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Learning From the Dream Makers: Want to Work at What You Love? Look to Those Who Are Doing It

There’s more than one way to turn your dream of working at what you love into reality. I dug through my Opportunity Knocks file to find inspired five people who are doing work that feeds their soul. Each one has something to teach us all about what it takes to make our own dream of right livelihood happen.

Buck Stereotypes

Who says you have to be a woman to be a nanny? According to trend spotter Faith Popcorn, the next decade will see a marked increase in the number of male nannies or “mannies” as the guys are called. Most male nannies, like their female counterparts, are in their 20s and have experience as camp counselors or teacher’s aides.

There’s a lot that parents find appealing about male nannies. Single mothers like having male energy around the house including someone who gets the appeal that computer games hold for most boys. For dual income families where the father is either older or frequently away on business, it’s great to have a youthful male role model who can engage in rough and tumble activities with their kids.

What attracts men to this field is simple – they love kids. As teacher’s aide-turned-nannie Alan Schuchman put it in a 2003 Time magazine interview, “It’s very enriching – you get a lot closer to them than you would in a class setting.” Male nannies also like the pay. The going salary for live out nannies in Boston is about $35,000-$40,000 a year with benefits – or about the same as an entry level teacher but without the administrative headaches.

And since there’s a web site on just about everything, is it any surprise that someone put together the Manny site (, a resource about male nannies?

Tap into a Childhood Passion and Then Create Your Own Job

As a child, Elizabeth Dunaway loved outdoor activities. So it made sense that she’d later go on to study environmental science and outdoor education at Hampshire College before going on to graduate from Greenfield Community College’s Outdoor Leadership Program.

Today the 32-year-old is the founder and executive director of All Out Adventures (AOA), a socially inclusion-oriented organization that enables people with mental and physical disabilities, their families and friends to participate in outdoor recreational activities. Participants enjoy programs, trainings, and trips that allow them to enjoy activities like cross-country skiing, hiking, skating, boating, and camping.

Since starting the non-profit in 2001, Dunaway has put together a team of like-minded souls with complimentary skills and training. It’s fascinating to see how people’s backgrounds bring them to their current work. Fellow Hampshire College graduate Megan Briggs spent her college years studying disability and family psychology before becoming AOA’s Program Coordinator. Project coordinator Bryce Field has a background in environmental, travel-based, and classroom education.

The organization is supported by a $150,000 grant from the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, Christopher Reeve’s Foundation, and various partnerships. One such partnership is with the Department of Environmental Management (DEM). All Out Adventures has also been contracted by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Universal Access Program to provide free outdoor activities for people with disabilities in the commonwealth’s various state parks.

Turn Your Hobby into a Job

Not quite ready to be on your own? It is possible to find a traditional job doing what you love. That’s what Douglas Harman did. A native of Nebraska, Harman moved to Fort Worth in 1985 to take a job as city manager. Four years later he applied for and landed the job of running the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A life-long fan of cowboy culture, convention center president and CEO Harman now gets to manage 1,600 square feet of exhibition space featuring vintage cowboy hats and boots, bits, bridles, hand tooled tack, braided whips, and western art and photography dating back to the 1800s. Says Harman, “My job and my hobby merged.”

Find a Niche and Go After It

There are more freelance writers out there than you can shake a stick at… but what about a riding crop? Patti Schofler of Dark Horse Communications turned her love for horses into a viable career as a writer specializing in writing promotional and other copy for those in the horse world. Clients include horse breeders, stable owners, trainers, artists, as well as horse-related associations, horse show promoters, and manufacturers and sellers of equine products.

In addition to serving as a publicist, Patti has written for numerous equestrian sports publications including Practical Horseman, Dressage Today, International Arabian Horse, Chronicle of the Horse, Equus, Arabian Horse World, and Ride. What makes Patti valuable to her clients is, quite simply, she knows their world. She’s managed and promoted horse shows and special events, is a United States Dressage Federation (USDF) dressage judge, and is herself a USDF bronze medal rider.

Do It Your Way

Everybody knows you can’t make money as a musician, right? Don’t tell Martin Sexton that. The singer actually produced two records through a major label. Despite good reviews, sales were tepid. So in 2001 Sexton left Atlantic Records and went out on his own.

That next year he logged 80,000 miles in his Land Rover, played at bigger clubs, theaters, and arenas than he did under contract with Altantic and cleared (are you ready for this) $200,000 on revenue of about $500,000.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the 38 year old said, “It’s a great thing to have a career, to make a living and to support two kids, and to have basically all the things you wanted in life. I thank God probably every night that I don’t have a day job.” You can listen to Martin at

Great stories, you say, but how do I go after my dream, you say? The same way these enterprising souls did. From the manny story you learned to not let society’s ideas about gender appropriate jobs deter you from your dreams. If you’re a guy who wants to open a bridal shop or become a nurse, or a nanny, or you’re a woman who wants to start her own construction company or be a mortician, do it.

From Patti Schofler’s Dark Horse Communications, you learned about the benefits of niche marketing. If you have a passion for something, there’s an excellent chance others share your passion. Ask yourself, how could I get paid to do what I love in that area? In other words, if you love to write, teach, give advice, heal, research, or analyze, then ask yourself, “How could I get paid to do that in my chosen interest area?”

But that’s not all. Patti’s impressive publishing credentials reminded us of just how many niche publications there are out there. Whether you’re a freelance writer looking for a market to shop your articles to or just want to learn more about a field in which you’d like niche, start by doing a search for publications and associations that serve that same market.

From our cowboy culture-loving friend we learned that you don’t necessarily need prior experience in a field to land your dream job. Did it help that Harman was already employed by the city? Absolutely. But his passion for cowboy culture and history surely gave him a leg up others who did have a background in the tourism industry. When I was a corporate trainer, I would have never landed my job in the strategic marketing department if I hadn’t applied from within the company. If there’s a job you want that you have the aptitude for but not the requisite credentials, sometimes the best way to get there is through the back door.

From Elizabeth Dunaway and All Out Adventures, we learned that childhood passions often do contain hidden clues to present day callings. We also learned that if your dream job doesn’t exist, that you can create it. And finally, singer Martin Sexton reminded us that sometimes the road less traveled will get you to your destination fastest.

From all of these remarkable, yet wonderfully ordinary, people we learned that the road to any dream begins with the willingness to take a single step. What small step are you willing to take today to start living the life you really want?


A New Direction

I decided to take the Work @ What You Love Workshop and also work one-on-one with Valerie. The workshop explored so many unusual and unexpected solutions to my specific questions. I made so many new connections to what clearly works for me in crea...

Julia Raymond
Curvology Studio

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