Why I Stopped Following My Dreams

Here's the biggest lesson I've learned this year -  I'm not even gonna make you wait for it: 

Your passion and how you make money do not have to be the same thing.

Ten years ago, when I was sitting behind a desk all day, of course I knew this to be true. In an entirely different way though. Back then, I knew it in the context of having a shitty day job and enjoying myself in the evenings and on the weekends. That's just what everybody did. 

Right now I'm realizing it in the context of being an entrepreneur. My passion and how I make money do not have to be the same thing, but they can both be from entrepreneurial ventures. This was a heavy revelation for me and it didn't resonate for some time for two reasons:

  1. Because I believed my story would be different. 
  2. Because of the notion that if you just follow your heart that the rest will fall into place.

We get all of these messages all day long from our gurus, from internet memes, from wise "heart centered" advisers. We're inundated with the think positive movement and are told that if we're grateful and happy that we'll attract nothing but joy and success.

That's not necessarily true.

We've been duped into thinking that if we are good people who are pure of heart, if we're in service to others, if we're following our passion that literally "the rest" will follow. That's extremely misleading, often quite dangerous and most of the time sets us all up for failure and burnout. 

I think so often with those of us that are pursuing our passion -- the passion part comes easy, doing the work comes easy, making the art comes easy, serving others comes easy. The hard part is the business side of it: keeping track of expenses, organizing a budget, making a website, getting a handle on marketing...... we end up exhausting ourselves and draining our bank accounts trying to monetize our passions.

I'm not saying stay at your 9 to 5 and only be happy and do projects you love on the weekends. What I'm saying is: shift your focus away from organizing and marketing your passion project and instead educate yourself about ways to create passive income streams and make money on the internet. Then you'll just have money coming in and that will be able to support you in spending your days doing what you love, instead of spending your days beating your head against the wall wondering why people aren't buying your paintings or your book, or scheduling your services.

Plus, it's a lot easier and more fun to make money doing something that doesn't require the approval of others, isn't so intensely personal and doesn't require you to potentially change who you are and what you do or offer.

Say, for example, you open an Amazon affiliate account and you pick some products that you're going to sell and you put them up on a little website and you work on getting that website out there and getting your product selling. If they don't sell - it's nothing personal and you just can pick a different product to sell and a different market to study -- it's not a big deal. It's a lot easier to mess around with your formula, test ideas, and course correct.

It's also far less draining when it doesn't work, versus if you take the last two years of poetry that you've written and pour your heart and soul into making it into a gorgeous book and then you put it out there and it doesn't sell.

That's hard, that's emotional, and that sucks a lot.

Plus, it's very easy from there to spiral down and go so deep with the personal questioning. Questioning yourself, your work, your worth. Questioning if you are even a writer or a poet in the first place. There's so much agony that goes into why your personal offerings may not be of interest to the public. Versus if what you're selling or what you're offering isn't anything that you made or produced -- it's far easier to just move onto the next thing and stop doing the "what if" dance.

Oftentimes people know -- or think they know, rather -- what I do and what I'm about. As often happens with entrepreneurial type people, they ask me what my "big plan" is or what my "ultimate goals" are. It usually really throws people off when I say, "To be financially independent and have piles of money. To have freedom so I can spend my days doing what I love."

What they're expecting to hear is something noble about how I'm going to serve people or the retreat center I'm gonna open and or the incredible space I'm going hold for people to pursue healing and personal growth and the truth is  -- that's not my ultimate goal.

My ultimate goal is to be financially free so that money doesn't dictate my decisions and I can spend my days fulfilled and joyful doing whatever my little heart desires. I think in the end that will be the greatest gift I could give to the world -- to live by example and to inspire other people to take control of their own lives instead of being a perpetual victim to their lives and circumstances.

But honestly, I don’t care if I inspire others. I just want to be happy.

It's a hard thing to talk to people about because most people have spent their lives working for somebody else and won't even let themselves think about what their life would be like if they didn't have to spend eight hours a day on their financial stability.

What an amazing thought to think that you don't have to spend all day every day making sure you're financially secure.

Think about the freedom that would come with passive income...... with your days and your life opening up to let you do whatever it is that you want to do.

However, it's equally hard to talk about with entrepreneurs because the majority of them are solely focused on leaving their mark and what they're going to do to make the world a better place. That's the only respectable goal, right?

It's interesting with the entrepreneur-type people that are hip to life beyond the 9 to 5 -- they tend to go through very distinct phases and often each phase takes a very very long time. I say this from personal experience because I'm about a decade into it and I'm just now figuring this out. 

The first stage for me was knowing that I didn’t want to spend 40 hours a week receiving a fixed salary with a ceiling on my growth, ultimately making somebody else rich.

