(Photo by SMW)
Do what you love…
It may not start out this way. You may do what’s necessary to get your income rolling in a positive direction but eventually, wouldn’t the ideal goal be to do what you love rather than to do what you have to – just to get by?
I believe that happiness in life rests in the freedom to do the things that bring you the most joy, professionally and otherwise. This could be spending time with family, hiking, working for yourself, painting, writing, or any number of activities that you enjoy. Some view this as their retirement goal… Work all of your life eyeing up the last 20 or so years. Man, retirement will be so sweet, but the first 65 will be… a bear. That’s no way to live.
There have been a score of books, blog posts, and podcasts recently that urge you to live retirement throughout your working years. Each one has a slightly different twist but essentially they’re all backing the same horse – do what you love and do it now.
Every book, article, and podcast I came across would have me behaving the same way. First I’m nodding my head, then I’m agreeing with comments made, and before the end I’m imagining my somehow wealthy life without the 9-5. The majority of these authors are highly skilled and intelligent, so not only does their end result sound glamorous but it also seems doable. A few weeks go by and eventually I forget most of the substance and remember the main points, the best part – the end. Where I’m living on the beach with my family, writing 2 hours a day, sleeping 8 hours, exercising every day so I’m looking like a sculpture you’d find in a museum, living below my means, enjoying good health, forgetting about money, going on excursions, and just living life to the fullest… 2 problems – how do I get there and is that a realistic possibility?
For some, yes. The authors referenced above have designed the life they want, or are at least working toward that goal. They are widely regarded and I respect much of what they write and say. Where we get into trouble though, is when we try to fit our life into their specific design. An infinite number of circumstances had to fall exactly in the right place to land Tim Ferriss, James L. Brooks, or (Insert well respected millionaire/billionaire here) into their current life situation. In an honest moment these folks would tell you it took a metric ton of hard work, discipline, and a mountain of luck to get to where they are today.
Possible, then? Sure.
Happening next month? Not very likely.
What’s more, is that my storybook ending may look completely different from David Stein’s, and yours probably differs distinctly from either of ours. So what, then, can we do now to shape our future into what we desire for then, keeping in mind that our starting and ending points vary?
We can start now and start small
This isn’t a plea to up and quit your job in favor of the pipe-dream to travel the world sharing your original music, nor is it a pitch for you recent grads out there to pick circus ring-leader as your realistic career option. Unless, that is, either of those professions are able to provide you the financial resources you need to support yourself and/or your family. Then, by all means, do it!
After we pull our heads back down from the clouds we can begin to identify and list (yes, physically write out) the things you feel a desire to do in your free time. Exercising, eating, cooking, traveling, singing, reading, writing, sleeping, …, X? Why can’t you do X for some form of income?
We are a creative people, so now your challenge is to either find or create a way to do X and get paid for it. For the purposes of this article, we will define X as my desire to write outside of my traditional job. But the thing about X is that it can literally be anything you’d like – so no worries if it’s completely different for you.
What I did
I’m in the type of profession where we are definitely able to help out society, but I notice that many times that help comes after some devastating incident. I started looking for a creative outlet that would allow me to affect positive change without the caveat of something terrible having to happen first.
I enjoy writing and helping others. Check.
In my free time, I constantly read books or listen to podcasts about fitness and finance. Check.
My family produces about 1.2 interesting or hilarious stories per every gathering. Check.
I had no experience with web design, digital publishing, marketing, branding, or any other relevant thing that I would need to know to start and grow a semi-respectable blog, but people tell me they enjoy what I write and I was excited for the challenge of learning how to improve in all of those areas. I decided to start a blog – this blog!
Every time I open the computer to write or work on an aesthetic aspect or marketing strategy with the blog, I’m challenged mentally to either learn something new or to convey a topic in an interesting and entertaining manner. It averages to about 5-10 hours per week but I love the work and I look forward to improving the blog.
People also enjoy the posts and express their appreciation for the information shared. So, although MikedUp Blog is not currently a household name I know that there has been real impact in people’s lives. To me, that’s amazing.
There isn’t big money in blogging for me right now – no money, in fact – but it brings me joy and I look forward to doing this work. Ahead, there is a possible path toward monetization. It will take more time and hard work, but the dream is alive.
Your small start doesn’t need to have a $0.00 balance line on the income statement right away. I’m in a position where that type of work is enjoyable and acceptable but there are a myriad of other options out there that pay from day one. All you need to do is pick one and get moving.
Where should you start?
If you’re in the majority of recent grads or young professionals who don’t know what your passion is and didn’t get help from the career test you took senior year, just take a moment and listen your yourself. “What,” you ask??
