Career Dreams – In Three Parts

What will I do with my life? How will I leave my mark on the world?

These questions have been a constant part of my life since I was very young – and it’s still a guiding question in my life. Now that I’m a parent to three children and a mentor to other adults, I can see clearly how the same thoughts float through the heads of others.

What will I do with my life? How will I leave my mark on the world?

Let’s look at those questions through the stories of three people and see where they lead.

Her Dream
Right now, I’m serving as something of an informal mentor to a 19 year old young woman who is incredibly passionate about photography. She’s one of those types who can spend hours examining lenses and she’s beginning to develop an innate sense of lighting, framing, and lens selection.

She rarely spends even a few hours of freedom without getting out her camera and taking pictures of whatever she finds, putting her composition skills to work. The past few times I’ve seen her with her camera out, I’ve just enjoyed watching her work with the same enjoyment I take watching anyone performing something they love with skill.

Here’s the challenging part: while photography is something she deeply enjoys, she’s unsure whether or not it’s something she actually wants to make a career out of.

Instead, her path to her dream is through a side business, one where she’s not reliant on it for income and can scale it back when she wishes. Right now, she’s building a client list and has taken on a healthy number of professional jobs, and is slowly expanding operations into marketing and promotion.

However, her major in college is business-oriented. She’s not majoring in anything directly related to photography at all. Instead, her studies will make it possible for her to find a role in a corporate structure while also building a small business around her photography passion.

She’s using her career to support her talent and passion.

His Dream
Another young man, aged eighteen years, is about to start college. He’s passionate about music. He has some dreams of being able to play music professionally for a living, with his backup plan revolving around teaching music.

His path to his dream is taking advantage of everything his college has to offer. His intent is to bury himself in his music while in school, not only maximizing his skill, but trying to gain exposure.

His coursework will be fairly easy and not highly time consuming as he is focusing on education classes and a fairly low credit load. His spare time will be used to improve his skills and to build connections and a following by meeting other musicians, sharing his music online, and being involved in the music community on campus.

He’s using his collegiate years to open every possible door.

My Dream
All throughout my early life, I dreamed of writing for a living. I have always felt most at peace when communicating through the written word, whether reading it or writing it.

When I attended college, however, I didn’t believe that such a path held a real future for me, so I studied the sciences and got a high-paying job out of college.

Even after that, however, I spent my spare time reading and writing until I eventually found some success with my writing after years of failure. When that foundation was strong enough, I made the leap into the long-term career I had always dreamed of.

I used my first career to lay a foundation for a second career utilizing my talents and passion.

What Does This All Mean For You?
The biggest lesson is that there are many, many paths to making your career dreams a reality. You don’t have to start off in that career path or plan your entire life around it.

However, there are a few central elements all of these stories have in common.

All three of these people dream of doing something they enjoy with a significant amount of their time. One person loves photography. Another loves music. Another loves writing. I have friends who love everything from packing meat to programming computers. Find whatever productive thing there is that just feels right to you and that you love doing as much as possible and do it. Don’t worry about the long term plan.

All three of these people have spent a lot of time “woodshedding.” By woodshedding, I mean that they’ve engaged in this activity they love for a long time without any profit. The young woman has taken tens of thousands of photographs without a dime of compensation. The young man has practiced his music for thousands of hours, again without compensation. I’ve written far more words without compensation than I’ve ever written for compensation.

We do these things because we’re passionate about it. We love doing them so much that we’ll spend our time doing them anyway just because we enjoy it so much. When you find something that you’ll do for years and years without any compensation at all, you’re probably onto something that may earn you a great deal of compensation – or at least a career ticket – later on.

All three of these people share what they make. The young woman I mentioned is perhaps the newest to this, but she’s now sharing photographs by the bucketload online. The young man has a healthy pile of his music out there on YouTube and on other websites. You’re reading The Simple Dollar, which is my writing shared quite freely.

All three of these people are on different life trajectories. One is likely to become a music teacher. Another person is heading straight for middle management. Yet another is self-employed and deeply involved in parenting. It doesn’t matter what your path is – you can find room for what you want to be doing.

These traits seem to be common among anyone who has a dream and a passion. They’re passionate about something, so passionate in fact that they’ll do it for free. They share what they make with the people around them. They’re doing this no matter what path their life seems to be following.

What’s holding you back from doing the same?

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