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Earthscape by Chris Dunmire
Doing What You Like and Liking What You Do : Part 2

Doing What You Like and Liking What You Do

Part 2: How to Get There

By Chris Dunmire

Average Dreamers

Average people like you and me may never become famous, or write books, or become well-respected in our fields. But does that mean we have to resign ourselves to doing whatever we have to just to get by? Or can we somehow incorporate what we like to do into our personal life, jobs, or careers?

In part one of this article, I mentioned that I would tell you about two people that I know of — who, after deciding what they wanted to do in life are either in the process of getting "there," or have already arrived.

The first person is me.

Finding My Way

A few years ago I didn't have a clue. I figured that my life's work would be whatever came my way. I was brought up in a family with parents from a post-war generation who didn't need higher education to support their families, and didn't view college as a door to vast opportunities in the world. My dad landed his "lifetime" job in a company after serving in the army right after trade school, and retired some 30 years later with a gold watch and a nice retirement package.

I don't know if my dad would have stuck with a desk job if something grander came his way. And I'm not sure if anyone ever took him aside to show him that his life's work could be more than a 9 to 5 job. If they did, maybe he would have gone off to college to become a musician, a writer, a teacher, or an athlete. Or maybe he still would have chosen the path he was on, beings that his generation followed a great depression where survival and having a job was the priority. My point is, he never considered other post-high school possibilities than to find a company to work for and stick with it until retirement. And that viewpoint was passed on to me.

So without the groundwork (and mentoring) other people had to open their eyes to the vast opportunities in the world, I often wondered how people fell into work that they loved. Work that seemed to be a perfect match for their natural talents and abilities. People who wrote books, who taught, who drew comic strips, who were party clowns, lawyers, stuntmen, accountants, forest rangers, coffee shop owners. People who figured out what they liked to do — and found a way to do it.

Figuring Things Out

Thankfully, some of my greatest epiphanies happened in my mid-20s. At a time when I was growing more stable into adulthood, I began realizing how other people were able to find their niche in life and in their work — resulting in them doing what they liked, and liking what they did.

Some of these lessons came from opening up my mind to new possibilities — brought on by people whom I respected greatly — as I was initiating changes in my life.

For example, one aha moment came during a job interview. While answering routine questions about my skills related to the position, I was asked what I enjoyed doing outside of work:

Me: "I like to write."

Smart Interview Lady: "Really! Have you ever thought about pursuing that as a career?"

Me: (thinking to myself) No, I never have. You mean I can? I can actually pursue a career in writing? Who would have thought that? "Maybe someday."

Another moment came when I was seeking career counseling from a human resources manager.

HR Advisor: "Chris, look around the (big multi-gazillion dollar) company and tell me, what one position would you like to be in?"

Me: Oh my. I have no idea. There are so many. Management, engineering, information technology, office administration, marketing, food worker, janitor... hey, what if there isn't anything here that I really want to do? "That's a good question. I don't know."

These two experiences happened within six months of each other, and caused me to think long and hard about what I really wanted to do for the rest of my working career. After all, thirty-some years was a long time yet to be floundering around without a focus.

So what happened next?

I decided to take a risk — one that many people in my position wouldn't (and I don't recommend if having a job is vital). After realizing that the company didn't offer the kind of opportunities that I was looking for, I left my job to take a few months off to do some soul searching. That search led me into a new career direction, and back to school for a couple of years.

Eventually my hard work paid off. After completing my degree, I found a position at a company that offered me the creative challenge that I craved in my work. Meanwhile, I fit my other creative interests in around my "paying bills" job, and enjoyed the best of both worlds.

I am a firm believer that if you put forth the effort, things WILL happen. And yes, I'm still working towards other creative dreams.

How Do They Get "There"?

I believe that my experience and process of "getting there" had its beginnings much like anyone else's — even the famous book writers and artists on my earlier list. The formula is simple: we decide what we want to do, and start taking steps to get there. Even if the steps are small, they represent significant effort and action in the direction we want to go. Best-selling author SARK refers to these steps as microMOVEments in her book Make Your Creative Dreams REAL.

Sure, a few people may enjoy some advantages and lucky breaks, but there are plenty of us who get there by our own hand and hard work.

Who else? The second person I want to tell you about is a published book author who shared her story with me a couple of years ago. Her name is Suzanne Falter-Barnes, author of How Much Joy Can You Stand? In the following excerpt from her story she relates how long it took her to get her writing career going:

"Twenty years later, I can say I'm finally living my dream, and amazingly enough, it didn't just land on me. I actually worked for it intensely hard over the past ten years. Life steered me towards writing, and slowly, I carved out a career for myself. A novel was published, then crashed and burned. Reviews were mixed. Two more novels were written and soundly rejected. A third novel was stopped and started, then stopped again. Ten thousand queries for magazine pieces were floated around New York, a dozen of which were actually published. Agents came and went. Jobs were quit triumphantly, then temp jobs taken in despair. A self-help book got 27 rejections, then was published by a small press. Then a major publisher appeared and bought that book and another one in a six-figure deal. A career was finally, fitfully launched."

I appreciated Suzanne's story because it reinforced my belief in how much alike all of us really are. We are all human, and sometimes we fail. But if we keep trying, eventually we will succeed.

You now have living proof of at least two individuals who, despite the risks and obstacles involved, continued to put forth effort — resulting in each of them being well on their way or already "there" to doing what they like, and liking what they do.

How Do YOU Eat an Elephant?

Nit Wits #4: ElepantsThe answer: One piece at a time.

Not that I would want eat an elephant, but the lesson here is that when something (such as doing what you like) seems like too much work to accomplish all at once, you need to break it down into manageable pieces or steps (or microMOVEments).

For example: If you want to go to school to learn a skill or get a degree, don't be overwhelmed by the amount of classes or years it will take. Instead, eat it one piece at a time. Sign up for one class and see how it goes. When you accomplish one thing, you can move onto the next thing easier. And then the next. And the next...

Finally, here are some additional tips that I offer if you are wanting to take steps to do what you like. Though brief, they represent a few of the major steps you may need to consider in changing your life around to accommodate your own creative dreams.

The last one is especially significant to me, as it is a great reminder that "getting there" is not just a destination, but a journey that should be enjoyed.

Tips to Doing What You Like and Getting There

  • Decide what you like or want to do.
  • Figure out whether it's something you can do in your free time, or if it is something you want to incorporate into your work or career.
  • If it is work-related, find out if you need to get a degree or take classes to qualify for a job in the field.
  • If you need schooling or special training, take steps to attain it. If you don't need special training, look for job positions that you can get into right now to learn and grow your skills.
  • Getting "there" is a process that may take years to attain. Keep working at it, and you will eventually get to where you want to be. Enjoy the learning process and journey that happens along the way. For reinforcement on this point, see my article, Appreciate the Developmental Stages of Your Creative Dreams.

© Chris Dunmire 2004. All rights reserved.

About Chris Dunmire

Chris is a deeply engaged creative spirit, lover of wit, words, and wisdom, and the driving force behind the award-winning Creativity Portal® Web site. [...]

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