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The gap between chasing your dreams and building a career

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Chasing your dreams has always been a pretty awesome thing to do. But today, more than ever, we’re bombarded with messages about how we should all be doing it. And more, delivered all sorts of promises about how to do it and live your dream life. There’s only one catch. (Isn’t there always?) Sometimes there’s a gap between ‘chasing your dreams’ and ‘building a career’. And sometimes that gap is a chasm. And with good reason.

You see, the defining characteristic of your ‘dream life’ is that it’s yours. It’s all about you. And as much as some people would like to believe the world revolves around them, the harsh reality is that just isn’t true.

By contrast, the defining characteristic of building a career, and perhaps being paid quite well to do that, is it’s all about adding value to others. And as the word ‘value’ suggests, when you create value for others, there’s a pretty big chance you come valuable and in turn, create value for yourself.

Don’t let your dreams stop you living an amazing life

That’s not to say these two things can’t overlap. It’s also not to say that living your dream life and not being paid particularly well, if at all, can’t be incredibly fulfilling. But if it’s a career you’re after, and the kind of reward that goes with it, then the whole ‘chase your dream’ thing can be a bit limiting and actually get in the way of you living an amazing life.

The same applies to business too. There are two main pathways to starting a business. Some people think of something they love, something they want to do, then look to see if there’s a way they can monetise it. (Or perhaps just do it, then cross their fingers and hope there is a way to make money out of it. This is one of the reasons so many new businesses fail!) And that way to making money, may or may not be easy. In fact, it may or may not even exist. And we see any number of businesses that get started this way, based on someone’s own personal passion.

The second way is to be a whole lot more strategic. Find a gap in the market, come up with a solution to a problem, then build a business around that.

Assuming you’ve correctly identified that gap, and come up with a great solution, that process comes with a ready-made audience, ready-made demand, and a much different, and usually faster (and easier), path to success. In those business pathways, there’s a clue for your career.

Be flexible with your dreams

Deciding what you want to be because you want to be it, then trying to get the world to conform to your wishes, is bloody hard work.

It’s not for me to say you should or shouldn’t give up on Dream 1.0, but if someone was asking me for advice on how to build an awesome career in this day and age, I’d definitely be floating the idea of Dream 2.0, Dream 3.0 and possibly even a few more after that.

Regardless of what study you’d already done, regardless of what you once dreamed of doing, I’d encourage you to look at the world, see if you can find any gaps that you think you could fit into and enjoy, even if it’s not what you first expected, then try and add value in those areas.

It’s simply a case of being solution focused. About looking at the needs of others as a way to meet your own. It requires a bit of a paradigm shift from the usual “this is what I want to be and if I work hard enough I’ll get there” which is the popular opinion. But it’s well worth challenging yourself to look at the industry you want to be in, and deciding if what you have to offer is something enough people want. And if not, what then?

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming new dreams

Please let me repeat, if in your heart and soul, you truly believe your life will be dark and empty unless you become a whatever you want to become, then never, ever take ‘no’ for an answer, and do whatever you have to in order to find an opportunity to be that thing and life your dream life.

Never compromise your principles. Never sell out. Keep dreaming. Keep chasing.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, as an old fart looking back, it’s that what I thought I wanted, what I thought would fulfil me, was never quite what I expected. And those things certainly changed at various times throughout my career which has had more unexpected plot twists and turns than I ever could have imagined possible. And even without knowing you personally, I strongly suspect the same will be true for you.

So if you can find a way to be enthusiastic and passionate about new and unexpected things, and find ways to add value in the most in-demand areas of the moment, your chances of landing a job, and going on to live that version of your dream life, will be hugely magnified. And just because it wasn’t DreamLife 1.0, doesn’t mean it can’t still be awesome.


This blog post was originally published on our partner website, Firebrand Talent.

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