November 28, 2014

Laurie Millote

Laurie is a French graphic designer, and world traveller currently living in Berlin. Check out her perspective on finding and living her soul purpose.


Q. So Laurie, can you tell us who you are? And what do you do for work right now?

Sure. I’ll try. So my name is Laurie. And I’m originally from France. I’m a graphic designer, and I specialize in branding and packaging—but I’ll tell you more about it later.

I’m currently in Germany right now—Berlin, to be precise, which is a terrific city. Just arrived two months ago. And before that, I was living in Oslo, Norway for six months, and before that Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (my home.) And I was supposed to be there for six months and ended up living here seven-and-a-half years. Yeah, that’s about my story.

I’m French, But I haven’t been living in France for a long time now. I would say I’m more of the world.

Q. So Laurie, how would you define the idea of a soul purpose? What does that mean to you when you hear it?

You know what? I thought about it, when you asked me to participate to this research of yours. And I was just like, “Okay. That’s a really good question.” And something that actually resonated with me very recently—I started looking a lot into what I’m doing, in terms of career and also on a personal level.

And I think a soul purpose, for me, is something that feels aligned with my values and what I want to do.

I come to realize that we have a short period of time on this planet, and while I may not be here to cure hunger or Ebola, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.

And in my own little way, I want to participate and bring my skills to the bigger picture. And I think that’s also why I’m traveling and living all around the world because I’m learning a lot about other countries and also a lot about nice stuff that I can do.

Q. So Laurie, do you know what your purpose is?

No. Well, okay—not exactly. I’m working on it. I think it’s becoming clearer and clearer. I just turned thirty recently, and it was just kind of—the moment was like, “Okay, let’s look at this very seriously.” The twenties are behind. It was just like, “Let’s move.”

And I think my soul purpose—even though it’s not written on paper yet. So I would say that it’s at draft stage. I think I would say it’s about connecting—I’m an enabler of connections that I usually do through design and brands and consumers—but even beyond that. It’s really this idea of connection and connecting the dots.

And I’m usually pretty good at seeing the bigger picture and how I can help and source people or brands and consumers, hopefully making the planet a little bit smaller and more enjoyable.

Q. Do you think that everybody has a soul purpose?

I would think so, but I’m not sure that everybody spends the time to look for it—search for it because it’s actually quite scary honestly.

Because once you kind of agree to it and realize it, then it’s pretty hard to deny it afterwards—you have to move along. There’s no—once you look at it, you can never “unlook” it (Whatever. I guess it’s not proper English). But you get my drift.

Q. What was your process—how did you get clear on what your purpose is?

How I got clear? I worked on it.

Actually, I made (about a year ago) a commitment with myself. I hired a life coach. And I just realized that I was really much enjoying what I was doing in my life. I’m a successful designer. I really enjoy dealing with my clients, having successful products out there, and also have a good network of friends all over the world, a supportive family; and yet it felt like it wasn’t enough. It felt that there were more to it, and not searching happiness and everything, even though it’s a part of it—I would say, more meaning maybe.

So that was how I came to it. I worked on it actually and did exercises. It kind of peeled off a bit—the layers. I like to say that it was easy and fast; it was neither. However, it became easier with time. And sometimes I wished it would have been faster or—I’m coming to conclusions now that I wish I had a year ago, but it’s a process, right? So now I’m doing things (as of today) that I don’t think I would have been capable of a year ago, let alone five years ago.

So I feel I’m moving in the right direction.

Q. That’s a great segue into my next question, which is: Do you think, in terms of your purpose, that you’re living it every day? And if so, how do you know?

It’s interesting. I don’t think I’m living it every day, like right at the moment. But I’m making more and more time every day. And actually, it’s funny—Monday next week, I’m actually jumping in full on. So what was the second part of your question? Sorry?

Q. How do you know?

I think I would know when I feel in this moment (I think they call it) flow.

