“He’s passively waiting for his dream career to happen”

Ramit Sethi

Why are some people able to find their dream jobs…when so many others are not?

A lot of you know about Earn1k, the course I created to help you earn more money on the side.

But I’ve never publicly mentioned that I also run an accompanying program called Beyond1k, which provides live weekly calls, a Mastermind group, and ongoing support for accountability and time management. (Some interesting stories behind it…like how I made a $300,000 mistake creating it…but I’ll share those later.)

Anyway, I got this email from one of my Beyond1k students, Candy, yesterday.

I had to share this with you since I just got back from vacation in SoCal; apologies in advance if it sounds ‘insane’. I met up with some friends of mine I hadn’t seen in 4+ years down in LA on Saturday. One of them is an amateur photographer but takes great photos with the little equipment he has. I asked him if he’s tried to market his photography skills to people and he said, I shit you not, “I do not have the self-entrepreneurship in me.” What is he doing right now? He quit his job with a logistics company he worked with the past 5 years; cashed out his 401k; and is now back in school taking interior design hoping that’ll help him move to a better fulfilling career.

I had that moment I wanted to yell at him in your same mannerism but I held my tongue, and went, “Ah-huh.”

Look, I know I’ve been a bad student and a lazy ass one at that with B1K. But talking to my friend about me trying to do freelancing on top of working two jobs and him passively waiting for his dream creative career to happen made me realize how much value this program you’ve offered is to people. I was really thinking of canceling my membership before the end of this month but I’m definitely finishing the quarter. I don’t want to be part of “them” anymore.

Ramit, if I could give you a hug, I would. But I don’t think my fiance would enjoy me hugging the guy whose voice he finds annoying 😛

Aside from Candy’s fiance calling my voice annoying, which made me feel pity for this young man’s severe hearing impairment, I found this note very insightful.

  • “He’s passively waiting for his dream career to happen.” How many of us do this? We say, “If only I had more time/money/ideas/freedom, then I could REALLY do what I want to do.” Which is, of course, complete bullshit. To the wishful dreamer, there’s always something on the horizon to wait for instead of doing something today. There’s always another excuse. You don’t wait for something to happen, you get off your ass and do it.
  • “I don’t have the self-entrepreneurship in me.” Notice how passive that is. Someone who really wanted a dream job (and had the ability and willingness to pursue it) would re-frame the question: How do I think more entrepreneurially? Who do I need to talk to? What books/courses should I take? What have other successful people done?
  • Perhaps most interesting of all is the fact that Candy is so motivated by what NOT to do. Honestly, this was what motivated me early on, too: seeing some really smart friends go to work for cog-in-a-wheel jobs that they didn’t love, then fast-forwarding 10 or 20 years to see older friends who were stuck. I never wanted to be like that, so I took steps to ensure that I wasn’t. There’s nothing special about me. There’s nothing special about any of the people I know who have dream jobs…except that they looked ahead to see what they wanted…and didn’t want.

(One more sidenote: Anyone notice how the amateur photographer decided he needed a credential to really make it? That is one of the biggest mistakes people make when pursuing their passions: thinking that a mythical credential will REALLY help them, when actually getting experience is almost always a better move. People don’t like hearing this, though, because it reduces the magic of the silver bullet of credentials and degrees.)

Finding a dream job doesn’t have to be a 100% deep plunge where you quit your job today. I’m all about setting smaller goals and starting off gradually. You can start by thinking entrepreneurially, figuring out which of your skills can be turned into side income, and then testing your ideas. It may sound like a confusing black box, but you can only illuminate it with action.

Whether you sign up for my Earn1k free preview course (which shows you, step-by-step, how to do this), or buy some great books on doing what you love, or even just take someone out to lunch and pick their brain, I hope you can make the switch from passively waiting for your dreams…to actively pursuing them.

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  1. andy

    Haha this is great. I don’t think I’ve met a photographer who didn’t have enough self entrepreunership in them. How ridiculous! Photography is one of the easiest things to start freelancing with! How sad. That guy needs some motivation!!!!

  2. Make Your Own Dream Job — Jim F Munro

    […] article on (link) about how people often think their dream job is going to find them rather than the other way […]

  3. Peter Yaworski

    It’s interesting how small steps can really compound. For instance, I was reviewing my portfolio today and one stock I have has exploded this year and I was wondering if it was time to sell. I googled “when should you sell a stock” and IWTYTBR came up within the top 10, however the post was from 2005 and there was only 6 comments. Coupled with this post, it made me think about how small investments in yourself today can really compound in 5 years.

    Nice work Ramit, keep it up.

  4. Tim Rosanelli

    I talk to business owners all the time. My friend is a photographer and was always struggling because he’d have periods of time that he was insanely busy then have months with almost no work.

    This all changed when his wife got pregnant. After she give birth, my friend went into the hospital and took pictures of their newborn child with his wife. His wife said they should talk to the hospital about providing the same service to other moms. The hospital agreed to do it and they provide a commission for each picture package to my friend.

    My friend found this to be super lucrative for many reasons. First, they don’t need to look for customers ~ everyday new clients show up for them. Second, the hospital does the sales and billing for them meaning less back office work. Finally, it provides them with the opportunity to do additional pictures for these families in the future ~ meaning less marketing.

    This takes them only a few hours per day to take the pictures of all the new moms and children.

    It goes to show that one good idea can make a huge difference.

    • andy

      Very smart idea! See that’s brilliance right there.

      I’m in the same boat with my business (not photography), but the easy solution is to find more niches to edge into or market heavier. Marketing / promoting ones self is kind is essentially a tried and true method (although of course some ways are better than others). Lots of people don’t like the idea of it if they are self employed, they think “i shouldn’t have to buy clicks” or something similar. But if an owner of a business like this (including myself) gets over the idea that we are so good we shouldn’t have to pay for advertising (which I only recently got over) and just does it, man it can take you from passively waiting for more bookings / gigs to passively denying people because you’re just too busy!!!

