Updated on 05.11.10

Separating Your Goals and Choices from Other People

Trent Hamm

Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people.
– Nido Qubein

I spent the first twenty five years of my life mostly pushing forward on goals created by other people.

When I was in school, I was told that grades were the only thing that mattered. Thus, I treated school as a rat race for grades rather than an opportunity to learn. So rather than studying and reading and learning for the joy of it, it was all just a slog for grades.

When I went to college, I turned my back on what I really wanted to major in (I wanted to get a B.A. in English lit and then try to get into the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop) and instead chose a major that was much more financially lucrative because others had told me that I needed to major in something lucrative instead of something I was passionate about. So I chose the most interesting (to me) of reasonably lucrative majors.

I chose a career path that certainly paid well (what other people wanted) and allowed me to buy lots of stuff to impress others, but left me without big pieces of the life I wanted.

I spent money because my friends spent money. I bought lots of gadgets because my friends bought lots of gadgets. I spent tons of money on video games and trading cards because that’s what my friends did.

Almost no significant decision in the first twenty five years of my life was made with respect to what I wanted to achieve in my life.

I compared my achievements with those of other people. I didn’t compare my achievements with my own goals.

Looking back, this was the single biggest lesson I learned from my financial turnaround. I spent too much time using what other people were doing as a measurement for how I was doing.

If one of my friends had a new gadget, then I believed that diminished me in some fashion. At the same time, if I had a new gadget that others didn’t have, my worth was higher than theirs.

If someone I knew had a great job, I thought that made my job look worse by comparison. At the same time, if I interacted with someone with a worse job, my job seemed much better.

If someone went to a great restaurant, then the meal I had last night was somehow made worse. At the same time, if I ate at a great restaurant, it was somehow made better if others didn’t do the same.

Friendships. Golf clubs. The latest films. Automobiles. The list went on and on. If my achievements and possessions topped someone else, that validated me. If they didn’t top someone else, then I felt like less of a person.

Every single bit of that was nonsense. Even worse, it was nonsense that paralyzed me and kept me from thinking about what I wanted out of life and how I could get there.

Judged compared to others, I was fairly successful. Judged compared to what I really wanted for my life in my own heart, I was pretty much a failure.

Here’s the thing, though. Most people don’t really care about most of this stuff. You might be able to use something like this to get your foot in the door, but once your foot is in, it really doesn’t matter. People make up their mind about you based on you, not the stuff you have or the restaurant you ate at.

Reset your goals. Recognize that the people around you – at least, the ones who truly matter – don’t care about what you have and what you’ve done beyond the fact that it brings you happiness and satisfaction. Don’t waste your time buying things or doing things to impress others because that sense of being “impressed” is incredibly fleeting and doesn’t matter a whit in the long run.

What does matter is that you wake up each morning with things on your plate that you want to accomplish.

The more time you spend figuring out what big things you want to accomplish in life and taking the steps you need to take to get there, the easier it is to wake up each morning ready to take on what life has to offer.

It’s easier to stay out of debt and reach financial independence because you’re not wasting your money on stuff just to impress others.

It’s easier to simply switch careers to something personally valuable to you that matches your skills because your job isn’t just a rat race to whatever job pays you “top dollar,” because you don’t need “top dollar” because you’re not spending all your money on stuff to impress others.

It’s easier to find the time to do the stuff you want to do because you’re not wasting your time doing all the “trendy” stuff you’re doing to impress your friends. There’s no reason to eat at that expensive restaurant or to squeeze in another golf outing unless it brings a lot of personal value to you.

It’s your life. Figure out what you want and chase that. Everyone that truly matters and truly cares for you will happily join in the chorus.

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  1. Molly says:

    What was your major?

  2. Vtcouponqueen says:

    Trent!!! Don’t confuse me. Our youngest son is starting to look at colleges and he wants to major in music. We feel he has a gift but just can’t let him graduate with 100,000 in student loans. Even with scholarship help we feel his chances of a decent income are narrow we really feel stuck.