I’m just lost in this moment, when—it is work. You’re doing something, and yet time goes by. You are totally excited about what you’re doing. And it just clicks together. Like, “I live for this.” Like when it’s just only little pieces that you had all over in your head or your notebook. I can’t just show it to you; it’s a mess. It’s all over the place. But then when suddenly, it all comes to you, and it’s just like the “Aha!” moment. And when you present it to people (maybe the client or consumers, or whoever, your best friend or your roommate), and then it’s just like, “Oh my God! This is great! I get it! I know what it can do for me.”

That’s when this moment of flow, when the hours don’t really matter. And you just feel like you’re doing something meaningful, not even noticing that you were doing it. I think that’s how I would know that I’m doing my purpose.

Q. What impact do you feel there is on one’s finances as it relates to your purpose? Do you believe we have to choose between money and passion? What do you think?

I think my soul purpose is not necessarily just my passion, just as I think it has to do with what I care and everything. But I think it has to do with more than that, just as a starter.

And in money—it’s a bit early for me to say. But actually the more I think about it, the more I tend to understand that I should live my own talk, in the sense—when I do design, I do announce to people that, “When I’m designing for your product, it’s not for everyone. And it shouldn’t be. And this is okay.” I say that to clients, and after a while, usually they get it. And they accept it. And it’s great. Now, I need to look back at myself and realize that the same apply to me. And what I do create and design is not for everybody. And it’s okay.

And maybe, what I need to find is attracting the right kind of people that of course pays the bills. So fortunately, so far, it’s never been really a problem because I’m very frugal. Right now, all my belongings belong to two suitcases. So it’s pretty neat.

But it’s also—I think I know what I’m capable of and what I’m bringing to the table, and I’m not afraid to charge accordingly. It’s not being extravagant. And people actually respect that, I think. They just know that you’re doing a service. You have experience and knowledge to bring. And they should buy this. And that brings a level of comfort and trust, I think, between clients and myself.

So far, financially, it’s been good. Crossing fingers that it stays like this.

Q. Yes, absolutely. So Laurie, what’s a decision or an action that you made in the past that you feel got you on the course you’re on today—that you would make again?

Leaving my comfort zone. That would be the biggest action. One of the comfort zone—I really mean it, in the sense that life was extremely comfortable in Vancouver (not nine years ago when I moved there, and knew nobody and everything.) But as time went by, everything became very comfortable.

The city was not that big anymore. I finally spoke English—took a while. I had a great job, became a creative director in an agency that I loved working with. I absolutely adored my boss and mentor. I worked with great clients. I had a gorgeous flat with a view of the city and the mountain, an awesome circle of friends, and decided to leave everything behind, not to never come back—don’t get me wrong—but to just push myself to experiment and took a one-way plane ticket to Norway, of all places.

And I think that’s one of the biggest—kind of set 2014 as a year of professional and personal discovery and challenges. I was missing the challenges I made—it was exciting at the beginning, and I just wanted to make that again.

There’s a sense of freedom and experiment that’s much more acceptable. I can get lost in Berlin. I feel I don’t care about it because I just moved here two months ago (not even.) But getting lost in Vancouver, I just would swear at myself like, “Come on.”

It was just like a nice change in terms of pace and then—of course, culture and horizon. Yeah, that would be my biggest jump.

Hopefully, there will be more later. This will be the second jump. I think the first one would have been going to Vancouver in the first place. I tend to forget about it because it was just so long ago. But I graduated in Paris, and two weeks later, I was in Vancouver. English—terrible, knowing absolutely nobody, and started doing the dishes in a nice restaurant. And to this day, I don’t regret any of it. But I’m not sure if I would be capable of doing it exactly the same way. Looking back, I was extremely naïve. It served me well, so I’m not complaining.

Q. Did you feel encouraged or discouraged by your community in making these moves and taking these steps to find your purpose?

Very encouraged, actually. Even more so, it’s in North America.

There’s something I discovered that North America is very entrepreneurial. And after eight years of being there, it felt like a normal thing. And moving back to Europe, especially when I talk to people in France or Norway, it’s less so. It’s a bit of a culture adaptation.

