Our worlds are all living in better colors..because of YOU. Keep up the good work and you will continue to elevate the level of what you do. And I promise that, no matter how hard you work, that your ass will remain intact, as has mine after decades of trying to work it off for 40 years now. I must make a comment about not being 30 and cute anymore: the more mature you appear on video, I believe that you will create higher credibility with a new audience. How much did you really know when you were cute and 30? Cute does not cut it when the watcher is seeking to increase their knowledge; they are interested in your passionate delivery of master level know -how. You have plenty of passion, mastery and drive to last many lifetimes, and I wish you much continued success.

  • Colleen Coleman says:

    Fabulous post! YOU are a force of personality! Some may see it in your blog but wait until they meet you in person as I did at your class in NJ! You are truly passionate about your work. You can just feel the experience & years of hard work pour out of you as you teach the next generation of True Colour Experts! I’ve never walked out of a class that changed the direction of my company as much as yours has! The class was filled with other design professionals from NYC and surrounding areas. Great relationships found & expertise shared!!! I even raised my rates! Thank you, Maria, for being a force that moved me forward!!!

  • Sarah says:

    I love your blog and your force of personality. Life is just more fun when there’s nothing holding you back to be who you are made to be.

  • Ebonie C Underwood says:


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