  3. yoko says:

    I really like your post. I was totally same way like you were… Now I am much order ( I don’t have much money or stuff) I am happy and feel good about myself. It was really hard when I didn’t know what I REALLY want, and try to be like somebody else. I wish my kids will not waste too much time like I did.

  4. Trent,

    Are you at a place today where you are happy with the way things turned out or do you still wish you had majored in English? Why not take some classes towards accomplishing that goal, even if it takes a little while longer than returning on a full-time basis?

    It is never too late to accomplish your goals…

  5. @2 VT: It isn’t really your choice to make, is it? Sorry to sound harsh but it is your son’s decision to make. I would have hated having my parents tell me what to do with my life, especially in regards to education and a future career.

    Money isn’t always the bottom line and I’m not sure where you come up the $100,000 in student loans. You shouldn’t be confused about your son’s education, you should be supportive of whatever he choses.

  6. chacha1 says:

    “Everyone that truly matters and truly cares for you will happily join in the chorus.”

    If only this were true! In reality, many communities (and families) are like a bucket of crabs. One may try to climb out, but the others pull it back in.

    People generally want you to conform to their idea of you, and they can become very unpleasant when you start to color outside the lines.

    That is not in any way to say that Trent’s main point is invalid, just that those who decide to follow a dream, and who expect unconditional support, are likely to receive a pretty severe slapback from at least one person in their lives and they should be prepared for it.

    @ #2 Re: majoring in music: how about math, with a minor in music? People good in music are often good in math, and math can lead to many different careers.

  7. I think rebelling against societal ‘norms’ is difficult.
    People who ‘create’ for a living typically have that mentality. The idea of a starving artist or musician following their dreams or dropping out of college to build the latest social media platform comes to mind.
    The question we must ask ourselves is: “Am I adding value to the world with what I am creating”? If so, then financial rewards are secondary.

  8. Squirrelers says:

    “It’s your life. Figure out what you want and chase that. Everyone that truly matters and truly cares for you will happily join in the chorus.”

    Those are wise words. Now, its important to give appreciation and love for those that care for you and support you. And to support them as they chase their goals. That said, I like that quote of yours.

    Don’t feel restricted by others opinions, goals, or where they “slot” you in their own lives. As long as you’re fair to to others and responsible, do what you need to do and chase your dreams. I like that a lot. A lot of things can fall into place then, including your finances.

  9. Karen says:

    @#2 VT: Both my parents majored in music in college, and went on to have careers in music education. My father taught music for over 35 years and retired with an excellent pension in his late 50s. He still teaches music as an adjunct professor and private teacher.

    If your son wants to major in music, let him pursue his dreams.

    I was very fortunate to have such supportive parents because they encouraged me to go to art school. I’ve had a very successful graphic design career.

    Do not assume that a career in the arts or music is not possible.

  10. Alexis says:

    I agree with Karen, if you work hard & you want to study/major in what you love, what more of a rewarding career could you ask for?

  11. Stephan says:

    @#2: you def should be worried, as a college education in music for most people will never justify the 100,000 in student debt they will take on. because you are the parents, it is important that you make your son realize that in the real world, bills need to be paid, and unless he has immense talent, he wont be able to pay his bills with a major in music. just a thought.

    Preferred Financial Services

  12. Dink says:

    I earned my undergrad degree in English and got an MFA in writing (like Trent says he wanted to do), and I work in IT making pretty good money. It’s not just about what college track you take if you have other, “more lucrative” interests. You can have it both ways. I could have done computers or English in college, both big interests of mine. The subject I was more interested in won, and the other interest turned into a job without having to study (in school) for it.

  13. Nebula says:

    How about a compromise?

    Major in English Lit but read lots of books about finance! (that worked for me, eventually!)