But in terms of circle of friends—incredible support. I actually registered a couple of my friends right now to help me with my freelance business—to say, “Every Friday, I’m going to send you an email with what I have I’ve done and what I’ve failed to do. And you kick my ass to keep me going.” And they just responded right away. It doesn’t matter if they had 12,000 kilometers or just in London—so no matter. I feel very, very fortunate to have this network of people.

In terms of family, they are very respectful of what I’ve been doing. Honestly, I’ve always been the black sheep since forever. So they always know that I would do things a bit differently—like how they would go at it. And the same time, they came to accept that that’s just the way I should do it.

When I explained to my mom why I was leaving Vancouver (because I was too comfortable)—we were on the phone, but I could totally picture her rolling her eyes, “Yes, of course. Too comfortable for you already, so you have to leave. Makes total sense”—obviously not to her, but putting herself in my shoes. Yes, it makes sense for her.

And I also developed a network of peers, which has also been very important to me. People who I have come to admire as studio owners, designers. Ever so slowly developing a relationship with them, even though honestly I’ve met very few of them. I had tapas with one in Barcelona this summer. I was working for another when I was in Norway. And being in touch with people in Mexico or doing Skype session with people in Vietnam. And so English comes very handy.

And they’ve been very supportive because it also allowed me to see the other side of the coin. And I feel from the outside, people have it all figured out. And when you start talking to them, they can let down their defenses and being more honest. It’s just—well, they don’t.

And apparently, it’s okay. And it feels great for them to talk about it. And for me, it makes it more realistic as well. I don’t have Twitter. I don’t have Facebook. It’s very penpal, almost actually. It started by me writing real letters to them. And that really blew them away. And not sure I can do it all the time because my hand’s got to be really sore.

But it’s great because they are a great network of professionals, but I also have a small network that I can really rely on if I have a question. And it really helps because they do amazing work and are really well-regarded in their fields. So I’m very fortunate.

Q. You’ve touched on it a little bit, but what’s been hard for you? What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in transitioning into what you’re doing now?

I think the hardest is at—I can aim for it. It’s up to me to try it. The hardest is not waiting for anyone—not even authorization, but even just like, “You’ve got to do it your way.” And just do it. The hardest is just like—one author said, “Pick yourself up.”

To be more proactive—I’m very proactive in terms of design and what I put out there, but it felt like I was not, in terms of me. Like in the bigger picture—what do I want to do? That would be the thing for me—the hardest—picking myself up and not waiting for authorization or not waiting for anyone saying, “I think you should do that.” I think I should do it, so that’s enough for me to give it a try. And if I fail, at least I fail on my own terms, and I knew I’ve tried.

Q. How do you deal with these tough times on an emotional level? What helped you get through these obstacles?

Circle of friends—definitely. Just being able to write or Skype or whatever and letting that out. I also have a very considerate roommate, so I can just go and lay it all out. Nearly ten minutes later, I’m okay. I’ve said it. Move along.

And also what helped me get through is the network of mentors I was talking about earlier. If they go through it, it seems only normal and expected that I should go through it as well. It’s just like an ongoing experiment. Even though there’s a bit of perfectionist side in me, I can’t expect it to always pan out.

And sometimes of course, you learn from your mistakes or job that doesn’t appreciate your values. And you realize, “Oh! I have this value all along that I didn’t know.” And this made it very clear so even though the job itself was a failure, I learned so much out of it that in the end, it is ok. You don’t get stuck with that.

Q. What’s different about you now that you’re living your purpose versus when you weren’t?

What’s different with me now? I’m a bit more assertive, not in terms of like know-it-all, but just—I have desire and needs. And it’s okay to put them out there. I think for the longest time, I would be more—the person that would try to not complain—when you go on people’s recommendation and everything, I would always go along and help and everything. Even though it felt [20:00] my job—now I have more assertion to have my own voice. Some people call it, “You’re making it personal.” And I came to understand, “Possibly. It’s not really a bad thing.”

And secondly, more personal. I care. It’s okay to show that I do actually. That’s the way I feel anyway.

