Theory: Dreams of stardom and success are ironically keeping more people in obscurity and on the bread line.
There are various reasons for this. Typically the aspirations of this kind of success are communicated wide and loud through traditional and social media, while the means by which to achieve it are not, and are out of reach of most young people. Consequently they embark on perilous quests in pursuit of fame, powered by youthful idealism and untutored in adult realism, and for the most part entirely without the resources necessary to achieve success. If they don’t end up shipwrecked with debt on foreign shores or roasted in the dragon fire of drug abuse, they usually return home battle-weary and scarred, defeated, disillusioned and none the wiser about how to forge an actual career than they were 5 or 10 years earlier. Debt, drugs, defeat and disillusionment. Dreams dead. Back living with Mum and Dad. Not a pretty picture.
Thankfully, there is certainly a way for creatives and dreamers to lead meaningful lives and be genuinely successful at the same time. We need to be taught how to forge career paths that are, yes, realistic, but also meaningful – in other words, projecting our desires but directing ourselves towards them under the constraints of sheer pragmatism. Paying the bills while pursuing the dream.
How do we forge a career path that is both meaningful and successful?
Plan your dream
The creative dreamer – and by the way I speak as one, to my former self – has the power to envision everything instantaneously, but then wonders why it doesn’t show up the next day. But in order to achieve success in our area of creativity and passion we need to learn to play the long game. Success requires planning. Creatives need to capture the vision, but then lay out the steps necessary to achieve it, perhaps with the help of others. It will always reveal pitfalls and obstructions – but that way you can plan how to work around them. Stumble blindly into the night and you’ll be guaranteed to be caught out. Plan, and there’s a much more likely chance you’ll make your goals, even if it takes longer than you’d initially hoped.
Earn for reality
Look for work – serious, regular, as-well-paid-as-possible work – in similar areas to your passion and desires. They may not be an exact fit. I come back time and again to my teaching 1-1 music lessons in schools. This is not my greatest dream. In fact it doesn’t even factor if I examine closely what my ultimate career ‘dream’ might be. However, apart from the seriously significant factor of it helping the bottom line – and therefore giving me some freedom to feel that I might have a bit of room on the side to pursue some dreams – it is giving me experiences I never thought I’d have, and through teaching others, I find I am teaching myself more about my craft than could have been possible trying to stick it out alone on my passion projects. The relationships are rewarding and surprising too, as I am of course building connections day-to-day with the other musicians who are teaching in the same setting. Get your skills to earn you some real money.
Work your dreams towards reality
When you’re not working your ‘day job’, you have to grind the millstone on whatever your passion project might be. Follow the steps laid out when you did your planning. Adjust course as you discover obstacles. Don’t burn bridges too fast. Connect with others doing similar work or who will support you in your work. If you want the example of someone who achieved wild musical success, look at Ed Sheeran. He played a local club every night in the UK for a whole year. Every night. 365 gigs in the year. With such dogged persistence and putting himself out there on a sheer magnitude of scale, it’s no wonder he soon got talent-spotted and signed to a manager and record label. Sometimes those who produce the most also produce the best. They simply have more chance of it. Your craft needs work – serious, bone-grinding work.
Learn from others’ success
We need more success stories from the ordinary. Learn from yourself, but learn from others too; not the big stars, unless they have stories like Ed Sheeran (and many probably do but haven’t shared it). Learn from local choir directors, art teachers with gallery showings on the side, poet/journalists. How have they kept their craft and passions ticking and made a business at the same time? And learn from yourself; your passions and desires will shift and change as you go. You may discover potential career paths along the way you’d never dreamed existed before you started out, and find your heart moving towards them more than whatever else you had in mind before. Things can change; you will change. Be adaptable, be open, be willing to listen. Learn.
Plan. Earn. Work. Learn. Four steps to turn your dreams into a reality you might never have dreamed of.