    Major in Music, minor in Math (or something more practical)

  14. Lori Vz says:

    Thank you for this post…it was great!

  15. George says:

    Where does this $100k student loan figure for a music education come from?!?

    At the bottom of the financial risk, community colleges can make the entry less expensive. State universities are the next rung on the cost ladder. It’s not until you talk about conservatories and private schools that you should even expect to enter that world of $100k student loans.

    1) Work through college.
    2) Music does have paying careers, such as becoming a teacher.
    3) Scholarships and endowments are possible.
    4) Just because you get a degree in something doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll do for a career.

  16. Crystal says:

    I’m a fan of covering your bases. Obviously your lucrative career allowed you to have enough padding to pursue your passion. I also assume you didn’t leave said career until your writing could pay your way. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with dealing with realism and idealism at the same time.

  17. Allie says:

    The theme of this post reminds me of “Desidrata” by Max Ehrmann, one of my favorite poems. The part I’m thinking of is:

    “…If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain and bitter;
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

    Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
    it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs;
    for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
    many persons strive for high ideals;
    and everywhere life is full of heroism.”

    Thanks for an inspiring post!

  18. Jay says:

    I disagree agree with your statement about putting aside what you love for a financially lucrative career. Most times you can’t have both. I would imagine that you started this successful blog while you still had a decent paying day job. The things you love can become a hobby like playing the guitar or collecting baseball cards.

    Work is work. Although you shouldn’t stay somewhere that makes you miserable, paying the bills, supporting a family, saving for retirement are high priorities. Many people might just want to look at working for a different company where the culture and expectations are different. Switching careers should probably be the last option to consider.

  19. Jay says:

    PS I made a spelling error and I don’t see anywhere to edit my comment. Is this possible?

  20. rosa rugosa says:

    I hired an employee in December with a degree in Fine Music from Berklee. The job is a lower-tier HR job. She did have some relevant experience, and wanted to build upon that. She said she’ll always have her love of music, but would like to make her career in HR. So far, she’s turning out to be a very good choice, and she seems happy in her role.

  21. Natasha says:

    I agree with the spirit of this post; the only opinion that really matters is your own. However, Trent is once again discounting the opportunities afforded by his more “lucrative” career – without the cash cushion that it provided, Trent would have never been able to experience the life that he later dismisses as a trendy waste.

  22. Joel says:

    Excellent post that hit home with me. I’ve been at this point in my life recently where I’ve hit a maturation milestone; I’m learning that possessions don’t matter, worrying about what others’ think isn’t important, and to focus on myself. It’s very free-ing. Thanks for the validation Trent!

  23. PK says:

    @#5 — While I like Trent’s post so much I’m about to share it with friends on Facebook, I have to agree wholeheartedly with you. It’s one thing to stop comparing yourself to others, but it takes immense personal fortitude (which I unfortunately don’t think many people have) to go against the grain. Especially when it’s contrary to the well-meaning opinions of loved ones you trust and care about. Financial independence is hard enough to achieve, but I think emotional independence is much more difficult. Still, kudos to anyone who flies in the face of other people’s advice and achieves their personal dreams!

  24. jg says:

    Don’t forget selecting who you surround yourself with! My background, career, etc. suggests I should be living in an upper-middle class neighborhood, driving a nice car, etc. However, when I moved to take a new job, I intentionally chose to live in a modest working class neighborhood – not just for the cost of living, but to be surrounded by a lifestyle I am entirely comfortable with. As a bonus, I’m a LOT closer to work than my colleagues who live way out in the suburbs!

  25. Melissa says:

    Trent – Thank you for being so honest about your own experiences. I related to so much of what you said. One of my biggest faults is that I care too much what people think of me. I have largely made decisions based upon what other’s have wanted and am now suffering the consequences. I am going through the process of figuring out what my own goals are, but it is difficult since I don’t have much experience with it. I anticipate that the career decisions I will make in the near future will completely shock some of those around me, but life is too short to be unhappy.

