James was the most passionate artist you’d ever met. He was full of exuberance and life and it showed in his work. While James was incredibly humble and quiet, if you ever asked him about art, his face lit up. You couldn’t help but get excited when listening to him speak and share his passion.
James was one of those people who exuded creativity. Give him five minutes, a pen, and a napkin, and he’d create something you’d want to frame and hang on your wall. If anyone could quit his job and thrive, it was James. He was humble, but deep down he knew his talent. He knew he had something special.
On a whim, James decided to quit his job and venture out on his own as an artist. The rush of adventure ended about as quickly as it had come. What felt like freedom soon turned to fear. His excitement had melted into anxiety.
James didn’t have a plan.
He quickly learned that you can’t sustain yourself on the fumes of passion. Working for himself, he thought he would be free to choose any job he wanted. Instead, he fell slave to desperation, taking on whatever projects he could get. This gave way to scarcity. Instead of joy, he associated thoughts about art with pain and misery.
James had burned out his passion.
With a wife and two kids to support, he had no choice but to go back to the corporate day job. Fortunately, they were more than happy to have him back. This time though, it felt like he was going back for good. Art didn’t work out—at least, that was the story he’d tell himself for many years to come.
The drawing tools went back in his bag, the bag went back in the closet, and his portfolio went dormant.
We all know someone like James who quit their job to pursue their passion and ended up hating what they do. Their passion became a job—or worse, they completely burnt out and ended up hating what they once loved. You need passion, but you also need to take action on the right things. This book will help you find the right things to take action on so you can avoid making the same mistakes James did.
Protect Your Passion
The biggest mistake people make is trying to monetize their passion too quickly. There’s a reason I keep reiterating that fact. The quickest way to kill your passion is to use it as a tool to pay your bills. This will cause you to hate what you do. You must protect your passion.
You need to cover 100 percent of your bills with your day job. If your day job doesn’t cover 100 percent of your bills, you need to find something else that does. Do not use your passion to make up the difference between what you make at your day job and what you need to survive. You will always have the temptation to use your passion as a tool to pay your bills when your day job does not cover 100 percent of your expenses.
If you lean on a fifty-year-old oak tree, it will support your weight. If you put your weight on a young sapling, you’ll crush it. Until the sapling grows into a tree, it’s too weak to provide support. During the growth stage, the plant needs protection. Typically, you place a fence around the tree for the first few years to prevent it from being destroyed by animals or a mower.
Many people try to supplement their remaining income needs with their passion. If their day job covers 60 percent of their bills, they will do random jobs with their passion to make up the difference. This leads to compromising your passion.
Compromise comes in many forms. Most often, compromise results in working with the wrong people or taking on the wrong clients because you’re desperate for the money. Sometimes, taking such work results in compromising your professionalism, morals, or how much you charge. Have you ever arbitrarily lowered your price because a client said they couldn’t afford what you quoted? That’s compromise. You took on the wrong client for money because you were desperate. This desperation is born from a scarcity mindset.
We’ll talk more about why scarcity mindset is poison to your passion and how to get out of a scarcity mindset in the next chapter, but for now, know that you must avoid compromising your passion at all costs. A scarcity mindset breeds compromise and desperation. You have to create financial padding for yourself. Unless you already have a significant amount of money set aside, the only way to avoid getting desperate and falling into scarcity is to get a day job that covers 100 percent of your bills.
The goal is always to protect the passion. There’s no going back once you kill it. Once you kill the passion, it’s dead. Have you ever gotten sick after eating too much of a certain meal or candy bar and then thrown up? You never want the same food again no matter how much you used to like it because you now associate it with a terrible experience. Once killed, the passion is lost forever.
Can My Day Job and Passion Cross Over?
When you have a day job in the same industry as your passion, you run the risk of killing the passion. Unless you can control every aspect of your day job, you will find yourself in situations where you’re forced to do things in a way you don’t want to do them. Maybe your boss insists upon working with terrible clients. This makes your life at work a nightmare. Maybe your office and coworkers are unorganized and irresponsible. This discolors your perception of your work. Maybe the agency you work for engages in unprofessional practices, and you’re not in a position to enact top-down organizational change. This makes for a miserable working environment.
Unless you’re able to control every aspect of your job—including which clients you work for, the process, the hours, and the projects you take on—you’re at the mercy of your employer. It’s not a matter of if, but when, that job will result in killing your passion.
