Fueling Your Passion Project & Shifting Your Career
I am incredibly lucky to be doing something I’m passionate about. It has its pressures, it has its challenges, but those are all things I’d rather have in place of disengagement and unfulfillment at a standard job in a standard, cookie-cutter career (and I come from a land that has those). There is a time and a place for that though. I’d like to share my journey in building passion, feeling purpose, and crafting a business around those things – and how you can start on that path right now…no matter the stage of life you’re in.
The allure of quitting your job, living in a van, doing side hustle work or writing (or in this case, something creative) is tantalizing. Why work in an office, or at a retail job all day, Monday to Friday, when you can just do your own thing? Well, the answer seems obvious on paper – these days, it’s just not financially possible or responsible to just quit your job and run off and do your own thing. Some can do it quite successfully, and that’s why it seems easy enough in practice. Where I’m heading with this is that guaranteeing your success in jumping ship from your dead-end job is doable, but you need to set up a platform to land on and be ready for the challenges that come with the fall.
I started taking photos and making videos in high school. It started with taking photos for my friend’s band at the time and learning the ins and outs of doing concert photos. Learning the gear that I needed. Learning through failure and embarrassment what is good practice, what the pros were doing, and where I was failing. It wasn’t entirely clear what this would lead to at the time, but the message for you is that I was doing something I enjoyed, for free, and learning the ropes the hard way. I had the odd paying gig, but I remember actually ending up losing money by the time I factored in all my costs. Slowly, over those years, after high school, and into post-secondary, I continued doing this. Just taking free gigs when I had time, when I could, or when someone asked. During this next time frame, I was working in a retail environment making a modest wage, going to school, and again, I wasn’t sure where all this was heading.
I’ll pause for a second because I know many people can get stuck here. And it can be for a while. Some are still in school, some are just about to enter the workforce…it’s a really scrambled time. These days we are so overwhelmed with a choice about careers, work, life, relationships, what to buy, etc. that we get stuck. The single best piece of advice at this stage is to just keep chugging. Continue reading, and I’ll lay out the lessons I pulled away at each stage.
After I had finished my schooling, I started working full-time in the service industry, grinding out work. My energy and interest in keeping my passion going was fading. I wasn’t happy. The financial side of it made a load of sense, and the security of it seemed solid – so what was the wall I hit? I just wasn’t happy. And it was in how I talked, it was in my feelings, and deep down I knew this couldn’t be it. Again, many get stuck here for long periods of time. I pulled the plug. With the proper platform to land on in front of me, I was able to start the work cycle over, and relearn what work should look and feel like. This was drastically different, and incredibly hard. But in hindsight, those formative years have really shaped how I operate today, and I’d leave that conversation at this: “You can’t enjoy the sunny days without a few rainy ones”.
First, start doing that thing you really enjoy. Do it for free, or do it at a break-even. Try not to lose money at it, and try to do it whenever you can. Find a partnership where someone (and this can be yourself) will let you fail, learn, explore, succeed, try new things – whatever it takes for you to start clocking your 10,000 hours. Then, let that thing blossom on its own. Get uncomfortable with it. Question it. But allow it to continue blossoming as you are developing other things. Things that pay the bills, things that further your education, things that are immediate. The point is, you’re playing the long game.
Second, realize exactly what you don’t want to be doing. This one is really, really hard. For many, I don’t think you need to go as far as hating the job you’re at, or sinking a bunch of money into an education just because. But I do think to feel uncomfortable, feeling ‘the grind’, feeling a bit of disappointment in what’s right in front of you is the right fuel. I think this is the hardest part because it is exhausting. It’s why so many people are disengaged at work, why we’re hurting ourselves (mentally, physically, etc.), and why we’re sad. But you have to keep your head up and let your passion project bubble away – the hope here is that you can take some mental notes away about what it is about the hard parts you don’t like. For me, it was being away from my dog for long periods of time and the stress of the service industry (which some really enjoy and thrive on). I’m confident many can relate to the former.
Lastly, be ready for a formative and life-altering stage, where it will be hard to get your footing. Nothing can prep you entirely for this. But know that at some point, you’ll need to relearn how to budget, how to schedule yourself, how to operate, stay sane, and keep your head up. I’ve written a couple of other posts about this.
Through all of this, it’ll be critical to determine what each stage’s purpose is, and also to start to cement your own purpose. Through the free gigs, through the formative times, through the really hard stuff, and through the shifts, what is most important to realize, is that each phase exists for a reason. It is hard to see it at that moment, I know. And I won’t be able to pin down what each phase’s reason is for you. But I firmly believe that in my lowest points and in questioning myself, the purpose was a lesson. That each phase would shape how I run my business today. But weaving through all of it, I’d say the number one lesson around purpose is determining what my purpose is.
That’s a huge ask. Determine your purpose. And it can be a work in progress. But it should encompass why you’re doing what you’re doing and its larger goal. So, for me, right now, my purpose, both as an individual and as a business, is to be a storyteller and bring ideas to life (on-screen). It works as a pillar for everything I do, and it works in keeping my work focused. Even from the beginning, it has always been, for me, about capturing an event or memory in the best light it can be captured in. (There’s an exposure joke in there for my photog readers).
I’ll be clear: this post is not about feeling great about the dead-end job you’re working now, and it’s not about glorifying quitting your job. It’s about running your passion project alongside the hard stuff and letting it flower. There will come a stage where:
A) Your current, less-than-perfect job will start to shift towards your passion (as a result of you moving it)
B) Your passion project will start to seem like a viable option as your life’s work, and you can transition into it.
C) They will collide, and you’ll need to let the best option win.
And by no means will any of this be as clear cut as I make it seem. It only seems so clear in hindsight that each phase had a reason, and each choice had a purpose. It all just takes time to figure itself out. And my final lesson comes here…
Be patient. Forgive yourself. Make mistakes. Learn through all of it. Grow through all of it. Something good will happen.