Happy Herbivore Blog

October 1, 2012

Minimalist Monday: How to Follow Your Dreams

When I was flying to Chicago a few weekends ago, I struck up a conversation with my airplane neighbor who, as it turns out, changed careers like I had. Our conversation was long and perhaps even a little self-serving, but the one comment that stayed was me was this: 

"I find people who were lawyers, but then go on to do something else, are always really successful. I'm not saying it's the legal education or knowledge -- but it takes so much to become a lawyer (college, law school, bar exam) and even more to be a practicing lawyer. You have to work like a crazy person and be beaten down time and time again. When someone leaves that law job anything else is easy. They succeed because they're used to doing the extreme. They're used to 90-hr weeks so they surpass what their competitors are doing and stand out among the pool of consumers with their exemplary dedication. But perhaps most importantly, they're so happy not to be a lawyer anymore that they literally do whatever it takes, and then some more."

I hung on to the last sentence (which I bolded, above) because I believe that's the root of it. The big secret. You're so happy to be doing what you want to do, you'll do whatever it takes to make it possible.  


I've found through my own journey there are always more mountains to climb than you ever realized or could have imagined. The obstacles and challenges are relentless and continual. Still, that's okay, you're happy to climb and complete them when faced with the other alternative. (For a great book (and short read) on this topic, I recommend Crush It.)

Point is, you don't have to be an ex-lawyer to be successful at changing your career. You just have to be an ex-[whatever job made you unhappy] and have dodged determination to make it work doing something else.

My husband is on his third career, something he gets from his father who had two very different careers before he retired, then started his third career during "retirement." I also have a few friends who changed their paths, too. One friend was an editor at a publishing house in Manhattan but is now studying to become a doctor. Another friend was an accountant in Atlanta but is now a casting director (selects actors for TV shows, etc) in Los Angeles. Another friend left the corporate world to become a massage therapist and is much happier using her hands to heal people than type on a keyboard. Still another friend was an attorney in NYC but now he's working in the banking industry in London.

The point is: change it's possible. If you want or need to change your path, you can. and it's absolutely worth it. 

The trouble is most of us want the change and transition to be smooth and easy. I know I did. And it may be smooth and easy for some people. I sure hope it is for you. But how often are "smooth" or "easy" a synonym with change? Part of the beauty of change is embracing all the new bumps!

So what's all this have to do with being a minimalist?  Life is too short to do something you don't love. I'm not saying I love my job every minute of every day. I have days where I'm frustrated (like last week when all 4 of the recipes I tried to make that day failed miserably) or I'm just in a funk, but I don't loath getting out of bed in the morning. I don't dread going to work. I don't feel unhappy and unfulfilled the way I used to at my old job. and that's what matters to me. I was so miserable and yet so great about convincing myself to stay miserable. 

We all have a fire in our belly and we owe it to ourselves to chase that. It's never to late to make a change -- just last week a woman in her late 60's emailed me about her career change! 

Here's how to chase your dream and make it a reality:

First you have to ask yourself what it is that you really want to do. You response can be somewhat vague in the beginning. For example, I wanted to "help people." Then later I more narrowly defined it as I wanted to "help people be healthier." Finally after more exploration I realized precisely what I wanted which was help people by helping them eat better. 

Second, find out what you need to do to accomplish this. Most people think this means they need to go back to school but you probably don't. I didn't go to culinary school and yet I write cookbooks for a living. My husband has a business degree, never took a computer class at school, and yet he's currently employed as a programmer. Sometimes being self-taught is good enough. Find someone who does what you want to do and ask them about their education and if they recommend the same path. Then find someone else and see what their journey and experience was. What's that saying? There's more than one way to crack an egg. 

Third, and this one is especially important if you plan to pursue additional education: volunteer so you can see what your future will be like. I could have saved myself so much time, money and energy if I had just shadowed a lawyer for a little while to see exactly what I'd be doing and that it wasn't a right fit for me or what I was looking to accomplish with my life.

Fourth, make a plan with small steps. Tiny steps that seem so small they don't feel like a step at all. See my post on How to Start a Business for more information and pointers.

Finally, be prepared to work your butt off -- but here's the thing (and I totally believe this) "Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life again." I work from 6am to 10-11pm most days. It sounds bad but the truth is I love it and it's what I want to do. I don't do it out of obligation but because I simply don't want to do anything else. At least, not until it's snowboarding season ;) 


That's the thing about passion -- you want to eat, live, sleep and breath it. Chase your passion. Live your dream. It is possible you just have to find the strength to walk that way.  You deserve absolute happiness and fulfillment in all aspects of your life including your labor. 

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