    Thanks for doing what you do every day – you inspire me.

  26. moom says:

    My question is why did you think and act that way until a few years ago? Personally, I’ve always been rebellious and always questioned what other people said were the goals one should pursue. Especially, anything my father claimed was a good idea. Maybe I went too far in that direction, I don’t know. I’m mostly happy with the path I have taken.

  27. Julia says:

    @#2: I hear ya! People say it’s not your choice are right, but as a parent it is your job to think about these things and discuss them with your son, and even make suggestions (‘course you also have to be supportive with whatever he chooses).
    Anyway, people love to call education an investment. But they don’t think about what kind of return they expect from this investment. $100K may seem like more than necessary, but tuitions are climbing so fast that $80k at a state college will soon be the norm for a 4-year program.
    Maybe look at this option for your son: if he wants to pursue music, perhaps he could get a 2 year tech degree (at a significantly less expensive community college) in a field where he can be content and stable for a few years while he pursues less expensive avenues to develop his music talent. This may mean saving up money to go back to college to study music, or whatever other ideas he can come up with.
    I have a friend that pursued engineering before his musical dreams. After 10-15 years as an engineer, he got accepted to his ideal music school (with scholarships) and he was financially stable enough to leave his lucrative engineering career to pursue his real dreams. He once said he followed his back up plan first. I think it’s brilliant.

  28. Bela says:

    I majored in English lit and earned a B.A., an M.A., and almost a Ph.D. and I have the student loans to prove it! I followed my passion until I burnt out on it and discovered too late that I was not the intellectual I thought I was. I have rarely worked in my field of study and the most I have ever made per year was $50K, which was only because I put in considerable overtime that year (and was laid off the following year).
    I’m not sure if I would have chosen a different major, but I definitely would have skipped grad school!

  29. BD says:

    @ Vtcouponqueen #2 = While others have a good point, “it’s not your choice to make”, I do want to say that if you can encourage him to do something more ‘solid’ for a major, and do music on the SIDE as a hobby, it would greatly help him in the future.

    I speak from experience here folks.
    Yes, some folks ‘make it’ in music/art/theatre/drama, but the odds are against you. Almost artist/graphic designer/animator/creative person/musician I know right now is out of work or working outside their field.

    @ Tyler #6 = You said “The question we must ask ourselves is: “Am I adding value to the world with what I am creating”? If so, then financial rewards are secondary.”.

    That’s all fine and dandy if you DON’T want to eat, and living under a bridge is ok with you. But if you like having a roof over your head and food in your stomach, this is NOT the motto to live by. We need money to survive. I found this out too late. I went through Art School, got my BFA. I thought all I needed was passion and love for my art, and I’d be able to find work and earn money. Now, I’m middle-aged, unable to find work in my field for the past 4 years, and living with my parents. If it was not for my parents, I’d be HOMELESS. And through no fault of my own, other than picking the wrong career. I’ve always been frugal and a saver, and rarely bought any frivolous items, or new clothing or anything that most normal people by. I had no TV. No cable. Just internet, for my work. I just never had any real earning power.

    So now, I’m going back to school for my Accounting degree, and I’m keeping art as a side job. And my goal is to warn anyone going into a ‘creative career’ what they’re getting into. Odds are against you, and it’s a much safer bet to major in something solid (math, medicine, accounting, business, engineering, etc), and minor in the creative arts. That way, you will have a solid backing for a real career, and you can do the creative thing on the side, without having to worry about its instability.

  30. “It’s easier to find the time to do the stuff you want to do because you’re not wasting your time doing all the “trendy” stuff you’re doing to impress your friends. There’s no reason to eat at that expensive restaurant or to squeeze in another golf outing unless it brings a lot of personal value to you.”
    <<–No truer words have ever been spoken!!

    "Because having multiple child support payments is not the same things as having a diversified investment portfolio."

