Not too long ago someone wanted to know if she should follow her passion and teach, or take the "comfortable" job that was offered to her.
My reply was simply this, "Did you know that adjunct professors make about $22,000 a year? Can you live on that?"
"No," she said.
"So that might be your answer."
I understand that we live in a world where on any given day we're scrolling our social media feeds and timelines and it seems like everyone we know is out there riding on lakes on power boats, traveling to far-off destinations, starting new businesses and having fun with their friends at some trendy new place. If you're older than 16, you probably know that most of what you see through the prism of social media is only a glimpse into lives of others and a tiny fraction of their reality.
When should you not follow your passion?
The easy answer is when you can't pay the bills or haven't thought through the decision you have to make sufficiently enough to know that you may not be able to afford to live a comfortable life as you follow your passion. (If you have done all of your research and you're willing to take that chance with eyes wide open, then that's your choice, of course).
We all want to reach a point of self-actualization. It's wonderful to have the opportunity to follow your dreams and things that interest you in life. But, for the vast majority of people, you don't get to that stage without having paid your dues and done the work for someone else's dream to come true as their employee.
I know of a 16-year-old girl who spent her summer working at an amusement park. It was a job she didn't like, but she said that she was paying her dues so that hopefully next season she could find another opportunity. She's a responsible kid who keeps reporting the rides to the mechanics, and thus taking them out of service because she takes her job seriously. She doesn't want anyone getting hurt.
Someday this young woman will hopefully have the opportunity to follow her dreams, but her parents raised her well enough to understand that she has to pay her dues in the meantime.
Following your dreams and passions are possible, but you have to decide on the path and do the work.
1. You can do what I did. I discovered my passion for shoes when I was 15-years-old in a work study program in high school. I decided to develop in the shoe business, and I'm proud to say that I've been in charge of two international shoe manufacturing companies, once founded a nonprofit that has shoes as part of its mission, and am now the CEO of three brands that help organizations raise money with shoe drive fundraisers.
2. You can be responsible for yourself and not be a burden to anyone else (or spend your days worrying about how you're going to make ends meet). You can get yourself into a well-paying position that helps you not have to worry about the bills. And, from there you can plan your future for the eventuality of following your passion. You can save for a new business. You can invest and see your money grow by stashing some away each paycheck. You can get the experience you need to eventually transition to another work opportunity in an area more closely aligned to your passion and dreams.
Whatever your approach, never believe that following your passion doesn't come with a price. And usually, it has a high price tag. Whatever you want to do, you want to be smart about how you get yourself onto the path of your dreams.
The woman who was deliberating about following her passion for teaching as a professor or taking the "comfortable" job took the former. She ultimately did the right thing for herself. But, I'd like to add that nothing is ever "comfortable," really. Life doesn't work that way because of its impermanence. At some point, circumstances will change to make things a little more uncomfortable. If you're smart about it, then even the "comfortable" will be a path for you to your passion. It's all in how you look at any given situation and what you do with every opportunity.
Author of "Not Your Father's Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact" (Free Digital Download available at http://notyourfatherscharity.com/free-resources/), Wayne Elsey is the Founder and CEO of Wayne Elsey Enterprises (WEE), a company that works with social enterprise organizations, nonprofits and companies on strategy, branding, development and education. In addition, Wayne is also a highly sought after and dynamic public speaker and authority on topics related to leadership, branding, social activism, motivation, and community engagement. His network appearances include: NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, Today Show, & Fox News. He is also the author of Almost Isn't Good Enough. Prior to establishing Wayne Elsey Enterprises, Wayne was the CEO of Soles4Souls, which is a social enterprise he founded and turned into a $74 million organization in less than five years to help ensure that individuals in developing nations have access to shoes, which are necessary for hygiene and medical reasons. For more, visit notyourfatherscharity.com.© 2018 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father's Charity
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