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Learn from Barbara Sher, Barbara Winter, and me…


When a Dream Can't Wait:
Two People in Hot Pursuit of Their Creative Passions

By Valerie Young

In the course of 24 hours, I heard from two people who are both in hot pursuit of their respective creative passions. Lisa is an aspiring screenwriter. Chris is pursing a career as a songwriter and also has an interest in screenwriting. Lisa already took the plunge and is fully immersed in her goal. Chris just gave his job notice last week. Both made the decision that life is too short not to go for broke by plowing 100% of their time and energy into their dreams.

The Man With a Plan

Doug (who asked that I not use his last name) is a recent client of mine from Texas. I knew he was itching to quit the company he'd been with for the last decade. As you can imagine, no one in Doug's family thinks it's a good idea to walk away from a "good job" with benefits. But when you read his letter I think you'll see that "benefits" can include more than a good dental plan and a 401k. As a matter of fact, when Doug joins the ranks of the self-employed, he'll discover that he can sock away considerably more tax-deferred money into what's called a Solo 401k than he could when he was an employee... but I digress.

Here's what Doug has to say about his decision and future plans:

Well, I've made the plunge. I've given my notice at work. The longer time goes by and I don't get out of here, the longer it will be until I'm doing something I like more, or God-forbid: love.  : )

So I did it.

I'm scared, nervous, excited, hopeful, and lots more. But every time I've been in a meeting here at work, I'm smiling wide inside as I know I won't have to pretend anymore. It's very validating sitting in those meetings knowing I'm about to change my life.

Here's my plan. I will go 110% with the song-writing, i.e., writing, recording, working with other artists, submitting to TAXI, etc. I signed up for TAXI and since then have already submitted to three listings. I will bombard them with entries. As many as I can send and afford, in the categories that suit me the best. If I have extra time, I will continue to develop my weird screenplay using my weird sense of humor that needs to get out there in the world! I will explore classes, agents, etc. But I will work it.

In times of boredom, or being burned-out a bit (if there are any of those times) I will focus on income streams based on my other interests. I'm sure there are lots of things I can put my mind to that I can earn some money. But that is not to become priority unless it needs to. I'm going to give 110% to my music and screenplay for at least one year.

My last day at work is one week from Thursday. With each passing day, I have more validation I'm doing the right thing. Did I tell you that one of my compositions was already "forwarded" by TAXI? That means their professionals thought it (a) was one of the best submissions, and (b) fit the genre as advertised. That is great for me, regardless if a contract is generated, because it validates that I should be doing this.

Basking in Pre-Success

It's not every day I receive a letter from someone excited about not yet making it. But then Lisa Rothstein isn't just anyone. She is one of the wise ones who gets that the journey is just as important – if not more – than the destination.

I know there will be some out there who will dismiss Lisa's story because she is not in financial peril. If so, sadly you would have allowed envy to rob you of an important life lesson.

Lisa writes:

I left a lucrative career as a creative director in advertising, and a life in another part of the world, and am in Los Angeles now trying my hand as a screenwriter. I'm writing you now because I wanted to do so BEFORE I get successful at this.

We read success stories and think, well, of course that person is happy because she "made it." I've recently finished my latest screenplay and it may well be the one to break me in! But before that happens, I'm here to tell your readers that there are unexpected rewards to following their own course BEFORE any eventual success they may achieve. When you follow your own course, their are struggles and sacrifices, but you will not have to wait until you succeed to be happy.

I am enjoying my life so much now. I used to make close to $200,000 year in an ad agency and never bothered to balance my checkbook because I never came close to spending what I was taking in. I could buy anything I wanted. But years of investing my life and creative gifts in selling fabric softener and computer hardware was killing me inside. These days I'm glad if my freelancing plus income on a rental property nets me 40k, and I have to watch every penny.

But I spend most of the day writing wherever I want. I live by the ocean and I'm so happy as I walk my dog on the beach in the mornings and watch other people in suits getting into their cars to go to jobs I can tell they despise just from the looks on their faces. I want to shake them and shout: there is another way!

You have to be willing to give up not only the security of the income but the security of knowing what's next and knowing what pigeonhole you belong in. You have to give up your hard-earned status. But what you gain is your time, your life and yourself. Until you make the leap, you really don't realize what all that hard-earning has been costing you.

And as far as my "status," there may be some people who don't look at me with as much respect as they did when I had a big office. There are some in the corporate world who may feel I've "Dropped out." But I get much more unexpected admiration from people who admire my courage in following and living my dreams. I'm an inspiration, without ever having sold a script! Now there's a perk.

Now, of course, I do believe in my eventual success at what I'm doing. I don't want or expect to live on so little forever (and admittedly, I have savings and retirement reserves from my years in my career, plus I own some real estate outright, so I am not in any real peril, though I have run up a little credit card debt. But I already look at this time right now, clipping coupons and eating in, going to the matinees because they're cheaper, as the happiest time of my life so far, and I'm sure one day I will look back on it just as fondly from a more established place in my new profession.

Because I am free, and doing what I want to do. I also know that I have an identity apart from my work and I like who I am, when before I thought I didn't deserve to take up space on Earth without a job description and a paycheck to point to. This took me years to reclaim. And this blessing alone is worth at least a leave of absence.

If this script doesn't sell, the next one will, or it will lead to an assignment. I'm happy to be patient because my day-to-day life is such a joy now. Waiting for your ship to come in isn't so bad with an ocean view. Just thought you'd like a "pre-success" success story!

Doug and Lisa are determined to give their dream their best shot. In both cases they saved for this day and are going into it with their eyes wide open. Some clients look to me to give them "permission" to quit their job and just "go for it," but that's just not my call to make. We each have to consider our tolerance for risk and level of drive as well as our commitments, whether they be financial, family or other. What's right for one person isn't right for another.

If your job is toxic, but you can't afford to quit altogether, then you need to find another employer while you continue to pursue your dream on the side. Maybe you can't just up and quit your job tomorrow. But you can still make headway on your dream. All you need is the willingness to at take at least one small step each day in the direction of your dream, acceptance that change – even positive change – will be both exhilarating and terrifying, and the wisdom to enjoy the journey.


Learn how you can Fast Track Your Dream of working at what you love on your own terms.

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About the Author

"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.

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