Follow Your Dream (If You Have One)

Forgive me for being a little downcast today, but I’ve just been watching another one of those “follow your dream” videos online. I’m not normally a sucker for such things, but this video featured a car guy of some note, so it was a natural point of interest for me.

Dreams-Cancelled-by-BanksyI did find myself a little frustrated at the end of it, though. I’m usually happy and even a little inspired when I read a self-made-man/woman story but today’s video left me with two questions:

  1. Why are these videos/stories always made by successful people? I’ve never seen one of these stories from a struggling middle-class husband/father/wife/mother or a street person. I imagine they’re much easier to make if your dream led you to a point of ‘success’ – whatever that is.
  2. What do you do when your dream goes up in smoke, through no fault of your own?

Regulars to this site will be able to guess where I’m coming from here. I landed my dream job when I landed at Saab. I worked my arse off for 6 years on my own clock in order to get the job and it was taken away through no fault of my own, thanks to Saab’s bankruptcy. I found something I was good at and I think I did it well. I did all the right things but it still turned into a big steaming pile of elephant poo.

How do I make an inspiring video out of that?

More importantly, how do you form a new dream with that experience when everywhere you see massive walls everywhere you look?

I’m not complaining. Just wondering. We have a good life here in Tassie, a much better life that the vast majority of people in the world. We have great people in our lives, a great home and we have jobs that whilst not necessarily fulfilling, keep us independent with a nice roof over our heads. We have nothing real to complain about.

But when you spend most of your productive time doing something you don’t really like at someone else’s behest, you can’t help but feel there should be more out there.

Feel free to discuss (and refer to your own terms or generic terms rather than mine – this was not intended to be a pity party for me).

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  1. From a book/novel I recently read:

    The Facts Of Life
Life is not fair.
No one is exempt from death.

    Physics rules the universe and biology rules life. 

    The universe does not care.

    The only constant in life is change.

    There is always a choice.
Wishing never makes it so.
A person can’t exceed their limits.

    A person is responsible for their own happiness.
It is impossible to change the character of another.

    This statement was continually asked of or by characters in the book:
    A person is responsible for their own happiness.

    Everything in the book centered on that statement, which lead to a round of goal setting which asked for goals to find happiness.

  2. I come from a long line of stoics. Work a long time, have some happy interludes, then be overjoyed when you retire, regardless of the specific downside.
    (It’s called the ethic of the Norwegian bachelor farmer, Yankee patience.0

  3. Steven:

    I always excelled in math and science growing up and just knew that computers were where the excitement was going to be for me as a career opportunity. When I entered university in the late 1970s as a computer science major I was immediately placed in an advanced level programming class because of my math competence in high school. In a class of around 30 students there were 7 of us freshmen; everyone else was a senior or graduate student. Our syllabus for the semester included 6 programming assignments, a midterm exam and a final exam. It met every weekday morning at 7:30 and was followed by lab time, something I should have taken as a warning sign since I was notoriously not a morning person at the time.

    The professor was the dean of students for the Computer Science department and showed up for literally half of the classes, choosing to have his graduate assistants teach the other half. As a result, the teaching was inconsistent and, unfortunately, most of the time was presented by a Chinese fellow whose English was quite fractured. By the time we had finished the first two programming assignments and the midterm exam I realized I couldn’t possibly pass the course. This despite the fact that I was successfully tutoring others in my dorm who were taking the same course at the slower-paced standard level.

    Needless to say I was crushed. I had never encountered failure of this magnitude before and I didn’t handle it very well. I even went so far as to change universities and switch to double majoring in Business Administration and Economics, mainly because I didn’t know what else to do. I still enjoyed working with computers so I continued to take programming classes offered within the Business School. I graduated on time into what was then considered the worst job market in many years for university graduates. It took me a few years of odd jobs that certainly didn’t require a degree before I landed a decent one where I could put my “college knowledge” to proper use.

