Ditching Your Day Job to Pursue Your Passion Is Not Always the Solution

 

Many people want to hear that the only thing standing between them and their dreams is their corporate job. They like to believe that the only way to “make it” is to risk everything.

I used to be one of those people too.

That all changed, however, when I attended a live-stream hosted by Tanya Nambiar, a musician I admire deeply. A self-proclaimed “middle-class hustler”, she’s also a voice-over artist and the founder of El Diablo Sauces, a company that sells fresh condiments with natural ingredients.

During the live-stream, one of her followers posed a question that I myself wanted to learn the answer to.

“Should I leave my job to pursue my passion?”

What followed was a simple, logical answer. Tanya explained that relying on a single source of income as a creative professional is dangerous and it’s not the kind of risk you want to take. She also talked about her three other sources of income that enabled her to pursue music as a profession. Revenue from the entertainment industry is not reliable since it varies a lot based on whether it’s on or offseason.

Tanya’s answer made me sit back and introspect. Although I loved my job, I would often blame it for robbing me of the opportunity of a different, possibly more exciting life as a singer or a writer.

If Tanya, a successful musician, needed to shield herself from the rocky journey of being creative, how hard would it be for someone like me who was just starting out? I realized that there are several advantages that come with pursuing your passions on the side and I began to think of my job as a safety cushion that allowed me to dabble in other fields.

My new perspective gave me the impetus I needed to let go of all excuses and start pursuing my passions. Along the way, I gained some valuable and interesting insights.


Saying Goodbye to My Creative Block

During my brief break between graduation and work, I decided to make use of my extra time to begin blogging again. I was way too busy in college for side hustles (or so I thought) and I figured it would be no different once I started working. Hence, this was quite possibly my last chance at dedicating time towards something creative.

With newfound zeal, I got rid of all distractions and sat down to brainstorm topics for articles. Days flew by and days turned into weeks but all good ideas seemed to evade my mind. Why was it that I was struggling already before I could even get started?

Soon, I realized that I was going through the infamous “writer’s block”. Throughout my summer break, I kept asking myself the same questions: What is my area of expertise? What do I know that hasn’t already been preached by the thousands of writers that produce content online? Alas, I couldn’t seem to find an answer. It was almost like somebody had reached into my brain and turned a knob that tuned out any thoughts or ideas.

In no time, I’d reached the end of my holidays. With a heavy heart, I put my writing dreams on hold as I geared up to pursue a career in software engineering.

It wasn’t until a year later that I decided to give blogging a second chance. This time, however, thoughts inundated my head and ideas would strike me out of the blue. Most often, it would occur while I was at work- either during a meeting, in the middle of writing code, while talking to my coworkers or at a completely random moment altogether.

For instance, the idea for my  on Medium hit me one when I received the “Happy One Year Anniversary” message from my company. I remember thinking to myself, I can’t believe it’s been a year already! Then, I began to reflect on my journey so far and think about the lessons I learned along the way.

In a nutshell, what I realized is that you’re not supposed to chase inspiration. It should come to you naturally at moments when you least expect it. However, this can only happen when you go out into the real world and experience things other than sitting at your desk, staring blankly at an empty text document, and waiting for some divine force to assist you.

Building a Cushion Against Financial Adversities

My job is my main stream of income and it pays me well. It gives me enough to lead a comfortable, independent life while still leaving a portion that can go into my savings. I can only imagine what it’s like when your entire career is based on your creative pursuit and success determines whether or not you’re able to put food on the table. It’s the kind of pressure that can take away your freedom of making bold decisions, forcing you to choose a project that’s more likely to earn money rather than one that satisfies you as an artist.

When you’re just starting out, there’s a good chance that you’re not going to see any significant results in the first few months (or sometimes even years) of your career. During this period of struggle, the pressure to succeed can sometimes crush your spirit and kill your passion. There’s no denying that financial stability is important- it’s absence can cost you your peace of mind. I’ve seen numerous people take the plunge and then give up on their dreams soon after. In my opinion, the logical thing to do would be to pursue your hobby on the side until it generates enough revenue. Only then can you consider pursuing it as a full-time career.

Gaining a Unique Skill Set

Not everyone has a single passion they’re willing to dedicate their life to. Some people like to explore their options and try their hand at various things instead of committing to one profession. Emilie Wapnick explains this beautifully in her famous , “Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling”. According to her, there are two kinds of people in the world- specialists and Unfortunately, the latter are being pressured to be more like their specialist peers.

The notion of a narrowly focused life is highly romanticized in our culture. It’s this idea of destiny or the one true calling. The idea that we each have one great thing we are meant to do during our time on Earth and you need to figure out what that thing is and devote your life to it. But, what if you’re someone who isn’t wired this way?

When you have more than one interest, it’s not mandatory for you to choose a single career path. In fact, having multiple interests can even give you an edge over the others because it gives you a unique perspective. For example, if you’re a contortionist and an aeronautical engineer, you possess a rare combination of skills that can make you stand out from the crowd and turn you into an out-of-the-box thinker.