Don’t Follow Your Dream, Gen Y!

Self-help books, TED talks and magazine articles seem to have been centered around one theme in particular over the last decade or so: Follow Your Dream

That’s a lot of pressure. What if, instead, we just let go of our dreams and suddenly feel great relief?

I have spent the last five years or so studying topics around “follow your passion”. Like many in their mid-twenties I also suffered from a little quarter life crisis, wondering what I was doing and if what I was doing was right for me and if I had wasted time following the wrong path and if I really wanted to spend the rest of my life doing xy and so forth (this can turn into an obsession and really mess with your mind). Guess that’s just part of growing up. And since we (us guys in the western world with all the huge opportunities) have relatively safe and secure lives, are independent with (yet) no families to look after, we have too much time thinking about these things (and really do mess up our minds).

The homogeneous media choir’s hooting “follow your dream, follow your dream” undoubtedly intends to motivate and inspire us to go after our passions, to realize what we most desire and live a fulfilled and happy life, be healthier and more content. Few would disagree that this is the right way forward, especially the Gen Y people (like myself), who never cease to be described as the work-life-balance generation – highly after their passion, which ideally also happens to make the world a better place.

Because the ideal Gen Y person lives in a hip city and has just launched their online start up, which encourages global community dialogue and makes the world a better place. So instead of just following our dream we also ideally need to make a difference in the world. And so, inevitably, the question thrown at us at any party “So what do you do?” becomes a real challenge, in which we hear critique, competition and judgment all at the same time.

By now, having read the above, you may already sense how ridiculously ridiculous this task is: Live your dream and make a difference. It may as well be “become a rock star and sell five number one albums”.

What is a dream?

There are dreams when we sleep, of course. So I only picked these 4 relevant definitions from the dictionary:

  • an involuntary vision occurring to a person when awake
  • a vision voluntarily indulged in while awake; daydream; reverie.
  • an aspiration; goal; aim: A trip to Europe is his dream.
  • a wild or vain fancy.

Why is following your dream, your aspiration, goal, aim, vision or fancy so hard?

1. Your dream isn’t your dream.

The classical one is that your parents influence your dreams – often subliminally – or your older siblings. You follow what they think suits you best or what they never achieved or what they achieved because it worked so well for them. You don’t question this path initially but eventually it bubbles up and it occurs to you that being a doctor, a teacher or a businessman wasn’t entirely your own aspiration.

Another, probably even more common, scenario is that we “steal” our dream from others. We take bits from our friends, other bits from people we admire and other bits from random people we met and that impressed us. And thus we have a dream, much like a quilting, made up of many – quite often too many. We cherry pick from other people’s lives, e.g.: Sara’s boat house, Ian’s career at a charity, Elisabeth’s work as an art therapist and curator, Jake’s hobby of surfing, which ultimately let him to open a surf school in a little town by the sea, Tina traveling the globe for a big fashion label, Janette raising her own chicken and veg in the country and Will, who has moved to the capital to start his own business and maintain a vivid social network.

Even if you just tried to follow only one or two of the above lifestyles, it doesn’t necessarily have to feel like what it’s ought to feel like. For instance, you like the idea of moving to the capital and work for a charity. You think this is it for you because you admire Ian or Will for having this kind of life. And while you are in it, you realize you are not flying, you lack drive. It’s not your dream, it’s Ian’s or Will’s to live in the city and have a stance in the charity sector or start up scene.

With technology and several foreign languages under our belt we now have access to more lifestyle samples and insights into the glamorous lives of others. So naturally we feel like we need to keep up with them, become the next superstar in our field of choice.

The greatest error is that we mistake other people’s dreams for our own. Often these sound great to mention at a party or post on Facebook but aren’t half as great in real life.

2. We can’t have it all.

The imaginary lives above are the dreams of 7 very different people. It’s impossible to encompass all in one life just like it is impossible to have the best grades, excessive extra curriculum engagement, the perfect partner, save the planet, travel the world, grow your own veg, be a good friend, have completed two overseas assignments, be highly interconnected, master all the latest technology, complete a pottery course, make your own pickle and live strictly vegan all at the same time. And yet that’s what some think they need to do because it’s their goal – goalS, dreamS (plural!).