Your day job needs to be in a different industry from your passion. How different? Only you can know. Here’s how you can tell: if you come home from your day job bursting at the seams with energy for pursuing what you’re passionate about, that’s the right day job. The right day job will charge you for your passion. The wrong one will drain you and deplete the kind of energy you need. Are you coming home exhausted, or are you coming home charged up and excited to work on your side projects? That’s how you know.
If this notion of coming home from work charged up and excited sounds like an entirely foreign concept to you, you’re in the wrong day job. If you cannot possibly imagine coming home bursting at the seams with energy, you’re in the wrong day job. If you come home depleted and feel like you want to pass out, or the very thought of working on your side project is laughable, you’re in the wrong day job.
This toxic situation can blind you to the existence of great day jobs—yes, they do exist! The environment you’ve found yourself in may be so bad you now believe that work is supposed to be miserable. You may believe that no job exists from which you can come home feeling energized and excited to work on your passion. The reason you feel this way is because you got a day job in the same industry as your passion.
Imagine your favorite cake. Can you see it? Are you picturing the icing you love? Now imagine it was baked with just a little bit of feces. Just reading the last sentence might make you dry heave. It would certainly ruin that dessert forever for you, wouldn’t it?
That’s what you’re doing when you mix your passion with a day job.
The day job is your foundation. That’s it. It’s a functional piece to the puzzle. The day job is the wrong environment for organically growing your passion. If you do get a day job within the industry of your passion, you’ll use the same kind of energy there. That’s energy you won’t have for your passion later. If you spend the same kind of energy at your day job, you become more invested, even though the freedom is not there. Don’t take a day job that’s your passion unless you want to be stuck in that day job forever. Once you recognize that the day job is detrimental to your passion, you’ll already be paralyzed. Why? Because of a terrible phenomenon known as golden handcuffs.
Beware the Golden Handcuffs
Golden handcuffs refers to financial benefits intended to encourage highly compensated individuals to remain with a company. If you have golden handcuffs, you may not particularly enjoy your job or feel positively challenged, but good pay and benefits make it difficult to leave. This is underscored if you’ve increased your cost of living to match your high pay. Being accustomed to such a lifestyle makes quitting seem all but impossible, even if you’re miserable at your job.
The key is to find a day job you don’t hate. It doesn’t need to be your favorite thing to do, but it can’t be something that drains your energy or drains you creatively. If you hate your day job, you need to quit.
If you’re not willing to take a calculated risk on something that you love, then what’s the point? You have one life. This is it. This is your only life. Why not make a calculated risk that takes you one step closer to enjoying your life and doing something you love, even if it might mean taking a step back in pay for now?
The purpose of the day job is to support the exploration and pursuit of your passion, to grow your passion organically without compromise, and to get your passion to the point where you can make a living from it. The day job is supposed to pay your bills and cover your expenses. That’s it. It’s not supposed to be a place where you partially indulge your passion in compromised conditions.
Don’t try to get more fulfillment from your day job. It will only lead to frustration at best or imprison you with golden handcuffs at worst. When you invest the same kind of energy you need to pursue your passion after work, that energy is lost forever. That’s why you come home drained.
Do You Need to Change Your Day Job?
Whether you have no day job, a part-time day job, a day job that covers part of your bills, a day job you hate, or a golden-handcuffs day job, commit to getting the right kind of day job today. The right day job covers all of your bills, is not something you hate, and is in a different industry from your passion. Make the commitment now to find the right day job and refuse to stop until you do. Don’t make excuses. Your full-time job outside work right now is finding the right day job. Go until you find it—no quitting.
You’re the only one standing in the way of your dreams. It’s your choice. No one can stop a determined person. Only you can stop you. You can stop yourself with excuses, you can stop yourself with complaints, and you can stop yourself with stories of how it’s too hard to find a job, but it’s all you. It starts with you, a commitment, and a decision. You’ll find what you seek if you apply yourself.
You’ll fail if you say you’ll fail. You’ll fail if you make excuses. You’ll fail if you say it’s too hard. You’ll fail if you say there are no jobs. Recognize that all of these thoughts are rooted in a scarcity mindset. In the next chapter, we’ll talk about how to fix that.
- The biggest mistake people make is trying to make money with their passion too quickly.
- Protect your passion by not immediately using it as a tool to pay your bills.
- Your day job should cover 100 percent of your bills. If your day job doesn’t cover 100 percent of your bills, you need to find another job that does.
- Do not use your passion to try to make up the difference between what you make at your day job and what you need to survive.
- The right day job will charge you for your passion. The wrong one will drain you and deplete the kind of energy you need.
- Find a day job you don’t hate. If you hate your day job, you need to find a different one.