  31. Tracy W says:

    Vtcouponqueen – does your son have to go to college to continue with his music? I don’t know anything about music careers, but if you can pursue your dreams without paying so much money I’d say go for it.

  32. Lisa says:

    I have a friend who was passionate about theatre. He wanted to do a combined major in theatre and english but his parents basically forbid it. He eventually told them he was doing a degree in english and history, with lots of theatre electives. When he graduated, I think that he had only taken a handful of history classes and tons of theatre and english classes. This meant he was able to graduate with the degree he wanted (although it obviously required some stretching of the truth).

    He now has a job at a cultural centre doing event planning and interpretive tours, and runs his own theatre company as a side business. He puts on several shows a year, and is really involved with the theatre scene in the city. He said he never plans to make theatre his full time job since it’s just not financially stable enough, but he loves being able to do it in his free time (particularly since his projects pay for themselves through his theatre company).

    I highly doubt he would be as happy with his life had he listened to his parents who warned him that the arts were not a valid option.

  33. deRuiter says:

    Good post. The main problem with amassing huge student loan debts to “follow your passion, your own path” and taking a degree which is useless but interesting or otherwise guaranteed to result in a low paying job, is that your life will be ruined by the enormous debts which can not (thankfully for us taxpayers!) be cancelled by bankruptcy. Get the high paying job FIRST, pay off your debts, then pursue your passions, or you will be crippled by debt forever. You’ll also be resentful of those who have well paying jobs. Work is called “work” for a reason, it’s not a hobby, it’s not supposed to be your passion (nice if it is!) but it is supposed to support you and enable you to become financially prosperous.

  34. Claudia says:

    I agree with this post somewhat. I think not being happy leads to overspending and overeating, both in a vain attempt at happiness. However, one needs to sometimes work at finding happiness in what one can reasonably achieve. Trent has been successful in finding his niche, but it’s not always possible.
    I agree with deRuiter, get a good job, then work on your passion as a sideline. If you are truly talented at your passion, you may be able to turn it into a lucrative job choice at some time.
    I know a few people with degrees in their passion who have never been able to get a job in the field. My son has a masters in screenwriting/directing, he works at another job and does film work as a freelance sideline, because entry level jobs pay peanuts ($12,000 a year in NYC!!)

  35. Ella says:

    I majored in math, and where I went to university there were so many musicians studying math that we held an annual concert.

    That said, I don’t think math is that practical, unless you make sure to take classes in computer programming and statistics and make an effort to apply it to real-world things. A couple of my musical friends finished their PhD in pure math and then became musicians. It seemed just as reasonable a career path as trying to be a professor. I wouldn’t see mathematics as a ticket to easy money, and pure math can be quite addictive which can have negative consequences for your career.

    But I don’t think any major is a ticket to financial security. An entrepreneurial spirit and self-knowledge helps more. Following your dreams can teach you more about yourself than following the path with less resistance.

  36. Ella says:

    Also, I really enjoyed reading this post. I definitely compare myself to other people too much. I’m always thinking I’m such a failure because I haven’t progressed as far in my life as other people. This is a good reminder for me.

  37. triLcat says:

    @VT: $100K in debt sounds like a heck of a lot of debt to take on. I would encourage him to work out an alternate plan. For example, maybe he could take a year of general studies classes at a community college to cut a year off of more expensive classes. Maybe he can find some type of work-study program. Maybe he can find some type of internship/apprenticeship for a year now before starting school. There’s a crazy belief in America that children should start college as soon as they finish high school. I think it’s a huge mistake. Taking a year off and getting to know the real world is a huge advantage. Many other countries have a built-in gap year (or more) with military or national service.

  38. GayleRN says:

    I have seen all sides of the music/arts question just in my own sons.