From there, I took the next natural step which was: owning my own local business providing in-person services. But it turns out that's a fuck load of work and yes you're  investing your time in yourself, but rarely is that sustainable.

From there I thought - okay, well let's look at online business ideas -- maybe I can offer services that are provided virtually or otherwise have some awesome element of flexibility and low overhead built in. Think: coaching, consulting, a blog or a youtube channel with ad revenue, etc.

That sort of went hand in hand with realizing the potential to implement passive streams of income by creating digital products. That way I'd just have to do the work upfront that one time and then I could sell the product forever. Think: an e-book, an online course, a product. 

I thought I was pretty fucking clever at this point until I realized that this basic form of passive income is just scratching the surface. Because in all of these scenarios -- no matter what I did -- I was ultimately trading my time for money and my success was still dependent on other people.

I had to blow that concept out of the water. The concept that you have to ultimately create something or sell something or sell yourself or market your program or product and get people to buy the idea that you're selling them. 

I had a total epiphany entertaining the idea that you could make money in a different way -- not from a product you you create and sell that requires public approving of or asking for what you're offering.

I could resell other people's products. I could wholesale purchase and drop ship products. I could set up affiliate accounts. All this required was the creating of a couple accounts and some initial money for facebook ads. It did not involve my personal audience, it didn't take any creativity from me whatsoever. It was simply researching what sells, and then selling it. It was a simple formula for marketing. 

It seemed like a great way to make money out of thin air. 

Because really -- why is it that we have to make money via our dreams and passions? It seems to come down to our need for external validation of our projects and life trajectory. And the only way we'll get that approval from people is if we're doing what we love AND getting paid to do it. 

We wouldn't be considered a successful artist if we were just doing it because it brought us joy. We're only successful if we were also making money at it, so we become obsessed (and most of us don't even realize that we are obsessed) but we become obsessed with making money at it in order to prove that we are that thing we say we are.

We are only considered to have a successful service-based practice if we are charging people money for our expertise. If we're making money elsewhere or in another way, but providing services because that's what we enjoy doing -- we would not be considered to have a successful business.

Not to mention how much we would disrupt the order and challenge other people and be told that we were ruining or discrediting the service or industry by offering our services for free. We would be seen as a threat, as someone who was undercutting the profession as a whole when really it would be that we were choosing to work with people based on a heart connection versus based on their ability to pay. Or based on the fact that we have to take them because they can pay and that's ultimately the most important thing. Think of the freedom in working only with clients that we connected with. No other considerations necessary.

We’ve all bartered with friends or done some pro bono work or helped out a neighbor and does it not always feel the fucking best when money isn’t involved? What if it could just be like that all the time?

The majority of people I've seen in service-based businesses, especially ones where they're pursuing their passion, aren't actually making a living anyway. They're either being supported by a partner or they have other side gigs. Which means they find themselves hustling to stay afloat and all this does is further feed the deception because nobody's transparent about it. So to the general public all that is seen is a successful service provider, which makes everybody else scratch their heads and wonder what they're missing.

Following your dreams seems like such an oxymoron because -- as adults -- we all dream within the parameters of reality.

Which defeats the purpose of dreaming. 

We dream about promotions and sensible vacations and the next home upgrade we will make.

If we're all being honest -- we just want a guaranteed source of money that keeps us comfortable, and we want to spend our days doing things that we love. 

But most of us don't even dream like that. We keep it much more conservative, dreaming only of things we can actually conceive of -- which is so limiting. Practical dream equations are made up of seeing X number of clients and/or selling X number of products for X amount. That's our fucking dream template.

It's all very rational and falls within the parameters of what we've been taught is possible. 

If we were really truly dreaming it would be way bigger than that. 

I thought I was super clever creating online stores to resell products that had already been created. But it went even further than that. I arrived at the concept of not having to sell anything. At all. Ever. Not my stuff, not someone else's stuff. No ad gambles, no finger's crossed, no hoping you got the formula right. 

That was super mind fuck for me though because the only way I could ever conceive of making money was to sell something. And I went through all the different iterations of it:

  • I worked at a company selling their stuff
  • I formed my own business selling my services
  • I made an online business selling my digital products
  • I created online shops where I sold other people's products

But then, I discovered some next level shit: cryptocurrency. A multi-billion dollar world where you don't have to sell products and your success does not depend on the general public buying what you're offering. All your success depends on is you and your brain power. It's all so seemingly futuristic. But that's the thing -- it's not. We have a robot we've programmed that's "day trading" for us 24/7, for fuck's sake. What fucking dimension is this? I don't even know. 

So let me repeat: your passion and how you make money to do not have come from the same place. Take that and run with it.