    What followed was a 15-year career in IT support that included a 4-and-a-half year run with Microsoft and ended at Dell Computer where I was one of 8000 employees who were caught up in the first mass layoff in the company’s history in February of 2001. When I left Dell (or perhaps I should say when Dell left me) I was feeling burned out, although a lot of that was from the amount of traveling that I was doing at the time. While I didn’t know what I wanted to do next I knew it wasn’t going to be in IT. Our only child was just entering her teenage years at the time and I wanted to be there for her during this time. I wound up taking whatever work I could find which, unfortunately, meant odd jobs once again and income uncertainty for our family as my wife had retired for medical reasons during my time with Dell and we no longer had 2 incomes.

    In the meantime I reconnected with my high school alma mater and began doing mostly volunteer and occasional part-time paid work for them. I began to realize that, from a career standpoint, what I was looking for wasn’t a job, it was a mission, and my alma mater became my mission. I was consumed with helping the school in whatever ways I could with my time and talents (because, after all, I had no extra money) and, after 7 years of trying, finally landed full-time work with the school as…a custodian. I didn’t care that my job wasn’t degree-based because I could see the value in my work on a daily basis promoting the mission of the school, even if it did involve cleaning sinks and toilets and classrooms. I was making a difference in the lives of the faculty, students, and their families by providing facilities that were well-cared for so they could focus on the educational side.

    I knew I wouldn’t stay a custodian but it wouldn’t have mattered if I did because I was on a mission to serve the school to the best of my abilities. In short, I saw the big picture. After 3 years as a custodian I recently re-entered the computing world and joined the IT dept at the school. I’m excited because it’s an opportunity to use my talents in a different way to further the mission of the school.

    Throughout my somewhat wandering career I’ve discovered talents I didn’t know I had and have developed hobbies around them that have furthered my personal development and have contributed to the environment at school. From woodworking to interior and landscape design to bus driving to sports announcing; these are all talents developed largely from all the various jobs I’ve had.

    Set aside some time to consider your own personal mission. Why is Steven Wade here, what are his passions, and how can he channel his particular talents, thoughts, and feelings into meaningful work? I strongly suspect it doesn’t involve accountancy, no matter how good you might be at it. I was very good with computers but it nearly killed me until I was able to bring the proper perspective to bear. Now I can embrace the IT field once again knowing that the environment is more suitable for my needs. It has taken time and patience but I’ve realized it really is about enjoying the journey rather than simply striving for the destination.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t leave you with a resource. Check out Their current intro states their mission quite nicely:

    “48Days.NET is the Idea Networking site for people who are committed to finding – or creating – work that is meaningful, purposeful, and profitable. That includes entrepreneurs, artists, authors, musicians, those working from home, small business owners, BIG business owners, franchisees, independent contractors, reps…etc. as well as people who have found that fit as an employee. People who work on their own terms. We’re honored to have you here with us!

    Our mission is to enhance the process of imagining, dreaming and introspection to help people recognize their calling and true path, and to translate that into meaningful, purposeful and profitable daily work – in 48 Days.”

    The site is free and has a large community of people willing to be sounding boards and provide feedback and encouragement. Dan Miller, the founder, has certainly helped me get through some of the tougher times just through the free email newsletter he provides. I can’t recommend the site highly enough.

    I’m sorry this comment has been so long-worded but your post struck a responsive chord in me. I’ll leave you with an encouraging quote from a collection I’ve amassed over the years. The collection currently numbers 60 pages in a small book format and I have more to add and edit. Many of them have come to me courtesy of the aforementioned Dan Miller. I plan to self-publish it someday but it needs some cleaning up first.

    “Life’s ups and downs provide windows of opportunity to determine your values and goals. Think of using all obstacles as stepping stones to build the life you want.” – Marsha Sinetar

    Live well, my friend. I’m excited for the rest of your journey.

    1. Craig,

      Thanks very much for going to such lengths with your story and advice. It’s much appreciated and I’m glad the journey has been such a positive one for you. I’ll definitely check out 48days. Sounds interesting and right on point.


      1. 48 days! Dan Miller is a great guy who happens to live here in Franklin, Tennessee very close to me. I’ve spoken with him on many occasions, and I’ve heard his whole life story. He is both examples: a successful person who was also a defeated and confused person. He empathizes with the reader of 48 Days, that’s for sure.