    One of my sons wanted to be a music major, it was his passion from early childhood. And he did, for the first year of college. He didn’t put in the hours of practice and they washed him out. Unless he is putting in several hours of practice daily NOW he will not make it at a good music program. He should be taking private lessons on a continuous basis from a professional player of that instrument, also on a quality instrument, not a student model. Summers need to be spent at a music camp. University programs in music are highly variable. Do some research.

    I personally know 4 young men who are making a living in music, good money. Our local school system gave them a good basis, but they all attended a local (but world famous) arts focused high school, highly selective. Then they all attended highly rated programs in their instruments at highly rated colleges. They all played less common instruments, no violins. Your local community college will not serve you well in this world.

    The son who washed out of music is now in seminary and happier. One son became a professional writer and makes more money than I do as a nurse. His wife is an art museum curator and makes even more money. One son wasted several years trying to make it in comedy. Never got paid a dime for it. Better to try early in life than regretting not trying though. Get it out of the way.

  39. Frank says:

    I think sometimes the most difficult part in all of this is appropriately selecting goals. Unfortunately we are influenced by so many things in our life that it is hard to recognize what your “real” goals may be. The shows we watch on TV, the books we read, the people we hang around, all can have an effect on the decisions we make. Before you make any monetary decisions I would say it is important to weigh the choices for the decisions as well as find out where the influence is coming from. The bottom line is the decision is yours to make not anyone else’s. Thanks Trent.

  40. Dee says:

    @VT: Every day I regret majoring in accounting instead of dance. Sure, I make a lot of money and have nearly paid off my loans…but you can always go back to school for something “practical,” or pick skills up on the job. It isn’t as easy to get a performing arts education at 32. There aren’t the night school options for dance that there are for accounting.

  41. Erin says:

    #2 Vtcouponqueen – Just an option you and your son may not have thought of…

    My brother was a very talented trombone player in high school. He ended up auditioning for the US Navy Band and was accepted into the program without a degree when he was 18 years old (although a good portion of the musicians he works with do have degrees).

    He’s been on active duty for over 8 years now, lives in San Diego, did a tour in Hawaii, and plans to retire at his 20 year mark, when he’s 38 years old!!

    He just bought his first home in San Diego this past year, last month he bought an almost new BMW of his dreams, he has no debt outside those two things, and is very happy…and makes more than I do, especially when you calculate in his benefits!

    He’s attending college on his off time and plans to have his degree by the time he retires (at 38 I will add again) – which the military is paying for – where he will be plenty young enough to start a new/second career of his choice.

    He has traveled with the band to play in concerts and engagements around the world.

    And we don’t have to worry about him going to war…he plays a trombone and sings. :)

  42. SLCCOM says:

    I play in the local University Wind Ensemble (community member, unpaid.) I have met mostly students who are music EDUCATION majors, and the way the school operates is that they don’t give one credit hour per class contact hour, which is what happens in every other major. Wind Ensemble is 4 hours a week rehearsal; the kids get one lousy credit hour. Marching band is worse. During football season I think they put in about 10 hours a week. They get one whole credit hour for that! The majority of them take 6 years to get through. A $100,000 debt is actually not unrealistic,and the market for music educators right now is marginal.

    Performance majors often get through faster, but, as I point out to them, “This ain’t Julliard!” A performance major from Podunk University is close to worthless. It would be far better if the person is a really good musician to head for LA and become a studio musician.

    There are other careers in music, and your son should be encouraged to explore all his options. Music therapy is something that may or may not become viable under Obamacare.

    I second seeking a career as a military musician. I know a young man who just embarked on his journey last year as a Marine percussionist right out of high school.

  43. Kristine says:

    It takes guts and courage to go against conventional advice. We’ve grown up trying to please our family and friends, it’s hard to make the switch towards pursuing your personal goals.

    I think it helps to surround yourself with like-minded people who will support and encourage you. Sometimes the hardest part is figuring out what your passion/talents are! Once you do, learn how you can bring it out to the marketplace to exchange value (talent for money).

