I was never a big dreamer growing up. I wasn’t like the other kids that wanted to become president, cure diseases, or be an astronaut (although it would be awesome to visit outer space!). Being normal is what I strove for. I always thought my adult life would just unfold before me—that I’d go to college, I’d meet my wife there, I’d be handed a corporate job, we’d have two kids, and I’d be making some decent cash by 30. That classic American dream is what I thought I wanted. It’s what the normal man wanted. That would make me happy.
It wasn’t until I got halfway through my first semester of college that I got my first taste of reality. Everything always seemed to come naturally, thus trying hard wasn’t in my vocabulary. So after my grades plummeted, my fixed mindset told me to bail. So I dropped out and moved back home.
Suddenly my dream of normalcy didn’t seem so automatic anymore. That framed piece of paper on my wall faded away into the distance. It felt like I didn’t have a purpose anymore, that my chance for the normal life I thought I wanted was now out of reach.
After a few weeks of sitting on the couch eating grilled cheese sandwiches and watching all my friends on social media having a blast at college, I decided I needed to do something. Anything. So I got a job selling cars during an economic depression. Cold calling old ladies at home and witnessing the questionable tactics of used car salesmen didn’t last too long. After one month, I failed to reach half my quota of eight cars. So I did what I knew best. I quit and retreated back to the rock bottom couch.
Needless to say things weren’t going great. I had no direction. I kept checking Facebook only to witness my friends having amazing experiences at college,joining fraternities, chasing girls, and having the time of their youth. I was living vicariously through them and it only amplified my depression. But I never lost sight of that normal life I thought I wanted. Society burned this classic picture into my brain and I couldn’t get it out. My mind told me that was what I needed to become. So I finally picked myself back up, enrolled in a small college, didn’t quit this time, and got my piece of paper. Fast forward two years and I’m a supervisor at a massive logistics company. I’m on the fast track to my “dream” wearing a button down with slacks, sitting in a cubicle Monday through Friday, yet it hardly made me feel better than the days of grilled cheese sandwiches. What was wrong? Why didn’t any of this feel right? Why wasn’t I happy? It wasn’t until I decided assess what I truly valued that I got on the right trail.
I realized that I’d been lying to myself from the beginning. My whole life up to that point was a facade, and the main culprit was me. The comfortable, logical route was the only one I saw. It was a systematic approach to what’s easy that let me minimize the fears and risk associated with the unknown. Failing made it easy to ignore my true passion and settle for mediocrity. I felt I didn’t deserve more than what was handed to me, so I accepted what felt safe.
But how would I get out of this comfort zone? What was my true passion? I never desired to make millions, albeit I loved traveling and having enough money to fund adventures with some occasional (okay, frequent) partying. I started looking through my network of friends and found something that would let me do just that.
So a few months after my promotion to supervisor at the cubicle job, I quit. But this time was different. This quit was the good kind. This wasn’t the cognitive disposition to bail when things got tough or to chase another false dream. This quit was to pursue the lifestyle I truly wanted. I now work for a company that lets me wear jeans, eliminates almost every expense I had previously, and pays for biweekly vacations. In the year since, I sold or gave away all my belongs except for basic clothing, I haven’t paid rent, I eliminated all my debt, and have done everything from hiking excursions in Alaska to beer chugs at Oktoberfest. I’m living the life of a new age nomad and it’s all because I had the courage to walk a new trail.
You might find yourself in the same situation I was. Stuck in the Monday to Friday endless loop. Now don’t get me wrong, I work hard and still answer to the man, but I’m on a trail I want to be on, and it’s not as hard as you may think to arrive there; you just have to take baby steps. Start by making a list of the top three things you want in your career. Here’s how mine looked:
1. Travel. A LOT.
2. Job flexibility
3. Acquire experiences, not toys
Obviously to travel and have fun while doing it, I’d still need to make money. My route found me a job that provided a combination of both without being entrepreneurial. (Ironically, I tend to be more risk-averse so this suited me well.)
You might also be overcome by thoughts preventing you from making a change. Thoughts like “my job is different. I can’t demand things like that” or “there’s no jobs available for what I want to do” or “I’m not good at anything else.” This is your mind creating excuses to avoid what seems difficult. Most people will subconsciously put obstacles in their own way to pass the torch of responsibility to external factors beyond their control. Make your list, update your resume, and do a little bit of internet research on what it is you really want. You’ll be shocked by how much better this baby step will make you feel.
Don’t lose sight of your trail and you’ll start to see these obstacles fade away. Embrace your passions, welcome the unknown, and don’t avoid change because it seems scary or difficult. And without sounding too much like a commencement address, realize that life is too short to accept it “as is” (there’s a return policy, trust me). Get on a trail that’s rich with happiness and enjoy the sights.
Interested in reading 99 other stories just like this? Grab The Better Business book here.