Regular readers of this column know that I almost never write about my personal life. I figure this column isn't about me; it's about making readers more successful. However, my editor asked me to write about what made me passionate about my job, so here goes.
I'm going to explain how my passion for writing led me to this, my dream job, and how the years I spent avoiding my dream job turned out to be essential to achieving it. I'll start with some background.
I always knew I was supposed to be a writer. I wrote (dictated) my first story when I was four. By age eight, I was creating hand-drawn newspapers with stories about dinosaurs. At age 14, I bought my own printing press and began publishing my own newsletter.
By high school, I was writing nonfiction at a college level (e.g., 35 pages of "Analysis of Marijuana Usage in Contemporary California") and writing almost readable pastiches of Kafka and Lovecraft.
Whilst in college, I had my first short story professionally published ($300). I published articles about contemporary music. I had every intention of becoming a professional writer. I even started a novel.
But then I chickened out.
Rather than having the courage to pay my dues and live on the cheap while pursuing my dream, I accepted a full time job with a big computer company.
That job led me into programming and later into marketing. I won awards. I spoke at conferences. I traveled around the world. I made good money. I got big raises. By any standard measure of success, I was pretty darn successful.
However, I couldn't shake the sense that my life had taken a wrong turn. Oh, I still pretended that I might be a professional writer someday. I even kept working on that novel, when I wasn't completely exhausted from the long days at work.
One day, while playing hooky from work, I read a self-help book that recommended writing out a description of your perfect workday. I did that exercise and found that in no way did my perfect workday resemble the life I had created for myself.
I'd like to say that this realization was a huge epiphany and that I immediately quit my job and started writing professionally. It wasn't. I still worried about "security." I had a "secure" job and a "secure" income, and was deathly afraid of losing it.
So I didn't quit immediately. However, I did start saving extra money and vacation days, getting ready to make the big leap if I ever got up the nerve. Then, about two years later, I went to a Tony Robbins seminar and walked across a 30-foot bed of hot coals.
I know that some people really dislike Robbins (I'm not sure why), but at that time in my life and where my head was at, the seminar and fire walk was exactly the jolt in the gut I needed to get real about my life.
It was at that moment, when my feet were breaking into blisters, that I dethroned "security" from the top of my list of needs and replaced it with "courage." I decided that I'd rather be poor and happy than rich and miserable.
My very next day at work, I resigned.
It was one of the best days of my life.
Starting my new life was scary. The first year, I made a tiny fraction of my previous salary. But I hung in there, and within three years was making more money than I had ever made in my corporate job. And thus it has remained.
Today, I'm privileged to be able to write (in my blog and my books) about subjects that interest me and which, more important, help other people to be successful. Every week, I get emails like this:
Thank you! After reading Business without the Bullsh*t, I followed your suggestions regarding how to ask for a raise, and the tips worked perfectly. Others in my dept. received a meager 2 percent raise and no bonus this year. By following your methods, I received a 20 percent raise AND an additional 20 percent bonus (of my total salary)! Your book helped me and my family immensely, and your work is making a profound difference in people's lives. I make sure to tell everyone I know to buy a copy of the book as it is worth it's weight in gold!
What's ironic about my dream job is that I can only help people because I accumulated so much experience in the business world before becoming a writer. I thought that all those years were wasted, but they've turned out to be essential.
So my advice for anybody who hasn't achieved his or her dream job is this: take courage, believe in yourself, take the leap, and don't give up.
You've only got one life. Become the person you're meant to be.
But don't assume the time you've spent doing something else is time wasted. It's all part of the plan.