All my life, people told me to follow my dreams. “Do what you love,” they said, with smiling eyes and the best of intentions. So how did I end up lost in the cubicle maze of the corporate world? Over my 3-year stint here, I’ve learned through a series of trial and error that “following our dreams” means something different for today’s young professionals. Sort of.
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Think about what it’s like to return home from a long day at work. Most people put something easy on the stove, throw themselves onto the couch, and turn on the TV or read a book. Maybe they call their significant other or a friend and complain about work for a little while. Others spend some time checking personal emails while half-watching the news on low volume in the background. Or maybe, on especially bad days, you just flop onto your bed and fall asleep, still in your business casual.
Before, all of these things sounded exactly like my daily routine. But now? No way. As soon as I get home, I put some food on the stove, open my laptop, and start working on Jetfarer, typically for 3-4 hours after my official workday is done.
The craziest part? I actually ENJOY doing this. I spend most of my day thinking about how excited I am to spend time working on Jetfarer, strategizing in my head on how I can make the site better, more widely useful, how I can grow our community. Doing more work after coming home from work might seem crazy, but hear me out…
Every Day, I Get to Follow My Dreams (Sort Of)
We all know what it’s like to work in a soul-crushing job, doing repetitive, mind-numbing tasks for 8-12 (or more) hours a day, reporting to a boss you may or may not like. I get it – I’ve been in a similar situation for nearly the past 3 years. It’s like this kind of burnout-prone lifestyle is the “required reading” for adulthood that few people actually get to escape.
All throughout school I was told to “follow my dreams” and “major in what I like.” Now, as an adult, the world tells me I need a “real job” and to “play it safe.” What the heck?!
So I compromised. I built Jetfarer because I’ve always dreamed of working in travel media, and because I’m extremely interested in online entrepreneurship. Every day after I get home from my day job, I use my work on Jetfarer to challenge myself, learn about what it’s like to run my own enterprise, and constantly push myself to be better at what I do. Right now, I’m not running Jetfarer for any monetary gain. I’m doing it to help young professionals travel more, and learn a few things for myself in the process.
It’s Not Always Black or White
I read what feels like dozens of posts a week about someone who quit their job to travel and never looked back. While that’s *awesome* for the people who can do that, I (and many, many other people in my age group) am not in a place financially where I can do that. Every month, I pay a whopping $750 in student loans, on top of living expenses in an expensive city. In fact, living here is so financially taxing compared to my old home in Houston that I cut down my travel substantially and moved to my mom’s house in the suburbs to save money for bigger and better things. I basically have to work full-time to support myself and have a steady enough income to pay off those loans.
The bottom line? I just can’t swing dropping everything and traveling right now.
That doesn’t mean I can’t chase my dreams (sort of), though. I have 15 days of vacation and 11 paid holidays, and I get paid enough to have some disposable income. In the evenings, I get home between 6 and 7 PM, leaving me a good 3-4 hours to work before I get to bed. Instead of wasting that precious time doing even more mindless activities, I use it to get working toward my goals of a) seeing the world and b) creating a side hustle that I really love.
And I can do all of this, for now, while also working my normal office job during the day and getting a steady, dependable income.
I Broke Up With My Time-Wasting Habits (Mostly)
In order to make Jetfarer work with my demanding day job, I had to make some sacrifices. I chronicled what I’d been spending my time on before – TV, reading books, checking social media, MORE checking social media, looking up flight deals on flight deals, and more. I found that some of those things, namely TV and social media, were HUGE time sucks for me every day.
So…I cut them out. I stopped paying for cable and Netflix, and I focused all of my social media efforts on Jetfarer. I began to limit myself to 2 social outings each week. It wasn’t hard to break up with many of these activities – I realized it actually ended up freeing a lot of my time and energy for other things. As for my social outings, I started changing and combining them to save money, and it has worked out great so far.
It’s not perfect. Some days I go to happy hour with friends and stay a little too late, or I decide I want to take a short break that ends up lasting the whole night. But taking these small breaks and giving myself time to unwind and decompress is all part of the bigger picture – building a sustainable lifestyle that’s productive and worthwhile for me. I don’t want to get burnt out, and letting myself have “cheat days” is how I avoid it.
In building Jetfarer, I realized that in order for it to be successful, I have to take it seriously. I can’t (and won’t) half-ass my dreams. I have to work on Jetfarer every single day, in small, manageable pieces, and treat it like it’s a second job. Even if it takes several hours of time each week, or requires a steep financial investment to be armed with the right tools, I’m happy to make those choices to push forward something that I believe in. My work on Jetfarer is such a stark contrast to the repetitive and boring nature of the corporate world, it truly keeps me sane during the week.
Don’t Lose Sight Of Your Passion and Goals
I am of the opinion that everyone should have a side hustle or passion project outside of work. Whether that passion is running marathons, or painting portraits, or photographing cars, or volunteering, you can ALWAYS continue to pursue it in some capacity. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my adventures in the corporate world, it’s that the excitement of chasing something I’m passionate about makes up for the bad days, the tough bosses, and the red tape.
It’s not a guarantee, but there’s always a chance you can turn your side hustle into a main hustle. And the chance that your side-hustle-turned-dream-job actually becomes really lucrative. But, if your day job isn’t cutting it for you, you CANNOT build a life for yourself that you love if you don’t do something that strengthens those skills every. single. day. If you’re not getting good opportunities from your employer, take every chance to create them on your own.
At best, you’ll end up creating a career you love. At worst, you’ll get to do something enjoyable, challenging, and fulfilling every day, while still maintaining an income at your day job. How’s that for following your dreams?
A Few Lovely Resources That Have Inspired Me
There are a few books that have inspired me to figure out my life over the years, and if you like what you’ve read here, I highly recommend you read them too!
- The Compound Effect – Darren Hardy
- Grit – Angela Duckworth
- The Art of Non-Conformity – Chris Guillebeau
- The Happiness of Pursuit – Chris Guillebeau
- Side Hustle – Chris Guillebeau (yeah, I really like his stuff!)
- The 4-Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss
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Do you have a side hustle or a passion project outside of your day job? What is it? Join the conversation in our Facebook group!