Richard Branson once said that entrepreneurship is about turning what excites you in life into capital. In the words of the late Steve Jobs, the only way to do great work is to love what you do. In a time where we are encouraged to follow our dreams, indulge our passions and do what we love every day, is entrepreneurship the only answer?
I've pursued the exciting, fancy-free life of an entrepreneur -- twice. Both times I quickly learned that there is nothing fancy nor free about it. Owning your own business requires discipline, determination and some serious chutzpah. It also requires you to, in most cases, work weekends, forgo holidays and fight to make financial ends meet.
For me, the constant worry of where my next paycheque was coming from -- or chasing down clients to settle their invoices -- was the worst part. I found I was so overcome with worry, I wasn't operating at the right frequency to woo new clients, produce great work or conjure up anything remotely creative. I was spent.
Once again, I found myself in a corporate office with a decent salary, benefits, paid vacation and all those glorious bits that come with any good day job. What's important to remember, though, is it is just that -- a day job. I've been very fortunate in my career to have worked with some great companies alongside some great people. I'm grateful. But I also know that my day job does not define me. My career may not represent my deepest desires and my dreams are not bound by the confines of a cubicle. I try to look at my career as a means in which to facilitate my life, but I'm the one who has to go out there and live it.
I applaud and admire anyone who chooses to start their own business. It is, of course, what fosters innovation, creates jobs and helps our economy grow. However, it's not the only way to be innovative, creative or create the life you want.
There seems to be a certain level of shame imposed on people who choose to work for someone else -- people who make a living off of other people's passions, ideas and investments. The negative stigma around working a 9-5 is getting out of hand. At what point did we begin to feel guilty about earning a living?
Too often, entrepreneurship is rewarded and recognized so flippantly it overshadows those of us who are making personal and professional strides, despite "working for the man" or however we're referencing the corporate sector these days. Just because you choose to pay your bills on time, does not make you a sellout. And just because you maintain a day job, doesn't mean you can't pursue your dreams outside of regular business hours.
I write freelance on top of my day job and recently completed my first feature-length screenplay. I have aspirations of becoming a comedy writer for late-night TV or working in film someday. I even joke about leading a double life, but in no way am I tossing all my eggs into one proverbial basket. Struggling and living paycheque to paycheque is a lifestyle I'm not willing to endure.
It's also important to tread carefully when it comes to monetizing your dreams. What once fuelled your creativity and put a fire in your belly could quickly turn into a monotonous chore the moment you associate your passion with money. Looking to your job for spiritual fulfillment is a slippery slope. Doesn't it seem risky to sacrifice something you love for a resource that could easily be obtained elsewhere? The resource being an income, of course.
I have a print hanging in my living room by blogger, author and prolific cartoonist Hugh MacLeod of gapingvoid.com entitled "Ignore Everybody." It's a collection of quotes, mostly anecdotal quips about creativity like "everyone is creative, everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten." It's also peppered with real talk advice like "being poor sucks," "keep your day job," and "beware of turning hobbies into jobs." To me, it's the perfect juxtaposition, encapsulating the balance that can occur between earning an income while chasing your dreams. It doesn't have to be a struggle.
You don't have to quit your day job to pursue your passion. Why not choose both? Earning a steady income doesn't make you a sell out or a failure. It demonstrates that you're willing to put in the hours to pursue your dreams without going in the red. You may find yourself working over the weekend while your friends are out enjoying themselves. And at times it may feel like all of your personal sacrifice is for nothing. But if I work hard and stay focused, I can't help but believe -- cling to, even -- that eventually the line that divides my passion and my paycheque will slowly fade away.