Whether a professional athlete, an artist (of any art form) or pursuing any other non-traditional career path, you can probably relate to the hesitation, family-resistance and courage that comes with turning your passion into a career. Today some people are living the normalised 9-5 adult life we are taught to strive for, whilst young people are studying for careers that do not even exist yet and there are a number of sites, such as Instagram and Etsy flooded with DIY maker pages turning their craft into income. Employment is changing.
I am forever grateful to have had a charismatic, supportive high school teacher who understood and encouraged my passion for the arts. When pursuing what is perceived to be a nonviable career path by most, you need your supporters. Life, reality, the system and the industry will throw a lot of lessons at you and, as I am coming to grips with, you learn to get comfortable in the uncertainty. So here are some lessons from recent conversations with peers and some personal reflection. May it not discourage you from pursuing your passion, but prepare you for some of the realities.
You many want to find new hobbies
That thing that used to be your 10% on the weekend just became your 110%, meaning you are going to need new ways to unwind after a busy week or to find solitude. I went from visiting art galleries on a weekend to standing in one for at least 20 hours a week; from spontaneously meeting artists to scheduling back to back meetings with them and other stakeholders. The things that I once did for fun became work, so the work-life balance quickly became distorted. Think of it as an opportunity to try new things, visit new places or develop a new skill. This is important to help maintain a feeling of fulfillment from your work. New hobbies may also mean new friends and surrounding yourself with un-like-minded people is fun.
Maybe avoid playing dress ups with your pets though…
Every idol or inspiration just became the person behind the curtain
You are probably about to experience first hand the daily grind that your idol experiences, but rarely speaks about. Society loves shareable content and unfortunately celebrating wobbles (a better way to frame what others refer to as failure) is not considered shareable. We know it is going to be hard work, but the distortion between reality and perception is still quite large. But that is ok, because as you learn more about the everyday realities and sacrifices, you come to appreciate your idol (perhaps now mentor) more as a fellow human and not someone you place on a pedestal. The relationship with them is driven by a more authentic human connection, rather than a distant admiration of their public profile.
You may not fit the dominant sector-personality or lifestyle and that is ok
Inherent in every industry is a particular type of culture that makes the cogs turn. That culture is a sum of dominant personalities and lifestyles. It might mean late nights, chasing the seasons or being switched on 24/7. Just because you don’t fit the dominant culture does not mean you are in the wrong sector, rather that you are setting a standard for yourself and others who may (surprisingly) feel the same.
Every sector needs its disrupters. Think of the current conversations around introverted and extroverted personalities. Susan Caine’s argument is that the power of the introvert as a leader comes from their ability to embrace solitude, to let good ideas come to the surface and better manage collaboration.
Post-work drinks, loud events, office lunches or being in a constant state of exhaustion may not be your thing, but that does not mean you are in the wrong sector. I found exploring my ability to switch personality traits on and off as an environment demanded it super useful. That is the art of playing the middle ground, stretching the comfort zone without sacrificing opportunities. Find what works for you and play to your strengths. Remember you don’t have to stay for the whole event but you also are not always obliged to put in an appearance.
Your accountant may need to place you in an in-congruent box to how you understand your work
This one came up recently in a conversation with a fellow freelancer. Our accountants experienced some difficulty when attempting to neatly pigeon-hole what we do. Sometimes when you freelance there is not a neat box to categorise your work. Do not waste energy stressing over it, pick a close option that is good enough. Then go and learn how to manage your finances efficiently and keep records, because your passion is going to need to be matched by some ace administrative skills. You are a business!
Acknowledge that some days you just won’t be feeling it and that is ok
This one took some getting used to because when my passion became my career, I mistakenly thought I was going to have the energy to love it day in, day out. In truth some days I get so frustrated I think it is time for a career change. But we all know that if it was easy, everyone would do it. Sometimes those moments of frustration give light to the greatest breakthroughs. I find it handy to keep a journal of amazing people I meet, lessons from hard days and reminders of the good days to look back on when getting through the day is an effort. Whatever it is, find a strategy to pull you through to a better tomorrow.
Sit in it, acknowledge that today the wellness manager needs to step in and distract you. I need this shirt:
Have you turned your passion into a career? What are some of your greatest on-the-job lessons you would share?