        Note: the number 48 isn’t magic, it’s just the number that his publisher liked better than his original 45. Funny things you learn!

  4. Swade, sounds to me like you need to find your passion again. There is always risk involved but better live your life not having to regret things you didn’t do or try. Maybe some of us need to get together on Craigs site.

    PS. Very familiar with the elephant poo shoveling, done it for two decades now, yet I follow the wisedom of my late grandmother who said: ”- Never, ever give up”.

  5. There is something else here, ticking away under the surface. Some might call it a midlife crisis, or whatever that may mean these days.
    As an educator, of an increasingly long standing 29 years now, in Maths, Science and whatever else I throws my hat at, my ‘mission’ is in danger of becoming jaded and weary. On holidays as I type this, and a nagging sense of doubt fills my mind during the day, particularly when I am not in the cut and thrust of the normal school day. The Noble Profession, and it IS so don’t get me wrong, sees many who have the passion slowly ebb away from them and I think I am finally succumbing to the realization that I can’t escape it either. I ALWAYS thought I could.
    And that’s the salient point here. It seems inevitable therefore, that at our time of life we maybe need to recognize that we are not as happy with our lot as we once were.
    Which is in itself really depressing…
    A lot of men end up buying a really expensive bicycle and wear Lycra that they really shouldn’t. (Hilly Hobart is too hard on the legs, me thinks and I don’t see you as that sort of cyclist…?)
    Take the Porsche out for a ‘fang’ and blow out the blues, preferably on a track where you can really get into it. Do this often!
    It is one thing to have a ‘mission’ job and think you are saving the world, but the elephant in the room may well be a time of life sort of thing that males in our age bracket have to deal with. Some don’t very well at all. Colleagues of mine further down the track, look more cynical and jaded as the years roll on, it scares me. Really scares me, that I will end up like them.
    And the question I was asked many years ago, “Do you you work to live…or live to work?” may just sum it up. If you want a job that actually has real and significant meaning, it may not be enough to deliver to your expectation…ouch!
    Heck, how cynical have I become now…

  6. Hey Steven, greetings from Boston! I do relate to what you’re saying, and as a former art major working in the IT industry, I often long for a more fulfilling way to earn a living. The stresses of the work day tend to put a damper on one’s creative energies, and at the end of the work day I’m more apt to pick up a pint of Guinness instead of a paint brush! Frustrating for sure, and in order to cope I thank God every day for the blessings I have, and ask for the creative energies to pursue my true passions. I may never make a living with my art, but I feel truly “alive” while I’m making it. Speaking as a die-hard Saaber, I was crushed when Saab shut down, and when you lost your position there. Taking you on was the best PR move they’ve ever made, and it was a tragedy to see it all go down the drain in such a way. If I’m still taking it hard, I can only imagine how you feel about it! Despite the frustrations I guess we just have to push onward and to keep pursuing our passions. It’s the only way to fight the malaise!

  7. Hi Swade,

    Don’t know if this will do anything for you, but something I personally find useful is to imagine that I suddenly inherit a trust fund from some distant relative. Nothing excessive, but enough to pay me the equivalent of my normal paycheck – every month for the rest of my life. So basically, I won’t have to work any more, ever again. What would I do with myself? How would I fill my days? I don’t mean the first few months of blissful indolence (which I would certainly enjoy!), but after that, when doing nothing at all has lost its appeal.

    Do you know what you would do? For me, it’s a difficult question. I’ve thought long and hard about it, but even though I have some ideas, I’m still not entirely sure. And that being the case, maybe I don’t need to be too depressed about having to go to my fairly meaningless job every day. I mean, as long as I still don’t really know what else to do…

    If you DO know what you would do, however (and I’m sure I will eventually figure it out!), then I guess the next step is to bring your creativity and experience to bear and try to figure out how to make ends meet while doing it (without a trust fund!). Is there any way to make money out of your passion? Or could you maybe afford to work only four days a week instead of five, and do this other stuff on the fifth day? Once you have a plan and feel you are moving in the right direction, even if it’s just baby steps, then in my experience, things will feel a lot better.

    Hang in there, Swade!