Don’t beat yourself up! There have never been more individual lifestyles and thus we are left very confused and overwhelmed when looking for role models and guidance.

3. You think something’s your dream because you are good at it.

You are a great marketer and salesperson. It pays your bills, it gives you a good dose of recognition and praise. But is it your aspiration, your fancy, too? Your dream has just turned into something to impress others. To pretend that “it’s all so perfect”.

4. You actually don’t know what your dream is.

How can you look for something if you don’t know what you’re looking for?

I say it’s okay not to know what you are looking for. Don’t get so stressed out about it. It may come to you eventually. Perhaps you are fifty by then. But until it comes to you just enjoy life and do what you feel like doing at the time. This way chances are high that you encounter something you love although you weren’t actively searching for it. The less stressed you are the freer your mind.

Another great error is to think we need to have realized our dreams by the age of 30 or 35 or even 40.

Don’t Follow Your Dream - just let it go, the whole dream ideology. ‘Cause where has this gotten you?

It took me a little while to understand this. I let go of dreams, mainly because I couldn’t fit all of them into my twenties. First I panicked. It was like losing helium balloons, one by one. (Like this: Ah, I am approaching thirty and it’s too late to become an actress!) But turns out that a lot of these dreams weren’t actually mine. They were glamorous lifestyles I admired in others. I just needed to sort the clutter. Other dreams I can leave for later. And others I just need to put less pressure on (like I could just play in a local drama group instead of thriving for a full blood acting career).

In your early twenties everything seems possible. In your late twenties you get the picture. In between you go nuts.

So what is my dream? Absolutely no idea. I just live day by day and have left the hustle of pursuing goals, goals, goals… That in itself is actually a nice goal to have. Unsurprisingly, I have also been quite happy since I got my head around the new philosophy. And happiness was the actual reason for “follow your dreams” – remember?

 

 

This post has been written in a sudden flash of inspiration. If you feel like I am missing anything or would like to discuss, please leave a comment. Has this post inspired you? Then why not share it with your network so they can get inspired, too. Thanks for reading.

PS: Being an actress or starting an online business weren’t my dreams – they are just simpler examples.

Primary Rule to Creating Creative Content  

You could say you are just writing for your own pleasure. Fair enough. If you have to make ends meet though and/or are writing for clients, your clients’ clients, your publisher, your editor, their readership, your followers and subscribers, you might do even better considering The Primary Rule in Creating Creative Content.

As a writer you need to be three personalities all at the same time: author, character and audience

While this quote refers to fiction, it is also applicable to non-fiction, to blog posts, articles, scientific writing, ads, texts for brochures, websites, newsletters and even twitter posts – you name it!

Unless you are writing for your diary maybe, you are probably writing for an audience. And unless it’s your mum or dad or best friend, your audience doesn’t care about you. What they care about is themselves. So why should they spend half an hour or even five minutes reading your stuff?

BECAUSE IT’S RELEVANT TO THEM.

I admit, like most people a lot of the stuff learned at uni I have forgotten by now. One of the useful things that sticks to my mind though is what our brilliant PR lecturer used to call out at the beginning of each week – and it’s also a prime rule in PR: “We are now tuning into W.i.i.FM!”

What’s-In-It-For-Me

This is exactly and probably the only question that concerns your audience. Bear this in mind when uttering anything, be it the written or the spoken word. You have to make content RELEVANT to them.

Top 3 things people look for in content:

  1. Inspiration
  2. Advice
  3. Entertainment

Some of the things people care about:

  • Feeling well, content and healthy
  • Receiving appreciation from their social networks, friends, family and colleagues
  • Realising their dreams and turning inspiration into visible actions
  • Being informed and making informed choices
  • Saving money, time and energy

Finally, here is a cracking and useful infographic by recessionsolution.com which encompasses all of the above:

content - recessionsolutions.com

 

I hope you found this content useful and relevant to you. If you liked it why not share it with your social network so they can get inspired, too? If you’ve got anything to add why not leave a comment? I am excited to hear from you. 

