How to Follow Your Dream – Plus Make a Living

I had an interesting discussion with a friend recently who feels like his One Big Thing is to be a writer. The problem is, he’s not making much (if any) money at it, but he wants to dedicate full time to the pursuit. Granted, he’s working hard at it, but his wife is getting understandably frustrated because she’s carrying the load of a full-time job and raising the kids while he pursues his dream of being a professional writer. How about you? Have you been in a similar situation? In my book One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do, I outline a much deeper strategy for making the transition to getting paid for your dream job, but in the meantime, let me give you a couple of options to start:

1) Adjust your life to match the current status of your dream.   In other words, live at a financial level that allows you full-time pursuit of your dream job. That probably means some serious cutbacks. I have a friend who is a professional actor. That’s a tough career, but he’s adjusted his life so he can pursue the dream full time right now. That means he’s not married (yet), lives in a tiny apartment, has a beat up car, uses an old cell phone, and generally keeps his expenses very low. He lives a modest life, but guess what? He’s a professional actor. He doesn’t have to work at Starbucks, goes to auditions nearly every day, and has focused his life toward his career. He’s a great guy, and very happy, but he’s made the sacrifices necessary to pursue his dream without being a burden on anyone else.

2) Adjust your dream to match the current status of your life.   In other words, work around your current job, marriage, or other commitments, even if it means pursuing your dream part time. I wrote my first two books while working a full-time job and raising a family. I came into the office two hours early everyday so I could write without being disturbed. That way I could work all day, then focus evenings on my family. But without fail, I made the commitment to get up early and write. Today, I’ve continued that schedule. My writing and speaking career takes a backseat to my job – running our media production and consulting company Cooke Media Group. So I still write in the morning; and even on Saturday when most people are sleeping in, you’ll usually find me in my office on the computer.

I think the key is desire.  How much do you really want it?  Enough to cut back your expenses to a level where you can pursue your real gifts, or change your schedule so you can pursue it in spite of your current responsibilities?

Either way is tough, but the great news is, you don’t have to be a burden on anyone else.  Hopefully your spouse, family members, or friends will encourage you, but you don’t have to become a burden to them.  You really can do this on your own.

Now, go make it happen.

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  1. Thanks Phil – more great and challenging thoughts for us all. Your point # 2 was really interesting to me. (and actually made me cry a little…) My first feature film 1500 Steps is in the final stages of post. For many many months I struggled to find time to work on it, as like yourself I have a full time job and family to look after. So what I have ended up doing (and been successfully doing for a few months now) is getting up at 5am each weekday and working until 7am. That’s when the rest of my family get up, I get ready for work, go to work and then can actually relax at night with my family knowing that I have already worked on my film for 2 hours already that day.

  2. Being in the situation you described at the top has the potential to end a marriage, especially when it’s over a long period of time. There’s a smart way and a dumb way of doing things… and you just gave the smartest way to follow your dream with the twist of reality. Great read!

  3. How to live your dream? Stop talking about it and do it. People make time for what is important to them. I’ve lost count of the number of times people ask me how I hold down a full time job, look after a family, etc and still have time to write books/reviews etc. The answer is simple: because I want to.

    I have no sympathy for the “I want to write a book but I haven’t got time” argument. If you you wanted to write it you would prioritise your time accordingly – go out to the pub less, go round to friends less, etc.

  4. It’s all about taking that first step. But a lot of times I can’t seem to find my shoes! Seriously, starting the project is a must, and working on it consistently is key. It does not matter if you devote 4 hours a day to it, or four hours a week. Be consistent. Schedule time if you must, but be consistent.

  5. Point #2 resonates for me. I had to get to a place about 3-4 years ago where “if the dream never happens, I will still be content”. This did not mean that I developed a quitter mentality (far from it!), but rather a reorganization of my ultimate priorities. I can strategically and steadily pursue my vocational goals without abandoning family, etc… in the process. This changed the game for my family and I in many, many ways, AND now I’m reaching milestones in the vocational goal-setting process. Go figure.

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