Q. So how has your impact on the world changed?

Maybe it’s a bit too early to measure. I think the biggest impact that I had so far came to people from every—like friends or creative people. The impact I have—apparently people talk a lot about, “I wish I could have done that.” Like, what’s making me to do this.

It’s so funny that people just have—I discuss a lot with someone from Argentina, Buenos Aires. It looks like he’s figuring out all of this amazing work. And then we talk about what I’m taking on. He’s like, “Oh my God! Yeah, I would totally do that. This is great!” Or another person from Minneapolis—she runs a wonderful design studio. And she was telling me, “Awesome! Keep telling me the updates.. Where’s your next stop?” And everything.

And it goes back to the idea of connection, I think, that I mentioned earlier. And so I think the biggest impact, in terms of what I see right now—I’m not sure what next step in these people are, but just in a degree, inspire others as possible.

When you’re in the midst of it, it’s not even that hard either. You just need to keep going. Move into a new city—okay, where am I going to live next? Okay. You just move step by step. And when you step on this point of view, it’s a bit less daunting than what you would think originally.

Q. Can you explain your perspective on the relationship between living in your soul’s purpose and work? Can they be separate?

It could be, I guess. Hardly so, because if it’s your soul purpose, you would want to dedicate a maximum of time doing it and care (like we’re saying.) And if you spend your whole day at work that doesn’t match this, maybe you would drain yourself dry because then you need to sleep at one point.

So I would say, maybe on a temporary period of time, you can maybe run both. But it seems to me that the best part is when you can connect both. They do not have to, I think, 100% overlap. That would be maybe almost dangerous, but I would say a good chunk should be in common so that you feel both field as the day go by—bringing money, of course, to your account. But in the same time, they’re doing something that matter to you. I think there’s no better way.

Q. What would you say are the ingredients for success or advice that you would give anybody who’s looking for their purpose?

It’s funny. I would have sort of think that. A dose of naiveté. I know as soon as I start thinking like what we’re thinking, this day becomes very daunting. Now I’ve changed a lot in my naiveté—when I look at myself, going to Vancouver or moving to Oslo—I had definitely way more planning moving to Oslo. A lot hard because there was really no planning—moving to Vancouver.

But in each way, believing that you put yourself out there and you attract people accordingly.

I’m not sure if it had a bit of karma or something. But at our age, it becomes harder to actually deny—I found my roommate from Vancouver to live in Oslo. And she became really one of my best friends. She is actually visiting me this weekend in Berlin. And this was just from reading her ad online, and I was like, ya I want to live with this person.”

And I wrote an answer. And she said, “I read your email. I don’t care if you’re riding on _____ as a way. I want to live with you.” If someone would tell me this story, I would be like, “Oh come on.” But I lived there, so it’s just okay.

And again, like here in Berlin—I have to find some person to live with or be surrounded by. I feel so lucky. This is what I say all the time.

Then Bernie, my boss in Vancouver would say, “You’re lucky, but you also created your own luck. You’re also putting it out there.” And it’s like a circle. It’s something that I come to understand more and more. And not karma or something, but just putting yourself out there.

And I also really believe of treating other as you would like to be treated. And it just returns to you, not even that you are expecting it, but that’s the way the world operate most of the time.

When I was a teenager, in my early twenties, I would be very defeatist, about human race or something—we’re all selfish and everything. And I was forced to review my views because I’ve been demonstrated again and again that it’s just not true. Of course, it is—everything on the internet—the good, the bad, and the ugly. But if you’re actually searching for the good, and you’re putting some good out there—I really think it attracts more of it.

So it’s fantastic. I’m fascinated by it, actually.

Q. Do you have any message or finishing thoughts for anybody watching this?

I think my message is just look for your soul purpose. Don’t be afraid of it, even though it’s scary. And just start doing it. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Just start doing it and see how you feel. And if you feel exhilarated and in tune with yourself, then you know you’re on the right path. And keep going at it.

You can get in touch with Laurie online, here: