“I’m quitting my job to chase my dreams!”
When I hear someone say those words I experience two feelings simultaneously.
1. Excitement. You can’t help but admire someone with that kind of passion. Exciting things often happen when people step out of their comfort zone and make space to go for their dreams!
2. Fear. What if their dreams are not realistic? How will they pay their bills? What impact might that decision have upon their family?
I never know what to say (and doubt there is any right thing as each situation is so different) but as someone who has quit jobs to chase dreams I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts.
Warning: my thoughts don’t all mount a single argument to either quit your job or stay in it. They’re some things to ponder when you’re making the decision.
1. Chase Your Dreams
First and foremost – chase your dream.
So many people stop chasing dreams. They end up looking back on missed opportunities with a sense of regret.
If you have a dream that won’t go away I think you owe it to yourself – and the world around you – to pursue it.
2. Be Responsible
Don’t chase your dreams in a way that leaves a trail of ruin behind you.
You owe it to yourself to chase your dream – but not at the expense of those around you.
Too many times have I seen men and women chase dreams in ways that put their family in the way of harm. I can recount a number of new bloggers who quit their jobs to become full time bloggers only to find that their family no longer had an income stream or health care. I’ve seen marriages break down and tragedy strike as a result of chasing dreams without a safety net or backup plan.
I know ‘be responsible‘ doesn’t sound as sexy as ‘chase your dreams‘ – but it’s important.
I think a lot of it comes back to your life stage and situation. When I started blogging, I was engaged to be married and we had no kids. I was still conservative with my decision-making and always had a part time job until I was sure blogging would pay our bills. If I were starting out again today, as a husband and father of 3 kids, I’d certainly take things even slower than I did.
I personally set up the move between employment and chasing my dreams as a something of a transition.
I started out studying part-time and working one main job and a number of part time jobs. As my dream of becoming a full-time blogger became more of a reality (i.e. as I began to earn more from my blogging) I was able to give up some of the part-time work.
This transition took over a year to complete and even then, at one point I got a part time job when my blogging income dipped for a time. I didn’t want to put my family in harm’s way so I always had a backup plan.
3. Take a Run Up…
My part-time work and study allowed me to transition in this way. I understand that this won’t always be possible for others. That doesn’t mean you have to quit your job immediately in order to follow your dreams.
There will almost always be a way to get your dream started – even while you work a job. Think about how you can get momentum up and to position yourself to make that eventual leap.
When I was in high school I used to compete as a long jumper in athletics. I wasn’t particularly good at it but had a great coach who showed me the basics. Interestingly, a lot of the work he did with me was focused not upon my jumping technique but my running and timing.
He told me that the key to a good jump was getting good momentum going in the run up, and then timing the jump and positioning to perfection.
Yes ‘jumping’ was something I needed to get right but without a good run up the eventual leap (and landing) was never going to be successful.
What can you do – in your current situation – to create momentum and to position yourself well for that time when you might actually make the leap into giving up employment to chase your dreams?
Answering this question might result in any number of things. It could lead you to part-time study. It could lead you to more intentional networking. It could lead you to working in the evenings on your project. It might lead you to creating a business plan. There are many small and achievable things that you can do today – even while working a job – that will put you in a better position to chase your dreams.
4. You May Never Need to Leave Your Job
I can think of many people who actively pursue their dreams while also working full-time and part-time in ‘real jobs’.
- I know a full time accountant who has set up a charity and who supports orphanages in Africa by using his evenings and annual leave to travel and fundraise
- I know a lawyer who is writing a novel in the evenings and on weekends
- I know a teacher who started a craft business and makes her products in the evenings and sells them online and at markets on weekends
- I know a woman who is a stay at home mother with 5 kids, who also cares for her mother who lives with Alzheimer’s, who has built a blog that generates the equivalent of a 3 day a week job
None of these people wants to give up their work but each is also living their dreams – fairly significant dreams at that.
The reality is that not everyone’s dream is of doing something that requires you to leave employment for it to be achieved. The hard reality is that some people’s dreams don’t end up coming true (at least not in the way that they imagine that they will).
Also, keep the possibility open in your mind that perhaps a part-time job will be enough to sustain you so that you can pursue your dreams. I know that this isn’t always feasible in every industry but I know a number of people who found part-time work and simplified their lifestyle in order to sustain themselves while they also worked on making their passions and dreams a reality.
5. A Job Can = A Dream Coming True
Similarly, I can think of many people whose dreams have come true through employment.
Sometimes I wonder if we put working for yourself on a pedestal as being the only truly fulfilling end result. Why is this?
Some people are just not wired to work for themselves and do their best work when working within a team of people under the leadership of someone else. Some people’s dreams fit very comfortably into that scenario.
I think of a friend of mine whose dream was to have an impact upon global poverty. She used to think that to follow that dream meant having to charity of her own. She tried that and quickly found that it wasn’t for her. This ‘failure’ could have been the end of her dream but she decided to find another way and ended up taking a job working for not for profit organisation. After 10 years of service in that organisation, she’s risen through the ranks and looks like becoming the next CEO of it. Her dream has come true – through her employment.
I know of another friend who took a similar path. He dreamed of starting a business that developed iPhone apps in a particular field but ended up joining another company who did that and working for someone else. Interestingly by taking that job he learned the skills he needed to also pursue some personal projects and ended up starting his own company on the side.
This is a path that many people would do well to consider. It may mean re-skilling and switching the fields in which you work in (and perhaps taking a pay cut to get in at the ground level) but could be a way of following your dream and keeping a steady stream of income.
6. Sometimes You Do Need to Jump
Sometimes, there comes a time to make the leap. It’s not for everyone and not something to rush a decision into but there comes a point where you’ve created enough momentum and you hit a ceiling of how much you can pursue your dreams while having a job.
Sometimes you also come to a point where you are just too comfortable with a ‘good life’ to do what it takes to create a ‘great life’. You need to put yourself into an uncomfortable position to make yourself fight for your dreams!
Make sure you wrestle with this decision a little. Listen to the ‘fear’ (fear is actually a good thing – it keeps us alive but also is often a precursor to doing something significant!) and involve others who care for you (and who you care for) in the decision and then make the move.
Sometimes you just need to jump and put yourself in a place where you’ve got no other option but to work your butt off to make your dream come true.
What would you add?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who hears people saying that they’re quitting jobs to chase dreams. What do you say to them?
And to those of you who’ve made the leap (or attempted it) – what do you wish people would have said to you?