We hear sayings like; “follow your dreams,” and “do what you love and the money will come.” But sometimes, what you want out of life isn’t so clear. As children we are asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Not just what do you want to do, but what do you want to be. Sure, it’s small talk of sorts, but it plants a seed of expectation that we are supposed to know what we want even from childhood. However, life is rarely that simple. It gives us experience that leads us one way or another and many times away from whatever our six year old self dreamed of becoming.
This subject hits home for me as I could never put my finger on what was “wrong” with what I was doing. I enjoyed many aspects of my profession in photography and graphic design, but I didn’t feel like I “lived it” like many of my colleagues did. It wasn’t until one Thanksgiving when I brainstormed phone game ideas with my brother in law did I realize how much more excited and obsessed I was about the subject. But people my age were far into their careers, and how would I “catch up?”
Why didn’t I do this sooner?
I know I’m not alone in this feeling, friends in a similar boat as me have expressed this same rocky sentiment. Whether it’s starting a business, changing departments, or learning a whole new skill, it can feel discouraging looking at others who are already thriving doing what you want to do as well. Or feeling like you wasted your time by working in your previous career. This type of thinking creates an unnecessary stress that gives legitimacy to the fears that hold us back. What good does it do to add kindling to fear’s fire? Instead you should congratulate yourself for taking the steps today and not tomorrow!
I would never have guessed that games would be the thing that clicked for me. It wasn’t like a light bulb just turned on, but more like a slow fire starting to burn, illuminating a clear choice for me. I regretted not taking steps sooner, but that logic was faulty. How could I come to a conclusion without the experience to lead me to the point of realization that I needed a change? I couldn’t.
Pay attention to what stories you tell yourself. Fear’s fire is stoked with excuses like how we are too far behind, we aren’t skilled enough, or the perfectly reasonable worry that we won’t make enough money. But fear suffocates the flame of our passions, sucking away the air and attention from pursuing your dreams. The good news is you can choose what fire to stoke and take action to quench your fears.
Honor your journey
It can be a struggle to change your career and what you “do,” but often we need to realize that the past experience is what readied us for this path. Today you are far different than your six year old self and perhaps even who you were ten or even five years ago. What is important is you have gathered resources and leveled up in ways you never knew possible.
Write it down
Look back at your own personal story, acknowledge it, and celebrate the underlying theme of what brought you to the career change. What have you realized about yourself that made you want to change directions? What unique experience do you bring to the table for that are assets to your new career?
I thought my passion was in creativity, but as I lacked awareness of what truly inspired me. Looking back the jobs I enjoyed the most and the hobbies I found myself gravitating towards, all related to some type of storytelling. I love the way narrative can reach through time and space to create a connection between two potential strangers. Even now dear reader, I am able to speak to you from another time and place with the hope that my personal journey might help you in some small way.
Create a Plan
These kinds of changes don’t happen overnight. We are adults now after all. Often we can’t just quit our old jobs cold turkey, but if we are able to carve out a even a half hour each day or dedicate a day to that endeavor we will be that much closer to our goals. The important thing is to take action gathering the skills and prepare yourself for your new adventure. These things take time and every moment you can spare will pay off.
Prioritize what benefits you the most now. Make a list of what you need to do and pick out the most important aspects first. Don’t let yourself get lost in the minutiae of all the things you need to do. As much as I’d like to have a website and business cards for my new venture in games, it can wait, my time is better spent learning and refining my skills.
Set realistic deadlines and do your best to stick to them. It can be discouraging when you “fail” a deadline, even when it was the optimistic and unrealistic timeline that failed you. Take into account the amount of time you will be spending working towards that goal.
Embrace the hard parts
There’s no magic bullet, there’s no formula, and no shortcuts. There’s only work and dedication. That might seem disappointing at times, others might have seemed to have it all figured out already. But the truth is they put in the work and can you too. Take pride in the process.
How I find myself pushing through those extra hard times is I ask myself, “is it impossible?” If the answer is no, then I go forward, knowing that I will work is what will get me through. Through my creative education I remember many time feeling like I was good, but not great. Others in my class seemed much more advanced than me.
As time passed I noticed a trend, talent had very little to do with who continued on in their education or even out into the working world. The deciding factor was dedication.
So get your game face on and make the life you want happen.