For serial entrepreneur Darrah Brustein, things weren't always as beautiful as her well-lit Instagram photos might suggest. Today, Brustein is a thought leader with an impressive audience and many media badges to her name (plus several successful businesses). But it wasn't always like this.

Back when I first met Darrah in Atlanta nearly 15 years ago, we were both nestled into careers we hated. We weren't cut out for the whole 9:5 thing, but it wasn't exactly clear what we were cut out for.   Darrah, in her infinite wisdom, saw two paths forward: (1) do nothing and default into a quiet life of discontent or (2) design a life she did want.

She chose the latter.

For the next decade, Darrah embarked on a journey of defining her version of success. She dove head first into the world of entrepreneurship and personal development, hellbent on reinventing her future. She tried everything from yoga and meditation to business and real estate - all in search of what it means to live a good life, for herself.

She became one of those "digital nomads" you read about who is always gallivanting somewhere sexy and somehow still making enough money to live well.

Only, unlike the charlatans online, Darrah had a real business (aka: one that made money), real relationships (people who'd go to bat for her any day of the week), and real chutzpah.

If you're the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, Darrah upped my numbers significantly. And though I like having this unfair advantage reserved for myself, Darrah has decided to go ahead and share her wisdom with the rest of the world in her first-ever digital summit (more on that in a second).

Lucky for us, Darrah is on a mission to make sure no one feels the way we did all those years ago: stuck in a life they hate, feeling like there's no way out.

In her words, "shortcut my years of testing and help you design a life you love."

Darrah's packaged up all her wisdom into her upcoming digital summit, Life by Design, which boasts an A-list line-up of big names like Adam Grant, Deepak Chopra, and Margo Aaron (I kid I kid). An impressive feat considering not so long ago she was in a very different place, further demonstrating what we are capable of if we put our minds to it.

There are few things I know for sure, but one of them is that Darrah will absolutely kill me for making this piece about her and not the 8-Steps To Building a Life By Design but #sorrynotsorry. You'll have to check out her website and summit for that.

The internet has enough meh-advice and the one thing you need to know about Darrah is she doesn't give fluff. At least, she never has to me.

Which is why I'm writing this piece for the innovation section of Inc. Most of us consider "innovation" to be world-changing disruptive technology, the sexy stuff VC's invest in.

But the truth is innovation is the hard unrelenting work of changing the status quo for the better.

The best way to do that is by taking a look in the mirror and figuring out what's not working in your life - and instead of feeling defeated - finding a way to change it for the better. To live your life by design, not default.  

Published on: Aug 22, 2018