  44. leo says:

    Hi all,
    I’ve read all the comments, and I am very unpleased with the people judging without experience in which is a good or bad career.

    First of all, the biggest debt we all have is with ourselves, we MUST seek for happiness.

    Second, the career is not the most important, is the way you make it happen. You can be a very low pay engineer (I know, I’m one) or a very rich musician.

    DON’T kill other peoples dreams, you are killing them and you will NEVER be forgiven (if they say other thing, is a lie).
    Forbidding your son or daughter to follow their dreams is murder. I’ll never forgive my parents for all the dreams and spirit they have killed in me since I have memory. And at the day, I barely talk to them, and they know if I get mad at them, they will not know from me for months or even years.

    So you are in a hurry and have to decide FAST? You are WRONG, wait another year for starting university, meanwhile, learn many things.

    Your son/daughter is heading something you don’t consider good?
    Guide them, make plans, look for options. Learn about the subject, make an informed decition. Also finance together so you can plan together the future. DON’T pre-judge!!!

    Search for opportunities to NOT get in debt and others pay for your studies.
    Everything I see about US and University is a loan. Don’t be fool, is not the only way to pay your studies.

    For example, I got a scholarship to France last year. And I passed the 2 previous years with another scholarship from another institution at Argentina.
    I worked since I was 18.
    Others had money. Others looked for options in other places. Others worked for years in order to save money for studying later.

    Search for cheaper options. USA is not the only country in the world, and I can assure you, there are very good Universities in other places. Also, what you learn depends SOLELY on YOU.
    Search for 3rd world options, specially in South America. Argentina and Brazil have many well known Universities.

    In the end _Follow your dreams_. And DON’T be fool, you have to learn how to sell your image, personal marketing, manage and dominate several tools. Or at leas associate with people that you can trust dominates the thing you don’t.
    You have to learn to search for options to be able to FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!!!


    P.S. When I say follow your dreams, you must define first what are those dreams. Is difficult to follow something you don’t know even now what or where it is.

  45. Meg says:

    While I wholly agree with this, you’re missing the other side, and that’s that people *will* hate you for it. People you don’t know, who don’t even know you. Most of the people we live around dislike us without even knowing our names, because they see what makes us happy and what we spend our money on. (Cars.)

    It’s not just about realizing what makes you happy, you have to be prepared to deal with the backlash of actually saying, “No, sorry, I’m not going to give up on my life like you have.” Which is pretty much how it is, no sugar coating it.

    Doesn’t help when it’s only going to get worse from here on out, when we start bringing the Porsches and my first Ferrari home.

  46. Arlene says:

    Wow, this is a post very close to my heart. For all those saying pick the more “practical” career, I can’t say I agree. I’m a physician and I’m about to go bankrupt, and not because I’m reckless with money. It’s because from the time I started training to now, medicine has changed tremendously, and MANY physicians in small practices are going bankrupt as well. And, a lot depends on the specialty, but there’s not way to know when you start what will be going on in your field 4-10 years later. No one could have predicted the way things are in medicine now in 1993 when I started med school. So, a career that was supposed to be a sure thing isn’t, and I don’t even like it. Sure I could go work in some big corporate practice where I’d kill myself working unGodly hours until I burn out or take up drinking, but one of the reasons I chose medicine is because I DIDN’T want to work in corporate America, and this still won’t work for me.

    So, I’ve gone back to school to pursue my passion – I’m getting an interior design masters. Now my creative career may be a bit different because I plan to do healthcare design and as a physician who has practiced, I have an advantage, and interior design, especially healthcare design, is the type of creative field where there are jobs available. But, considering the toll that medicine has placed on me and my mental health/personal life, if I had to do it all over, I WOULDN’T DO IT!! I’d go with my heart.

    Living each day being something that you’re not is not a workable option. You can read about “falsification of type” and “prolonged adaptation stress syndrome” at http://www.arlenetaylor.org (and, no this is not me, we just have the same first name). There’s research being done on the effects of living against your natural personality type, and the results are not pretty.