When the clock hits 5:00 pm on a Friday or it’s noon on the weekend – what are you looking forward to most? What gets you motivated and calls you to action? What do you enjoy doing for free just because you like doing it?
I had organized boot camps in the past. I know a friend that loves helping her friends with interior decorating ideas. Another friend teaches young children how to swim. Another tends bar 2 nights each week. One of my in-laws takes a group of high-school aged students on an international learning vacation every year – paid for by the sponsoring institution. Another teaches a couple nights each week at our local church…
I could write a post about these different ‘jobs’ but the point is they all are doing something they enjoy doing. It may not be regular, full-time, work but most of them earn some form of income.
Why should you chase after this dream even if that isn’t financially best for you or the family?
First, you deserve to be happy. There’s only 1 opportunity to get the most out of life and you owe it to yourself to enjoy the ride. Although heading to a mill, mine, or other manual labor-type job was a requirement for large portions of previous generations, we’re seeing that it is not necessarily the case today. Some employer’s tout working from home to improve the work/life balance, while others are reducing hours from 40 to the mid 30s and still considering that ‘full-time.’ Additionally, you can earn income from anywhere in the world by working online. Our world marketplace is more interconnected now than it ever has been, which leads to many more opportunities and possibilities other than tending the cubicle farm.
Another reason is that you’re more successful, productive, and innovative when you’re happier. Most of us have, at minimum, 8 hours of work per day. Add that to prep time in the morning and the commute both ways, now you have a huge chuck of each week day tied to your profession. If you’re miserable it inevitably affects the other areas of your life – personal, financial, fitness, spiritual. That is less than desirable.
If you can make a job change, that’s great. If the timing won’t accommodate a job change right now, what you could do is what I referenced above. Start small. If you can work on your ‘fun job’ for 1 hour per day – it can motivate you through what you have to do the other 8 hours of your professional day.
Another benefit to taking action is that you can finally differentiate whether your dream is something you’ll actually love doing or something better sounding in your mind. Either you have a job you love or now more mental energy to focus on the next idea. Don’t be afraid to try and fail. Aristotle urged one to act and experiment to find out what you like and are good at. Don’t be intimidated if it takes a while.
New grads vs. the already employed.
Taking the leap into living the dream will vary in intensity and risk depending on your current life stage, and you should act accordingly. Where a new grad may have limited responsibilities and more freedom on their road through life as compared with a mid-level executive, neither group is without hurdles.
The younger recent grad would average fewer experiences throughout life. Fewer jobs, interviews, interactions, connections, and knowledge (I remember 22 and know you’re shaking your head right now but give it another 10 years and you’ll get it). With limited experiences comes a wide open world of possibilities. You haven’t had the opportunity to cross careers off your list or realize certain things aren’t for you yet.
No worries, just make the best choices with what you have. While us millennials have more time (on average) to correct for mistakes made now, we owe it to ourselves to do the required due diligence and make smart choices. Sure, you’ve got time to work a year or two on a project but add a few of those together and things start looking different – quickly. If you use the information you have to make a good and informed decision, you limit regret and set yourself up for success.
Being 40 or above doesn’t exclude you from fulfilling your dream
Everyone cites Colonel Sanders so I won’t do that. Check out this article from Business Insider to see that Vera Wang, Stan Lee (created the Marvel universe), Henry Ford, and Rodney Dangerfield,… all got their starts or big breaks at or around 40.
Other people aside, happiness isn’t reserved for the young. Go out and get it. Doesn’t matter your age. The one marked difference as the age number increases though, is that your movements should get more surgical. The time afforded to the millennials referenced above doesn’t apply the same to you. Increased research, planning, and time spent convincing your spouse are just a few of the things that should (and will) need to be done.
On the positive side, you’ve been around this block once or twice. The mere thought of certain job functions either leads to a skyrocket in cortisol or endorphin levels. You know what you’re good at, what you can’t do, and what you’d like to learn someday. Someday is today, so let’s make it happen.
The marathon starts with a single step
In my mind, retirement isn’t finishing with work and simply sitting on a beach somewhere constantly. Although I do plan to do that throughout life, retirement – for me – is the ability to work in the fields I enjoy, as much or as little as I’d like to – and to have the financial security to do so. That starts with smart decisions and hard work now.
MikedUp Blog is not designed to support my family’s financial security someday. What it’s here to do is to A) help others and B) allow me to learn new things, get thoughts out of my head and onto this virtual paper, and ultimately bring me joy outside of my 9-5. As long as the blog doesn’t step on the toes of my family or other professional obligations, we’re checking all of these boxes.
Today, I’m challenging you to find your MikedUp Blog. What side-hustle would you love to turn into a job, or which career have you taken the leap into hoping to fulfill both financial and personal happiness goals? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. What are you doing today that will eventually lead you to doing what you love
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