  5. MD

    I must admit that I’ve used these excuses myself in the past in many areas of my life (i.e. I would get in better shape if I had more time). Once you break your dreams down into smaller goals, it’s funny how easy it actually is. Something as simple as eating more protein and not eating before bed can make a major impact on your personal fitness. When it comes to earning more money, my greatest results came from reaching out to others to let them know that I can solve their problems.

    This quote needs to be re-read over and over again:

    “You can start by thinking entrepreneurially, figuring out which of your skills can be turned into side income, and then testing your ideas. It may sound like a confusing black box, but you can only illuminate it with action.”

    This is much more refreshing than the Robert Kiyosaki/cheer-leading BS advice that plagues the internet when it comes to entrepreneurship.

  6. Gal @ Equally Happy

    I wish I knew about the “credential myth” three years ago before I went for my MBA. Now I have a very expensive piece of paper sitting on my desk which is doing much less for me than the network and experience I built over the years.

    Oh well, better late than never.

    • Kelly

      The credential myth lives on because in certain situations it is true. In large cog-in-the-wheel type companies an MBA might be needed to get promoted beyond a certain level. The HR department leans on credentials because they don’t know how to assess an employee’s value.

  7. Jim Munro

    Universities are becoming more and more irrelevant and really need to reinvent themselves or go away. They are no longer gatekeepers to success unless you’re a doctor or a lawyer who requires specialized training.

    I regret spending so much time in college other than meeting people and making friends I’m not sure what I got from it. Oh yeah, debt.

  8. Sarah W

    Ramit, I have a question based on the topic of this post: how do you feel about specific credentials sometimes linked to salary increases, particularly MBAs? Are they just as worthless as those other pieces of paper?

    • Kelly

      Where I work MBAs are almost a must to be promoted beyond a certain level. An college degree of any kind is an investment and a risk… if you’re at the type of company that wants you to check the MBA box, you’re likely at a much lower risk of wasting time / money. Especially if they’ll pay for it 🙂

      That said, my company also has more than one career path available. You can make just as much $$s wise in a sole contributor role as most managers make over time. Also, the move from engineer -> manager can happen anytime without penalty… moving from manager -> engineer often results in a pay cut and technical experience lost.

  9. Minority Fortune

    There’s certainly no reward for sitting on your butt and not acting on your passions. By taking a chance, two things might happen: success and fulfillment or the same thing that’s happening now, nothing. There are people who didn’t even finish getting their high school diploma or graduate from college who have established billion dollar businesses. The key is not in certifications but in action with purpose.

  10. Timothy

    // That is one of the biggest mistakes people make when pursuing their passions: thinking that a mythical credential will REALLY help them, when actually getting experience is almost always a better move.

    It’s interesting: My brother, who’s in high school, wants to be a freelance flight instructor and thinks he can make a good living on that… and from what I’ve seen, that may be true. However, because of this passion, he is trying to reject all ideas of getting a bachelor’s degree in favor of getting flight training right away instead.

    How important are such standard academic expectations as a four-year degree to a career that is unrelated to undergraduate college studies? Are they critical to anyone’s success, or can this also be a “mythical credential”?

    [Ramit’s comment: Your brother doesn’t know what he’s talking about. In high school, almost nobody does. Get a degree, preferably from the best college he can get in to. Yes, it’s possible he’s the 0.05% outlier, but I (statistically) doubt it.]

  11. Timothy

    I agree: Giving up college for a field with unpredictable demand is a huge gamble.

  12. Prime

    Credentials, MBAs, PhD, masters degree – they’re all soooo overrated. Unless you want to become a professor or perhaps an analyst, spending on another degree just to decorate one’s resume is a waste of time and money. I have seen my classmates even taking doctorate only to end up working in universities which don’t pay much and fighting with colleagues for the “prestige” of teaching a certain subject or being head of a (miniscule and an unimportant) department.

    I did go to graduate school and now writing my thesis. I enjoyed it but I’m pragmatic enough to accept that it’s not a magic bullet.

  13. Razwana

    Like Candy’s friend, we all make excuses for why we don’t take action but maybe him taking the course is his way of taking a small step?

    Ramit’s advice will not suit all personalities. Taking a small step like working on your business as a side income first is creating a comfort zone before taking the plunge to full-time self-employment. Candy’s friend taking his interior design course could be his comfort zone – no different to someone investing in the Earn$1k course?

  14. Jules

    Credentials: it depends on your field. I’m a scientist (molecular-something-or-other) and I really doubt that any Joe-Schmoe who just graduated high school could do what I do, which includes writing up a lot of data and designing experiments and teaching, but also appeasing the Gods of Paperwork and purchasing/logistics. Especially with the teaching: you need to know not only what you’re doing, but *why* you’re doing it, and that’s something you just don’t pick up without a whole lotta books.

    [Ramit’s comment: I agree 100%.]

    • Adam

      You make a great point here.

    • MoneyEnergy

      I agree too. And this can extend to fields in law, philosophy, anthropology, and, yes, even fields in art.

  15. Ibrahim |

    I’ve found that by living reactively instead of proactively, you will find that much less opportunity reaches you. When you dedicate time to meeting people and seeking new experiences, opportunity finds it’s way to you much more quickly. And the more opportunities we seek, the more chances for success we have.

    I guess it’s all about playing the odds.

  16. Republic Monetary Exchange

    I think it’s a big risk to not get credentials or a degree. I think in this economy and with this level of unemployment your credentials/degree give you an edge over those who don’t have it. True, as an entrepreneur you’re really setting out on your own but this economy you need all the help you can get.