5 Signs You Should Consider a Freelance Career

There are many reasons why you may want to be your own boss, work from home, work remotely or simply have no choice but freelance.

copyright & source: graphicdesignblender.com

Freelance in your location of choice – The world is your oyster! (image by graphicdesignblender.com)

 1. The dead end job situation

As an employee you feel as if your skills are exceeding your actual tasks, you have too many ideas but too little authority or room to implement them. Your line manager doesn’t appreciate your full potential. You are bored to death and feel frustrated. Your daily routine has become a treadmill from which it’s hard to break free, initiate or contribute ideas. You could if you could, but you can’t. Your job has its limits.

Freelancing most likely means that you have a range of clients and projects to work on. Thus your work inevitably becomes more interesting and diverse. Don’t expect it all to be glamour and glitter. There will be less appealing projects, too. But it’s likely you’ll enjoy them more when you work directly for your client and not for your boss.

 2. The unemployment situation

You cannot land any interesting job. Whether you lack relevant experience, the competition is too strong or the market’s going through a rough patch, it doesn’t need to be YOU.

If you are hard working, resilient, creative and well connected, it’s not unlikely to succeed as your own employer. Freelancing could be just the opportunity for you. However, if your industry’s market is struggling make sure you set yourself apart from competitors by offering something unique and highly sought after. Specialisation in a rare field or certain skills can benefit you as a freelancer, even if they did not get you a work contract.

3. The business idea situation

You come across a market gap and grind your brain on how to solve the issue. You feel rather passionate. Your entrepreneurial spirit sparks. A business idea is born.

Freelancing can mean to offer a competitive service. It often is the first step to start a service business. Increasingly companies are outsourcing today, an after effect of the economic crises, but a blessing for freelancers.

4. The location situation

So you’ve moved to the big city (or small city) for the career opportunity. Six months or six years down the line you still don’t quite like to call it home. It hasn’t turned out to be the place for you. Whether it’s the big city’s hustle or the small town’s quality of life, you spend your days dreaming of paradise.

Interestingly most people, when being asked about what their ideal life would look like, put career first and paradise last. Paradise, be it life by the beach, in a lake cabin, farm living, morning surfs or thriving as a painter. All these lifestyles they put for ‘later’. Later, when they are 50 or 60. But seriously, why? That means about 25 to 35 years of living before the dream comes true.

It’s 2014, the digital age has arrived, wifi’s all around, global migration in full swing and individual life choices more accepted than ever. Go to paradise first. If paradise for you is somewhere foreign, quiet and/or remote, freelancing might be the only option you have. Embrace it as a life changing experience. A flat share near the beach or the outer house on a farm can be a start and are possibly much cheaper than city living. They may provide a great base for your home office. The lower cost in living gives you more room to budget, to spend time surfing, pottering, writing or fishing – whatever your passion. It’s more flexible.

5. The family situation

Your grandparents ran their own business. Your parents are entrepreneurs. Perhaps you grew up to think that your own business is the Holy Grail. However, somehow you followed your classmates into university and then landed internships and from there your first employment. Ultimately you find yourself caught up in a nine to five job with a line manager, who has a line manager, who has a line manager. The entrepreneurial spirit is looming inside you. Set it free, have trust in yourself. Your parents will have. Having your family as an experienced ally strengthens your back. Listen to them but make sure to keep them at a comfortable distance – unless you are looking to be part of the family business. (Btw not an entirely bad idea either, according to this article).

Another family situation – You’ve just become a parent and are unable to find caretakers. You don’t want to be “just” a parent but love your career, in which you’d like to continue thriving. With your skills and experience, your career may be suitable for work from home as a freelancer. From App Developer to Web Designer, from Film Maker to Social Media Community Manager – there are lots of possible freelance jobs that did not exist ten years ago.

With telecommunication tools, Skype, Google+ and Deskdrop, working remotely really has become an option.

 

Now I want to hear from you! Please post your experiences on freelancing – or considering freelancing – in the comments.

The author has recently started freelancing, which allows for a more flexible work-life-balance – and to be in a location of choice (still hard working, no mojito sipping!). Liked this post? Then why not share it with your network – it may inspire even more people!