    1. Interesting question. I thought about it quickly as I read your comment and like you, I’m not entirely sure. Most of my interests are fairly expensive, though – cars, cameras, tools required – so I can’t rely on the (mythical) trust fund just yet! 🙂

  8. I am the other side of the world in a parallel universe. Not only am I from the Commonwealth but I have mind blowing issues with my 2007 9-5 that are now really puzzling. There are no 2007 9-5 available in the USA ’till the end of August! My co-driver to drive form here and back to the Saab Convention in Oregon is embroiled in a missile war is supposed to be joining me at the end of the month. That would be a miracle.

    Because I have a PhD in Murphy’s Law the trip now seams doubtful. Steve I know how you feel and have full empathy because I lost my job due to a lying Governor who makes Tony Abbot look like Francis of Assisi.

    However everyday I know that I have it good even though I am always pinching pennies. What can I tell you other than I have to write a book sometime to believe half of what I’ve done in my life which at least is with many accomplishments.

    Keep Calm & Carry On!

  9. At least I’m among friends here.

    I feel the same way as you do, and I certainly empathize with Craig. He is a little older than I am, but not much. I am a little older than you, but not much.

    Know this, my friend: You MADE the job you had. You created it. It could only work with you at the helm. I don’t know why it was to be as short as it was. We don’t get easy answers to those questions. Take comfort in the fact that you did more than any other could have.

    My star burned hot for a fairly extended period of time for a large multinational, but, in the end, they only cared about themselves and the company. I was consistently ranked in the top 10 in the country, but none of us were getting promoted. In fact, when I requested a transfer to a another position, I was flatly turned down with the admonishment, “We can hire people for that job, but we cannot easily hire people like you, so you cannot move.” Astonished, I asked, “Is that why none of us get promoted?” The answer: “I’m not supposed to talk about that.” Our success was the reason we couldn’t get better jobs within the company! I seethed for a month about that. Then two months. Then I had to quit. I couldn’t bear to support a company like that anymore. (Three more of that top 10 quit within the year as well.)

    A year later, I’m still casting about trying to find my way to a place where I can salvage a career interrupted and devalued. I’m very bitter about it. I was absolutely a reason that my boss and his boss got huge promotions over the last two years. I got a bonus, which is nice, but it’s like getting a bicycle when they get new cars. You know you shouldn’t complain, but you also know that it’s not equitable. The social contract is supposed to be reward for performance. It didn’t happen that way for me. Life isn’t fair, I know, but this is something that this company preaches daily even though they stopped caring sometime around 2008.

    So, what to do? I agree with Craig’s sentiment: I’ve found value in something other than work in the interim. However, it’s just not satisfying without some form of stimulation from my career. It will happen, and I hope it happens soon.

    1. Eggs, you’re an old friend now (as in, we’ve been in things together for a while, not as in “you’re old” 😉 ) so forgive the tardy response.

      Of all the people I know in this electronic world, you’d be the one I’d judge “Most Likely To Land On His Feet”. Your judgement has always been first class (bar the occasional support for GM 🙂 ) and your integrity is well shown by your decision to leave. I’m still here doing crap stuff because I don’t have the confidence to leave. I admire yours. And I’m sure the right thing is coming for you.

  10. Unfortunately, most of us hate the job we do, we just get stuck in a rut and that is where you stay. Then, a revelation – I want to do something else where I don’t have to put up with blathering morons everyday… but what? And then once reality sets back in, you go and talk to the next fool that wanders in …

  11. Steve – I actually took a lot from what you did regarding Saab and I’ve told your story to countless people…! It’s actually a very inspiring story. I know the ‘ending’ wasn’t great, but I’d like to think that it was more the close of a chapter and still expect you to land something equally exciting in the future. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll meander onto a website called TeslaUnited and find this really enthusiastic Australian dude singing its praises. Hope all is well, mate! : )

  12. Hi to all ..
    Lots of great stories and advise on here ….
    All I can say is … there is a lot of us out there … who feel the same …

    Car storage, Car Cafe, sellng classic cars, write my book ……and teach advanced driver training …. thats what I would be doing if I had that small wad of endless cash ….

    might need to look into this a bit more …. as mid life has just hit …