Something that you notice when you talk to Mandi about her career is that it’s as rich and colorful as the cakes she’s known for decorating.
You see, Mandi is no stranger to change.
Along with being a cake decorator, she’s also been an actor, tea shop manager, a server, and a hostess.
Up until a few weeks ago, she was also a professional baker who started her shift at 3 o’clock in the morning.
Yet when she recently took stock of how she wants to impact and inspire others, she decided it was time for another move.
Deep down, she understands that who you are changes constantly. Instead of resisting it, she chooses to embrace her authentic self no matter what that package looks like.
Mandi intentionally lives by the idea that "one of the bravest things you can do is to love yourself and lead an authentic life."
One of the bravest things you can do is to #loveyourself and lead an authentic life. (tweet that)
Letting go of “shoulds”
For some, the challenge of growing up isn’t just about the physical disruptions and facing a stranger in the mirror.
The challenge is letting go of who you think you should be based on societal or parental pressures.
To push aside an inherited belief system that no longer serves you.
To wake up and embrace who you are based on what drives you.
Mandi remembers how difficult it was to let go of the person she thought she should be, and stepped into who she wanted to be.
Step out of who you should be and step into who you want to be. #authenticity (tweet that)
"I remember being in so much anguish and having such guilt for wanting to live and experience life,” Mandi reflects.
“I was digging my nails into what remained of my childhood faith. A wise friend asked me at the time, 'Mandi, I understand that you have your beliefs and your faith. But are your beliefs the same as when you were 16? What do you believe at 28?' That shook me to my core."
These questions, ones for us all to consider, continue to guide Mandi as she navigates the contours of her career path.
Letting a dream go
Today, Mandi is just shy of 38, and asking herself “who am I?” continues to serve her well. She understands that her values and priorities evolve, as do the ways in which work can satisfy and fulfill.
"It's about always checking in with yourself daily and throughout life. How am I feeling? What are my goals? Are these still my goals?"
Mandi says, “You need to allow yourself the freedom to adapt and change and recognize when things don't feel right."
For a long time, Mandi dreamed of owning a bakery. But, it was about more than just sharing her love of baking. She wanted to be of service by creating a community like Cheers, 'where everyone knows your name.' She also wanted to create a legacy.
"I'm always talking about making more money but, for the most part, it doesn't come from a selfish place. When I see needs in the world I want to do something about it."
Yet, the reality of the bakery dream seemed exhausting: E.g., raising money to build it and then working 80-hour workweeks to support it. She and her sister had to ask themselves, 'Is this still our dream?'”
The answer was no.
In its place, though, something else took shape: An online business and community of “creators and inspirers.”
"I still have this strong desire to create something that means something, "Mandi shares.
So, the legacy—a “side-hustle” for now—is the soon-to-be-released website/business called MandiCrocker.com.
A recovering people-pleaser, Mandi reflects on how being authentic and embracing what she loves defines what she wants to create:
"By re-examining what I want in life, it occurred to me that my passions revolve around food, photography and travel. And this website was the only thing where all those things can come together in a way where I could still live the life that I wanted. And where I felt like I could still be of service.”
>> What kind of a legacy do you want to leave?
"If I could leave a legacy, it would be helping people understand that we're all connected and human. We’re more similar than different. That’s why I love travel because our differences fall away. All parents around the world love the hell out of their kids. All kids around the world are goofy.”
>> What are you learning about yourself through the process of creating this business?
"That it takes courage and bravery to make choices that feel outside the box of how you typically do life. I've had to come to terms with the fact that I've been stifling my own creativity to be a workaholic for somebody else's legacy."
>> Is part of your goal to give others a platform to get their art out, their recipes out?
“Yes. Part of it is to help people have the courage to create and put their work into the world. To help them let go of caring about what other people think. When people demonstrate this level of courage, it gives others permission to be courageous, too.”
>> Do you believe that all creativity is worth celebrating, no matter how skilled someone is?
“Absolutely. It’s about the process of creating, not the end product. Everyone has a muse inside, this potential. If nurtured, this inner artist/inner creative might help us deal with all the other messy parts of ourselves.”
>> What does being “brave and bold” mean to you?
"To me, being brave and bold is all about fully realizing the situation in front of you and having the audacity, in the deepest faith of who you are, to move forward anyway. There are always going to be naysayers, but what matters is knowing you're living from the fire in your heart. When you're living a 'brave and bold' life, it becomes magical.
When you’re living a #braveandbold life, it becomes magical. (tweet that)
>> What three things would you tell someone who was starting out on this journey?
"For me, being successful in life, love, and business is all about what's going on inside.
“I can't say that I have any answers but the biggest game changer for me was working on my own self worth. It sounds cliché, but loving yourself is truly the most important thing you can do. It's being able to love your strengths and learning to love yourself despite the weaknesses. And I'm not talking about 'oh I have a blemish.' I mean, the real stuff. The shit.
“Secondly, I'd say when something isn’t working do something different. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over. It was a huge light bulb moment for me when I realized what that meant. Here’s what I mean: I am a recovering workaholic and I used to always offer to work more. Now, I only work four days each week. I take the fifth day to focus on my creativity and other income possibilities.
“Finally, take brave and bold action. When I decided to make choices that aligned with the life I wanted, the world cracked open. Suddenly, I had more time for self-care and mediation. I had time to be artistic. And guess what? I started getting more paid photography jobs. I began writing a column for our local paper—and I get paid for it.
“It turns out that when you live what you want, you get what you want.”
When you live what you want, you get what you want. #authenticity (tweet that)
Mandi laughs, “It only took 38 years to figure this out!”
“I think that any woman who can stand on her own two feet, day to day and own herself with love in her heart is for me, the goal."
>> It sounds like you believe that when you lean into being authentically you, there’s freedom with that.
“Culturally, we’re expected to be like everyone else. You’re supposed to go to college, graduate, have kids, work the $100K job. But a lot of people aren’t doing that anymore. These days, people are more open to different ways of living. Thank goodness."
Smiling, Mandi offers,“I’m not cookie cutter. In the end, I gotta do me.”
One of Mandi’s highest values—along with balance and love—is authenticity. By embracing who she is and what gets her excited, she’s found a path to create something on her terms while serving others.
How to find Mandi:
Mandicrocker.com (coming soon)
Banner photo: Cake baked, decorated and shot by Mandi Donohue