Several days ago, I made coq au vin and from-scratch French baguettes for dinner for my family. It took about three hours of work, all told, and required some things to be done the day before (starting the dough for the bread and chopping the vegetables).
To put it simply, it turned out fantastic. My wife kept saying beforehand that there was no way that it wasn’t going to be worth the time investment, but after eating and savoring the meal, she sat back and said, “I changed my mind. That was worth the three hours.”
After dinner, the conversation turned towards a new direction. Obviously, I really loved being in the kitchen, as I was already talking about trying it again with some minor changes and also giving slow beef Bourguignon a try sometime soon. My wife asked, “Have you ever thought about a cooking blog?” (If you’ve been reading The Simple Dollar for a while, you know I have.) There was also a bit of talk about me attending cooking school, too.
Yes, having a food-related career is something that’s been on my mind for a long time. I thought for a long time about having a cooking blog, and I’ve even thought about pursuing a career as a chef or as a food writer.
When does that kind of itch become something more serious?
Over the last week, I’ve been thinking about this question a lot. Right now, my calendar is really full with keeping The Simple Dollar up and going, working on my second book, keeping up with my reading, being involved in the community, and, most importantly of all, spending time with my children and wife. Where would I possibly find time to squeeze this in?
That’s the first kicker: time. If you look at your day and can’t find room for something you want to do, then the things you’re already doing are more important to you.
One of my most controversial pieces of advice is to suggest that people should turn off their televisions. The conclusion there is that I’m criticizing the hobby of watching television, something many people do. Actually, what I’m encouraging is looking at your time and asking yourself what’s really important to you.
For example, if you watch the Food Network and see someone preparing a meal on there and think to yourself, “I’d really love to prepare that,” but then you just watch the next program on the Food Network, what’s important to you isn’t making that dish, but watching the Food Network.
Now, that’s a fine conclusion to make if it’s what you value in life, but I tend to believe that many people who watch Food Network, think of preparing a dish, but instead keep watching haven’t really thought about it at all. What would happen if they turned off the program, went out, and did it? Then, instead of seeing a great dish prepared by someone else, they get the sensory experience of having done it themselves, the pride of having done it, and the product – something that can be shared with people they care about.
How you spend your time reveals what you really value. If you can’t find the time to do something, you must not value it much. And, thus, if I’m not willing to find time to follow up on that food passion, that means I value the things I’m already doing more.
After some thought, I realized that I would be willing to scale back The Simple Dollar to pursue it. Maybe I could just post once a day after the book is finished and then focus on starting a truly great food site?
This leads us to the second factor: security. The thing we’re doing now – and seeing success with – offers some degree of security. It’s clear that, by the fact that we’re earning an income and people are interested in what we’re doing, that we’re, to some degree, successful at it and, likely, we’ll continue to be successful at it. It’s scary to toss that away and try something new, even if the money is in place to make it happen.
Take my own situation. Right now, The Simple Dollar has 66,000 subscribed readers (meaning they get it by email or by RSS, not directly on the site) and hundreds of thousands of site visitors a month. No matter how good my food writing is, I’d still be essentially starting over. I’d be devoting a good chunk of my daily effort to an endeavor that will take a lot of work to start paying off.
Now, this is fine with me if it’s strictly a hobby – that’s how The Simple Dollar started, after all. But when you start looking at making major career changes, it becomes a much bigger question.
A big part of what I enjoy doing is helping people and reaching people. Starting over is a huge risk – I might be able to help and reach new people, but at the start, I help and reach virtually no one, and if I’m not providing anything new or interesting, I’m not going to help or reach anyone. That’s a huge risk.
This leads to factor number three: the money. If no one values what you’re doing, that means that you’re not going to earn anything. You have to give some of your value to others to earn an income.
Sure, it would be easy to make altruistic statements and talk about how I’m doing this to serve people – and that’s true. But I have a three year old and a one year old at home who rely on me for food and shelter, and thus making radical career changes into things that may not earn any sort of income at all is not a safe proposition.
So where does that lead us? We all have lots of inklings in life, things we’d like to do. The ones that grow are the ones that we find time for. The ones that are really something special are the ones that we’re willing to take a risk for. The ones that change our lives are the ones we can jump on the back of and believe that they’ll take care of us, no matter what.
So what am I doing? I’m going to take that first step and find some room. I’ll treat it like a hobby, much like I started The Simple Dollar. Once my book is finished, for an hour or two a day, I’m going to devote myself to writing and creating and sharing about food. I’m going to store up a lot of material on the subject, then launch something related to it, just to see how it goes.
In the end, for me it is enough of a passion that I’m willing to give up some other things in my life for it. I’ll put away a few video games, utilize the time that’s currently taken up by my book a little better, and see what happens.
Here’s the take home message. If you have an inkling, sit up. Make a little room in your life – if you can’t find room, then it’s probably not worth thinking about, but if you look around a little bit, you might be surprised at the space you have if you make a few different choices. Dip your toes in the water just to see how it feels. Don’t worry about success or failure – just enjoy yourself and see what happens next.