    I make less now than I have in 9 years but I’m so much happier because each day I’m moving closer to what I love and my time is more and more filled with something I actually am interested in and like to do. Living each day struggling to get through it is no way to live and will lead to burnout sooner or later. I will be able to pay my bills and have a reasonable life, and maybe I’ll make more than I could in the specialty I chose, but if not, I’ll be happier.

  47. Evita says:

    Trent may look down at his years as a well-paid worker but those years spent in the “real world” (where most of us live and toil) helped make him the writer that he is now. And helped him know himself better, what is wrong with that?

  48. Evita says:

    I was a music major (Master degree) who truly hated working in her field. My student actually turned me off the music that I loved!
    I then turned to business, studied part-time at University for year while I worked, having no other means of support. It was hard but I discovered a new passion, and that a career in finance and accountancy was not only interesting but well-paid and in demand. I am constantly challenged and never bored. I wish you the same experience!

  49. Birdiesmom says:

    I was a Psych major who graduated third in my class, but didn’t get accepted into a graduate clinical psychology program (competition was incredibly tough). I got a Masters of Divinity degree in counseling at a well-regarded seminary, but was told by supervisors during my one-year residency as a hospital chaplain (after graduation) that I “empathized too much” with the patients, and was unsuited for counseling. I worked for a while with physically and developmentally disabled teens and adults, mostly in a supportive care role, then did manuscript editing, worked at a living history museum as a costumed guide, and now work as a secretary/truck driver for a machine shop that manufactures metal parts. Needless to say, my years in college/grad school have had little effect on my job history. I have applied over the years for counseling jobs, but have never even gotten an interview.

    Unlike Trent, I never had a period of employment success. I pursued psychology because I was told (by parents and school counselors) that my true love, drawing and painting, would never support me financially, and psychology was an interest of mine. Unfortunately, it was after I had the education that I was told I had no “talent” for counseling.

    I have no savings other than a retirement plan that might support me for a year or two (thankfully I do have health insurance, but the plan gets worse every year), a loan to pay off, and credit card debt. I’m 48 years old. If it weren’t for friends, at this point I’d be homeless.

    I have been greatly inspired by this blog, and intend to start painting again. But I have no illusions that I’ll be able to start selling paintings at craft shows and eventually quit my job at the machine shop.

  50. Fantastic post, Trent. When I am planning the household budget or just making all those little day-to-day choices, I question myself, “Is this spending in line with my values and goals”.

    @ #18 I have to disagree. I want passion and fulfilment in my whole life, not just after 5.

  51. Eating says:

    “What does matter is that you wake up each morning with things on your plate that you want to accomplish.”

    It also matters whether you can wake up each morning and be able to put food on your plate.

    Some of us have to be mine workers, and linemen, and receptionists, …, because that’s what we can get and we want to feed our families.

  52. LJ says:

    Trent, I quite liked this article it made me think about my life a lot more than I had been doing. I’ve really just been existing for the last 8 months, when i moved countries. I don’t make friends very easily as i have always marched to my own tune. The people I work with are lovely, they all talk and do the same stuff…shopping for clothes, shoes, expensive restaurants etc. This is not me, and I find it hard to fit in. I find myself questioning my goals all the time, save for house, or buy some shoes so i can join in the conversation at work and ‘conform’. I want to buy a house, i’ll be happy once i reach this goal, but I would also like to be included at work, which would make me happy also. How can you accomplish being happy and achieving your goals without making yourself an outsider as well?

  53. Joseph Librero says:

    There are also people who compare their goals to your goals. They tell you what your goal should be. I think we should look at other people goals but the motive should not be comparison it should be for education. We should be our own goal-setter.

  54. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my blog thus i
    got here to return the favor?.I’m trying to to find things to improve my website!I guess its ok
    to use a few of your ideas!!

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